Documentary Poetry: a workshop with Simone John

By Ma’ayan D’Antonio


Simone John photo by Ma’ayan D’Antonio

With the sky overcast, we gathered at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library to the sounds of soft music playing. Simone was busily getting ready for the workshop, on the table lay books of poetry. Among them was Testify, Simone’s debut poetry collection, that revolves around the murder trial of Trayvon Martin. Olio by Tyehimba Jess and Blood Dazzler: Poems by Patricia Smith were also among her examples of documentary poetry.

Simone went around the room asking how everyone was doing, based on a scale of 1-5. Simone said that she was a 4.75, because the sun was not yet shining that day. She then preceded to explain in depth what is documentary poetry. A lot of it is researching an event or issue that is on your mind or that you like, get to know it.


Workshop photo by Ma’ayan D’Antonio

For Simone it was mostly what was being said during the murder trial in the death of Trayvon Martin, as well as what people where saying on the social networks. There still are poetic libraries within this form, yet you can pull things from court documents, testimonies, court transcripts, comments that people left on news feeds and so on.

This form of poetry she explained, comes from a place of obsession. It is a way to reflect on the world in a poetic way. “A machine of words.” she said. Find what moves you, hunts you, dig deep into it then write about it.

Simone offered some techniques to consider when writing this or any other kind of poetry:

– Think about tension and how you play with the white space. What is the white space saying, or not saying.

– Think about the view or lens that the poem is taking on.

– Diction and word choice.

– You can have multiple voices in the poem.

– Juxtaposing, comparing things or placing them in conversation with one another.

– Form.

– The writer as the camera, Maggie Nelson does this well.

– Layering texts/ texture. This is a way to use statements that others have made that seem important to the poem.

– Interviews. Olio is an example for what she meant.

With the sun coming out, the poets shared what they had come up with during the workshop. Nothing complete, yet true beginnings.



Poetry As Protest: A Workshop with Simone John

Simone John headshot

Simone John

Join Simone John, poet, educator, and freelance writer for a workshop on Saturday, April 28, at Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Simone John has devised youth poetry workshops that explore hip hop culture and poetry as a form of protest and was part of the POETS RESIST event in Montpelier last November. Bring a passionate issue to write about for this workshop or a news headline or article to use as part of documentary poetics. If possible, bring a laptop or mobile device for research. 

Simone John’s poetry and essays have been published online and in print in The Pitkin Review, The Writer in the World, and the Elohi Gadugi Journal. Her first full-length poetry collection, Testify, is available from Octopus Books. Workshop is limited to 12 participants.

10 am-noon | Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

To register for the workshop: Please contact the library at (802) 223-3338.

PoemCity 2018 Workshops

Introduction to Poetry Slams for Kids with Geof Hewitt:

Ever wonder what a Poetry Slam is? Join Vermont’s reigning slam master, Geof Hewitt, to learn about slams and write your own slam poem! It all happens on Thurs, April 12No limit for participants.

3:30 to 5 pm |Center for Art and Learning , 46 Barre Street

Introduction to Poetry Slams for Kids with Nicole Westbom:

Ever wonder what a Poetry Slam is?

Come join KHL Librarian Nicole Westbom, on SatApril 14, to learn about slams and write your own slam poem! Drop in for the workshop anytime between 2 and 4 pm. No limit for participants.

2 to 4 pm | Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

*Then sign up for the Poetry Slam at the Center for Arts and Learning  that will take place on Sat, April 21 at 3:30 pm. 

Reinventing a Poem with Kerrin McCadden:

On Mon, April 16, bring a draft of a poem you can’t figure out what to do with, and we will work through some revision strategies. We will share our poems and complain about them, and then we will make the biggest moves we can against their failures. I’ll bring the strategies, you bring a good-humored willingness to do more than tinker. Limited to 12 participants.

6 to 8 pm | Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

Poetry of Witness with George Longenecker :

Will take place on Fri April 20 Workshop. How do poets write about historical and political events without sounding preachy and prosy?  We’ll read examples of great poetry, and then create our own. Limited to 12 participants.

2-5 pm | Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

Poetry Play Time with Rosa Castellano:

Join us on Fri, April 20 for Poetry Play Time. Though reading, writing, drawing and crafting we’ll play with some kid-friendly poems. Please bring any favorite poems to share over a snack. What a simple and enjoyable way to expose your children to the experience and mechanics of poetry! Ideal for children 7-11 years old. Limited to 16 participants.

3:00 pm | Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

Reading Aloud- Exploring Poetic Voices with Rick Agran:

Learn to appreciate the rhythm and musicality of poetry and spoken word on Mon, April 23. Bon Mot host and radio producer, Rick Agran, will share recorded voices of contemporary poets to explore their sonic qualities. Poets are invited to bring a poem to share that’s voice they’d like to develop further. We’ll explore breath, annunciation, and diction to accentuate a poem’s language. Limited to 12 participants.

6:30 pm | Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

Renga Poetry with Susan Reid:

Renga, meaning “linked poem,” began over seven hundred years ago in Japan to encourage the collaborative composition of poems. Come take part on Tues, April 24, to create a renga, one poet writes the first stanza, which is three lines long with a total of seventeen syllables. The next poet adds the second stanza, a couplet with seven syllables per line. The third stanza repeats the structure of the first and the fourth repeats the second, alternating in this pattern until the poem’s end. Limited to 24 participants.

3-5 pm| Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

Poetry As Protest  with Simone John:

Poets Samantha Kolber and Michelle Singer will lead participants in an exploration of protest poetry, on Sat, April 28. Come with a theme or idea and write a poem in protest about your most passionate issue. We will give examples of three different forms your protest poem can take, discuss them, and then write our own. Limited to 12 participants.

10 am-noon | Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street

To register for the workshops: 

Please contact the library at (802) 223-3338 or come on it in person to the adult circulation desk.