Instructors Look Back on the Workshop Series

The workshop series has (unfortunately) come to a close, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop writing!  It doesn’t matter if you went for a week or if you were there for the entire thing – I think everyone has something they really liked about the workshops that will help their writing in the future.

For me, it was watching everyone grow as a writer.  I shadowed the Adults Workshop, and it was really amazing to see how much everyone improved in only five workshops, and I was truly surprised to see how great the final drafts were.  The class also offered so many insights to poems that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.  I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this.

Here’s what the instructors liked about the workshops:

James Fitzgerald, Kids Workshop
The children’s workshop this fall was rewarding in many ways, but I think what made it particularly special was the quality of students we had. Our group wasn’t the largest–four in all–but the writing and engagement was striking. Not all of Hannah and my lessons stuck at first: Writing metaphorically is no easy task for any writer, much less newcomers. But each week, whether it was similes, rhyming, or tone, students–conciously or not–made use of these poetic tools. It was certainly one of the most successful workshops I’ve had the privilege to teach.

Hannah Ledford, Kids Workshop
I think my favorite part of every Children’s Workshop is at the end when we have the kids read aloud the poems they have written. They get so excited to share their work with us, and I love to see the ways that they use the different things we have taught them in their work. Sometimes they come back the next week with even more poems they have been working on at home, and they can’t wait to read them for us! One of the girls wrote an acrostic poem using my name this week, and so of course that was one of my favorites.

Heather Dorn, Teens Workshop
My favorite part of the Poetry Project every semester is how the workshops foster a sense of artistic community – both a community of writers interacting within the workshop and those workshop writers interacting with the larger community through the anthology and final reading. At the Oasis After School Program, the teens gain audience and support. Everybody is writing; everybody is sharing; everybody is vulnerable and brave and taking risks and stretching themselves. Everybody is practicing art for the love of it, and that makes me hopeful. 

Abby Murray, Veterans Workshop
My favorite part of this season’s workshops has actually taken place “behind the scenes,” as I’ve been writing back and forth with different veterans about where they are in their writing process. Most have been new to poetry and it’s been my pleasure — really, the best part about my job as an instructor — to walk with them as they discuss the poems we read in workshops and the poems they want to write themselves. Poetry isn’t an easy thing to tackle. Kay Ryan once said “Poetry isn’t therapy; poetry is savage,” and I agree to a certain extent. It’s been exciting to help these soldier poets grapple with poetic prompts and develop a literary voice.

Brian Trimboli, Veterans Workshop
Working with members of Binghamton’s veteran community was a privilege that would be hard to replicate. We had our last workshop on Veterans Day and it sort of devolved into a party. We split up and wrote poetry and ate food and came back and read the work out loud. It doesn’t happen often in a poet’s life they get to go to a party like that.

Beca Borger, Adults Workshop
This was a semester of discoveries. Teaching poetry is always a new experience, and watching our students experiment with different voices and perspectives, inspired me to try out innovative things in my own writing. A simple exercise of describing a meeting with a stranger prompted the students to create such diverse, unique, and creative poems, I now feel motivated to push myself as hard as they did themselves. Five weeks came and went too quickly, but there will always be something special about that first class.

Jessica Femiani, Whitney Point Workshop
The poets at the Whitney Point Writers Workshop have been writing poems about depression-era days. Their poems take place”back then,” when the country was at war, and every American sacrificed for the nation. These poets gleefully recollect the distribution of rations, and marvel at how excited they were when the “butter” had arrived. Inside a clear plastic pouch was a soft white spread, and the best part about it all, was not how it tasted, but how their fingers had to press a red dot to release the dye transforming the margarine into a rich, buttery, golden hue. There was something special about watching these septuagenarians and this octogenarian revel in the little novelties of times past, reminding that it is critical that all are encouraged to write and remember, write and re-remember, for in connecting memories together the hard times become the good times.

What was your favorite part of the workshops?

-Michelle Li
BPP Intern 

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