Jack Myers / poetry / The Portable Poetry Workshop Project / writing

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content – Syntactical Transitions

In this section, Jack Myers presents the poet as architect and illustrates the various methods one can employ in making connections and “building” a poem. There is hypotaxis, in which “the ordering of content proceeds through conventional forms of logic and the conventions of syntax, grammar, and language as a medium, and there is parataxis (or juxtaposition), which is “based more on the unconscious, associative kinds of connections.”

More important than the technical descriptions and examples presented in this section is Myers’ asking the reader to imagine a sign over the writer’s “workshop” engraved with the timeless quote, “Writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” He then offers a competing quote of John Keats’, “If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to the tree then it had better not come at all.”

Instead of focusing on the architecture of a poem in this post, I want to focus on the inspiration behind the architect. What does the sign hanging over your “workshop” read? Does a poem/story/work of art build itself in your workshop or do you build it?


10 thoughts on “The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content – Syntactical Transitions

  1. Hi Andrea – You've inspired me to go find a copy of The Portable Poetry Workshop for my office. If I have a sign hanging over my writing area, it might read, "Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy" (Jack Kerouac)

  2. What an interesting question, Andrea…I recently read this article by Brian Eno (love him), which poses the idea that composers are gardeners, not architects: http://edge.org/conversation/composers-as-gardeners.He suggests that composers discover their music, and that composers are part of their own audience (someone might argue that an architect "discovers" their designs!). I really like his ideas….it's not that poems come to me, perfect and finished, and that's that…but the poems I'm happiest with are the ones I fought the least while they were growing. I do think editing is helpful, but maybe not while writing a first draft….it ends up stifling the poem, for me, when I think something like, "Oh, I shouldn't write another poem about eggs, I just wrote three poems about eggs this fall."

  3. I actually do have a sand-dollar shaped ceramic plate at my workstation that my daughters bought for me one summer, at the beach. It says … "Things happen for a reason … Just believe." To answer your question, I always build the stories. Things happen for a reason, definitely, I'd agree with my plaque. But, my stories don't happen on their own.

  4. I think I've done both–build painstakingly, brick by brick and stood aside and watched it seemingly appear from a few scraps. That's the amazing thing about writing–the experience is never the same twice.My sign? I think it might say, "Beauty waits for no one." I've wasted too many years. 🙂

  5. Love this write up and discussion 🙂 I like to bring this up with my students because they have trouble understating how poems can be made without rhyme or what they think should be form.

  6. What a lovely image to have at your workstation! I like that its inscription can speak to all aspects of life.I used to believe ideas would manifest themselves on their own…now I take joy in molding them. (Some more than others!)

  7. You're right, Laura. Writing is never the same experience! I don't think you've wasted too many years…maybe your writing found you right when you needed it most. Nevertheless, it seems as if you're on the right path now! You're inspiring. 🙂

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