Sunday, March 30, 2008

In Praise of Open Studio

I've been following the thread at WomPo and some of the blogs lately, about Poetry Workshops, particularly in CW and MFA programs, and how dysfunctional they can be.

I wonder if we could learn something from Visual Artists, and their use of Open Studio. I experienced this at Vermont Studio Center a few years ago, where I was on a writing residency in a setting that was primarily visual artists (painting, sculpture, mixed media, installations), with writers in a minority. As I remember it, once a week there was "Open Studio Night" where several of the visual artists would just open their studio up to the community, there was wine and maybe a little food, and you just went from studio to studio taking in the work, talking about it if you wanted, asking a question if you wanted, and socializing. It seemed incredibly stimulating and supportive. We weren't there to "fix" the person's art, but merely to experience it, understand it, be with it for a while, reflect on it. And usually not just one piece in isolation, but a whole room full of all the pieces they were working on: some finished, some near complete, some very raw and rough and still in the conceptual phase.

Could we do the same with Poetry Workshop? Once a week, for the class to go to the "studio" of one or more of the writers, where a group of poems they were working on were posted on the wall, maybe some books they have been reading or were interested in lying in piles, maybe some rough drafts scattered around in notebooks -- who knows what else might be included. And the point being to experience where that writer is at the moment, to understand what he or she is trying to do, and reflect on it. More of a social-experiential-collegial thing, than the judging-correcting-henpecking thing that CW and MFA workshops can deteriorate into.

Hmmmm . . . . a thought.


Kelli said...

nice idea

Pamela said...

I'd love that, because each writer would have a space, as the visual artists do, to ponder and arrange and rearrange and shape.

My workshops usually end with poets and fiction writers from all groups sharing a breakfast or a brunch (catered by me): poems and stories accompanied by coffee, muffins, milk, doughnuts, fruit. It's a lovely coda, and also a wakeup call for these beginning artists to share their work with another classroom of writers in a supportive nurturing environment. We do this finals week so at least I know some of them are waking up on time (and eating breakfast at least once!)

early hours of sky said...

Actually that is how Carolyn Forche’ does manuscript class. You post your poems on the world and everyone gets to walk around them, she also sometimes wants the lines of poems to be able to be moved around. It is very cool.

Peter said...

P, T: Interesting. Both sound like good ways to go.