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Poet, Laura Grace Weldon

 

Poetry workshops are new to me. It’s not easy to muster up the time and money to attend. It’s harder still to tremble through harshly critical sessions, coming away with little beyond self-doubt. But when a poet I adore offers a workshop, I’ve learned it’s always worth it.

 Recently I spent an afternoon at Oberlin’s quiet public library for an Ohio Poetry Association program with Bruce Weigl, who writes about his experience of war and his Midwest surroundings with equally sharp focus. His recent collection is The Abundance of Nothing, a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Poetry Prize. He’s a kind, humorous, and relentlessly encouraging man.

The exercise he gave us was divided into two parts. First we wrote as if we were walking through our childhood homes and neighborhoods. Next we wrote our impressions of a foreign city we’d never visited. The take-away? Most poets tend to come up with far more irrelevant, far less evocative language for what’s familiar.

So for this exercise put yourself in a relaxed state of mind. Then pick a place entirely foreign to you. Perhaps a remote river valley in Ethiopia, the bustling city of Hanoi, a tea garden in Istanbul, or a taxi driving through Buenos Aires. Envision yourself immersed in the sounds, colors, and action of this place. Then write what you see.

 Here’s what I wrote in our session, a piece that’s still in draft stage:


Baghdad

 

Vendors hawk smells

I long to taste.

Street life clatters and hums

with music I don’t recognize

yet find familiar.

People pass in every directionfile4941342694400

some with hair the

glossy black I envy,

their lips staccato,

eyes legato.

 

I want paint in my hand

and words truer than prayer

to write on park benches,

telephone poles, buses,

and street side tables

where cards are played

and tea is sipped,

I’m sorry.

We’re all so sorry.

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and a handbook of natural education, Free Range Learning. She lives on a small farm where she’s an editor, nonviolence educator, awe junkie, and marginally useful farm wench. Connect with her via her blog and Twitter.

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