Thursday, July 28, 2011

Taken by surprise: Poetry

I went to the most lovely workshop the other day.  I'd wax poetic about it, but with school deadlines approaching, I'm in an essay-writing kind of place, so you'll have to bear with me.  Anyway, sometimes I worry about these workshops.  I'm required to get 60 hours of professional development every year, and it's not unusual to pick a real lemon of a workshop somewhere in those 60 hours.  I was a little intimidated by this one at first.  Thoughts ran through my mind:  Am I gonna have to stand up in front of people and read a poem that I wrote?  Will I embarrass myself?  (I know you're nervous for me just reading this, and I can assure you, that, YES, I did have to present in front of the "class" and YES, I most certainly embarrassed myself.  In case you are wondering, it involved a pair of sunglasses and a very poor attempt at blues-singing, that I volunteered for.  What was I thinking?  I'm classically trained.  And born in Oklahoma.  We don't do "blues".)

And then there was this one assignment that broad-sided me a a good way.

The assignment, given by poet/educator, Clayton Scott (reposted here in my own words):

Write a series of couplets (two-line poetry) describing the following scenario:  You meet a relative (whom you haven't spoken to in a while) in a café and begin to talk.  At some point in the conversation, a discovery is made (either something you discover, or something you tell them that they did not know).

Photo credit here.

The joy of seeing her again was punctuated
by the sweet smell of cinnamon rolls in the making.

As we sipped, her "hot water with lemon, please"
and my "should be drinking water, but I'll have a Dr. Pepper, thank you"

I realized that she was really here...present,
Not the empty shell of a thieving diagnosis.

And despite all of the questions I've stored up over the years, and all the wishing for just one more conversation,

All I could think to say was
"I became a teacher, like you said."

So my couplets were a mess (shhh...don't tell on me), and technically he didn't say that we were "allowed" to create an imaginary scenario with someone who is no longer living...but that's the beauty of art, right?  Sometimes a rare jewel just finds its way to the paper, and you're not really sure how it got there.  And before you know it, you're in tears as you read it to your colleagues (and some people you don't know), stuck somewhere between "Man!  I wrote that?" and "I really wish there were time-traveling cafés." 

Therefore, I have two things to say to you:
1.  If you ever get a chance to attend a Clayton Scott performance or workshop,  GO.  Totally worth any blues-singing escapades you might get yourself in to (I'm just kidding, he won't make you sing).  

2.  Just write.  Put the "shoulds" away and write.  You just might surprise yourself and say something you've been wanting to say for a long time.