OTR Poetry Workshop with Amanda Merritt reviewed


The poetry workshop ranged from learning what a bad poem is, how to avoid clichés, and how to put words together to deliver a strong meaning. This workshop was targeted at anyone who wants to learn how to write poetry. I attended the workshop hoping to improve myself as a poet, believing that I would learn new techniques on how to craft poems and maybe a few writing exercises to hone my skills and I left the sessions feeling overly content. Amanda, the teacher, had exceeded my expectations by sharing a lot of her advanced knowledge on the subject in the form of exercises, writing prompts, hand-outs with pages and pages of poetic technique, a collection of poems from different poets and, finally, by suggesting poets who might be good models for me.

Both poetry workshops were well structured and complimentary to the main theme. The first workshop focused on poetic technique in which we learned how to write bad poetry, with plenty of examples and a bad poem Amanda wrote herself. Then it was our turn to write a bad poem in two minutes and share it with the class. I found this momentarily freed me from writers block. If you’re intentionally trying to write a bad poem then ideas are less likely to be dismissed for being bad. This both freed creativity in the class and taught us what a bad poem was and how to avoid writing one.

Then we read Ezra Pounds’ Dos and Dont’s of writing poetry and Amanda taught us how to construct combinations of words with meaning, showing us how to choose words intelligently. Finally, we were shown the different parts of a metaphor and how to combine ideas to get a good one accompanied by a suggested example from Robert Frost. We were then given the task of writing a poem from a writing prompt for the next session. Amanda read over the poems and provided critique and suggestion for improvements as well as telling us what parts she liked about it. Then she revealed a collection of poetry books and highlighted different poetic styles and techniques. I discovered numerous poets. We were then told how we could use different techniques in our own writing for example focusing on imagery or feeling.

The first session was an excellent backbone of technique with a torrent of condensed information and exercises. I felt that it was really interesting to see how a poem worked from the point of view of a poet, and how to see a poem from that point of view. This really helped my writing ability.

The second session was focused on choosing an approach to the writing of poetry based on the myriad of techniques in the collection of poems Amanda brought. I also liked the way Amanda critiqued my poem, sometimes it is important to be shown where you go wrong and how to improve this helped me massively in my writing. I felt this was a strong follow up session to the first but I felt that it was missing some writing exercises to cement the techniques in my brain and to understand better how to write with them. Amanda impressed me with her delivery of so much information in such little time.

Perhaps it would have been impossible to fit in more writing exercises, so I feel that a third session full of writing exercises would have completed the poetry classes and really made some of the information concrete. I felt it was extremely professional of Amanda to present information in a neutral way in order to promote creativity. She was very aware of the fact that some of the information she was giving us was quite advanced and did her best to help us understand and know how to use it. I felt that Amanda was a great teacher and I would love to attend another of her poetry classes. I strongly recommend anyone who would like to learn how to increase their skill in writing intelligent poetry to visit her class and give it a go.


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