Poetry Workshop Review

Workshop by Suzanne Rancourt, Feb. 3, 2007

[From Therese Broderick]

In her free afternoon workshop on Saturday, February 3rd at the Social Justice Center in Albany, poet Suzanne Rancourt, MFA, led a packed room (about 20 people) through three writing exercises–1) describe yourself and include one lie; 2) create a story about a photograph; 3) write about the contents of a box.

Suzanne used the Amherst Writers & Artists method of teaching, which means that she made every writer–but especially new and uncertain writers–feel safe and special. She encouraged us to trust the narrators of our first-draft poems or stories. She encouraged us to write honestly, using our natural voice in plain language and using particular details of experience.
According to Suzanne, honesty in writing is not the same as testimony. Honesty in writing is letting our narrators (not the same as our real selves) tell our story without censorship, even to tell “lies” (if told in the context of real life).

After writing comes listening. Suzanne taught us how to listen to our own work and to the work of others. Suzanne encouraged (but did not force) us to read aloud, listening for the passages that were unforgettable and asking, Why were they so memorable? Once we know why certain passages stick in the mind, we start rewriting. Rewriting means distancing ourselves enough from the narrator in order to improve craft. We don’t need to memorize all the academic
terminology of technique, but we do need to pay attention to how words are used and to what effect.

Suzanne is a highly skilled workshop leader and a pleasant person. She is also a fine poet. After the workshop, she read a few of her own poems to an appreciative audience. If you missed this valuable workshop, call Suzanne at 696-3180 to find out about her next one. To learn more
about her method, visit–www.amherstwriters.com.

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