Tapping Your Dreamscapes to Enhance Your Poetry
with Sandra S. McRae
Daily life comes at us fast. As a result, our subconscious is like a pokey child being dragged through a shopping center by a stressed-out parent. The child doesn’t miss anything but rarely has the chance to explore all the shiny objects and articulate what it senses.
Dreams are how that sensing child grabs the microphone, so to speak, to point out what we missed in our rush to do, be, get. As poets, we can train ourselves to mine our dreamscapes for imagery, insights, and wonder. In this workshop, we’ll learn how to assign different roles to our conscious mind to illuminate and shake up our poetry using our dreams as raw material.
Taking the Leap!
with Martin McGovern and Kathryn Winograd
Writing poetry should be an act of discovery, but, sometimes, discovery is more pre-destiny when the poet is unable to give up what he or she thinks the poem should be about. How do we loosen our grip on our conscious realization of a poem? How does realism become “surrealism”? How do we learn to recognize and trust in meaning that arises associatively, often accidentally, as the fluidity of words converge on the blank page?
Part of the joy of writing poetry is “discovering” things about yourself and your world; discovering things you had to say, want to say, need to say, but that you actually didn’t know it. Thus, a poem about a rose, or a poem about love, can provide the writer with the leap to the idea that “love is like a red, red rose.” Thus, too, as in the James Wright’s poem “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio,” an imagined team of high school football players on a beaten-down, dirt field can become a herd of horses that becomes “suicidally beautiful” and gallops “terribly against each other’s bodies.” Some of the most striking images/metaphors/similes in poetry have come as wonderful surprises, gifts of self-recognition, to the poems’ writers. What is the poem about? You might have an inkling. Write the poem—with the right mixture of control and abandon, the leap--and you just might gain self-knowledge and wisdom along the way!
In this workshop, students will experience for themselves the surprises that throwing intent to the wind can bring. As time permits, we’ll experiment with a question-and-answer group project much in vogue with the Surrealists of that time and the creation of a collage poem. We’ll look for associative meaning and epiphany (discovery), and we’ll discuss additional exercises that students can use to open their poems to chance and to the unconscious.
Unlocking the Poetic Mind:
Using key words to find fresh directions
by Jonah Bornstein
It’s a typical scene: You’re sitting in front of your notebook or computer. Something has generated an idea or image that you are compelled to explore. Whatever it is, you write. It feels fresh and compelling. But when you read your poem a few weeks or months later, you become discouraged. You’ve used similar language and imagery in so many of your other poems. In this workshop we will explore a simple method that might help you unlock your imagination, inspiring you to write about subjects that reflects your vision in fresh ways, with a language that is exciting to you.
Jonah Bornstein has taught poetry and creative writing at several universities in New York City and Oregon. He was co-founder and director of the Ashland Writers Conference (1997-2002) and director of the International Writers Series at Southern Oregon University.
His poetry collections include Mortar, The Art of Waking, Treatise on Emptiness, A Path Through Stone, and We Are Built of Light. Publications include poems in Prairie Schooner, One Fare, ie, The West Wind Review, and many anthologies, including September 11, 2001, American Writers Respond; Deer Drink the Moon: Poems of Oregon; and Walking Bridges: Using Poetry as a Compass.
Jonah has an MFA from New York University, where he studied with Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, and Ruth Stone. He recently moved to Denver with his wife, Rebecca Gabriel, and will be teaching poetry in the graduate creative writing program at University of Denver. beginning winter 2020.