Monday, March 26, 2012

Writing Groups

The 2012 National Poetry Month poster, designed by Chin-Yee Lai
I use a lot of links on this blog. Here's one to a great article on Raymond Carver and the complexity of the idea of the author.

I am, at this point in my life, a very social writer. This was not always the case: there was a time when I created my work in a vacuum of my own mind and intellectual space; I did not look for or want criticism, praise or any other critical attention. At that point, I wanted to write what I wrote. I wrote a lot of junk then, and I wrote a lot of what I would now recognize as a first draft with potential.

I learned to be a social writer in two different ways: I spent 5 seasons following the Yankees for Pinstripe Alley, and I spent 4 years semi-regularly attending a weekly poetry reading and workshop in Syracuse, which directly lead to the publication of my chapbook by Turtle Ink Press. From blogging, I got addicted to the joy of the discussion and playing with questions to which there is no right answer but to which there is an answer. From the poetry workshop, I learned how to revise (a process that I would now argue is the most important part of writing).

I don't have a poetry workshop at the moment, and consequently, I'm not writing much poetry. One of the ideas for this blog was that it might be a space where I'd do that more, but so far my ideas have largely come out in prose. This has all been on my mind because Poetry Month and the poem-a-day April challenge is looming.

The fun of the April challenge is reading what my friends are writing. To read what people I've never met write. To read how everyone everywhere is struggling to catch that scent of salt and call it what it is. And if, in the process, someone writes a poem that inspires me- something that makes me say, I think I can say that truer- which of us is the author of the next poem I put on paper?

The question of authorship is a strange one. I would always give credit to the people who helped me refine my work, but I think of it as a process not all that different from smelting. I provided ore, and with some heat (some of it mine, some not), made iron. At the same time, no one lives in a bubble. If we accept that humans are social creatures, why would it be a surprise that artists rely (to different extents) on their community? To use a different metaphor, why would it be acceptable to rely on the community for help creating the memories and experiences that become the seeds of writing, and not use the community to prune the ensuing orchard and harvest the fruit?

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