of Jacob Sam-La Rose's Poetry Workshops
It has been a whirlwind week, choc-ful of whirlwind experiences. A slice of life on the literary fast lane, a meandering gander unto the poetical plateau. All in all a rather draining and tiring week, but one that is most endearing and shall be remembered fondly by yours truly.
Through the good offices of the British Council, Malaysian poets and educators alike have been given the opportunity to learn from and work with one of Britain's contemporary greats. As always, the British Council, never stingy in their offerings, this time around, brought over to Malaysian shores, the indelible Mr. Jacob Sam-La Rose.
Thanks to the timely words of advice from the ever kindly Sharon Bakar, I managed to register myself for his MASTERCLASS workshop as well as took part in one of his Beginning Poetry workshops, upon the urgings of British Council's Ms. Patriana. I actually had a potential schedule conflict for that but since they did not recommend it for me to attend the Masterclass without an introductory session with Jacob first, I eagerly pursued the gently offered carrot. Though I did not really mind, more time for me with Jacob and so it was. Logical I suppose, it would be useless for me to be in the Masterclass if Jacob knows neither head nor tail of me. Before a teacher can teach, he or she must know a bit of those they want to reach.
Jacob arrived earlier than the scheduled 24th April of my beginning poetry workshop and I think he is still floating around somewhere in Malaysia or Singapore attending to students and working with teaching professionals and inspiring them in the use of poetry and the arts to teach and to reach. To inspire and conspire, inspiring their students to greater heights, conspiring to lead the youth of our land into this wonderful world of poetic and artistic bliss. For the one thing that youth has plenty of, sans enthusiasm towards learning and patience, is their boundless imagination. How better to reach them then, if not by using this very products of imagination itself.
"...youth needs the energy of youth, which is why their learning need to be fresh and subsumed with real life, as opposed to the standard practice of stale words and long spoilt ideas. What is needed is not necessarily new materials, but perhaps a fresh new viewpoint from which to reinvent the familiar..." ~ Hora Borza Zorbul
Products of imaginations aside, it was a journey through time, space and place into Jacob's Tenets of Poetry. The rules of thumb so to speak, the essence of poetry that he prescribed to us.
- Craft and
Crafting is the editing process, much like using a giant strainer that we push our mass of materials through to shred it down to its bare essence. A process to find the bones of our soon to be erected poetic skeleton. Much like an effigy of a T-rex whose unfleshed skeleton is all that it takes to summon to our minds the terrors of its construction. Find the bones and then arrange it, craft it and mold it into the work that it is meant to be. You might have to play around with it finding the right groove. Sometimes having to rearrange the skeleton. Until you find that one pleasing perfect shape.
Communicating is the final step. An important lesson for most aspiring poets whose poetry mostly line their bottom drawers and back pockets. Read it out aloud, scream it to the skies, Publish it online, upon written or printed paper, perform it to the world, in what ever shape or form. Paint it upon your body with bold bright blue ink and run around the world naked dripping bright red orange paint! Sometimes it is just a footnote, at times profound, other times the snowflake that changes lives and mostly just something to be told and shared.
There you have it, Jacob's Poetical Tenets, along with two lessons that he brought in tow. The first is to root one's poetry in concrete moments. To show the reader what is happening rather than telling them how it is. The human mind responds better to visual stimuli and by rooting the reader in a specific moment, a poet does not need the magic of words nor a massive vocabulary to convey the message clearly, just an honest voice and the clarity of that concise moment.
The second lesson is to be true to your self and to speak only in your own voice. It is oft true that we follow styles or constructions in our poetry that is not exactly natural to our tone, culture or even tongue. As such there is this discordant melody that distorts the real meaning of our poetry, not to mention make us appear fake and insincere. Thus it is important for us to find our own voices in our writing so as to be true to both our selves and our poetry.
Along with the lessons above, Jacob also spent time introducing us to some of his current favourite works from other poets, to share with us the poetry that to him rocks. A mixed bag, some spot on, and others causing more consternation than amazement. But all in all a pleasant jaunt into the works of excellent poets, both contemporary and before.