Essays / Faculty

Patrick Donnelly on Poetry and Teaching

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“This experience of community can be like jumper cables applied for writers who need the juice of that connection.”

At The Frost Place we have the luxury to have a deep and intimate conversation about poems over five and a half days, and this experience of community can be like jumper cables applied for writers who need the juice of that connection.

I see my role as two-fold: firstly, to inspire participants to full-out engagement with their writing lives over the long term, in part by strategizing with them about removing whatever obstacles prevent that. Secondly, during workshop, it’s my job to describe the strengths and weaknesses of poems in ways that will help participants strategize about re-entering and fully realizing that work, as well as to generate new work. I ask participants to respond to each other’s work the same way, especially by coming to the Seminar thoroughly prepared to discuss the workshop poems.

“Let’s be honest: it’s never completely comfortable, is it, to receive feedback about our poems?”

In my workshop, and at the Seminar as a whole, we have a good time, we get silly, we laugh, we dance, we enjoy each other’s company, the beauty of the White Mountains, and Robert Frost’s tailwind. But we also gather, as peers at different levels, to do serious work and to give each participants the close, honest, generous readings they may not have access to elsewhere.

Sometimes poets working with me for the first time are a little caught off guard by the rigor of my workshop, and by the frankness of a discussion which, while it’s always respectful and kind, isn’t limited to praise for what’s working well about the poems. Let’s be honest: it’s never completely comfortable, is it, to receive feedback about our poems? So it’s also my job to give participants the encouragement necessary to stay engaged with a process that is often enjoyable but which is also real work, in the most satisfying and transformative sense.

It’s always my goal to send participants home with new and sharpened craft tools, blown away by the possibilities suggested by encounters with poems new to them, and most of all charged up to work on their own poems.

CHECK OUT Patrick’s website

LEARN MORE about Patrick and the Poetry Seminar

HOW TO APPLY to the Poetry Seminar

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