Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sabbatical: Day 15

So the writer's workshop is almost over. Tomorrow is the last day, and already I miss it. They are all making plans to get together for dinner in Athens when they return on Monday, but I'll be on my way to Mykonos with Annalize (one of my new workshop buddies and an amaaazing woman), who will be going on to another island that afternoon, after which I'll be on my own.

Today we had a guest speaker, Adrien, a poet who lives in Athens. She told us a little about prose poetry and that the most important part of writing poems is precision. When writing poetry, you must be very economical with your words, using only the most necessary ones. There should be some sort of tension, as our instructor Natalie is always reminding us, followed by a resolution or payoff. If you're able to do this in a poem, it can only help your prose writing.

Then we workshopped a few poems in class. Amalia wrote a beautiful poem about the death of her father. Miriam read a gorgeous piece that she wrote for her daughter's wedding. I continue to be so impressed with everyone in this group!

Then we discussed the pantoum, a form poem in which the second and third lines of the first stanza become the first and third lines of the second stanza, and so on and so on, until the last stanza, where the third and first lines of the first stanza become the second and fourth lines of the last stanza. Yeah, I know that sounds confusing, but it's actually really cool and I urge you to give it a try.

We shared our poems with one another as we sat in the empty restaurant by the pool, listening to the sounds of a student dance recital being held on the tennis courts. (Greek kids seem to really like Gwen Stefani.) Dawn wrote a moving poem about her friend finally leaving her abusive husband. Dimple wrote about the pressure she feels to live up to society's expectations (it was great--and she's never written poetry before!). I'm reading Michelle's now, but I'm sure it's amazing. (She is working on a book of poems and I'm sure she'll be published as soon as she's done, she's that good.)

Part of what I wanted to accomplish while I am here is to write a wedding poem for my best friend, who is getting married in August. She requested a Velasquez original. So I decided to make my pantoum about her, about us--how we felt about love as 12-year-old kids and how we feel about it now all these years later, as she is about to marry a wonderful man. The other women in the workshop really liked it, including the visiting poet, to my relief. They all say that even though it's not a Hallmark-type poem meant to be read at a wedding necessarily, I should definitely give it to my friend. I think I will. It's a little personal to reprint here, but I'll give you the one I wrote when Natalie gave us the prompt: "I did it because..." Enjoy.

I Did It Because 
(a haiku by Crystal Velasquez)

I did it because
Everyone said not to.
What did they expect?

P.S. Tonight's dinner was Greek salad with giant blocks of feta cheese, risotto, pork, bread, some delicious cheese cake-type custard dessert with a gram cracker crust and berries on top, and big slabs of watermelon and green melon. I am going to miss this place very, very much. 

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