Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Poetry: Cross Training for Prose Writers"

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.


  1. As a Runner and a hiatus-ing Triathlete let me say that I love the "Cross-Training" metaphor

    Anything that takes you out of your [cliche alert] "Comfort Zone" and challenges you, makes you better at what you love

    I've written TONS of poetry ... okay, lyrics to songs my band couldn't learn ... and still do, when that's how La Muse presents herself

  2. I loved the Cross Training metaphor, too,and can't take credit for it - that was Lora's. Poetry is definitely out of my comfort zone!!

  3. I love finding your blog, Lisa! I've only read the one entry so far, but as you notice, I am a new follower. I'm with you on the poetry low self-esteem. I have an online friend who teaches poetry workshops in NYC and she has told me that I am and always will be a "proset". I don't write much of it, but I know what i like. See you tomorrow and am looking forward to getting to know you better through your blog and in person. Linda Landreth Phelps

  4. Linda -

    I am definitely a "proset"! What a great word!

    Thanks for reading and following. Glad to have you in the group!