EDWARDS — From iambic to trochaic, meter to free verse, sonnet to haiku, poetry is versatile and teachable. The Bookworm of Edwards invites aspiring poets of all ages and backgrounds to a poetry workshop today, led by American contemporary writer Jodie Hollander, author of “The Humane Society.”
During the workshop, she will share her extensive knowledge about reading and writing poetry, including how to structure, organize and develop poems, plus writing habits that support her creative process.
The poetic form resonated with Hollander at a young age.
“I grew up on the east side of Milwaukee, and at the time there was a great bookshop with a huge poetry selection,” she said. “I remember spending hours in that store, camped out in the poetry section trying to decide what to buy — then finally taking home Mary Oliver’s ‘American Primitive,’ Sylvia Plath’s ‘Ariel’ and Sharon Olds’ ‘The Gold Cell.’ Looking back on it now, I think I chose those poets because their language felt inclusive, their writing gave me the sense that I was being invited to take part in an intimate experience with language.”
The author’s well-crafted poems bring to life deeply personal experiences and her poetry has a unique musicality to them. She believes good poetry has emotion at its core. For example, the beginning of her poem, “Taking My Mother to England,” extracts themes of grief and loss within a moment of time.
In my dream I took my mother with me
to England — the long, long, flight she slept,
rest, I said, save your strength, there’s much
for you to see in the little time that’s left:
Georgian buildings, the old country cottages,
violinists in Oxford’s cobbled streets.
But I couldn’t sit, I kept pacing the aisles
wondering where I’d take my mother first,
and I kept hearing my father’s voice asking
why take her anywhere with those moods?
I have to — this is her last chance to see
the places she’s never seen. I must take her
to England, and show her the place that saved me.
“For me, good writing is about telling the truth,” Hollander said. “I don’t mean stating the facts. I’m talking about how you really felt when whatever happened happened. I think part of why people still turn to literature is to hear a sincere utterance of the human heart. There’s a lot of false posturing and insincerity out there, but good literature doesn’t have room for that — it drives at the core of what it means to be a human being, alive and suffering on this earth. My own work is built from the belief that it’s OK to be vulnerable — in fact it’s important to be vulnerable. We as human beings are sensitive, are sometimes strong and sometimes weak, are sometimes needy and sometimes lost; our hearts can be wounded and often are and most of us suffer all this privately.”
To express raw emotion and craft honest experiences into poetic language involves a practiced writing process. At the workshop, Hollander will read from her collection and encourage the participants to discover and explore their own unique voice and vision.
Hollander has worked diligently at her craft and has been fortunate in finding a wide audience for her work.
She has added international footprints to her Midwestern roots by receiving her master’s degree in creative writing at Bath Spa University in England. She also has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland. Hollander soon will attend La Napoule, a historic Chateau in France, for a fall residency writing program.
Lisa Ekelman is a voracious reader, book group moderator and bookseller at The Bookworm of Edwards. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.