All Together in a Sudden Strangeness: Breaking Our Writing Patterns
In “Keeping Quiet,” Pablo Neruda suggests that “we all keep still” and see what will happen when we find ourselves “all / together in a sudden strangeness.” This workshop is not about keeping still but about taking chances, which will indeed allow us to be together “in a sudden strangeness”—one that hopefully will encourage us to break out of our familiar and safe writing patterns. Some of us write lushly, with lots of powerful imagery; others adhere to a spare style, the fewer words the better; and some of us delight in playing with language, letting ideas rather than sensory details convey our ideas. The truth is, once we find our “voice” as poets, we tend to stick with that particular voice, that familiar style, the one that “works,” the one that people admire, the one we hope editors will publish. This is not necessarily a bad thing; however, taking chances that pull us out of our familiar style, even briefly, can be enormously energizing to us as poets, renewing our excitement about writing and helping us explore new and often exhilarating ways of expression. In this workshop, we will read and discuss a selection of poems in a variety of forms and voices, then do a series of exercises that hopefully will nudge us, at least temporarily, out of our safe path as poets and perhaps encourage us to try out new voices from time to time. Participants should bring twenty copies of one of their own successful poems, one that they feel is “working well,” so they can try revising it as part of the exercises, but they will also have the opportunity to simply write a new poem in a new voice.
Biographical Note: Edwina Trentham is Professor Emerita of English at Asnuntuck Community College, in Enfield, Connecticut, where she continues to teach poetry and is also the Editor of Freshwater, a national poetry journal, which is celebrating its fourteenth anniversary this year. She was also a Visiting Instructor in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University for seventeen years. She has published poetry in a variety of periodicals, including Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, The Connecticut Review, and The American Scholar. Her first collection of poetry, Stumbling into the Light, was published by Antrim House in 2004, and she was a featured reader in The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in 2005. She was awarded a 2010 Solo Writers Fellowship by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.