Monday, March 18, 2013

Mystery and Obscurity: A guest post by Julie LeMay

Julie LeMay
As poet Li-Young Lee so succinctly put it: “Mystery is good. Obscurity isn’t.” I have found that most poets struggle with being either too prosaic or too abstract.  Either we don’t leave enough room for the reader or we lead the reader in multiple directions at the same time.

Nearly two years ago I began working on my MFA in poetry at the low residency program at Antioch Los Angeles.  Every semester has an additional project. This semester is the 25 page critical paper. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to improve my own poems by delving into the issue of mystery and obscurity.

So I’ve been working on this, both from a research perspective but also from a craft view.  How do we maintain both clarity and ambiguity? Are there specific exercises that help?  I admit I love a how-to program. 13 Weeks to a 10K?  You bet!  How to Raise the Perfect Dog?  Yes, I need to do that!  That’s what I hoped to do with mystery in poetry. Write a Great Poem in 21 Steps? I’m not quite there but I do have some ideas.

I have gathered some poems that I think represent mystery at its best. I have also accumulated a number of amazing writing exercises developed by other poets.  These exercises explore writing from the subconscious as well as writing with strong imagery and metaphor. I want to share these and also discuss how specific poetic techniques can strengthen a poem.

Are you a poet? Join me Sunday April 7, 2-4 pm at Fireside Books in Palmer to help unravel the mystery of what makes a poem magical. What brings us back time and time again to a well-loved poem? I want to hear your ideas on what makes a poem magical. Bring a favorite poem or writing exercise. Or both. What could be better than a Sunday afternoon writing and talking about poetry? Register today! (Be sure to scroll down for the Palmer workshop).

Julie Hungiville LeMay was born in Buffalo, New York and moved to Alaska’s Matanuska Valley where she has lived since 1978.  Her poetry has been published online and in a number of literary journals including Passager, Bluestem, Pilgrimage, Lummox, and Sugar Mule. She is currently an MFA candidate at Antioch University, Los Angeles.


Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

It is so great to see you posting ehre, Julie! My only whine is that since I probably won't make it up to Palmer, I sure wish you would follow up and share more of your critical paper insights here at 49W, in the form of a second post (or a short series of posts). Any chance of that? We non-poets who still love to read and hear poetry could use some remedial education--or at least, I sure can.

Julie LeMay said...

Andromeda, I'd love to have you make it to Palmer for the workshop! I'm also up for doing another post as I've found the topic to be really interesting. Although I am looking at balancing ambiguity and clarity from the view of poetry, I think it's applicable to all genres.