Friday, May 1, 2009

Poetry off the Page

One of my friends is teaching poetry in her son's elementary school, as a community service. She had a book called The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet: 104 Unusual Ways to Write Poetry in the Classroom and the Community. Many of the exercises in this book have the class write poems on objects - chairs, foam heads, etc.

I love poetry best when it's performed or read aloud. That's when the words truly come alive - when they are embodied. This allows a connection to occur between two or more individuals - and that, to me, is the essential different between poetry and prose. I'm happy to read a novel alone, curled up in my favorite chair. I'll also read nonfiction that way. But poetry is so much better when I read it to someone or someone reads it to me. Poetry is music, is performance. Performing poetry - through the voice or via a physical object - gives it a temporal, momentary, golden quality.

One of the best writing workshops I ever attended was based on the creative practices of John Cage. One thing the leaders did was give us various objects on which to write - coffee filters, cash register receipts... changing the surface changes the writing, and pushes the creation into more of a performance space.

A class at the University of Auckland in New Zealand is doing some cool things in this realm: the realm of poetry off the page. Check it out - then grab a napkin, or a matchbox, or some duct tape, and create!

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