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The Long-Distance Workshop

I’m really looking forward to taking part in the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop with Stanley Plumly next week—although I’m more than a little rusty. It’s been (ahem) eight years since I last workshopped a poem or even had a firm deadline for one.

Since leaving the MFA program at The Ohio State University, I’ve written and revised poems at my own pace and with the help of a handful of trusted friends, who kindly tolerate my crack-of-dawn e-mails (“This poem is a hot mess. Help!” or “Does this really want to be a sonnet, or I am torturing it?”) with drafts attached. They generously spend time with these poems, embedding comments, tracking changes, and cutting and pasting until they’ve taken it as far as they can. And I do the same for them, knowing that some changes will make the cut while others won’t—as in any workshop.

Sure, it’s quick and dirty. We skip the conversation and instead do our best to make the changes we want to see in the poem and then explain our choices. We do this out of necessity. Most of us scattered to the wind after graduate school, and even those of us who live in the same area are so busy with work, children, or both that we can’t meet regularly. So, we’ve come up with a system that works for us and keeps the poems moving. Katie, Lesley, Kelly, Betsy, Sommer…you know who you are. Many thanks.

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