Monday, September 7, 2009


by Jonterri Gadson

Okay, so I'm fresh out of the first workshop where one of my pieces was discussed. Immediately following my workshop, I felt really uneasy, so I had a conversation over drinks with the other 1st years that started like this, "I'm feeling uneasy, so I need to say..." and that helped a lot! So let's talk about that here too :)

Overall: Workshop was great. I'm glad I'm here. I am in the right place. The biggest thing I got out of it was that my work MUST go to another level. From the comments I received on my work, I am not even close to where I would like to be with my poetry. I believe that these people honestly care to help me with my work and I am grateful for each one of them and the time and care they put into their comments.

What came out of my "feeling uneasy" convo was that my discomfort was actually with the format of the workshop. In undergrad workshops we started with a praise section: what worked in the piece, why it worked, what you liked about it etc.. There was no praise section, no buffer, so it was a little shocking to me this time. I'm not saying that there weren't any positive comments, there were, but there was no set aside praise time lol. I'll go to church if I want praise, I guess, not workshop.

I don't consider myself resistant to change but I believe I'm being a bit resistant to change. I can admit this so I can move on from this. I'm glad to get exposure to different methods of workshopping. I'm open to the process. I had expectations that I shouldn't have had since I knew nothing about how it would all go down.

I got a lot of great feedback on my piece, though I don't really know where to go with it yet, but I'll give it time.

I had doubts about my ability to give useful feedback to people's work that was totally different than my own. Discussing the pieces in workshop gave me a better understanding of each piece and what the poet wanted the piece to do. I loved hearing others' perspectives and their perspectives helped me to clarify my own.

I can honestly say I'm not the same person that walked into that workshop. I know it's dramatic, but it's true.

When I was 10, I almost drowned in the city pool. After the lifeguard fished me out of the pool, she sat me down on the edge of the pool and said, "Alright, we have to get you right back in the water, otherwise you might always be scared." I have another piece up for discussion next week. I didn't come here to succumb to fear.

Now that last paragraph right there, that's drama lol.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds sobering (esp. the "no-buffer-zone"), but I'm glad that you were able to go out afterward and converse with some of your classmates. You have a great attitude, and I know you're going to come out of there with stronger poems because of it. I love the swimming pool analogy. Go, drama!

    I'm getting my first poem workshopped on Thursday, but I've had so much homework (reading tons of articles and writing papers, blarg) I haven't had time to really be nervous yet.

    Did anyone else have school today (Labor Day)??!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this, JayTee. I don't read anything of my own in class until the 21st, but I'm uneasy to say the least. It's helpful to know it's difficult for everybody.

  3. I really liked reading this. This is sort of how I felt after my first workshop last year. I agree that one issue is that people in workshop sometimes forget that praise needs to be verbally expressed; we just write it on the paper and think that's enough. It's a bad habit.

    Also, the 10-15 minute rule and the "start with structure" rules probably scared a lot of people in to thinking they had to jump right into "criticism." I promise that will wear off after a few weeks. :)

  4. Sounds like a pretty intense first workshop, but I am glad you were able to talk about it afterward and that you feel good about "getting back in the water" next week.

    (And I think it's so strange that a lot of people had classes today!)

  5. Thanks for the understanding, all.

    Jazzy- You were right about the comments that were written down. I read them with relief! Thanks so much for taking the time to say something encouraging!

  6. That's right, J. You go ahead & get back in the water. My first workshop of the semester is tonight & yes: I'm a bit apprehensive as always. We have to be so honest with ourselves to get anything valuable out of the process. A good workshop is like standing in front of the clearest mirror in the brightest light.

  7. People have class today?? We don't have class today.

  8. Wow, I love the story about the lifeguard.

    Everyone loves to hear that their poem is great, but for me, I don't want that, really, at a workshop. I want to hear what works, and more importantly, what doesn't work. Because I walked into the workshop assuming that it worked on some level, or I wouldn't have brought it.

    I always say that if I wanted praise, I'd ask my mom to read it. Which makes it sound as if I don't care what my mom thinks about my poetry. But you know what I mean. hahaha

  9. i don't think you can help but be a bit defensive in your first workshop, but it does get better!

    i love hearing all the different workshop styles from the different bloggers here :)

  10. Hey J.T.! I'm finally surfacing from my long trip across the country. I haven't workshopped yet, because UO doesn't start until 9/29 (though teacher training / orientation begins the 16th).
    one thing I would suggest, if your workshop environment seems kind of harsh, is that you hone in on one or two voices who seem to "get" your work. I've found it's very hard to synthesize more than 2 people's opinions into a work-in progress. The work may end up muddled. I had one harsh workshop at MTSU and that seemed to work for me. I took notes of everyone's comments, but really took one or two people's advice (in addition to the instructor's) to heart. It's early for me, so I hope I'm being clear. At any rate - you rock. Be strong and continue loving what you do.

  11. Hey Monica! Thanks for the advice. I will keep that in mind. I think I was in shock over having so many serious writers making real serious comments about my work for the first time. It's early for me to know who gets me or even who I really get but I'm looking out for that. Thanks again!


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