Saturday, October 18, 2014

Leading Poetry Workshops


I very much enjoy giving workshops. One recent really heart-warming experience was doing a two-hour workshop for seniors as part of the Tour of Poetry series held in Northfield, NJ, at the Otto Bruyns Library. This wonderful program is run by poet Emari DiGiorgio who received a grant from Stockton College to fund it. I’d been told to expect 6-8 people. We ended up with 20! They were just a wonderful group to work with, so eager, so industrious, and so appreciative. The day was well worth the two-hour drive each way. We did a writing activity together and heard a handful of the drafts. Then I gave a short reading and left the group with a take-home prompt.

I generally find that seniors don’t buy books—not because they’re cheapskates, but because they may now be on reduced budgets or more often because they’re downsizing their living space. Nevertheless, I sold a goodly number of copies of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. This group was hungry for poetry instruction and additional prompts, and they were anxious to continue working at home. Each month from now through the spring they will meet with a different poet.

Then last week I gave a reading and talk to a group of seniors in Upper Montclair, NJ. This was not a writing workshop and the participants were not poets, but they were a great audience. This program is run by Rose La Mantia who arranges a monthly presentation for her group which meets in a church rec room. What a wonderful gift to her community. Participants come early and have lunch together. Then there’s the presentation and desserts.

 I was originally scheduled to give this presentation two years ago during the week of Sandy, but we had to cancel. Because Rose schedules a year in advance, my visit had a long wait. But it was worth the wait. I love bringing poetry to audiences who perhaps haven’t been reading much of it but are open to it. My topic was “Poems and Where They Come From.” Before I read each poem, I talked about what had sparked the writing of the poem. My listeners were full of questions and comments. And much to my delight, many of them went home with a copy of one of my poetry books.

Kudos to Emari and Rose for their contributions to poetry and to their communities.

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