Writing the Sea” was definitely the most immediately effective at getting me to put pen to paper. I’ve always been drawn to water (*squints at blog title*), and Horowitz assembled an impressive array of historical and contemporary examples of poets inspired by stints along one New England shore line or another, including riverbanks and lake sides as well as ocean beaches. I’ll breakdown why this was such an effective workshop in my next post, but it certainly helped that she maintained an excellent balance between highlighting particular lines, themes, and commonalities within and among the poems with a set of great writing prompts. Even the simplest instruction to write a word bank of as many water-related words as we could, from any discipline, led to my dredging up words I haven’t used since I worked at the New England Aquarium. Some of them have a lot of evocative possibility: “pelagic,” “phytoplankton,” “undertow.” One of my favorite prompts was inspired by an Inuit form of poetry, in which the last word of the line becomes the first word of the next, and we were asked to write a flowing poem about rivers in a handful of minutes. This is my attempt, though in a second draft I think it would need more actual focus on the water as well:
On the Charles
I haul on the mainsail sheet,
the sheet that shivers in my hands,
these hands that rein the wind
winding through my city.
City buildings soaring high
and higher above their echoes,
echoing in slices under my hull.
Hull cupping me as I brace
the bracing wind, balanced on the mainsail.
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Artist of the Week
Marblehead poet, writer Elisabeth Weiss Horowitz
On Sunday, May 4, Marblehead resident Elisabeth Weiss Horowitz will join thousands of poets and writers for the sixth annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem. Her workshop, “Writing the Sea: Water as Metaphor and Poetry of the New England Coast,” will take place in the Pickman Room of the Hawthorne Hotel from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Poets from Lucy Larcom to Sylvia Plath have gazed from the New England shore and traveled under both real and imagined sails. This workshop will follow a coast stippled with wrecks, shipyards and salty ports. Through writing prompts we’ll explore the sea’s tidal pull on the imagination: the myths of its vast expanse, the reflection of the human psyche in its surface and the idea of exploration as a road to riches and adventure.
Horowitz is a poet who teaches writing and literature at Salem State University. She’s taught poetry in preschools, prisons and nursing homes, as well as to the intellectually disabled.
Her award-winning poetry has been in London’s Poetry Review, Porch, Crazyhorse, and is forthcoming in the Birmingham Poetry Review.
She taught creative writing at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead for many years, recently taught a writing workshop for the Lappin Foundation and has been a docent at the Jeremiah Lee Mansion for the last 15 years.
Horowitz is an enthusiastic volunteer and participant in the Mass. Poetry Festival and is a member of the Salem Writer’s Group.
The Massachusetts Poetry Festival will take place in many venues around Salem during the weekend of May 2, 3 and 4. Buttons for entry can be purchased at Spirit of ‘76 Bookstore in Marblehead as well as at the Festival. This year’s headliner poets include: Kim Addonizio, Lucie Brock-Broido, Rafael Campo, Carol Ann Duffy, Oliver de la Paz, Cornelius Eady, Rhina Espaillat, Forrest Gander, David Ferry, Li-Young Lee, Philip Levine, Susan Rich, Marge Piercy, Vivian Shipley and C.D. Wright.
For more information, visit masspoetry.org.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how aging creates a fire in the belly. We have limited time left. Some of us furiously scribble or travel or begin to say what we really mean and begin to live the life we imagined. The fire is not blazing but one of a new, gentle burnished glow. Many of us have buried friends, siblings, our parents. We know we can’t stop time (great book, btw) but we are indignant at the changes time brings.
As a Boomer, I never thought I’d age, yet daily the mirror accosts me with werewolf-like hairs in odd places. As the hormones twist and shout, I find it amusing to be entering a second stage adolescence . I have much in common with the teenager down the street who sneaks out at night to smoke dope with his friends at the beach. But I am responsible and in my bed tossing and turning trying to get some sleep so that I can work the next day while he is out, feeling like he owns the world. No fair!
Today I was reading poems about aging for a workshop I will teach in the spring and I came across this Charles Bukowski poem called “This Kind of Fire.” It made me laugh and it punched me in the gut at the same time. This is what the best poems do. I felt a sharp longing for a world I never knew, when man believed in multiple gods who controlled our fates. Now it feels like no one is out there.
I first began to write about how peaceful it was to sit still. In my garden this summer, recuperating from surgery, I watched the irises, the roses, and the hostas each take their turn to shine in maddeningly colorful bloom. And while it was true that I was sitting still reflecting, it did not grant me greater inner peace. Quite the contrary. Quiet reflection, something we are asked to do during this season, runs counter to the usual Jewish teachings of performing acts of tikkun olam, and counter to our modern lifestyles of cramming as much as we can, into a day. Quite frankly, sitting still was maddening for me.