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Friday, July 13, 2012

Sue Brennan Walker, Poet Laureate of Alabama

We are honored to have Dr. Sue B. Walker as our guest today. Dr. Walker is the Poet Laureate of Alabama and professor at the University of South Alabama. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry publication, Blood Will Bear Your Name, Dr. Walker is not only an outstanding poet but a strong supporter of writers and poets. She frequently hosts readings and promotional opportunities for poets. Her publishing house, Negative Capability Press, continues to produce exceptional works. 

Today, Dr. Walker discusses the advantages of taking a writing class and what's new in poetry.

Poetry Writing As A Class Act

Hemingway once said all he wanted was to “write one true sentence.” For poets, that would be “one true line” or poem. Let me address two things related to writing poetry: 1) Why take a writing class? and 2) What’s new in poetry?
If I am to grow as a writer, I must move beyond what I know how to do. Alice asked the Cheshire cat: “How do I there from here?” He replied: “It depends on where you want to get to, my dear.” A writing class introduces new ideas and provides individual feedback from several people who are also writers in response to a certain set syllabus.

Many writers belong to critique groups in which members respond to each other’s work and make valuable comments on how a manuscript might be improved. The writers benefit from the other members’ suggestions. So the question is: “why take a class?”

A class offers a particular focus that does not ordinarily apply to a critique group. Let’s say I offer a class on Prose Poetry. For example, we’ll read Ezra Pound’s “Retrospective.” We’ll read prose poems by Rimbaud and Baudelaire and begin our class on prose poetry by writing haiku. Everyone is doing the same assignment, so we discuss process as we move from writing haiku to using the images in the poems we just wrote to compose a prose poem. We discuss our work in relation articles we read. Thus, there is a progression that differs from what is offered in critique groups.

What’s new in poetry? Are you familiar with the prose poem? Oulipo? A seriocomic poem? The verse novel? Who is Harryette Mullen? Jim Morrison? Selah Saterstrom? A class provides a syllabus and a context within which each person’s writing can evolve in new and exciting ways.

Dr. Sue B. Walker

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