The Workshop Concept…
As a judge one often wishes they could get a chance to speak to the writer and give their advice that might mold that poem into a stronger piece. It was this idea that evolved into a daylong workshop. Lead by a panel of the two judges and a member of the PNO Steering Committee, the forum gives winners an opportunity to interact and find out what worked in their poem and what needed attention. The roundtable event culminates with a voluntary before reading dinner at a local eatery. It gives participants a chance to talk informally with the judges, poet to poet, begin networking and hear stories of their experiences in their lives that shaped them as poets.
We incorporated the event into Poets’ Night Out seven years ago. Our attendance ranges each year from between eighteen to twenty-two of the twenty-five winners selected and has turned the event into an all day poetry bonanza. The workshop features the two judges and a member of the PNO steering committee as moderators. After spending about twenty minutes reading each poem and writing comments we will open the discussion on each poem and give positive advice and suggest ways to improve the poem. Judges praise what made the poem a winning entry and what struck a chord with them and encourage participants to do the same. The floor is then open to the attendees to give the gift of their suggestions. This feedback is vital in the revision process and for some it is their first time bouncing ideas off other writers. Since the workshop includes experienced writers and first time writers we make every effort to discuss poetic theory in a way that all can understand and take away knowledge. Judges will often suggest texts and poets participants may find relevant to their own style. Because of the time we generally will spend about ten minutes on each poem giving everyone with thoughts an opportunity to express them.
Poets who attend the workshop get a chance to break the ice and read their poems in an intimate setting which often makes all the difference. Many of our participants have never read in front of more than a mirror in their room and this confidence builder often is what they need to come out of their shells. Those who attend the workshop are also given the opportunity to read their revised poem at the official Poets’ Night Out reading that evening as a benefit if they so choose.
About an hour and a half before the reading we break for dinner. Poets are encouraged to meet the judges at a nearby resteraunt for an informal meal, tell stories and share experiences in publishing their work or tips to better reading. This helps promote the camaraderie that we are able to build through the day. A number of the attendees’ trade phone numbers and email addresses, some set up their own workshops. Over drinks and pizza it gives everyone an opportunity to ask questions that may not have been addressed during the day long workshop and to get to know each other better. By the end of dinner everyone is relaxed and calm ready to read in front of three hundred plus people and share their poetry.