I just spent the last two weekends at workshops with Jeffrey Levine, poet and editor of Tupelo Press. Jeffrey is committed to great writing and generous with support and helpful critique. He believes in writing and writers and he fosters new and emerging writers as a special effort.
Among the many exercises he provided, after we had gained a sense of his aesthetic, was a “Jeffrey says” exercise. We had examined a number of poems and received thoughtful comments. Now it was our turn to take 15 minutes and view one of our own poems through what we thought was his lens. Following that, we each read our poem in its original form, then told everyone what “Jeffrey says.”
Whether we were right or wrong in our “Jeffrey says” segments, the exercise was amazing at getting us to view our work slightly differently from the way we viewed it before because it gave us another layer of distance from our work. At least, that’s what it did for me and I expect that was the goal.
So often, we ask ourselves “Why can’t we see the obvious? Why can’t we develop more distance?” As soon as someone gives us a critique that’s right on the money, our inner voice says “of course, I know that.” But, it’s buried somewhere inaccessible in our consciences and we need distance to access it or another eye.
After these workshops, I have a deep urge to hole up for two weeks and work on the material we’ve covered–re-reading the articles, re-reading the notes, revising the work we brought to the workshop or created there.
Reality then intrudes. I get up the next day and go to work. My goal is to savor these last two weekends through the week, re-reading articles, notes, and new work in the evenings. I’ll try to keep that “writing place” I rejuvenated and set time aside next weekend for my creative work. I just need a personal dose of Jeffrey every couple of weeks.