Workshopping with Kerrin McCadden

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Workshop in progress. Photo by Ma’ayan D’Antonio

By, Ma’ayan D’Antonio

Kerrin McCadden, is the author of Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, winner of the Vermont Book Award and the New Issues Poetry Prize. As well as a resident of Montpelier. Kerrin held a workshop for reinventing poetry, a way to revise poetry. The workshop took place at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library on Monday, April 16. Kerrin, humble as she was introduced, wanted to know the participants’ names and where they are with their poetry. As each in turn said their name, they all talked in depth about where they are with their poem, someone even stated that they “accidentally wrote a poem”.

Kerrin, who mostly teaches high school kids finds it wired when grownups sit so still in front of her, “adults” she stated with a laugh. Geof Hewitt and Rick Agran (other PoemCity presenters) were also in attendance. “I’m always looking for new ways to look at poetry,” Agran said when he introduced himself.

Kerrin wanted the participants to be willing to think about how to make a poem work. As well as contemplate what makes a poem work? She explained that we don’t always know what is best for our poem, and at times a poem is not its best self. So how do you make it better? The more you push it around, the more it will tell you when it is done.

She presented an exercise to flex the ‘poet muscle’. To enable contrast try to fit five words that don’t necessarily work together in a poem, this will allow more room for the subconscious creativity to surface what we tend to keep back.

She gave different ways to reinvent a poem.

– Translate the poem into more then one language, then back to English and see what the end results bring. You might be surprised.

– Create tension by shifting focus.

– Take an old poem and write it a companion.

– Consider cutting the openings and endings of a poem and see what you are left with.

– Look at the large scale of the poem to create a new poem, you may find that the small things change into something even better- deeper.

– Change the order in which you give the information to the reader.

– Shift verb tense, try from the past to the future.

– Change the point of view from the I to him or you.

McCadden also suggests to look at a thesaurus, from different publications as well as different decades, to find new and interesting words to use.

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