The Obstacle in the Path becomes the Path: A Poetry Workshop

September 23
10 am – 5 pm
with Genine Lentine

SFZC City Center, Conference Center,  308 Page Street

So, put yourself in the way
of the poem. It needed your willing
impediment to be written. Remember the lily, growing through
the heart of the corpse?
You had to be willing to let it through the sunshine
error of your life,
be willing not to finish it—
Brenda Hillman, from Death Tractates

In this workshop, we’ll dedicate our attention to those poems we resist writing. Those poems we imagine we might write, oh, some day, when we’re ready. Exploring what these poems are requesting of us, we’ll experiment with possible entry points and cultivate a supportive environment to allow the poems to take shape.

We’ll cultivate a friendliness with apparent obstacles, holding out the possibility that they might mark where our most necessary work lies. Working through the internal and material obstacles that arise in writing a poem enacts dramas of desire, resistance, and surrender.

Language is in the way of the poem. The poet is in the way of the poem. The resistance shapes you as you shape the materials. In his “Meridian” speech, Paul Celan said, “The poem wants to reach an Other, it needs this Other, it needs an Over-against.” To use another metaphor, in writing a poem, is the poet the forge, the iron, or the flame?

The course will include in-class writing, reading, and responding to participants’ work. Participants are invited to send one poem of their own to the instructor in advance with an accompanying question or suggestion for discussion to help tailor the day’s discussion.

Please bring:

  • plenty of fresh paper and a juicy pen
  • a piece of your writing (1-2 pages) that feels in some way elusive, resistant, or inert, but that you would still like to explore further (optional)
  • your lunch

For an additional $25 fee, students can arrange to meet with the instructor for an individual one-hour conference (to be scheduled by instructor and student).

Retreat fee: $90; $81 current SFZC members; $72 limited income. Please bring your lunch.

Registration: Visit the SFZC website. Or call  888.743.9362 or  415.475.9362.


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