In Praise of Robert Hass

Presumably you do other things in your house besides cook in it, keep it clean and fix stuff. Some of you are writers. Some of you are poets. Some of you shy away from words. All of you are creative in some way or another.

I participated in my first poetry workshop this weekend, with Robert Hass. My poems were selected along with 11 others’ for admission to a Master class at Poets House. I’m working on taking my writing more seriously; this did wonders for that endeavor.

I have strange relationship to poetry. The more I read, the more aware I am of how little I know (ain’t that the truth with life and wisdom-intake in general?) Despite my humbling, uber self-consciousness, I can’t stop writing; my internal world emerges always in the shape of a poem. I’m a lay poet, not academic, not formal. I read the poets I love over and over and over again, hoping they’ll wear off on me, crack my brain open with new ways of understanding. I have particular sensibilities when it comes to poems, as does everyone practicing this mysterious art form.

My fab editor at HarperCollins has agreed to let me give away Robert Hass’ newest book The Apple Trees at Olema (HarperCollins 2010). I find Hass’ style to be accessible and wise and tender. This book is a good introduction to Hass since it includes both new and selected poems from his previous books, a sampler of sorts.

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Bob lives in California; he is excellent at helping us stop, slow down, notice moments while we’re in them. At the end of our 5-hour workshop (we ran a whole hour past the allotted time!) he gave us a six-part, doozy of a writing prompt. Here’s one of the six parts for you to chew on.

Prompt: Divide the year up into 24 mini months, a year in 2-week segments. Think of a god or goddess (existing in myth or made-up by you) who will deliver some sort of gift during the last two weeks of May. Who is the god/goddess and what do they bring you?

The god of tulips struck Norway (where my lovely Texan pal, Rose Jennings lives/studies) Photo courtesy of Rose’s Facebook page, thanks!Write: Whatever you want. Feel free to modify (or ignore) the prompt if you’re stuck. Send what you come up with here and I’ll pull together everyone’s work in a new post. Or keep it to yourself and savor those few moments you staked out for yourself, your brain and your writing notebook.

The giveaway is separate from the writing prompt. You don’t have to write, but wouldn’t it be fun to try? Writing won’t be judged or anything traumatic [horrifying] like that. I just want to know who’s out there writing with me, and I know the kids in my workshop love sharing time (probably more than actual writing time.)

Enter to win a copy of Robert Hass’ book by leaving a comment: How do you make time for extra-curricular things in your life, like poetry?  [see update below] I’ll start. I meet every Tuesday evening with a group of writers, and this magical 2.5 hour timeslot in my schedule is where I generate most new poetry work. The workshop is hosted by and structured according to NY Writers Coalition guidelines. I can use the time however I want—the beauty of NYWC. While producing thousands and thousands of words for this book, I’ve been using my workshop time to read Annie Dillard, sit and stare out the window, coax myself into extra-curricular creativity.

Deadline for entries: 11:59pm June 18, 2010

Good luck and happy writing!