On my first day of poetry workshop, Professor Martin Lammon asked that three of the four first year students be workshopped the next week. The odds, unfortunately, were not in my favor.
The next week, I did something I might never have done had I not been up for workshop. I did all of my homework. I wrote for eight hours (two hours a day, four days of the week) as required by my class and I read the required poems. I wrote my own poems and I edited the lines I thought were weak. With all the work to be done, my day for workshop came quickly.
Me, Danielle Johnson, on my first day
In the Writing Center before class, another poetry student and I talked back and forth about the work that we’d turned in. We talked about how we felt about our poems and how the week had gone. It was nice to chat about the upcoming workshop with another student from my class, especially since we were both going to be under the eye of our peers during the workshop.
When I finally went for my first poetry workshop as a graduate student, I was surprised at how welcoming and kind my peers and professor were. First, I read my poem aloud to the class and then the class began encouraging the work that I’d written. After about five minutes of pleasantries, the students began kindly questioning some of the lines in my poem and discussing some of the things they’d like to see to make the poem stronger. There are only six students in the workshop, which allowed for students to have active dialogue and discussion around the poem I’d brought to class. I had experienced many undergraduate workshops where students were unusually competitive and often vicious, so being in a workshop where my peers were excited about my work was encouraging. When the workshop was over, I didn’t leave feeling discouraged, but instead inspired to improve my work and make it better.
Workshop can be intimidating, especially when there are so many students coming in with diverse backgrounds and different writing styles. If you haven’t workshopped before, it’s hard enough trying to predict what to expect or how the whole procedure goes. I’d encourage you to have fun in the newness of it all. If I can do it, you can do it too.