Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sadly, Blake/Belle (turned out he was Blake, being male) had feline AIDS and did not survive his trip to the vet. That leaves three of his immediate siblings, plus half a dozen adult feral felines in the back yard to deal with.

Roofers start tomorrow, tearing off our old leaky roof and putting on a new one with solar panels so we are bracing ourselves for a noisy few days.

Meanwhile, I finally managed to write the new opening scene for The Recruiter, and everything started flowing from that. It only took me four or five months to absorb and accept the advice I had paid Corey Fischer to give me. I was so attached to the opening as I had originally written it, and to my original structure.

But Corey was right; it's better to start the play in the middle of the lead character's conflict. I now have a revised first act that is halfway decent, but I'm still struggling with the problem of making the characters do things on stage, rather than just stand there and talk (although Tony Kushner certainly gets a lot of mileage from characters standing and talking--one of the main characters in Homebody/Kabul sits in an armchair and discourses for a full hour for the whole first act, for God's sake. On the other hand, that play wasn't considered his most successful, although I liked it.)

Today i got to go to a workshop conducted by Marie Howe, who wrote The Good Thief, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time and What the Living Do. It was extraordinary. What a great teacher she is, relaxed, unhurried, but precise and on-the-pulse accurate.

I am a pretty tough sell as a student; I want a teacher to take me somewhere I can't get to on my own, and I already know how to set deadlines for myself, stay motivated, and kick my own ass. It's got to be more than that. She exceeded my expectations. The exercises were rigorous enough to be challenging, yet she held us to being dumb beginners, which is the only way you get anything fresh. She was not just trying to give us "poem-products"--which is a great temptation for me when I am teaching, just to give students something satisfying they can take home and say, "here's what I made today"--instead she aimed deeper, she was trying to teach us a new way of approaching seeing the material we include in our poems.

Her focus was on direct observation, suspending judgment, interpretation and metaphor for as much and as long as we could. Some of what she talked about was stuff I also teach--the value of repetition in the making of a poem, for instance--but she had a powerful integrated philosophy behind her choices, and a great selection of sample poems, several of which were new to me. In all a great day and a tiring one. I feel like I ran a six-hour marathon when all I did was sit in a low folding chair in Laurie's living room and drink inky strong coffee and listen intently and scribble.

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