Guest authors bring new techniques to TU

“We all have to be crazy to want to write because there’s no sort of ‘Pot of Gold’ at the end of this rainbow,” Dr. Jenkins, a poetry professor at TU and long term resident of Tulsa, said Saturday morning after welcoming three distinguished guest poets to campus for the Poetry Symposium.
The guests included Lee Ann Brown, a working poet in New York, whose writing centers around hymns and ballads she grew up with, Julie Patton, who also came to Tulsa from New York City, focusing on poetry as a performance art as well as curating artist-housing projects and finally Elizabeth Robinson, who has published over twelve different collections of poetry.
The symposium began at 10 a.m. with short talks from each poet about their respective roots, self-discovery and poetic ethics. All three of these visiting poets expressed how the need to form language into poetry had been ingrained in them since childhood. Robinson took particular interest to the stories her father told her before bed. She recalled the magical, transportational effect of his stories and how she felt a deep connection with the characters. She wants to mimic the magic her father made in her own writings.
Both Patton and Brown were captivated at a young age by the slow, meditative nature of hymns and how sound moves through the air and through the mouth. They focus on rhythmic work that doesn’t necessarily make any tangible sense, but moves the reader through the poem with sound association and word play.
After the lunch break the symposium moved into three breakout workshops, each taught by a different visiting poet. Brown’s workshop guided the participants through a series of association. They wrote short, acrostic poems (vertical poems in which each line starts with a corresponding letter in the word) dedicated to the first word they could think of. Some writers wrote odes to people in their life and used the name for the acrostic, while others used random words that came to mind like “Britches” and “Tulsa.”
Robinson’s workshop began with five minutes of free writing to create a poem and then used the rest of the time to deconstruct that poem.This class looked at pieces from Ezra Pound’s Sapphos for inspiration, and attempted to boil down each poet’s work into a few simple words strategically placed on the page.
Patton’s workshop focused entirely around disassociating from everything but sound. They guided each other throughout the hallways of Zink, blindfolded, with soothing voices, jarring onomatopoeias and a cacophony of indiscernible noises. The point of her workshop was to “set the soul free” and begin to think of poetry as playtime instead of work.
About twenty or so students, local writers and curious onlookers came to the Poetry Symposium. The day may have had a little too much of the ‘60s flower child mentality for some people, but the students and local writers who went were all welcomed into an atmosphere of free thought, free association and free tacos for lunch, and each person took some sort of changed ideal, new mantra or inspiration home with them. Much of the lecture time was spent discussing how poetry relates to and shapes the world around us, and how poets and writers can be aware of and use that in their work.
Robinson came to the conclusion that everything comes down to love. What we love, and how we pour that into our communities, friends and families, or how we don’t. Patton urged the attendees to rid themselves of their suffocating metal boxes, free their spirit and go write operas with your good friends in local cafes. While visiting poet Brown reminded everyone that writing in itself is a spiritual practice that guides and shapes the writer on their perfect journey.

Post Author: Ethan Veenker