When you google the WCUPC, it’s not easy to find. Even spelling it out, you might come across phrases like, “Traditional Poetic Craft.” TPC is a password for the door, if there was a door, that reads: Enter to Study with the Formalists. Once inside the workshop, you’ll discover the metrical music and the rhythms of poetry are squeezed into technical vocabulary –– tetrameter, scansion, numbers of feet per line. Cut a line and you have a hemstitch. Enjambment is to be used with care, so as not to take away the impact of the pentameter in a sonnet. Iambic pentameter carries the load of centuries of poetry with it, and is perfect for shouting from a stage, as in Shakespearian theater. (Thanks, Andrew!)
Here you can stock up on implements for the tool kit that aids precision in writing. The intricate formal dance of poetics is not for the timid writer. Timothy Steele, word-master and workshop leader, writes: Knowledge of meter will promote a surer ear for rhythm and will alert one to useful arrangements of sound and speech. This view begins to color how I perceive the music and organization of the poetic phrase. I feel as though I’ve been drawn into the Tango dance world by an expert dancer, and now all I hear and see is Tango… Here are some champions of the art worth dancing with.
Robert Frost. A favorite of mine is Acquainted with the Night – in flawless terza rima pentameter.
Richard Wilber is a wonderful poet, and was celebrated at the conference for his ninetieth birthday. The Ride, takes the reader on a ride with the short three and four foot lines: …I rode with magic ease/ At a quick, unstumbling trot,/ Through shattering vacancies/ On into what was not….
A.E. Stallings (Alicia) is a young and esteemed poet. Her poems are terrific; she balances a relaxed flow with traditional elements, as in this from Lullaby near the Railroad Tracks: Go back to sleep. The hour is small./ A freight train between stations/ shook you out of sleep with all/ it’s lonely ululations… [see interview link below.]
Kim Bridgford*, Conference Director, is attentive, friendly, and was a constant presence. I enjoyed seeing her take in each event with grace and openness. It turns out Kim was in The class I took at WCU in 2004 with Fred Chappell. In my notes, I came across this poem she workshopped, then included in her book: Instead of Maps.
From her sonnet: Robert Frost: You seemed to know the most about the dark,/ But softened it so we would listen, still/ As leaves before they show they’re vulnerable/ To wind. You seemed to know the grief of work,/ And also joy depending on the weather…
I want to commend Kim for bringing together the Hip-hop / Rap community and the conference poets. Russel Goings, author and crusader for black empowerment, said in the panel, Anthology of Rap– “Do we have a marriage here?”(of genres). He was answered by the commentator, Farai Chideya (multimedia journalist on TV and radio), “I think it’s a first date.” The “rhythm and words folks” from New York City, especially the amazing Freestyle Queen, Toni Blackman – Musical Ambassador, performer and writer – brought fresh, delicious word music. From her website: “She’s all heart, all rhythm, all song, all power, a one-woman revolution of poetry and microphone. An award-winning artist, her steadfast work and commitment to hip-hop led the U.S. Department of State to select her to work as the first ever hip-hop artist to work as an American Cultural Specialist.” May Toni be back next year, teaching and sharing the difference, for example, between RAP and SPOKEN WORD.
I’m going to be following the direction of the conference with interest. And, it’s time to get Patricia Smith on faculty! Thumbs up for WCUPC.
More on these people: Youtube Toni Blackman: “Hip-hop is tagging your heart, not walls….”
Interview with AE Stallings: < http://www.cortlandreview.com/issue/19/stallings19.html>