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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Story on workshop was small minded

I can practically hear the sneers: Coffee-sippers (why not lattés?), profanity-laced poems, sarcasm over instructors' credentials as against the meaningless partial quotations, the comment about the Prius. Is this "strangers go home" attitude really what the Bemidji Pioneer wants to communicate to the writers and illustrious faculty in residence this week at the Northwoods Writers Conference?

Had reporter Kyle Farris known about the processes of workshopping a poem, or had he respected the role of poetry in American culture historically and currently, he might have checked his skepticism at the door of the workshop he attended and witnessed what was actually unfolding in that room. Had he attended any of the public "craft talks" that we writers have been privileged to attend this week, or the stunning public readings by this prestigious faculty, he might have had more context for understanding the detailed work of one poem's long journey toward publication. In other words, had he gathered information (seems to me, a journalist's first move) rather than working the tired stereotype of writers as ditherers, he might have learned something, and he might have written a fully informative article.

There are many local and northland writers in residence at this conference this week. Everyone has given up something to be here, as writing doesn't "pay" in this culture: a week's wages, a year's savings, time, comforts of home. Everyone has come to be jostled out of complacency and be inspired to write better. And the superb faculty here, through their instruction in each workshop and through the example of their lives and their work (and surely, yes, their enormous sacrifices) are inspiring us to join them in the writing life. To sneer at this endeavor is small minded at best.

Something tells me Bemidjians are better than this bad article. It's too beautiful here not to support art, complexity, vulnerability and vision.

Beth Cleary

Associate Professor/Writer, Macalester College

St. Paul

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