Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Update from The Home School, Hudson, NY

73º that feels like 73º ~ Oh, Hudson, you charmer, you. It might rain much of the day, but I don't give a flip. I can breathe like it's fall in Arkansas.

As for my status: MIND. BLOWN.

As I stated in my last post, I came here to study with poets who write outside my comfort zone. And I was anxious about how I would be received by my fellow classmates. All that anxiety went "poof" almost from the beginning.

In part, I have the heat and humidity to thank. I arrived to a Hudson that was steeped in a southern heat wave. I entered our workshop space self-conscious of my sweaty self. Then, I really looked around. Lo and behold, we were ALL sweaty. Yay for bonding through weather-induced sweat. I also had a slight "up" in that I'd been conditioned to the weather pattern for the last month and a half. In any case, after getting up at 3:00 a.m., taking 2 planes, and a delayed train, I arrived at our space so bedraggled and exhausted that I couldn't be anxious. I was just glad to be where I was supposed to be, relatively on time.

Yesterday began with a drawing lesson from New York artist Tara Greer. Her approach is not skills based. So we did not work on lines and tone and shading. Instead, we just drew. Tara is about mindfulness and paying attention. She defines drawing as translating the senses onto the page. First, we drew broccoli from memory. Then, we each got a little floret and drew from sight. Then, the mind blower, we had to close our eyes and feel the broccoli and draw. Amazing results (mine looked nothing like the actual broccoli but captured it's feel pretty well, I thought). Then, we had to either smell it or eat it and draw that. Oh, and we hung all of our different versions on the walls. So there were 50 broccolis for each category of sense. We talked a lot about perception and seeing, and all of it fit so well with what I've read from writers talking about writing and other artists talking about their arts, and it synced perfectly with my current mindfulness meditation practice. We get to do this every day for the whole week! I have soooooooo many notes to bring back from this.

After drawing (and spilling lukewarm coffee straight into my lap...thank the stars for green linen pants that air dried....even if I smelled of coffee for much of the day), I had my first workshop. The Home School is doing something new this session. While our workshop group stays the same, we rotate faculty. Yesterday, I had Douglas Kearney, and we workshopped Neo Benshi (or live film narration) poems. In this form, one composes a poem, lyric essay, or new dialogue to a clip of any type of video. The sound can be muted or at any level of volume at any point. I composed my poem, "Tethered to a Fool," to the scene from Field of Dreams where Costner plows under the corn. Because, you know, you can take the girl out of northeast Iowa, but you can't take northeast Iowa out of the girl. Doug was amazing at putting us at ease and reminding us we were not performing some finished piece but we were workshopping. He uses a great approach for commenting, beginning with "signs of life" (the parts that are really working) and ending with "challenges" (self-explanatory). He also described "contrasting views." So, when one participant disagrees with another, she simply states her contrasting view and then we move on. We don't belabor a point or "argue" to win. It is the poet-being-workshopped's job to hear the different views and make her own decision about revision. (Oh, yeah, I'm bringing these terms back with me for my workshops. They encapsulate how I've tried to run workshop, but they do so in a much more direct way.)

Shout out to group "Antithesis" for being amazing cold readers. The comments were all spot on and super helpful. Everyone was bringing the full-on A game.

Today, we are studying with Myung Mi-Kim, and we sent in a recent poem for workshop. I chose one of my self-ekphrastic pieces b/c I'm interested to see how it will be met without the image next to it. I'm trying to decide if the two are symbiotic or can be viewed separately.

Oh, and every day at 4:00 there is a reading/talk or a student reading. Every day at 7:30 there's a faculty reading.

Mind. Blown. Fuses firing all over the place. Happy overload.


Amidst this all, some painful news of the passing of one of my best friends' father, a kind and funny man who was much a part of my childhood. So, I've been reciting Dickinson all morning. I leave you with her.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes – 
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs – 
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’ 
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’? 

The Feet, mechanical, go round – 
A Wooden way 
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought – 
Regardless grown, 
A Quartz contentment, like a stone – 

This is the Hour of Lead – 
Remembered, if outlived, 
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow – 
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

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