For years I used the renga, a linked poetry form, to begin writing workships, (oops, workshops--but maybe the original mistake is more accurate??) leting the students introduce themselves to each other and to me through their spontaneous lyric repsonses to each others' short lines. The traditional renga uses syllabic count and thematic restrictions, but I let most of that go. (Though it would be fascinating to keep the traditions in a workshop setting in which the poets were ready for this.) My classroom renga kept only the basics: each student, including myself, began with a three line poem, using something from the season or the place in which the poet happened to be. The poet then passed this poem on to another poet, to the right usually, who then wrote without thinking much about it, a two line response to something in those first three lines. So each page went around the room, ending up again with the originator, who then added a closing three or two line poem, depending on what had gone before. We'd end up with sheaves of poems, each one with every student's "voice" in it.
So, here's how it would begin, with my own poem
"Gray window sky,
black branches reaching overhead
like a spider web--"
and then I would hand this on to the student/poet to my right who might respond
stick to my face in early morning"
to which the third poet might respond in three lines,
"shining webs around me
showing me how the sun
tries to weave intself into my garden"
So it goes, and you never really know what you are going to get, how the collaboration will weave in and out and then end up in some mind-blowing way! Here, just standing in my kitchen with my laptop, I started in winter and ended up up summer!
Of course, a lot of the jr. high guys liked to add blood and gore to theirs, when I'd visit classrooms, but not always.
So, do you think we can try this? I will begin today, on a side bar, wit the three lines I just wrote above, and poets of all ages can respond with a two line response, which I will post, and then pass it on, so that more can respond. Or, teachers, you can do what I used to do with my classes, and then leave the results as a post on my blog. What happens may seem chaotic, but I promise, out of the seeming chaos will come some really astonishing poetry, and maybe we can collaborate all across the state of NC during January.
And you individual poets can do this day by day or hour by hour and see what you come up with. It would be a way of poetically/emotionally recording your experience, short poem by short poem. And those small books I featured in the preceding post, wouldn't they be great to use for this?
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