SWF 2112: Mark Tredinnick Throwing Soft Bombs

The State Library again, this time for a morning poetry workshop with Mark Tredinnick. I did a community college creative writing workshop with Mark a couple of years ago, soon after which I had my first poem accepted for publication. Since then Mark has published The Blue Plateau and won some prizes, including the prestigious 2011 Montreal Poetry Prize. I liked the blurb’s idea of ‘learn[ing] some old ideas and new tricks to turn [my] poems into soft bombs’, though I wasn’t sure what that meant.

There were 16 of us. Mark’s distinctively resonant voice had taken on a richer tone thanks to a head cold, but he soldiered on. One of the six male participants excused himself, explaining that he had recently had a lung removed and didn’t want to risk catching whatever Mark had, but the rest of us presumably had less at stake and were willing to risk it.

It was fun. He took us, instructively, through a series of drafts of a short poem, and handed out several sheets of poems, reflections on poems, aphorisms about poetry. He covered a white board with suggestive phrases – ‘self:Self’, ‘enormous moments’, ‘politics of poetry’, and so on. He talked and answered questions without an obvious structure, and after some time passed we realised he had covered all the phrases on the white board. Then we did an exercise, and each of us read out what we had written, or one we’d prepared earlier. Mark commented, always generously and appreciatively, and did what he called some editing on the run.

Linda Gregg’s poem, ‘Adult‘ provided the ‘prompt’ (evidently a technical term in writing workshops) in its opening phrase: ‘I’ve come back’. This is what I wrote:

I’ve come back to this room
he fills with viral baritone
words – his own, his teachers’,
ours. Teresa sees language as God’s
best gift, but worries sometimes
she mistakes gift for giver.

He rightly said I needed to think whether this would lead anywhere or whether it was just a clever thought in a writing class.

That’s all. I’m writing this on my iPad in the reading room of the Mitchell Library. Now I’m off to catch a bus home. Oh, the thrill of almost live blogging!

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