Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.
Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories—each time in a new disguise—maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “One Hundred False Starts”
published in The Saturday Evening Post, March 4th, 1933
My writing cycles through phases. At each new outset, I become excited by an aesthetic challenge, practice it, master it as thoroughly as I can, until, finally, it feels flimsy and predictable, washed out and thin. Then I dismantle the structures of thought I had built for myself and begin again.
As I build my new structures, I follow my passions: I read and think about the poems written by poets I love (truly love), and I also follow the threads of everything else that interests me, a constantly shifting network of architects, composers, comedians, sculptors… I like to see how other minds think, and what other creative fields can teach me about how to make poetry.
Begin with two premises: (1) that you contain subjects or experiences that interest you perpetually, things and ideas you like to return to and (2) you have developed a comfortable (maybe habitual) way of writing about these things, a hard-earned and unique thought process that manifests as poetry—but whose meaning may leach away if the approach remains static forever.
Then: (3) What alternative approaches could exist for engaging with your favorite subjects? What ways of thinking, in conversation with what has come before, can you manifest, that haven’t exactly existed before?
This is a generative workshop in which you will, perhaps, not only make new poems but also draft a different set of interests, challenges, or parameters to guide you as you create. In each class, we’ll study the work of poets (across time and space), but also draw upon the thought processes and conditions of other art forms and creative fields.
Emily Bludworth de Barrios is the author of one book of poems, Splendor (H_NGM_N 2015), and two chapbooks: Women, Money, Children, Ghosts (Sixth Finch 2016) and Extraordinary Power (Factory Hollow Press 2014). Her poems have most recently appeared in jubilat, The Harvard Review, Gulf Coast, Columbia Journal, and The Poetry Review. She received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and also holds degrees from Goldsmiths College and The College of William and Mary. She was born in Houston and raised in Houston, Cairo, and Caracas; she now lives in Houston. Her website is www.emilybludworthdebarrios.com.