It’s been a good poetry year for me. I just transferred to the University of Maryland and live and study in the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House, a two-year program focusing on poetry or prose, with a Writers’ House course each semester. You have to pick a concentration, but you can take a few classes in the other genre if you want.
I took small workshop classes focusing on poetry with others in the program. My first class this fall was about 16 students, mostly girls. We workshopped about eight or so poems and had to revise all of them for our final portfolios at the end of the semester. The class this spring was four people, two girls and two guys, and the professor. Four people. Workshopping. With plenty of time to give comments on all parts of the poem and stay on one poem for longer. It was an amazing experience. I workshopped about 13 poems and revised about 10.
It’s amazing that the Writers’ House and other programs like it can offer this for students–a space to live with other writers, people who love doing what you do, people who are focused and passionate, a place to work on and improve your writing, to get feedback and comments and constructive criticism, a place to take classes with peers you get to know very well and to be able to have small courses.
The class with four students was incredible because by the middle we all knew each other’s style so well, we were making fun of each other’s by speaking how they would write. I grew really close to all of them, it was like writing with friends, but still being able to trust that they’ll offer important feedback and show you where you’re slacking and what you need to improve. I enjoyed Anika’s comments the most, because her style is most similar to mine and she really got what I was trying to do with my confessional-type poems and in all of my poems. She said, “You take a moment or a person and magnify them so they’re more important.” Like an incredibly short profile (for newspaper writing, my other love). That was the most spot-on analysis of my writing anyone has ever given me. It meant a lot.
My writing style has also changed a lot since I last wrote about it here. I’ve started writing less stream-of-consciousness this spring semester. I’ve really been working on cutting down my writing before it’s on the page. I found that I’ve been consciously restricting myself a bit to stay in certain-lined stanzas and lines, not to go overboard because then I start repeating myself or using more than one image to describe something, and I’ve been told that takes away from the power of it. I’ve found that this new method and way of writing helps me condense better–even before the poem is finished. Condensing is one of my main issues when writing. I’ve been working on it and continue to do so.
Last year, I was the Poetry Editor of Stylus, the literary journal at the University of Maryland. I led poetry board meetings and reviewed poetry submissions to the journal. I feel like this experience helped broaden my knowledge of poetry and the different types of poetry people write on campus.
I’ve really seen my writing improve this year. I’ve managed to condense from writing two or three pages just starting a poem, to three to eight stanzas. I see how form can help get ideas and images and descriptions across better. I don’t necessarily adhere to a set form, but this year my poems have become more condensed and same-lined stanzas. I use less cliched and abstract writing and really work on using specific descriptions and sensory details.
I look forward to my next year and last year in the Writers’ House and what other wonderful experiences I’ll have. This year I’m going to be the Editor-in-Chief of The Writers’ Bloc, the literary-focused newsletter for the Writers’ House. We created it last year and I was the Online Editor, I managed the website and a team of reporters. I can’t wait to write more, improve and revise my writing, make a chapbook of poems (the final project for the Writers’ House) and make more writing friends and peers who I can stay in touch with and send my writing to. These are going to be writers I want to read and offer feedback to, if I can, and have them read my writing and offer me feedback.