On Tuesday, 11 November 2014, poet Sally Rosen Kindred visited Marywood for a poetry writing workshop and a public reading.
During the workshop, Sally had us write persona poems; specifically, she asked us to write from the point of view of a fairy tale character. But drafting a poem is hard and scary, so Sally said we weren’t really going to write; no! we were just going to jot down some answers to questions about the fairy tale character we had chosen.
Where is this character—in what place, and at what part of the story? What place did the character dream about last night? If this character were to say a curse word, what curse word would it be?
You get the idea. Lots of thinking and imagination happened, but it happened without the pressure of hopping right into an actual poem.
But participants did end up writing poem drafts based on these initial jottings. And Sally shared a persona poem of her own, inspired by the reading of Peter Pan (the original by J. M. Barrie in 1904; that is, the book was written in 1904…but Sally read it much more recently than that…).
Tinkerbell called Peter Pan a “silly ass,” and Sally knew Tinkerbell had more personality where that line came from, so she was inspired to give voice to it. That poem was just part of a chapbook Sally published called Darling Hands, Darling Tongue, based on the characters in Peter Pan who didn’t get to say enough in the original novel.
After having dinner on campus with several students and a couple faculty, Sally gave a public reading, drawing on poetry not only from Darling Hands, Darling Tongue, but also from her most recent book of poetry, Book of Asters. Although many of the poems included dark elements, Sally provided context and insights to frame each. Her engaging voice and enthusiasm kept all depression at bay throughout the night!
The night closed with questions from the audience and a book signing filled with informal banter. When asked if she felt connected to her characters, Sally told of her crush Charles Dickens (who appears in her recent poetry) and her feeling of melancholy when she knew she was finished with her Peter Pan poems. She shared the daily routines that help her write even when inspiration is not close at hand; one of these is to rewrite a poem, because in the process of rewriting, revision just seems to happen, sneaking in instead of being forced and planned. And Sally shared her publishing journey—a helpful and practical model focused on finding a press that fits the kind of work you’re writing.
The day was rather grey, but Sally’s poetry seemed to brighten things up, even when it zoned in on troubling themes of loss and death.
—by Laurie McMillan, faculty
Laurie McMillan first met Sally Rosen Kindred in graduate school. She heard Sally read poetry just as Sally was first experimenting with persona poems, and Laurie was immediately impressed with Sally’s gift with words and images.