Sunday, August 17, 2014

What the Owl Knows: Workshop in the Lyric Poem

Report from Creative Arts Week, 2014, with gratitude to my fellow writers, colleagues, and friends.

Ghost Ranch can be a bit short on creature comforts unless you are a rabbit, lizard, crow or burro. We compensate with luxury of view: mesa, juniper, chimney rock.
We make do with combustible creativity and hot tea, and stories, and a shared blanket if the sofa seat’s too hard. We feed each other. We take liberties. We swat mosquitoes where they land.

The Ghost House Poets had their matching owl socks, and like the owl they were wise to each other’s new writing, listening and questioning, opening and closing. In class, they indulged my assignments, drafting spontaneous work that lifted aloft those little paper exercises into double-fisted kites. I was constantly surprised. Once I thought: what a good teacher I am. Pedernal nearly fell down laughing. Burros brayed. Okay, maybe I was just happy to be in the company of poets making poems.

This group of five (plus all their alter egos and wild personas) mostly played in the afternoons but worked into the night willing to be discomfited, lost, pissed off, confused, or ghosted before they got to the dream state we call inspiration. When I saw them at breakfast, I could tell.

Together, they answered the unbidden call. They let fear into their poems. One gave us a tango demonstration. One sang a haunting song. We threw the dice. We took our numbers to the page and made them beautiful.

 Woody Guthrie came one day. We rewrote the medicine cards. We gave each other lines. We broke them how we wanted. What a class. Really, what a tonic. Who says there are few creature comforts at the Ranch.