Musings #21

This is a shout-out for Lighthouse Writer’s Lit Fest 2014, which just recently wrapped up its two-week run. I can’t praise Andrea and Michael Henry enough for this incredible resource of writers, teachers, programs and readings.

I attended the two Mark Doty afternoon workshops. The first one dealt with description. Mark noted that the best poems have elements of idea, emotion and description (of nature, of experience) in them. A particular poem won’t work if it does not have the right mix of those elements, a mix likely to be unique for each poem, a mix that rarely will be 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3.

The second workshop I took from Mark was on writing about dying. It seems like death is often my subject, and that of other poets. My second book, now out to contests, is called SHRINKING INTO INFIINTE SKY, and is about the last four years of my mother-in-law’s life, in which she lay bedridden in a nursing home, wishing she could die, but ever sharp of mind, funny and sweet.

In the workshop, Mark traced the evolution of the elegy from formal to more personal, addressing the “you” in the poem. His book about the death of his longtime lover, Heaven’s Coast, is a gorgeous piece of writing, full of the wisdom that is the fruit, the small consolation, for grief. His words resonate in my heart.

I’ve been wanting to take another class with David Rothman, and Lit Fest gave me the chance. His class on Scansion left me feeling humble, challenged, and so aware of all I do not know, how much I have forgotten from college English Literature classes. David’s passion and enthusiasm for meter, stress, rhyme and measure is infectious, and the breadth and depth of his knowledge is inspiring.

I came away from David’s class with the feeling that perhaps we all may intuitively or accidentally employ some of these techniques. But were we to learn more about them, become conscious of them, we would do them deliberately, more often and with more skill.

David gave the example of Robert Frost’s great poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” As David said, what’s so special about a poem about needing to get home and talking to your horse? The poem is so incredible because of the meaning, the word choices, and the music of meter and rhyme.

I’ve wanted to take a class with Lynn Wagner and took her class on eight living American women poets. Lynn gave us valuable background on each poet’s approach to putting together a book, and insight into the poems. But of course, in just two and a half hours, all she could give us was a taste – a taste of what could be a feast. I want to take one of her eight-week classes soon!

In addition to these classes, I went to two early evening readings. The combinations of Michael Henry, David Rothman, Chris Ransick, Kim Morrison, John Brehm, and JD Frey, make for wonderful entertainment – so much wit, skill, hard-earned wisdom and sensitivity.

During Lit Fest, the sense of camaraderie within the Lighthouse community – teachers, presenters and student-poets – is so obvious, palpable.

I hope many of you will check out Lighthouse Lit Fest next year and take part as much as you can. I know I will be back. And thank you all at Lighthouse for putting on a wonderful two-week event!