This list is as near to a workshop as I want to get. I pick up skills by reading other poets. My work has been compared by reviewers to certain other poets, many of whom I had not heard of thanks to my haphazard way of learning, and this leads me to read them in an effort to catch up. Certain Facebook poet friends suggest other poets. We could say that these poets are 'passing on' their skills and I am trying to make the most of the experience. I don't think I would survive a workshop or a creative writing postgraduate course.


On 1 May 2018 at 20:43, Jamie McKendrick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I should give my next classes in a dog-collar but I’m not sure even that will recommend me to heaven.
   But clergy apart, even though quite a number would hope for more than material recompense for their cures, I’m just saying that a lot more goes on in these courses than ‘just...monetising poetry’ or giving cash to ‘professionals’. Still, I very much doubt that the administrators who run the courses would put up with the pay rates for teaching on them.
   I can’t speak of what learning goes on in Bath or Swansea, though two once of this list, Carrie Etter and John Goodby respectively, teach there and there, so they might be willing to explain.
From: [log in to unmask]" href="mailto:[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">David Bircumshaw
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2018 6:44 PM
To: [log in to unmask]" href="mailto:[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]AC.UK
Subject: Re: Workshopping
It doesn't have to well-paid, Jamie. A lot of the clergy used to be quite poor.

Rather than the relationship between tutor and student I am thinking though more of the way that a commonly accessible culture is being turned into material for moneyfication. What disturbed me most in Rhea's remarks was the picture of knowledge of poetic forms and history being a PhD preserve. That's horrifying. There used to be places called public libraries where they had that information. And even now you can still find it on the Web. Or charity shops.


On 1 May 2018 at 13:44, Jamie McKendrick <00001ae26018af73-dmarc-reques[log in to unmask]> wrote:
While I can’t help balking at the word industry myself, I take it that Rhea was using it by way of analogy, and it looks to me like a mere coda to her remarks, which boils down to saying writers have to make a living somehow.
  David, I have some sympathy for your attachment to the amateur scene where, though I only ever attended one workshop and that didn’t go well, all of my formative years were spent. But I’m not convinced by your ‘basic point’ however well you put it:
the Creative Writing Industry is just about monetising poetry. The point of the courses is to support 'professionals', just as the purpose of a parish was to support an incumbent.”
  May I illustrate this with some personal data? I’ve just given 5 tutorials this Sunday for which I was paid £19.25 per hour. This required in addition several hours reading of quite lengthy scripts for which I could, if I could find the forms, probably claim a small extra fee, likewise for travel. Most likely one of the worse paid courses to teach on, but can you see what I’m saying? Even if I were paid double it would still not be a particularly remunerative form of employment.
   Of course it’s ‘monetised’ (insufficiently in my view!) but I don’t believe that ultimately shapes the exchange between student and tutor.
As for Rhea’s remark about ‘confusing imagery’ which was seized on by Luke and Tim, I took it as something offered by way of shorthand as an example of what is being probed in classes rather than as revealing a hidden ideology. I find it easier to decipher than Luke’s remark about ‘insipidly structured’ poems. Imagery is an immensely complex integral element in poetry and I doubt anyone competently running or attending a workshop would think there’s a simple right or wrong way of doing it.
  The nub of the issue is whether there are skills that can be passed on or learnt from others (and this I take to have been behind Luke’s original question about workshopping). Rhea answered in the affirmative, as would I.
As it happened, in my case, it wasn’t through workshopping or tutorials but through the good luck of meeting writers when I was young who took the trouble to look carefully at my often useless compositions and suggested ways to improve them and poems I could profitably read. I don’t think anyone would deny that most of what you need to learn is stuff you have to find out for yourself.

Sent from my iPad

On 1 May 2018, at 09:37, David Bircumshaw <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I have seen some American poets unthinkingly refer to poems as 'your product' but forgave because they were victims of their culture but I have never ever even dreamed that anyone would call poetry an 'industry'.

I used to take part in workshops while being distinctly unlike the cult of the well-crafted and pruned in style. The standards would vary hugely, but there were plenty of people with some knowledge of poetic form and literary history. The key point was that nobody was doing it for money, so when the Day of the Living Dead came, and the Creative Professionals and Radical Performers arrived, the amateur scene was quickly scuppered.

Which is to my basic point: the Creative Writing Industry is just about monetising poetry. The point of the courses is to support 'professionals', just as the purpose of a parish was to support an incumbent.

On 30 April 2018 at 20:44, Luke <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
It's me, I guess. Ha, beware academics with horses.

On 30 April 2018 at 17:44, Luke <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
So, here is a question that is highly relevant to me.

I think my MA course will be rewarding erudition and creativity, essentially. At what point does the rest of poetry / poetics come into play?

On 30 April 2018 at 15:27, Luke <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> ambiguous imagery

Hm thanks. I never thought that was an issue. It was only ever implied, I guess. Totally agree on your comments about "research".

On 30 April 2018 at 15:23, Rhea Seren Phillips <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hello Jamie, I studied for my BA at Bath Spa University and my MA at Swansea University where I am currently a PhD student. The majority of the modules I took at Bath Spa University were based in prose, although I did take two poetry modules in my second year.
Hello Luke, by intense scrutiny I mean by being in an environment where your work is held to a high standard by your fellow students, supervisors, lecturers, professors within your department and visiting professionals. These individuals have a vast amount of experience developing original research and an intimidating amount of years working in their chosen sector. While their knowledge and experience are invaluable to a student, they expect a certain level of professionalism in return or at least an active progression towards producing original work that has been written to a high standard, this can mean work that is grammatically correct or written using poetic skills or traditions that have been informed by research.
If there is anything in a poem that takes away from what the poet intended to say then it should be edited out. This can cover a lot of ground, from (as you mentioned) ambiguous imagery, insipidly structured work or cliched phases. These things can also exist in a poem as long as it was the intention of the poet to use them in the first instance.
A student can only begin to ask the right sort of questions if they are given the knowledge in which to do so. Yes, some things should be taught. For instance, poetic forms, metre and history relating to poetry but by learning these things a student can develop an original line of thought. Knowledge doesn't give you answers, in most circumstances it creates more confusion, but it does give the student the power to develop without restrictions. As a PhD student, I've gone from having little knowledge about my subject to a knowing quite a bit. I know what a lack of knowledge can do to creativity and it only suppresses it. I was never given the answers just the tools with which to tackle the question. Not all questions have direct answers and can be open to subjectivity.
All industries reward some qualities over others. At the end of the day, we all want to ensure that what we are doing is profitable in order to not starve. It's not an admirable trait but I wouldn't condem it outright either.
Kind Regards,
On Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 1:32 PM, Jamie McKendrick <00001ae26018af73-dmarc-reques[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Thanks for this Rhea. Though, as you say, of course the process can ‘vary in its usefulness’, it’s good to have a such a positive and well-informed slant both on workshopping as well as on writing courses. Are you allowed to say where you studied?

On 30 Apr 2018, at 12:05, Rhea Seren Phillips <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I'm a student of poetry who has experienced the University system from BA to PhD. Workshopping can happen anywhere and with anyone and vary in its usefulness. I believe it is critical to see how others react to your work and whether that reaction is the intended one or if confused imagery or poor choice of wording dilutes what the poem is trying to say. This type of engagement can take place in a formal and informal environment and is very much dependent on the people around you. Creative writing courses can't teach imagination but they do throw a group of creative individuals together where collaboration occurs. I am continually learning from my supervisor and the students around me. Creative writing courses should teach the history of poetry and the forms, basically the tools of the trade. It is about giving people the knowledge to develop their voices in an intelligent way. That is why it is vital to pick your course carefully. My BA was more a three-year workshop while my MA was a lesson in history and form. I will always advocate creative writing studies because they encourage experimentation and craft in poetry, something which, in my experience, writers who only workshop in local groups tend to avoid, perhaps because they are seeking creative outlets rather than to master a skill. In my experience critiquing is also genteel in these environments. Although they can be useful, you are not guaranteed honest feedback while in an academic environment your work is almost always under intense scrutiny. It could also be argued that the publishing industry is more to blame for enforcing definitions on what is and isn't good poetry than universities.
On Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 10:07 AM, Patrick McManus <00001adedfca1e15-dmarc-reques[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I find local poetry workshops fun gets this ancient out a couple of times a month -good to meet others and just reading out one's work sort of airs it usefully

cheers P old grumpy

On 29/04/2018 21:34, Luke wrote:
While CW course invariably consist of work-shopping, I think that some criticisms of the former just don't apply to the latter. One can workshop heterogeneously, surely.

On 29 April 2018 at 21:24, Reuben Woolley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Indifferent mainly. For some it works and for others it doesn't. I'm wary of it for the same reasons I'm wary of Creative Writing studies. I fear a heterodoxous production of poetry where 'this' is right and 'that' is wrong, but I'm not going to criticise all Creative Writing postgrad courses for this. It doesn't happen in as many universities as in my nightmares. The academy doesn't always win or even try to win!
On 29 April 2018 at 21:21, Luke <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Work-shopping: any hate / love for it?