To render. Be rendered.
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Gail Wronsky Student Work
Professor Gail Wronsky, author of Dying for Beauty (Copper Canyon), teaches in the English Department of Loyola Marymount University. The students in her 2004 intermediate level class chose their own favorite poems from that workshop experience.
Gail Wronsky’s Instructor Statement
My workshop-teaching strategy has mainly to do with dislocating the students, disorienting them, displacing them, so that they cannot rely on whatever comfortable strategies or structures or habits of voice they've relied on in the past to get through a poem. This is the only way they'll make real discoveries. My belief is that the brain can't help making sense, finding logical connections, moving in some previously learned rhetorical fashion from idea to idea, or place to place, or image to image, even in a poem, and that if you do move logically or sensibly you will not arrive at anything new but instead will arrive at something others have already arrived at, or you yourself have discovered before. We must, as Hamlet says, "By indirection find direction out." Or, as Emily Dickinson has it: "Tell the truth, but tell it slant."
Some of my disrupting exercises are based on Surrealist games like "The Exquisite Corpse." Some involve making group assemblage poems. Cutting and pasting lines from different poems into one poem. Some involve imitation exercises in which students are asked to write exactly like another poet, someone not at all like them in temperament or aesthetic sensibility. Sometimes I actually travel with students to odd spots like the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City and have them write poems made up entirely of things they've seen there. I use constraints. I invent forms. I am not interested in whether or not the poems my students write actually say anything (we can't help saying something); I'm interested only in whether or not they take imaginative risks with language and image, that they create something for us to hold up against the tsunami onslaught of cliché we're all crushed by daily.
At night, in my room, a poem sings to me like a lost bird in an endless sky,
A poem about sticky childhood summers, secular sisters and forgetful sighs.
room are sprinkled truths and elaborate lies and meanings that I
my room the voice of my father shakes out from the page and through
my poem he sprinkles like dirty confetti his bitterness with the
write this poem, he talks back to me telling me all the things I
never admitted I
pulls up a chair, in my room and not in my room, and we chat but not
as father and
And we talk and dream out loud about life and the heart and his kidneys and my liver and all our slow and silent transgressions.
And I ask my father, my father in the poem that is, all the questions the silence accumulated over the years.
We laugh and we cry and it’s the first time I see him without his marionette mask.
He is out of his snow globe of life that includes his pharaonic chair and his television eyes.
We are in my world now, and in my world the glass is shattered and in this world the glass does not make my hands bleed.
So we talk and then we don’t talk and we sit and don’t talk and then we just sit until the night sky bleeds into the hands of the morning.
then like smoke in the rain he is gone and the room is empty except
for me and
catching my breath
like the absence of sound when the white tipped
transparent, apparent…who the hell knows. You
now, you smear muddy memories of being stuffed full
at your not so solid emptiness and I miss him. So, you slip
This class provided me with the unusual opportunity to view my poetry as the reader and not as the writer, which was an opportunity not to be taken for granted. I had the chance to witness how people interpreted my work and why they saw it that way. This allowed me to get at my own weaknesses in transferring my voice to the page by highlighting where the missed step in my communication was and how best to prevent that from becoming a habitual pitfall in the future.—M. Rae Freudenberger
by such movement
intimately followed by
collapsed lung for
only envisioned how
blood of flight up
traveled in solitude; or I
always seen it.
the purges of perdition.
cold whispers of
only my mother;
my pessimism with
Godless, hell-struck by fathomed heaven, neither
(This form was adapted from Carl Philips’ “The Deposition”)
settles in a layer on top of the lid of a shoebox
and new habits take form in some pattern.
There is a detour that led me a different way up the hill.
that I didn’t know about. Some cut pattern
thought of the dogs we buried. Somewhere similar pictures.
recently got a lavender candle
secret at night he comes to my room
are the pictures.
What I really liked about the intermediate poetry workshop with Professor Wronsky was the experience of reading the works of different poets such as Carl Phillips and Larry Levis and trying to imitate their style of writing. I found that in the process of imitation I was able to recognize patterns or tendencies in a writer’s style that made their voices unique. This prompted me to further examine my own writing and notice the choices I was making in creating a voice that was my own. I was very fortunate to be in a class with such a talented group of poets. I feel like I have learned a lot from this experience and want to thank Professor Wronsky and my classmates for all that they taught me. —Neva Galvez
I watch women with men’s eyes?
woman’s eyes cannot deny
This workshop was awesome in that it brought together a classroom of people, diverse in their poetry aesthetics and style, in a comfortable environment to share and comment on poetry. It is so interesting in this kind of environment how different each individual’s interpretation or understanding of a poem can be. It was helpful to me to hear the range of responses to my works, because they pointed out problems or dimensions of my poems that I had not even considered. Poetry workshops are intimate and make many people – me included – feel vulnerable; however the process of getting used to reading poems in front of an audience, as well as receiving criticism, is an important process for the writer to go through. —Louisa Jackson
a nice ring to it…
always rained too much for you to take, and
I guess you were always too good for fabric softener.
stare at me, a corpse fresh from the oven.
Noodles bobbing in high sodium and high stakes.
You were always a risk taker.
At 17 I
fucked in secret shadows, not many
another realm my promiscuity, pregnant
Sometimes I found myself frightened only by my leaking
was only the beginning
then tried to destroy it while
At 17 I
This is the poem I am most proud of this semester, simply because it was the one that most resonated with my classmates and our teacher, Gail Wronsky. The assignment was to write a poem entitled, or based on, Larry Levis’ “Poet at Seventeen”. While many students wrote about high school or learning to write poetry, I decided to write about my experience with sex and love at such a young age. This poem is very personal and has a distinct voice–and without the support of my class, students and teachers alike, I don’t think I would have had the courage to write and share this with a room full of people. —Marissa Mark
Longing for sun-filled days,
have been absent the day
Rice or Noodles?”
Tossed out in the interlude,
Bleeding and seething with the moment that never was…
There used to be a well here.
within blithe obsidian depths
vicious ivy slithered up the well’s walls
Perpetual confusion: and the well’s water turned a rusty hue
Dripping in, becoming diluted
Desiccation attacked the origin,
seize the mourning dancer of
the space of years wasted and your
sparrows carved on the grave of this air
day till inches-as-one-sigh
jour: sifts touches, and separates notes
Quietude, and here she
Once there, now gone sweet—
Blood linen, he’s
creature of nothings
before those colors erupt of fingers
loathing for it
While she becomes this, he’d bask within
nay-away twice-fearful beneath
That piece for mounted skin crying