With the rising costs of college, not everyone can afford to continue with the big degree programs. But community college classes are a great alternative.
This spring I took a poetry workshop class with Barbara Rockman at the Santa Fe Community College. I took this popular class last year also and in each class I met others who had taken the class more than once. I was so excited to be back in touch with other poets that last year I got a little teary-eyed. I loved picking up copies of everyone else's new poems at the start of each class. All those new poems--I got a kind of a shopper's high.
What I've learned in Barbara's classes:
- Discovered new directions for your writing from directed assignments (odes, sonnets, themes)
- Got reminders on tips, tricks and mechanics
- Learned new ways of being as a writer, explore the spirit of writing (thinking about the more meditative aspects of what you do)
- Got good suggestions for further readings on craft
- Listened to other students talk about movies that have inspired them creatively
- Learned the names of new poets to explore
- Enjoyed a connection: conversations, social moments before and after class
- Found out where local poetry events take place
- Learned about poetry mailing lists
- Received good feedback on my own new poems
This spring I also took a class on Nobel Prize Winning Poets taught by David Markwardt. We studied the first half of all the Literature category winners who were poets. Most of them I had never read.
- I loved Rabindranath Tagore and was fascinated by his one-sentence, one-line writing style. So logical!
- William Butler Yeats has never been one of my favorite poets but I make some headway with him during this class and did enjoy all the comments from our group.
- The big shock for me was how much I liked T.S. Eliot this time around. I've always had issues with Eliot, ever since I had to read "Prufrock" at my high school in St. Louis. Because Eliot is from St. Louis (he's right there in the University City walk of fame), the town has had a love-hate relationship with him. He's an expat after all. Midwesterners don't cotton much to that sort of thing. Also, he always seemed such a snob, a Negative Ned. At Sarah Lawrence when we read "The Wasteland" in a craft class, I went so far as to declare (somewhat snobbishly in my own way) that "any poem whose footnotes were longer than the actual piece had big issues with flow." That entertained the teacher but truthfully I wasn't giving the man a chance. In David's class we stuck to the more manageable poems and I was surprised at how dark and creepy they were...right up my alley! His depictions of horror would inspire anyone who loves ghost stories (guilty as charged!). Eliot can also be silly and irreverent which I didn't expect.
- I didn't connect much with Juan Ramón Jiménez
- or Gabriela Mistral. Don't know if this is an issue of the poems or the translations (or me).
- And although I was really looking forward to the Neruda class. Monsieur Big Band and I had a Neruda poem read in Spanish at our 2009 wedding. My husband picked it out because he wants to do to me what the spring does to the cherry tree. ;-) Unfortunately, I had to miss that class.
Because three of our six writers were Spanish-speakers, we talked a lot about the art of translation, including discussions on:
- word choice
- figurative vs. literal language
- the ego of the translator
I really enjoyed these classes and was sorry to see them come to an end. Whenever I take a class in ceramics I find some new inspiration or new way of looking at things from each new teacher. Different teachers see things differently. One might show you how to work the wheel with their technical advice, but another one might have some spiritual advice that gives you just that little extra push towards understanding. Honor every teacher's point of view and this will broaden your own knowledge of any craft.