“My practice is to always just let a new poem look however it wants to look in a first draft.”
Tomás Morin is teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas on April 29 at St. Edward’s University called “Playing with Poetic Voice: How to Discover Your Own Voice by Borrowing from Your Favorite Poets.” The class will give writers tools to revise their poems by redressing them in other poets’ styles to elevate their poems to a new level.
Tomás Morin: Not really. What’s really fun is when I choose a poet whose style is very different from the style of the poem I’m working on at the time. For example, if I’m working on a poem that’s fragmented and lyrical, then a Frank O’Hara style will really open my draft up. Likewise, if I’m writing a poem that is chatty about the ordinary moments of my life, and there are many, then the electric and sharp style of Lucille Clifton will be fun to try on.
Scribe: Do you think the process of reworking is a tool that should only be utilized if a poem gets stuck, or is it acceptable (or even encouraged) to start writing a poem with a particular poet’s style in mind?
TM: I think one can certainly start with imitation in mind if that’s what seems to call to you. My practice is to always just let a new poem look however it wants to look in a first draft.
Scribe: Are some styles better for applying to a poem? Are some styles incompatible? In other words, how might writers go about determining which writing style would be ideal for them to try rewriting their poem in?
TM: For me, it’s all about trial and error. The process is more about discovery than it is about following a formula. That said, all styles that are not the one you’re using would be ideal because they’re different. The more different the style is, the more your poem will have to open up and expand.
Scribe: Do you have any poems or poets you would like to recommend in preparation for the class, or for readers in general?
TM: I think any poet who has a very unique style would be great, the kinds of poets we couldn’t imitate because they sound so much like themselves that we would end up sounding like them if we imitated them. Folks like W.S. Merwin, Lucille Clifton, Wislawa Szymborska, Mark Strand, Yusef Komunyakaa, Natalie Diaz, etc.
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About the Instructor
Tomás Q. Morin‘s poetry collection A Larger Country was the winner of the APR/Honickman Prize and runner-up for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. He is co-editor with Mari L’Esperance of the anthology Coming Close: 40 Essays on Philip Levine, and translator of The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda. His poems have appeared in Slate, Threepenny Review, Boulevard, Poetry, New England Review, and Narrative. His latest collection, Patient Zero, is forthcoming this spring from Copper Canyon Press.