I've been invited to teach the writing workshop, which means that I'll have to work for two hours a day but will otherwise get to sit by the sea and write, read, nap, drink red wine, nap, read, talk, eat, talk, write, nap. . . . You get the idea. This will be the first time I've ever attended an artist's retreat, and I'm hoping that I will actually manage to create some new work. I'm a little nervous, though. What if all I do is nap?
At least for two hours a day I can guarantee I won't be napping because I'll have to be running a workshop for an unknown number of non-writers who are serious artists in their own fields. I'm excited about this because the last time I taught at Haystack I found the presence of such serious non-writers extraordinarily stimulating. It was wonderful to discover how similar the metaphors of working are.
I think of writing and revision as the physical accumulation and ordering of materials, a wielding of tools. This is the vocabulary that a blacksmith also uses, that a canoe builder uses, that a jewelry maker uses, even though our tools vary wildly. So after much thought, I decided to center my workshops around the poems of a single poet--one whose craft has deeply influenced my own writing. Although I tend to read canonical rather than contemporary poetry, I did not want to inflict Miltonic or Donne-ish complexities of syntax and diction on these artists. Language is not their primary tool, and there's no need force them to fight their way into the material. So I chose, as you may not be surprised to hear, three poems by Hayden Carruth: "Concerning Necessity," "Adolf Eichmann," and "John Dryden."
I am going to focus on these poems as material constructions--as compilations of words and punctuation--with the intent of leading participants to consider how the organization of such physical elements can metamorphose into explorations of order versus chaos, beauty versus ugliness . . . in other words, into doing what art has always been striving to do. As a description, this sounds quite pompous, but the participants will be doing the reading and talking and and thinking and writing--and coming to whatever conclusions they come to. I'm excited to see what those conclusions will be.