Reflections from the Non-Traditional Perspective

boxing quote

I was talking with my husband recently about fights. Not husband/wife arguments but boy fights, bar fights. He made a good point about how differently younger men and older men approach a fight. He said younger men go into a fight assuming they will win and give it everything they’ve got because they don’t want to get hurt. Older men approach a fight expecting to lose, but also fairly confident that they are going to mess the other guy up good before they go down.

This got me thinking about my role as a non-traditional student. I’m like the older guy in a bar fight. I know I’m not the brightest student on campus but I also know that I am going to give this experience my best effort and try to leave a mark before I’m done. That’s why I applied to be an intern with the Binghamton Poetry Project. I wanted to become an active member of the writing community on campus. It was a way that I could try to leave a mark.

During the five weeks of poetry workshops, I learned as much about poetry as I learned about the participants. Their love of learning and passion for poetry was evident in everything they did, from the questions they asked to the poems they produced. They faced the challenge each poetry prompt presented to them with excitement and their own unique perspective. Whether they were asked to write a villanelle about death or a vividly descriptive poem about their favorite travel destination, the folks in the workshops wrote each poem with thoughtful attention and genuine enthusiasm.

I introduced the narrative and prose poem to the Monday adult workshop group when it was my day to teach a portion of the class. I’ve also spoken about narrative poetry in a previous post as I’m a big fan of the style. Some workshop participants weren’t wild about it initially. They battled with the idea because it is so starkly different from what they are used to. They struggled to understand the use of poetry to tell a story. During later workshops I found that participants were nonetheless using the form to create their own poems. Even though the lesson I chose to share was initially met with skepticism, it was great to see these poets utilize the knowledge and step outside their comfort zone to try something new and expand their poetic tool box.

comfort zone

As a fellow non-traditional student, I understand the apprehension that can come with learning new stuff. I often hesitate to share my opinions in class because I already stand out as different from the other students. In the workshops, I was neither the youngest nor the oldest student in the room. The variety of life experiences each participant brought to the table made it all the more interesting. We wrote and shared poems about work, death, childhood and aging. Everybody had something unique to share based on where they are now and the places they’ve been. The workshops inspired me to start sharing my opinions more frequently in class. Seeing how each participants’ contributions added to the workshop learning experience made me think that the younger students in class can benefit from my perspective as well.

I admire all the participants in each of the spring workshops for trying something new and expanding their knowledge no matter what stage in life they are in. The next time you approach something where you know you are going to be different from everyone else or that it may be a little uncomfortable, don’t shy away from it. Opportunities I never thought I could be a part of, like an internship with the Binghamton Poetry Project, opened up to me when I was willing to take a chance and try something new. Just like the poets attending the poetry workshops have the opportunity to share their poems in our publication and at the final reading event, all because they dared to participate. Don’t let your age or other differences prevent you from learning. Keep writing your beautiful poetry. Jump into each fight with your fists flying and leave your mark.


Spring BPP Intern


One thought on “Reflections from the Non-Traditional Perspective

  1. Thanks so much, Heather, for everything you did to make the BInghamton Poetry Project fly this spring! Part of the richness of the experience is the unique mix of the participants, with ages from teens to seniors every week. I don’t think I ever thought of you as being non-traditional age; I just thought of you as our hard-working intern getting things to flow as smoothly as they could – even though dealing with all the details seems as daunting as herding cats! See you at the reading Friday!
    – Joanne C.


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