I’d like to re-introduce to you my esteemed colleague and friend, Sage Cohen. I say re-introduce because she is already the managing editor and a columnist for The Writer Mama e-zine. She’s currently sharing the engaging story of her “The Articulate Conception,” the tale of how she met her husband, had a baby, and wrote her first traditionally published book in a very short but joy-filled span of time.
Since Sage was on hiatus having her son, Theo these past months, I thought I’d see if she’d share a few words with all of us about her upcoming class, Poetry for the People (starts March 11th) and her forthcoming book, Writing the Life Poetic, An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writer’s Digest Books, April 2009).
Q: How did you come to teach a class on integrating poetry into everyday life?
The truth is, no one needs an advanced degree in creative writing to reap its rewards. What most people need is simply a proper initiation. Poetry for the People offers such an initiation. My goal is that students will come away with a sense of how to tune into the world around them through a poetic lens–and start getting those observations down on paper. Once this way of perceiving is awakened, anything is possible!
I have always been troubled by the idea that has been ingrained in so many of us that we must be some kind of professional or expert in order to express ourselves creatively. Such limited thinking is seriously squishing our sense of possibility—in our lives and in our writing. As long as we hold ourselves to such standards, poetry is likely to elude most of us.
Q: What’s the intention behind your class? Why did you call the class Poetry for the People instead of say, The Aesthetics of Poetics?
Most poetry classes are geared toward a relatively small population of people who are already fairly serious about writing and reading poetry. Poetry for the People is for everyone else—people who have some deep feeling they would like to express, and would like to do so through poetry. (Many students are writing poetry already; others may have always believed that poetry is out of their reach.) Poetry for the People is designed to offer a friendly, accessible way for students to discover or enhance a poetic way of seeing, living and writing. Both practical and inspirational, it will leave students with a greater appreciation for the poetry they read and a greater sense of possibility for the poetry they write.
Q: Can you give us a quick overview of your forthcoming book, Writing the Life Poetic?
Certainly! Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, forthcoming from Writers Digest Books this April, puts poetry back into the hands of the people––not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States––but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life.
Writing the Life Poetic is packed full of captivating new ways to generate ideas and have fun with the writing process. 80 short, friendly chapters address a mix of content, process and craft ideas designed to help readers:
- Find the inspiration they need to put pen to paper immediately
- Transform the raw materials of experience and emotion into language
- Build skills and confidence in their poetic voice
- Learn some key craft techniques and enjoy experimenting with them
- Engage in (or breathe new life into) a writing and reading practice
- Get excited about the possibilities of poetry
- Poetry is as unique and personal as fingerprints. Writing the Life Poetic is designed to help readers find their place in poetry by tuning into the poetry of their lives—and getting it down on the page.
Q: What sets your book apart from all the other books on poetry writing?
The craft of poetry has been well documented in a variety of books that offer a valuable service to serious writers striving to become competent poets. Now it’s time for a poetry book that does more than lecture from the front of the classroom. Writing the Life Poetic was written to be a contagiously fun adventure in writing. Through an entertaining mix of insights, exercises, expert guidance and encouragement, I hope to get readers excited about the possibilities of poetry––and engaged in a creative practice. Leonard Cohen (no relation) says: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” My goal is that Writing the Life Poetic be the flame fueling the life well lived.
Q: What do you love most about teaching Poetry for the People?
My goal is to serve as a weathervane, pointing students in their own true directions so they can turn their sails into the wind. I love witnessing and celebrating that moment when the sail catches and the writer’s craft leaps forward–as students tune into the subject matter or language that really has energy for them.
Q: How has integrating poetry and poetry-writing into your life impacted you?
I will risk sounding melodramatic in saying that poetry saved my life. I stumbled into a writing practice at an extremely vulnerable time in my early teenage years. Poetry gave me then, as it does today, a way of giving voice to feelings and ideas that felt too risky and complicated to speak out loud. There was a kind of alchemy in writing through such vulnerabilities…by welcoming them in language, I was able to transform the energies of fear, pain and loneliness into a kind of friendly camaraderie with myself. In a way, I wrote myself into a trust that I belonged in this world.
Q: How does poetry make the world a better place to live?
I think poetry fills the gap left by the so-called objective truth that dominates our media, science and legislation. Many of us want to comprehend and communicate the complexity of human experience on a deeper, more soulful level. Poetry gives us a shared language that is more subtle, more human, and—at its best—more universally “true” than we are capable of achieving with just the facts.
To keep up with the latest on Sage and all of her poetic adventures, please subscribe to the Writing the Life Poetic blog.