I had to write a reflection essay for my poetry class portfolio that is due next Wednesday. After I finished editing it, I realized that it was something that I also wanted to share here. I feel it belongs here because I started this blog only days before the class began and feel like this blog as grown a lot as this class has gone on.
Here is my reflection essay. Here are my thoughts, as always, spilled out on a page:
I took this class not because I wanted to be a stronger poet, rather, that I wanted to learn and understand the craft behind making beautiful pieces of art. Poetry has always been something that I’ve been fascinated by and I took this class hopeful of finding some insight on how people construct, so elegantly, these masterpieces. I went into this class fully expecting it to be challenging and fully expecting for all of my work to be very, very amateur. It was, and still is. I’ve never considered myself a poet, and while I still don’t know if I uncovered the inner poet in me, I do know that I ended up uncovering a lot of unknowns about myself, as well as how I can give my poetry life. There is so much more that goes into writing poetry, in my opinion, than I could have ever realized.
When I started the class I knew that it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t realize just how difficult it would really be. I’ve always been someone who enjoys a good challenge, but after my first poem, January,I felt a little deflated. I remember the other poems, how animated people were about each of them, and how all of the other classmates seemed to have something to say in regards to them. After I read through mine,
the room was silent; so silent that I could hear their awkwardness as they shifted in their seats. Finally, I feel, out of obligation, someone piped up and got some movement and the conversation going. I remember my heart pounding and how nervous I already was; but, not having any criticism left me with stirring thoughts in my head of how they all thought it was absolutely appalling. I thought about dropping the class.
After I left the class, and nearly sprinted to my car, I read through all of the comments impatiently. Much to my surprise, I found some really amazing feedback, positive and negative alike. It was the spark of enthusiasm that I needed. People did like it. It really was awful, though, now that I’ve read back and edited it, but it was a necessary stepping stone for my growth in the class. I jumped back onto the wagon and decided to accept the challenge all over again. I also had a lot more “Shitty First Drafts” with all of my other poems than I had with January, thanks to Ann Lamott. I focused a lot more on writing it down, leaving it and then returning to it day by day and editing it. I think this help significantly. Coupling the class with her book also helped me on multiple of levels. Her simplistic hints and tips on what to do, what not to do, and about how to get back on the proverbial horse of writing made getting through the class a little more comforting.
Personally, I think that my writing has developed, but not because I actually started writing poetry, but because of the workshops and how everyone broke apart each poem. I specifically remember reading over my last poem, I know not what I do, what I want, and thinking about the word choices, the flow, the musicality and constantly editing it based upon what I knew people would have questions about. I changed a lot of the ambiguity, the structure of the poem all in memory of what others would have to say. Not only were the workshops themselves helpful for the current poem being ripped to teeny little pieces, but for the future birth of poems that I had to focus on. I liked the workshops, although, admittedly they were sometimes bittersweet. Yet, somehow I always found them thoughtfully engaging; especially as we all became more comfortable with each other.
I really appreciated all of the exercises; they were very difficult and I loved being given the ability to think outside the box. What I found out about myself during this class can be directly related to the exercises: I’m far too literal. I remember reading the “how to poems” and becoming frustrated because I couldn’t find the “how to” in anyone’s poem. I was far too wrapped up in the assignment in a Hermione Grainger type way that I didn’t allow myself the mental freedom of exploration that is often needed with theses assignments. The “how to” poem was by far my most frustrating poem to write mainly because I was lacking the creative escapism needed to properly develop a strong poem. It was, in my opinion, my weakest poem. I felt the pressure of the assignment creeping up on me and preventing me from actually writing. The revision of this poem, however, was probably one of my favorites because I completely removed the must have the proper assignment mentality.
I learned a lot from this class; not necessarily about my writing, but about who I am as an individual. Mentally, I was a bit unstable going into this class. I had a lot of personal issues that were preventing me from really seeing the necessary things to let myself go and just write. I also had more than enough pent up emotions that they spilled over into my work unnecessarily. It was when, in discussion, someone else brought up how they became sick of writing about their divorce and decided to move towards another persona that I really felt a true connection to the class and to myself. It was like a mental block was removed from the creative side of my brain. As a result my writing has strengthened and I feel a lot more confident in my poetry, critical essays and blog entries. This class, as well as the first half of Bird by Bird (since it was on writing and on life) gave me a new outlook that I desperately needed. This class was by far the most challenging and the most enjoyable class I’ve taken in a long time. I’m very glad I didn’t drop the course after January, especially since I learned so much about such a delicate art, and myself.