Friday, February 12, 2016

The Great Poetry Disruption (Barcelona Notebook #3)

Readers of Chapter This may have stopped wondering what happened to this blog. Where did it go after an intense daily series in the month of May, scattered postings over the summer, then silence since September?

The answer (more or less) is poetry.

In June of 2015 I joined a 10-day workshop called Writing about Art in Barcelona with poet/instructor Sharon Dolin. In fact, I attempted to start an occasional series on this blog to report on the experience. I made it to Barcelona Notebook #2. I chose the workshop for two reasons. 1) I wanted to return to Barcelona, a place I had visited with my one-year-old son 17 years earlier, when he was a healthy little guy and life felt lucky. This Barcelona visit was a way to honor his memory at the time of his 18th birthday, a decade since his death. 2) I wanted to write about art and memory in Barcelona.

Jiwar reading room
June 2015
I planned to write in prose, although I knew the workshop would focus more on poetry.  During the ten days, we visited a plaça with a bomb shelter; Gaudí's Parc Güell; museums dedicated to Miró, Picasso, and contemporary art; Gaudí's Casa Batllo. We toured an artist's studio, met a Catalan poet.

Each day at the Jiwar center, we workshopped the previous day's work and discussed a new assignment. We learned about different ways to consider ekphrasis, i.e., writing from art, and Sharon's taxonomy of ekphrasis was exhaustive and inspiring: describe an artwork, write of the artwork without explicitly saying you are doing so, talk of art-making, write of museum experience, give an artist's portrait, and so on. A handy basic reference is Art and Artists: Poems, edited by Emily Fragos.

View from Parc Güell
over Barcelona

Before we left for each day's outing, Sharon also offered guidance on a particular poetic form to try. For example, when we visited the sprawling, inventively tiled Parc Güell, she suggested we write in a mosaic way. On another day, she suggested we write a poem in a strict form (a cinquain, or perhaps a villanelle). The six of us - five participants and Sharon - scribbled in our notebooks, snapped photos, and walked around with our eyes in the clouds. Sometimes my husband and daughter joined us on these excursions. (If you ask my daughter, we all looked pretty weird.)

Everyday, I produced a poem. I did not write prose. Over the 10 days, my poems progressed from idea-laden prose-like texts (with line breaks) to something freer, more playful, and somehow much less. That is, I began to see that despite the many ideas wanting to crowd their way in, I would find the heart of the poem when I left most of the "stuff" out.

It seems I've lost my head. Take a look at my posts July-September 2015. The anniversary of Simon's death and some dragonflies yanked me back to memoir/prose, but otherwise the impulse to write in verse has become powerful and, well, disruptive. I posted a few poems. I even posted about being confused about writing in verse or prose. In the "back end" of this blog, I count seven draft posts along my "old" lines over the past six months. Unfinished, unposted.

I've been busy, and, I promise, I'll be back.

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