1. Preparation. The Reading Part: Months One and Two
We begin with close reading. Too often poets write without reading. I bring you 25 poems by 25 poets by way of introduction. We read these with the body to see what moves us. We pay close attention to 5 of these poems that speak to you. Then participants choose two poets that they are passionate about from the list (or you can come up with your own.) You select five poems from each selected poet and engage closely with those poems. You write in your journal and engage with me while you are doing this.
A1. Imitation and Craft
I’ll pass on an unseen poem from each of your chosen poets with a number of lines missing. The assignment is to write in the missing lines and then to check against the original. In the second part of the exercise, I’ll present you with an unseen poem from each of the two poets rendered into prose. Your task? Sort out the lines and once again compare your version to the original.
You write up your observations for A1 part 1 and 2 in the poetry journal. (This is not about being correct or guessing. It’s about the feel of the poet you are observing – getting inside her/his skin and observing their techniques (like copying a visual artist in an art gallery.)
A2. Copying out and learning by Heart
Participants copy out by hand a poem from each of their favourite selected poets. They learn these two poems by heart. (not less that 15 lines each) Once again they write up and present their observations in the poetry journal. You talk to me while you are doing this. (It’s about osmosis- absorbing poetry- its rhythm, image, line, space, ambiguity, presence, echo, rhyme, shape)
The Writing Part: Months Three and Four
A3, A4 & A5 Writing Poems
Participants write max 12 poems (max 25 lines each) You send these in three batches. These poems could be from existing work in progress though I encourage you to write fresh poems. Your journal will reflect and make conscious the crafting process. i.e raising questions about the particular poems, problems encountered in the writing, insights, techniques, breakthroughs etc You can also submit this text with the poems. I comment, suggest and you rework and resubmit.
A6. The Poet’s Voice
In this assignment you work on a presentation/celebration on living poetically for 4 months, your understanding of the selected poets, your own poetry and journal entries. You can offer this to a group of friends at an informal oral presentation. I can guide you with questions so it could be a dialogue if you prefer it. You will be putting on the mantle of poet. You talk to me while you are preparing this.
The course includes my book The Writer’s Voice, a workbook for Writers in Africa and one of my poetry volumes, Tortoise Voices.
All along the way I share my writing process with you as part of our conversation and pass on to you articles and refer you to conversations.