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Member Dispatch: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Poetry

We’re so lucky to have another newbie guest blog, this time from poet and novelist Rebecca Snow. She took Jake Adam York’s Chapbook Intensive and Lynn Wagner’s Transtromer seminar, among other things.

From left, Cara Lopez Lee, Rebecca Snow, and Pamela Martin at Lit Fest 2012

Rebecca Snow Writes Her First Blog, 6/17/2012

I tend to cringe at the thought of a blog.  But this morning I woke up writing one, now that Lit Fest is over.  Lighthouse has a way of breaking whatever dams block that water where your writer’s self floats and sometimes drowns.  Rise Ophelia, and write.  “You must wear your rue with a difference.”

It took me two decades to write a short novel, but thanks to Lighthouse these last couple of years, it’s (almost) finished.  And thanks to Lit Fest, my writer’s self is white river rafting now, two poems in one week for Jake Adam York’s intensive chapbook class.  I usually write about one poem in six months.  York showed us how we can make our individual poems work together, even if they seem very different both in form and content.  He said something obvious but important:  The same person wrote each of your poems.  After his brain hemisphere-crossing poetry-math lecture, the class reviewed a group of three poems by each student, found common themes, threads, bridges to other poems, ideas for new ones . . . the makings of a unified chapbook.  I brought three old poems I didn’t think could possibly work together.  The class found all sorts of synthetic words, ideas, gestures I hadn’t noticed at all.  Now I just have to write more than two a year, and I might have enough poems that work for a chapbook.

Audience matters, too. When an appreciative group like the Lit Fest participant reading crowd responds to your work read aloud, more dams break.  People care.  It’s fun being in the audience, also, hearing writers read their work in their own voice.  I got to hear Cort McMeel, for example, read like a boxer at the book fair, punching us with vivid, mean, fearless characters, his words bruising each next sentence with intensity.  His sentences can take it.

It’s hard to choose from all the course offerings, especially at LitFest! But I had no trouble choosing Lynn Wagner’s Tranströmer/Herbert class, the Swedish Nobel Prize winner (last year) becoming one of my very favorite poets, the Polish poet I hadn’t read much and was very curious about. Lynn treated us to a short but in-depth exploration of each poet’s life and work.  She brought speakers.  We got to hear each poet read in their original language, the untranslatable cadences and inflections.  We also compared some translations and saw how difficult (or impossible) it is for a translator to capture a poem’s original meaning, style, rhythm, form, intent—all at once in another language.  Still, each translated poem reached our senses in English, surprising our imagination so we could suspend our disbelief.  A foreign poem could astound us into thinking this is original, this poem speaks English.

I missed Mike Henry’s collaborative work with Ballet Nouveau.  Yesterday, at the book fair, I couldn’t help buying the chapbook of poems for it, Intersection.  I didn’t need the stage, the music, or the dancers, though from what I’ve heard the collaboration was beautiful.  The simple, heartbreaking words danced their own elegant steps across and down the page.  I was content to turn the white paper stages, the poems dancing with each other, characters paying their respects to a runaway teen:  his family, his girlfriend, even the detective, lamenting their own losses surrounding his disappearance, his “sweet voice burned to smoke.”

Blogging is kind of fun.  Thanks, Andrea, for prodding me.  Happy Father’s Day (on Sunday) to Mike.

Thanks, Rebecca, for responding to the prodding!

6 comments on “Member Dispatch: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Poetry

  1. JTW
    June 20, 2012

    Awesome!!! I’m so sad to have missed Cort’s boxer reading!!!!

  2. mjhenry
    June 20, 2012

    Wonderful insights! Especially the part about that, ahem, chapbook.

  3. Karen Palmer
    June 21, 2012

    I’m happy to see these member posts. Makes it easier to experience Lit Fest vicariously, and retroactively, from California. Thank you, Rebecca!

  4. danmanzan
    June 26, 2012

    Jake has a way with “brain hemisphere-crossing poetry-math lecture”–ing. I was learned into a state of euphoria/man-crush while in his class.

  5. Pingback: In Memory of Jake Adam York « The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

  6. Pingback: Links | Rebecca Snow

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This entry was posted on June 19, 2012 by in LitFest, Member dispatches, Writing.

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