Tactics for Sneaky Poets

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Big Tent PoetryI had a great time facilitating the “Tactics for Sneaky Poets” workshop at Theater 150 this morning. The workshop is a flurry of creative exercises designed to demonstrate various “tactics” that poets can use to be “sneaky” with themselves in the creative process — to outwit the negative critic and analytical mind, and keep on keeping on in a free, creative space. While none of these ideas are are “new” in any universal sense, they are all tried-and-true techniques that have helped me along in my own creative process.

I have also been remiss in my role as a “sideshow barker” for the excellent Big Tent Poetry project. So here is a contribution to that ongoing poetic circus — a list of sneaky ways to keep the plates of poetry spinning.

Get inspired. Prime the pump before writing by reading poems you love by poets you love. Transcribe them. Memorize them. Carry them inside you.

Trigger yourself. Smells, sights, sounds, textures. Let your eyes and your mind wander. Memories, fantasies, reflections. Start anywhere. Just go.

Keep going. Try pushing past where you think the ending occurs. Write a “Part II.”

Use constraints. Use word groups, poetic forms, made-up assignments from friends. Constraints spark creative freedom.

Read and listen. Read your own work aloud, get others to read it back to you. Listen to the music. Tune it up.

Focus on language and lines. Read the poem bottom-up, focus on each line. Does it stand alone on its merits?
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Winter Poetry Workshop Series

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I will be conducting a new series of poetry workshops this winter at Theater 150. Whether you are just getting started with poetry, or trying to find space on the shelf for yet another poetry prize, you are warmly invited to come cozy up to the art of well-chosen words. Theater 150 is also offering a substantial discount if you sign up for all three classes in the series before January 8th. Class size is extremely limited, and expected to fill up fast. All proceeds once again go to benefit our beloved local theater.

Here are the dates and descriptions for each workshop:

Tactics for Sneaky Poets
Saturday, January 8th, 10am-1pm

Learn new ways to spice up your relationship to poem writing in this fun, interactive course. This class will get you writing and revising in unconventional ways, to spark new creative ideas and energize your poems. Class size is limited to a maximum of five participants to give us an opportunity to shake things up. See poetry from a new angle and take away practical tips to overcome writers’ block and invigorate your revisions.
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“Road Sign on Interstate 5” (Video)

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Theater 150‘s “Sneak Peek Writers’ Showcase” brought to light an outstanding lineup of students in Deb Norton‘s prose and play-writing classes earlier this month. As a poetry teacher in their fall lineup of arts classes, I also read a couple of poems.

The following poem received an honorable mention in the 2008 Rattle Poetry Prize, and appeared in Rattle #30 in the winter of that year. While the text and an audio recording of me reading this poem are available on the Rattle website, this is the first time me reading this poem has appeared in a video. Special thanks to Charles McDonald for filming that night.

[Edit: video no longer available]

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Poetry Workshop in Ojai

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Safety glasses optional

I am looking forward to conducting a poetry workshop on Saturday, October 9th from 10am-12:30pm at Theater 150 in Ojai.

Bring a poem of your own to discover The Joy of Revision. Learn how to give and receive feedback in an interactive and supportive environment. Discover how to “calibrate” your perceptions and intentions as a writer through input from intelligent, engaged peers. Explore matters of form and narrative, meaning and mood in your own work along with a select group of fellow writers.

Class size is limited to a maximum of five or six participants to give us an opportunity to dig deep, not only into the poems of the day, but the writing process in general. Come away with insights into your own work, as well as into the greater conversation of poetry.

For more information and to reserve your space, please contact me directly. The workshop is reasonably priced, and all proceeds benefit Theater 150.

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Creative Partnership and The Norton-Nottoli Wedding

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Val and I spent the morning at our local coffee shop, listing past experiences that have brought us most alive and present, and talking about how we can support one another in having more of these kinds of experiences as a shared vision for our married lives together. Not surprisingly, encouraging one another as artists was a major theme. How perfect, then, to be able to attend the remarkable wedding of Deb Norton and Chris Nottoli later that same day.

Theirs was not a traditional ceremony. Instead, having dedicated themselves to running Ojai’s local professional theater, Theater 150, they decided to write and stage a musical to both celebrate their commitment to one another, and raise funds to support the theater. The result was hilarious, profound, and disarming. Attended by hundreds at Ojai’s Libbey Bowl, the production involved inexpensive but clever props and costumes, a band and chorus, cheerleaders cueing Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show-style audience participation (ranging from throwing plastic bats to waving sprigs of kale), breakdancing Jello, the Greek god Hermes, and much more.

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