workshop rules

        —Buy One Get One Now While Supplies Last

1. You cannot just blurt out “this fucking sucks” without some kind of clarification

2. Don’t assume everyone knows what the hell you’re talking about

3. If you have more than one dead grandmother, talk about them in order…or something

4. Nodding with that god awful knowing look on your face is not a contribution

5. Spit it out…most of us have shit to do

6. It’s awesome that you took the time to rewrite some else’s poem…now, go write your own fucking poem

7. Your nose ring is interesting…I’ve seen bulls with the same accouterment

8. Just how many (dead) grandmothers do you have–see rule 3 for Christ’s sake

9. What else is there but love and death? You tell us…try, for the love of all things we confess to heaven and screw up on earth, try

10. During the break, don’t say what you really thought…unless you want to run the fucking workshop

11. Your epigraph said it all…then you made the mistake (not uncommon) of adding some remarks below it

12. Just because no one gets your poem doesn’t mean it’s not good, but we have to start somewhere

13. Your stanza breaks are awesome…let’s have more of them, please, experiment with the whitespace

14. Your enjambments worked until you read the poem enjambed…did the light come on?

15. Speaking of…only Rea Armantrout is Rea Armantrout…

16. So, you’ve told us what inspired the poem, where’s the rest

17. If you loved him to death–well, that could be interesting

18. Your antecedent doesn’t have to make sense, but maybe it should be, let’s say, obvious

19. Smokers on that side, everyone else on this side

20. If you find yourself beginning your response with, “I was trying to…”–well, write that poem instead

21. The truth of an event is one thing, what’s possible in the universe is quite another

22. Your confidence is overwhelming the group

23. Poetry is offensive…if you’re offended, our work is done

24. Don’t feel insulted if we ask what your poem is about…most of the time we’re making this shit up as we go along


Addendum to “Workshop Rules”—FREE!

25. The dark antics and calamities of your life that you feel most deeply and believe are meant to be taken serious…well, they are serious…and subjects of our derision…otherwise, the life you’ve chosen, the incessant need to render the unimaginable into a shimmer of something we may have to squint to see just how brilliant it really is, will likely remain utterly elusive, if not wholly ineffable, even to yourself; your work occluded and misunderstood in this rigged and uncertain game…and despite the ephemeral joy and disappointments from which none of us really recovers, we’re sure you’ll make something. Pencil shavings, for example.