This last week I was at the Catamaran Writer’s Conference. I find these conferences a challenge. On one extreme, the being with gifted writers and learning about the art and craft of writing a poem. Then there is the introverted, insecure side of me that struggles to interact with others and not just hide in a conner – that part of me that constantly wants to say, “you don’t belong here.”
That second voice is hard to stop. I know – folks have all kinds of answers and advice. I get it, but in that moment, you listen to a powerful poem and then are called to read your poem about cheese that you wrote at breakfast – well it can be humbling.
I heard a lot of great poetry this week. Some from teachers, some from participants, and once or twice I read some of my poetry thinking, “not bad.”
Each day had a general pattern:
- Workshop where there were craft talks, writing prompts and we critiqued each other’s work.
- Afternoons were for optional lectures, free time, tours, or writing.
- Evening reception (with wine) and a featured reader.
They also had tours of local places of literary interest. I did the tour of Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House, www.torhouse.org in Carmel. The place was smaller than I imaged, but it was nice to see and to hear some of Jeffers poems read where he lived.
I attended a few interesting lectures. The two I liked the best were writers discussing their paths to being published. The lesson here was that it’s difficult to get things published these days. One of the the writers mentioned that she contacted 120 agents before getting her mystery novel published. Fewer books are published these days so it requires a lot to get published.
I was asked a number of times if I had published anything or if I was submitting my poems. The answer was no, I’ve not been doing that. Honestly, I’ve not felt my current body of work is good enough for the literary journals. Then there’s the amount of effort you have to put into the process. It’s been much easier to just put it here on my blog and move on.
In our poetry workshop we were asked to bring five poems to the workshop and that’s where I got the most out of this conference. After working with the group, I’ve come away with better poems and a lot of things to look for in my writing that can be improved. I was also surprised (and slightly pleased) to have our teacher say, “Andrew, this fits your style.” Wow, I’ve got a poetry style. That made me feel good and hope that perhaps I’m starting to figure this poetry thing out.
Well, as much as you can understand an art form that is. Poetry is art. Until now I’ve done it mostly by instinct and intuition – that’s not a bad way to go, but having a deeper understanding of how words, images and metaphors work just widen the pallet a poet can use to create art.
Of the five poems I brought, four are improved, one is still a problem, and yes, I did write a poem about my Father and cheese that’s not bad.
Sadly, I won’t be posting them here. These days publishing a poem to a public blog is considered publication and most of the journals I’m thinking of sending these to won’t consider them if I’ve posted them here. That’s one annoying thing I learned at the lectures.
It was a productive week for me and I did bring home bag of books to read and a brain full of ideas to work on.