The Alabama Writers’ Conclave met July 15-17 at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Alabama. It is always an enriching time. The weekend was filled with information, inspiration, and good food. It was a time of meeting new writer friends and talking with old writer friends. I left with a writer’s buzz that took a while to settle down from, and there were a couple of especially memorable moments.
Open Mic became what I considered to be a sacred gathering on Friday afternoon at the Alabama Writers' Conclave. Eighteen people got up to read poems and stories they had written; each had three minutes at the mic. Hearing just a snapshot of other people's lives, experiences and encounters was moving on so many levels. A sacred circle of time it was!
Exploring Imagery and Language
There were a number of helpful workshops for poetry, memoir, fiction, and creative nonfiction. In one of the sessions, "Exploring Imagery and Language in Poetry," Shanti Weiland led us in examining some of the "challenges of anchoring abstractions with concrete language." The most memorable piece we read in that workshop was one by Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate:
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
~ Billy Collins