Dispatches from the latest poetry class

Boeotian muse reading scrollHaving loads of fun with this latest class. We’ve got a really good group, with roughly half of them being people I’ve not taught before. Which can be quite nerve-wracking to begin with – you’re never quite sure what will and what won’t work, whether there will be personality clashes, or whether the differences in level and experience will mean you have rafts of people in each exercise either bored or floundering. But so far it’s been really great, with everyone seeming happy to be there and be involved. And we’ve had some absolutely stunning poems, usually preceded by a variation on the theme of “This is pretty rough, and way too long, and I didn’t do it properly”. Sigh!

The most recent exercise (and the one I’ve set them for homework) was to write a Sevenling. We did a collaborative one as a warm-up, and I reckon it’s a pretty damn fine first attempt:

Three Saturday regrets – getting married,
not getting married,
coming to poetry class.

Three Saturday wishes – getting married, not
getting married, coming to
poetry class.

A poem about divorce, but not a good one.

The key components of the form are the seven lines in three stanzas structure; the two groups of three in each of the first two stanzas; the ‘punchline’ or ‘key to the riddle’ nature of the final line; and the overall sense of something much bigger that the poem gives a taste of.To my mind, the last line of this poem does everything it’s meant to with considerable aplomb. e2809cdeliberatione2809d-by-bert-kiewiet-1998The ambiguity is important, I think – what does the ‘but not a good one’ refer to? The poem? The divorce? The poem’s I generally? All of the above? (And no, I didn’t come up with the last line. Amy, take a bow!) Is it likely to turn up on Best New Zealand Poems 2016? Probably not, (and not only because of questions of literary quality). But still, I’m thoroughly chuffed with the effort.

It’s a nifty form, and a good one I think to add to my repertoire for teaching purposes. And I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can come up with with a week to work on the task.

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