Tips for a Poetry Workshop/Group
August 13, 2013 12:37 PM   Subscribe

After not being able to find a poetry workshop/writers group in my area, I decided to start one via MeetUp. The first meeting is this week and will focus mainly on how to run the group, what our goals are, etc. Since I started the group, I should probably bring along some ideas? What has, or has not, worked in writers groups that you've attended?

Since I feel that reading poetry is pretty much the best way to learn how to write effective poems (and I'm hoping the other members agree!), how best would a writers group divide time between reading, writing, and critiquing?

Personally, my main reason for starting the group is simply to get back in the habit of writing and to have a place to discuss poetry with people whose eyes don't automatically glaze over when they hear the word. It's possible that other members will have the goal of participating in poetry readings and/or publication. Whatever each member's goal, it's extremely important to me to foster a positive and welcoming setting for discussion/critique, especially since there is bound to be a variety of skill levels and writing styles. In groups where this sort of environment was present, were there "rules" in place to make this happen or was it due more to the personalities of the participants?

I'm not sure how often we'll end up meeting, but if it's monthly, I like the idea of each member bringing a poem (not by us) that we like/find stylistically interesting, etc, as well as a poem of our own that we'd like to workshop. How has a writers group that you've been part of handled distribution of reading? Has it been distributed beforehand by e-mail and/or read during the group?

Any and all tips are welcome! Thanks!
posted by eunoia to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It focuses mostly on prose, but I've found the guidelines for writers' groups in Steering the Craft to be very useful. You may also enjoy using some of the stuff in Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook.

I'm taking a writing class right now after a long hiatus from writing, and one of the interesting aspects of it is that our critique group had to write a "covenant" -- the rules that we were all willing to abide by. That included dates & times and how we'd share material. In our case, we're posting everything in a Google Drive folder.

I've also been in groups that brought and read aloud. You get different things out of the different approaches; for poetry, reading in the group may be helpful; for prose, it's possible to critique a larger work if you share it ahead of time. Personally, I like to have my own copy to mark up, either way.

For your first meeting, it should be important to establish what everyone's goals and interests are and whether they're aligned enough that you can all work together.

Good luck!
posted by epersonae at 1:06 PM on August 13, 2013

Pretty basic but easy to get overlooked: the last meet up group I was regularly a part of had a rule (explicitly stated at the beginning of each meeting- they were a "everyone prints and brings in" kind of group) that group discussions were to be about the pieces themselves, and not any views or ideas expressed therein. This was obviously stretched from time to time, but that way if the discussion got too off topic or if there were arguments about politics/religion/any other thing that might happen to be in a piece of writing, the moderator had the option of invoking the rule that everyone had agreed to in the beginning and things would settle down back to discussion of the piece at hand . After all, you're all there to discuss poetry, not to argue over the Iraq war (or whatever).
posted by theweasel at 3:45 PM on August 13, 2013

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