When I was a teenager, I wrote poetry. Not necessarily good poetry, mind you. After one of my college professors compared my poetry to a Hallmark card, I decided to pursue other avenues of expression. Haven't written a poem since.
So when I read over the workshop offerings at the Susquehanna Valley Writers' Workshop last weekend, Lora Zill's "Poetry: Cross Training for Prose Writers" was not one of my top choices. At least not at first.
But when the instructors were invited to tell us a little about their offerings, something about the way Lora presented herself and her ideas intrigued me. So, I stuffed my low poetry self-esteem in my back pocket and gave it a shot.
Cross training indeed. Lora focused on literary devices, word choice and the beauty of language. Transforming prose into poetry, she challenged us to think about how we respond to words, and how much difference the length of a line can make when it comes to painting a word picture or making an impact. She interspersed hints in and among low-pressure, hands-on exercises (no experience necessary) to create a workshop that was informative and uplifting. Nary a Hallmark card in sight, but there was some Sylvia Plath. I think my freshman English professor would have liked that.
Lora's message was simple: all writers should choose their words with care and attention to the impact they make, regardless of the genre in which they write. But for me, an even bigger takeaway was the reappearance of my chastened self-esteem. While I don't expect that I'll switch from prose to poetry, I was reminded that poetry doesn't have to be mystical and "just right," and that as with anything else, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What a way to start a conference.