Then, this afternoon, I taught a poetry workshop at a hospice in Alexandria. That was certainly an interesting experience. About 8 residents attended and we had an interesting discussion about why poems that don't rhyme can still be considered poems. I gave them my own reasons why I consider free verse to be poetry:
- Words are selected with a care that is specific to poetry as opposed to either prose or normal speech.
- Lines can be enjambed to create specific effects, such as emphasis on a specific word, or to create tension or rhythms which may not be apparent when one hears a poem read aloud, but which become apparent when one reads it on the page.
- Lines can be composed with attention to rhythm or meter even if the poems don't rhyme (I realize I forgot to mention the possibility of interior rhymes... oh well, next time I guess).
Aside from one of the residents asking me if I had a devil standing behind me, the participants in the workshop really got into it and wrote short poems about objects of importance they were told ahead of time to bring with them. The woman who asked about the devil behind me brought her "eyes", which was a small round magnifying glass. Even though she did not actually write a poem about it, I felt satisfied with just the fact that she kept referring to it as her "eyes" the whole time.
Another woman asked how one can tell if a poem is "done." This was a tricky one to answer. My first instinct was to quote Paul Valery who said "A poem is never finished, only abandoned" but then I thought better of being that glib to someone who really wanted to know. The best I could tell her was that I thought a poem was complete when it accomplished what the poet set out to accomplish with it.
In the end, it was a truly satisfying experience and I urged them all to continue writing poetry and reading it. If I accomplished anything this week, I hope it was to inspire 8 people who haven't read poetry in a very long time to seek and find poems and poets they love.