Navigating Poetics in Workshop and in Design

Yesterday I read alongside the writers of Kearny Street Workshop’s Navigating Poetics workshop.  It was advertised as six weeks of generative writing led by Truong Tran but turned out to be much more.

I originally took the workshop because I have taken workshops with Truong before and knew him as a skilled facilitator who views poetry from multiple angles. He shares the perspectives of visual artists while also being able to slow the writing process down. Truong can pick out one phrase or feeling in a poem and have the writer do a deeper dive into those small spaces in poems. He has been a constant voice in my poems for years. Whenever I revise I always ask, “Is this whole poem as strong as the best two lines?”  When I ask that of my poems and go back to be sure that the whole poem is strong, that is Truong’s influence on my work,

With Shelter-in-Place remote learning is the norm and I was curious how Truong would be able to create a community of writing while also fostering the trust that is needed for writers to give each other constructive feedback. Fostering connection during a Zoom session can be a dissociative task at times and that connection is the main ingredient for successful writing groups.

At the end of the six weeks, I have five new poems which would already be a measure of success. I also have a new writing community and renewed sense of purpose and confidence in my writing.  And I walk away developing a new skill:  e-book design.

I have designed and crafted all my chapbooks.  If you happen to have one of my older chapbooks then please know that each one was put together by hand and is unique. I have always prided myself on making a book with beautiful art and clean type. Huge props to Timothy Vogel and Matt Weber who gave me permission to use their work as my title images.  This process was always fun for me as I was able to play around with the order of my poems and typefaces while also trying to keep some kind of style together.  It was also fun because the words I was playing with were my own.

Sometime in the middle of the Navigating Poetics class I became excited about the prospect of having these new poems published. I was also impressed with the high level of writing from the other Navigating Poetics writers so I proposed to Kearny Street Workshop that the writing from the workshop be published together as an online volume.  Huge thanks to Mihee Kim and Jason Bayani for saying Yes.

Kearny Street Workshop: Navigating Poetics is the e-book I designed. Before I was messing around with my own poems but this time I was making book art that would represent KSW and also honor the writing of my workshop cohort.  I am proud of the finished product. It has intention and voice. There was also a ton of behind-the-scenes collaboration and last minute edits but it came together well, on time, and clean.  I hope you enjoy all the poems and if you feel moved, go to Goodreads and give it a review.