Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 52, April 2015)

Kazim Ali
Twelve Workshops and a Void

This talk was first given at 2014 AWP Conference in Seattle.

Workshop Out Loud (Marie Ponsot)

Each student only brings one copy of their poem. Student reads the poem, other students only listen. They may not take notes. Student reads the poem a second time or has the option to ask another student to read it. Students are not permitted to take notes this time either. Second reading is followed by no less than ten minutes of free-writing in response to the poem. As Marie Ponsot points out, entire books have been written on single haiku, so you should be able to manage ten minutes of writing on a poem. Discussion follows. Generally speaking, using this method, about 3 students, perhaps 4, will be able to be workshopped during a three-hour once a week workshop. Recommended to cap the workshop at 12 students, each student receive workshop at least three times during the average semester.

Workshop in the Dark (Jan Trumbauer)

All students lie in a circle, only their heads touching. Instructor covers all students with as large enough a sheet as is necessary. Instructor turns the lights off and maintains silence. Students take turns reciting their poems in dark. They must recite from memory since no writing can be seen. Other students respond and critique as normal. Students must speak in soft tones so that the instructor does not know what they are saying. Instructor’s role is time-keeping and minimizing external disturbance or disruption only.

Workshop in Silence (John Cage)

Each student brings a poem to the workshop. Workshop begins with 5 minute meditation. After this period, the poems are passed without discussion or comment. Poems are ordered by a pre-arranged agreement (so no verbal or somatic discussion is necessary). Using a bell or other timer, the poems are read silently. After the stack of poems are read quietly but together, the poems are discussed using hand gestures and facial expressions only. Students may indicate lines in the poem but all comments must be non-verbal. Students may optionally use interpretive dance or movement to give comments but no student may use any widely recognized non-verbal hand signals (such as an “OK” sign or “thumbs up” or actual ASL or other sign language).

Workshop in Yoga (Olga Broumas)

The first half of each workshop begins with a set of asanas associated with a particular energy chakra, beginning with the root chakra and proceeding up the spine through the sacral chakra, the abdominal chakra, heart chakra, throat chakra, third eye chakra and sky chakra. Poems will be assigned the preceding week associated with this chakra. Poems are read and discussed after the asanas are completed. The second half of the workshop will be the set of asanas and assignment of poem for the following week.

Agha Shahid Ali Workshop (Agha Shahid Ali)

This workshop will used Ali’s The Veiled Suite in place of any other anthology or craft book. All lessons—prosody, poetic forms, personification, metaphor and metonym, etc.—will be drawn solely from exemplar poems from The Veiled Suite. At the culmination of the semester the students will mount a conference devoted to Ali’s work at which they will present papers, host guest speakers, and conduct a group reading of Shahid’s work which will include a program of poems they curate. Shahid’s brother, sister and father will be invited to this event.

Swarm Workshop (Jorie Graham)

This workshop will use as its starting point the volume Swarm by Jorie Graham. Other readings will include texts mentioned by Graham in connection with this work, including Thomas Traherne, Emily Dickinson, Agamemnon, King Lear and the following books of contemporary poetry: Anathema by David Jones, Arcady and There Are Three by Donald Revell, Notes for Echo Lake by Michael Palmer, Peirce-Arrow by Susan Howe, Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson, and Sappho is Burning by Page DuBois.

Workshop in Translation (Erin Moure)

All poems must be translated from another language even when (especially when) the student does not have working knowledge of that language. Homophonic and fake translations are also encouraged. If the student has invented a poet, they optionally also invent the language and the culture. In any case, biographical information, social and political context as well as some literary analysis of the poet’s place in the canon of their own literature as well as discussion of particular difficulties of translating the invented poet are all required.

Collaboration Workshop (T Begley)

All pieces to be discussed will be collaborations between two or more poets. Readings will be from poetic collaborations, including those by T Begley and Olga Broumas, David Trinidad and D.A. Powell, Dan Beachy-Quick and Srikanth Reddy and Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker.

Workshop in Absentia (Bill Knott)

Students submit poems for workshop every week. Students meet in two halves. Students are not present for the workshop of their own poem. No student from the workshop may divulge to the poet anything about the discussion of that students’ poem in the other group. Three times during the semester the full group will meet and the students will talk with the other half of the group about their poetry but will not refer to specific texts or lines.

Walking Workshop (Leslie Scalapino)

Variation of “Workshop Out Loud.” This workshop, including the reading of the student poems and discussion, takes place completely while walking, preferably outside, preferably in a busy public setting. Free-writing portion does not take place. No note-taking or recording of discussion is permitted.

Workshop in Professional Practices (Etheridge Knight)

Each week the students engage in a different professional practice with their assigned poems. These include publishing a chapbook, editing a themed anthology, giving a planned public reading, performing guerilla public readings in (generally) non-literary spaces (shopping malls, parking garages, fast food restaurants, subway stations), placing signs or cards with poetry around in public places or hidden in libraries, written on chalkboards or on the sky.

Generative Workshop (Anne Waldman)

Rather than do critique/workshop, the class time is set aside for generating creative work. One can start with the exercises Anne Waldman sets out in A Vow to Poetry, but there also many good exercises by Bernadette Mayer as well as those which appear in The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell.

A Void: Workshop to Take Place in Your Mind (Yoko Ono)

The workshop does not meet. Every week at workshop time, students will sit at an empty table with their own poem and re-reread, revise, critique. All readings and writing assignments must be completed by appointed times. The instructor will go to the classroom assigned by the university every week and sit at the empty table for the entire duration of the class period. No attendance will be kept. No grades will be given.