Saturday, September 20, 2014

2014 Fall Retreat Recap

"Whether we like it or not, we all come from someplace. And at some point in our lives, we have to make peace with that place." This quote from Jeffrey Stepakoff (from The Orchard), one of several shared by workshop leader Diane Kendig last weekend, established the theme for the recent OPA Fall Writers Retreat at Malabar Farm.

And this year's fall retreat reinforced for me why these events are my favorite that OPA sponsors. There are few places in Ohio that will move you--and give you room to move--to write. And how fitting Diane chose to lead workshops focused on poems of place, inspire also by her latest book, The Places We Find Ourselves.

On day 1, the weekend challenged all in attendance to explore, through their poems, places they'd never written about--first by creating a list of those places and then approaching the poem with one of three focuses:
  1. Through meaningful description--making the place come alive.
  2. Exploring the significance of the place.
  3. Using the place as a setting for a poem.
After sharing the poems and discussion the night moved into social time with food, wine, a bonfire, and as always, good conversation.

A fourth approach to poems of place was discussed on day 2, where poets tackled a new place poem by combining or juxtaposing two places. The choice was ours whether to write about the same place from day 1 or to choose a new place.

But whether this place or that, every poem presented different challenges, forcing the poet often to reach deep into memory for those smallest of details that carry significance of place in our lives. 

For myself, two poems drafted warrant further exploration, fleshing out new details new description. But I think it's safe to say everyone found something to carry home--and to carry them home--wherever and whenever that home might be found.

--Chuck Salmons

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