Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Richard III: Conversation (Act I, Scenes III & IV)

Because I was away from the play for four days (the tome was too heavy to take camping), I'm undoubtedly behind the rest of you A-plus students. I did manage to finish the reading assignment yesterday afternoon, but I have not yet found space to begin inventing a response. I hope eventually to add my imagined speech to the comments, but I'm going to ask you to start by leaving yours. Maybe, after sharing your lines or sentences, you could add a few words about why or how this character came to you. Did specific words or images trigger the idea? Were you intrigued by the idea of the silent entourage (servants, tutors, fools) that might accompany a royal household? Did you want a clash of voices or eras? Did you hear parallels with other literary works?

Monday, September 24, 2018



I spent the weekend workshopping poems in a cabin in the Dartmouth Second College Grant, at this confluence of two small rivers. The college-owned property covers about 27,000 acres, and is located in northern New Hampshire, close to Lake Umbagog. All of the poets in attendance were associated in some way with the Frost Place, though I really only knew one of them at all well and had never met two of them before. So I was a bit anxious about the outing beforehand, in the way one might be anxious about summer camp.

But the weekend turned out the be spectacular: lively company, great food, glorious views, complex conversations, rich poems, comic snafus, and an adorable dog. And a miracle: a young yearling cow moose spent the entire afternoon loafing in front of our cabin as we sat at the table workshopping. Sometimes she napped in the grass; sometimes she stood alongside the river; sometimes she browsed in the river. Clearly she was comfortable with our presence; we felt no sense of alarm from her. She just seemed to want to hang out with us for a while. And then, eventually, she slipped away, striding down the river toward tomorrow. As you can see from this photo, she was on the thin side, which worried us, but she was up and active and eating, so we are hoping for the best, though I have my doubts that she'll make it through the winter. It was a once-in-a-lifetime afternoon, really, to spend such casual time in the wild with a single native animal. I don't expect this to ever happen again.



And here I am, with the sun setting over the river, reading a poem about cabbage rolls.



Update: Catching up on my email, I discovered that Vox Populi has posted "Average Land," one of the pieces I finished during my crazy poetry-writing summer.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I woke up to the sound of cold rain and a passing freight train. The time is growing near for me to yank out those tomato plants, dig up some more front yard for next spring's garden, plant tulip bulbs and garlic. But not this weekend. Instead, I'll be on a camping-writing retreat in New Hampshire, off the grid and incommunicado till Sunday night. I know a couple of the people on this retreat, but not most of them, though we are all friends of the organizer. So I'm a little nervous, of course, and hoping not to be soaking wet and freezing cold and crushed about where my poems are headed.

This will be my second poetry-sharing experience in a single week; on Tuesday evening I attended my first-ever writing group, and now I've got this adventure ahead of me. That's a lot of sharing for a hermit from the woods. But I'm trying to learn how to be a regular person.

Anyway, you won't hear from me till Monday. I look forward to talking with you about Richard III and canoeing and damp woodland cabins when I return.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Richard III: Assignment 2

Okay, let's move ahead into Act 1, scenes 3 and 4. I will be out of town this weekend so I'm going to push the conversation date to next Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Here's your assignment: Choose one speech from either scene and respond to it in the voice of someone who is not a character in this play. You could choose another existing literary character or actual human being; you could invent your own character; you could respond as yourself. Whatever your choice, focus on how that character responds to these particular remarks of the Shakepearean one. For instance, how would Huck Finn talk back to Anne? How would Anita Hill talk back to Hastings? How would Emma Goldman talk back to Gloucester? How would you talk back to Gloucester? You do not have to write in verse, though you can if that seems appropriate for your character. Just try to construct at least 5 lines or sentences.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It's wonderful to read so many thoughtful comments on Sunday's Richard III post. I'm going to give us all one more day to cogitate together, and then tomorrow I'll toss you the next assignment. This one will require a creative response, so be prepared to push your curiosity into more intense imagining.

Now I'm going to switch over to talking about 24PearlStreet. Things are moving along rapidly there: both of my upcoming workshops are now posted on the website. I've created a new "24PearlStreet" page on the blog menu above, but I'll reiterate those links here. And teachers: be aware that that the program offers continuing-ed credits, so you may be able to use professional development funds to pay for classes.

Currently I am offering two workshops in early 2019:
Interesting Minds: An 8-Week Revision Workshop for Essayists (January 7-March 1)
The Quest of Poetry: An 8-Week Master Class on Reading, Writing, and Revising Poems (March 25-May 17)
They are open to writers at all levels, novice to professional. That's always been my modus operandi: I'm eager to get everyone to talk and learn from one another; I have little interest in slotting writers into snob categories.

This opportunity is an exciting development for me, as much of my routine literary work involves manuscript editing and teacher-training. I love teaching creative writing but my lack of a master's degree has often kept me out of the classroom. The fact that the 24PearlStreet staff ignored my degree credentials but trusted my actual experience as a working writer and facilitator says much about the bent of this program. And honestly, to see my name listed under the aegis of "nationally recognized writer" is an enormous, sort of guilty, but really pretty delightful sensation.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Thanks to everyone who responded so fully on the first Richard III reading assignment. I'm going to give us all a day or so to keep talking to one another about our reactions, and then I'll post a second assignment.

I feel like I've been living under a peculiar cloud lately, mostly because I've been dealing with an odd health issue that has required a battery of tests, all of which are showing that nothing seems to be wrong, which of course is good news, but still, the odd health issue comes and goes and I'm gnashing my teeth over our horrible health insurance . . . well, you know that story. And then last night Tom and I both came down with what seems likely to have been food poisoning. Jeez Louise.

Meanwhile, there's been great news. It looks like I will be teaching poetry and essay workshops for 24PearlStreet, the online writing program of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. This feels wonderful and also a bit dizzying because some of the other instructors are major poetry names: for instance, Kim Addonizzio and Carolyn Forche have both taught for 24PearlStreet. I'm not sure when my first offerings will start, but you can check out the other classes that are currently available.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Richard III: Conversation 1 (Act 1, Scenes 1 & 2)

So how was your first foray into Richard? As I mentioned in my assignment post earlier this week, today I'm hoping you'll begin a conversation in the comments focused around details that made you curious . . . and by curious I mean created interest, puzzlement, confusion, or even distrust.

I'm going to throw out my notion here, and then respond along with you in the comments section.

I wondered why King Edward's mistress, Mistress Shore, was mentioned so early and so prominently in Scene 1, and drawn as such an engaging character, yet Shakespeare chose not to make her a member of the cast.
We say that Shore's wife hath a pretty foot,
A cherry lip, a bonny eye, a passing pleasing tongue.
. . . .
Can you deny all this?