stay tuned

In a few hours, I’ll be leaving for North Adams, Massachusetts, to attend a week-long poetry residency/workshop offered by Tupelo Press at Mass MoCA as part of the Studios at Mass MoCA, a newly established program of Assets for Artists.

I am very excited to arrive and meet everyone! We are going to be very busy, but I hope to get some posts out to chronicle the experience, both to keep you all updated and for my own processing.

Stay tuned!

(poetic) mix of emotions

Some readers may recall my major angst about whether or not to attend my first poetry residence/workshop.  I posted about it here…and here…and here.

And then, I had to wait….

I continued to feel a mix of excitement and apprehension, but I’ve had to concentrate on more immediate obligations, such as rehearsing with University Chorus and working on poetry with Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, and Bunn Hill Poets simultaneously.

But now, with less than two weeks to go before traveling to North Adams and Mass MoCA, the conference is drawing more and more of my attention and emotions. Part of this is increased communications from the organizers at Tupelo Press, including photos of our residency apartments just across the street from the museum. I know that we are a group of seven at the moment; the maximum number was eight, so there is still a chance of another poet joining us.

The main preoccupation for me at the moment is the request to bring ten poems to the conference for workshopping, which means critique.  It’s not that I don’t have (many more than) ten poems that could use workshopping; it’s figuring out what to bring.

On the one hand, I want to bring work that is strong and current, but most of that has been workshopped with one of my local groups, has been published, or is ready for submission. These poems have the best chance of putting me in a good light with the other poets and the poet/editor who will be leading the conference, but it is awkward to ask for revision for something that has already been published, although it could be helpful to fine-tune a poem that may one day make it into the chapbook or collection I aspire to assemble (at least on my more confident days).

On the other hand, some of my early poems – well, not really early in terms of my lifetime, but things that I wrote from 3-5 years ago before I connected to Binghamton Poetry Project, which led to my other groups – could use the help. I find it especially difficult to revise things that I wrote before I started to read and study more poetry; somehow it is easier to use my new skills in writing poetry than it is to apply my new editing skills to older work. However, these poems could make me look less competent as a poet and are often deeply personal, which makes critique seem especially (potentially) brutal.

The decision is not helped by the fact that I don’t really know the range of experience of the poets who will be attending. In my imagination, I will be the least experienced in the group, although that may not be the case at all, as the conference is open to any serious poet, published or not. I am toying with the idea of bringing along more than the requested ten poems, mixing some older work with some of my newer poems, and hoping that we don’t have to hand ten over at the beginning of the conference, so that I can tailor the poems I workshop to the group of poets in attendance.

Given that we have to bring twelve copies of each poem, the only risks would be wasting paper and ink and possibly arm strain from lugging so much paper around.

So, am I overthinking this? What would you choose? I’d love to hear your advice in comments here, on Facebook, or in person.

With thanks,
Joanne

Should I apply for this poetry workshop or not?

Yesterday, this link appeared in my inbox https://tupelopress.wordpress.com/tupelo-press-writing-conferences/the-studios-at-mass-moca/ announcing a one-week poetry residency/workshop at MASS MoCA, offered by Tupelo Press of North Adams MA.

And I am totally freaking out about it.

I have never done anything even remotely like this and the prospect is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

And I feel that I need to decide quickly as it is limited to eight participants.

Update:  To read more about my deliberations, click here.

This is where I should present an orderly list of pros and cons. Instead, there will be a tangle of pros and cons, sorted by topic.

Place:  My hometown is twenty miles from North Adams and it is the home of the high school where I met my spouse. It was also the home of my grandparents, the place we went shopping, and the area is still home to some family and friends.  Although the city has undergone a transformation from the time I was growing up, because we have visited frequently over the years, I am still comfortable there.

On the other hand, I have only been to MASS MoCA once, on a visit a couple of years ago. I am not at all knowledgeable about visual art, but we loved our visit. If I do go, most of the exhibits will be different than the ones we saw. Unlike most museums, MASS MoCA does not have a predominantly permanent collection. I am nervous about how inspirational the current exhibits will be for me in terms of writing new poetry. But, if it is, it could form the basis for a chapbook, which would be a good growth opportunity for me.

Time:  That week in November is fairly easy to re-arrange for me. Fortunately, our University Chorus concert is not until early December this year and we are doing Carmina Burana, which I know well. The sad thing is that my husband’s birthday is that week, although he has said that he is okay with my being away.

Readiness:  I have never done anything remotely this intensive with poetry – or, come to think of it, anything else. I haven’t concentrated on poetry or been in the company of poets for more than a few hours at a time. Am I ready to spend a week alternately interacting and living with poets and spending time alone writing and revising? Would I ever feel ready or is it just something one jumps into, ready or not?

There is some comfort in that the registration screen has several categories with which to describe one’s publication history, beginning with novice and ending with publishing one or more books. I at least get to claim the “one or two journal acceptances” category. Bonus:  I have some anthology credits and online credits from Silver Birch Press, even though I only have one actual journal credit. Enrollment is limited to eight participants, but I could easily find myself surrounded by much more experienced and formally educated poets, which could be intimidating, depending on personalities. Fortunately, I have had good experiences with the local established poets, who have helped me so much.  On the other hand, I could find myself being in a group of predominantly novice poets, which I am used to from Binghamton Poetry Project, although it would be strange to be the experienced one in the group for the week. Or we could have a range of experiences among the group, which would probably be most comfortable.

Perhaps “Readiness” is not the proper name for this category. It’s more how much uneasiness/fear I can face. Although we have to submit sample poems, it does not seem that Tupelo is looking to cull applicants. They seem willing to work with whomever wants to be there – and can pay them, which leads to…

Money:  It’s not that I can’t afford to do this. It’s that I don’t generally spend much on poetry because it is unlikely I will ever recoup costs through publication.  But I do think I would learn a lot and get more insights into what publishers are looking for, which would be really valuable as one of my goals is to publish a chapbook someday. There. I actually admitted that publicly.

Okay. Time to stop hashing and publish this. Any and all are welcome to weigh in in comments or by email/FB for those who have those addresses. I need to decide quickly, as I would hate to delay, decide to do it, and find out that I waited too long and it was full.

Do I try to do this or not?

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