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Poetry Workshop

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You never know what will work. You may think J.D. Salinger describing at length the poems of Seymour Glass in Seymour, An Introduction, but not publishing the poems themselves would make a great class. We could write the poems that were never written, using Salinger’s riveting details as the template. Just think of the possibilities—an unhappy wife living near the Metropolitan Museum, coming home late at night after a tryst, her lipstick smeared; she walks into the bedroom and finds a green balloon on her white bedspread.

No arms like his arms,
even if you, Russ, the kids
hear me clicking in.
Calder’s circus blurs,
slide to bed where who left this
park balloon to hug?

There is a description of a widower on his lawn in Connecticut late at night, unable to sleep, looking at the moon, and his imperious white cat comes up to him and bites his left hand.

Unable to sleep,
our angora doyenne Cloud
rolling in raked grass,
biting my ring hand—
your mother-of-pearl hairpins
to make the moon flinch.

Seymour is on a plane to Miami, and a girl on a few seats ahead, turns her doll’s head around to look at him.

Her doll’s blue plastic
eyes and puffy head turned to
a clown and nothing.

And it did work. We would write a poem together with volunteers throwing out lines, then the students would write their own poem, without thinking, on 11 x 17 inch paper, writing the 17” way (landscape) with a fat Sharpie, and just letting it ride for six lines. Then we would combine the best lines, the best opening line, the best last line, and various lines from the poems until we had a solid six-line poem. Then on to the next description. It was fun and remarkable, “Mohammed Ali would look good in this robe,” “biting the finger where my ring used to me.”