My music teacher, Mr. Chester Moffitt, didn’t teach me to play the trombone; he showed me how. I learned to play it by practicing what he told me to do. First he showed me how to play the whole note “f” in bass clef. I practiced it 100 times each day until I learned it. There are seven letters in the musical alphabet and I learned them all the same way. Once I could handle the tools of the trade I was amazed by the endless combinations that became possible. The more Mr. Moffitt showed me how, the longer I practiced. By the time I was practicing up to 4 hours a night, I was first chair in high school band and orchestra, and Missouri All-State orchestra, and the Springfield symphony, and had two dozen students of my own. I started every one of them by showing how to play the whole note “f” in bass clef.
Learning to write poetry works the same way. No one can teach us to write a poem. They can show us how but we must do the learning by doing. He who would write free verse should learn to write verse. She who would write couplets should learn to write limericks, ballads, and villanelles. The more tools of the trade we master, the closer we come to writing a poem that brings together what we have learned with what we feel and have a passionate need to express. I think of poetry workshops as “Mr. Moffitt” for poets. As your teacher, I’ll show you how. As the writer, you’ll learn by doing. I hope to see you soon. You won’t need a trombone. A pencil works fine.
Posted on: March 1, 2016