Join me at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival Sunday, July 12 through Friday, July 17, 2015, where I’ll be teaching:
The word “obsession” comes directly from the Latin verb obsidere meaning “to besiege or blockade,” and every poet knows what it is to be besieged by a recurring idea, image or object. Obsession is a passion, and a poet with a true obsession, claims Tony Hoagland, is never “mildly obsessed.” But where do our obsessions come from, and what larger aesthetic and philosophical functions might they serve? During this workshop will look at a selection of “obsessive” poems by master poets and, as “homework,” you will be encouraged to observe, eliminate, empty, seduce, argue with, banish, re-cast, and abandon your poetic obsessions through a variety of assignments, because paradoxically, it is often through contention, or through contemplating the absence of something, that we arrive at a fuller understanding of its necessity. Workshop time will be devoted to critiquing/discussing both appropriate work you bring from home and new work generated by the assignments; you will be encouraged to work and revise your poems as much as possible outside of the workshop and bring drafts in for critique. Poets of all levels are welcome but a working knowledge of basic poetic craft and technique would be helpful.