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Words, walk on glass

For those of you who don't know, this post is about the Poetry Workshop I attended in college from September 24th to 27th, with Sampurna Chattarji. (Yes, I like poetry. And yes, I write poetry too. I think it's one of the greatest forms of (written) expression.)

Sampurna (or Shampoo, as someone christened her) is an Elsa; it's no wonder we all connected so well. The first session was a poetry reading (and book signing) from her recently published anthology called Sight May Strike You Blind. Then followed sessions spread over four days, including writing, one-on-one feedback, and critical appraisal. And because I liked the workshop so much, I'm afraid I'm going to bore you with the details.

The very first exercise required each of the nine participants to jot down the first childhood memory that popped into her head, and then pass on the paper to the person to her right. Then we had to compose a poem based on that fragment of someone else's memory. In ten minutes. Which seemed impossible, but I guess we managed just fine. Then we had to read it aloud (uh oh). Hearing everyone's seemingly elaborate poetic-poems made me doubt my poetry skills (my poem was comparatively short and simple).

Lesson 1: length doesn't matter in poetry (even if it ends before it seems to have started), and pretty words and similes and metaphors and thingummies aren't necessarily attributes of a good poem. Talking of good poems, you have got to read "A Good Poem" by Roger McGough

Then Sampurna read aloud various poems to us while we munched on samosas: "Ars Poetica" by Archibald MacLeish, "This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams. And we got homework. Then one-to-ones (the part I was most scared about, what if she told me I couldn't write poetry to save my life and should quit right away?) But it was the best part of the workshop. My poem was pronounced "the perfect, cold poem". But I didn't resent it at all. This was something I'd never, ever thought about and as soon as it was pointed out, it made total sense.

Lesson 2: a poem is your voice. Your unique 'voice' that no one else shares. 

Homework: think of a title for the other poem. (Which I didn't succeed in doing, by the way.)

Lesson 3: Either you 'get' a title straightaway, or you really never do. In which case either your poem is titled after the first line of the poem in quotes, or it's titled 'Untitled'. 

It was an awesome, insightful, learning experience for me, and I can't tell you how grateful I am to have been chosen for it. Well, of course I can. Haven't you been reading?

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