As I got off work this afternoon, I was thinking about how we think about money, because that’s something that comes up a good deal at a credit union. So I got in my car while thinking about that, and drove to the grocery story, continuing to think, meaning to write. Then I went to poetry class. There aren’t a lot of poems about how people think about money, so everything fermenting in my brain oozed out and evaporated. Also, poetry class has mostly been stressful and unproductive lately. I suppose that, as a very timid poet, I ought to be writing about very obvious things, like trees and sunsets and summer days. Because those things are universal and concrete. Also, I’m pretty literal.
In class, we’re given assignments like this: “here’s an example of a ballad. Here’s a well translated page of Beowolf . Here’s an example of a blues poem. Write an anglo saxon poem with two strong beats in every half line and a caesura in the middle. You have ten minutes. Ok, your ten minutes is up. Who would like to read? Now you’ll do a collaborative ballad. You have ten minutes.
This seems to work for some people. Some people, meanwhile, have no idea whatsoever how to do anything of the sort. Apparently I’m one of those people. My notebook for today is a stream of consciousness ramble about how I’m supposed to be making an anglo-saxon rhythmic poem with two beats on every half line and three alliterative beats in a line if I can, and how I’ve got nothing to work with here, inside my head. Our teacher is perfectly fine, but although this is “intro to poetry,” it seems like I need to start in “remedial poetry,” where we start with trees, sunsets, and seasons. Not that there is such a class.
The other day we had an exercise where we were supposed to compare someone to something in nature. It was a fine exercise as such things go. It was also painful and stressful for me. I kept going down a list of people I knew and trying to pair them with natural things, and I hated all of them. C is a… volcano? M is a… swamp? G is a… bird? Gah!
In another exercise, we were asked to make a list of words that didn’t quite rhyme, trade them with a neighbor, and then make poems where the list of words ended the lines. I had:
I glared at the list for ten minutes, until our time was up. Apparently it was not in my zone of proximal development. Of course, the class is of mixed skill levels, and most of my classmates have much more ready faculty with these things. Nevertheless, I must stick up for literalists and say that if a beginning poetry class is too hard for people who don’t already know how to write poems, then that’s a problem. Things have mostly been downhill since the prosish poem about C’s room, and a description of my parent’s kitchen that was just straight up textured prose, without line breaks or anything.