Everyone needs community. Even the most morose, dour or individualistic poets need the help of their peers to grow.
University of Central Oklahoma poet-in-residence Douglas Goetsch is hoping to inject some of the communal spirit of his hometown, New York City, into Oklahoma City with poetry workshops.
Goetsch has published six collections of poems, received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and has had his poems in various anthologies, including “Best American Poetry.” Although poetry is often seen as a lonely art form, his attachment didn’t take hold until he started writing with his students.
“I taught a lot of poetry, and my policy was always, ‘If you are reading something, you write it,'” Goetsch said. “If we’re reading fiction, I have them writing fiction. If we’re reading poetry, we write poetry, and I got the bug along with some of my students.”
The fall poetry workshop he hopes to start will be held weekly. The workshop will be modeled after an NYC workshop Goetsch attended during his formative years as a poet.
“I was very much influenced by a neighborhood workshop that might still be going on,” he said. “I was really lucky because there were incredibly good writers, and it was a mix of poetry and prose.”
Peer review is a critical, he said, because whether a writer is literary, professional or even a slam poet, more often than not, they are hindered by their sizable egos.
“All too often, what happens at workshops is they come wanting praise,” Goetsch said. “They would rather have 10 pieces of praise rather than 10 ways to improve their writing. When they get criticism, it tends to insult them because that same poem got a score of 10 at the local slam. But if you can take the poem that got a 10 and then improve it, that makes you a better writer.”
To that end, he advises poets with a burning desire to thrive in the notoriously cash-poor poetry world to be open and eager for criticism, as well as reading other poets religiously. He estimates that he reads 100 books of poetry for every one book he writes.
There will be weekly writing assignments, he said, but the workshops will not be like the college courses he teaches at UCO, which tend to be more structured and with a grading system. The workshops will move at the pace dictated by the poems they are discussing, and he will “meet the students where they’re at.”
“There will be less rigor unless people bring that rigor onto themselves, which tends to happen with poetry,” Goetsch said. “You will see these students in the neighborhood classes working twice as hard as students in the college classes. In a casual setting, people are more self-starters. They don’t care about the grades; they just want to break someone’s heart with a poem.” “Charles Martin