Roethke Pep Talk on the Poetry Workshop
Chilly Friday looking over notes for things.
This, from Theodore Roethke, stands as the most succinct statement of the value of a creative writing workshop that I’ve come across:
“A few people come together, establish an intellectual and emotional climate wherein creation is possible. They teach each other—that ideal condition of what was once called “progressive education.” They learn by doing. Something of the creative lost in childhood is recovered. The students (and teacher) learn a considerable something about themselves and the language.”
I would stress two aspects of Roethke’s remarks. First, the establishing of a climate, a space, where creation is possible. It’s a tonal issue, how the class is going to feel to the students. Poetry is the show, or should be the show, not us, not our personalities.
The second thing I’d like to stress is that all participants in a creative writing workshop can learn a valuable something about the language and about themselves. Or perhaps, blending it a bit, they (we) can learn about themselves (ourselves) in and through language. It's important for us to hear the words in front of us as “real presences,” to quote the title of a book by George Steiner that I’ve used in the past. The words on the page are instructions for performance, and the poems are only fully poems when they are read, when they are lived.
Only the Senses Sleep. Wayne Miller.