Thanks to poets Elizabeth (Betsy) Kudlacz and Shradha Shah for recently traveling to Washington, D.C., for a Do-It-Yourself Poetry Workshop. Since formal workshops and conferences can be expensive, crafting your own planned gathering can save on costs while still gathering together other writers to discuss your own writing, books you’ve read and writing prompts, too. This approach gave us the freedom to discuss poetry and use the city’s landscape at the same time.
Thanks to Betsy and Shradha for sharing their thoughts on our time together. And for traveling to D.C.!
Having met in ‘formal’ workshops, we took it upon ourselves to maintain a small writing community. Because we are not all located within the same city, or even time zone, we must rely on email, Skype or other methods to stay in touch remotely. However, holding a ‘live’ conference affords a richer experience and so we agreed to try and get together on a regular basis. And through a series of circumstances, the first of these meetings was recently held in Washington, D.C.
Nearly all aspects of the 4 days/3 nights that we shared focused in some way upon literature. The accommodation was the B+B called Akwaaba, which features rooms named for famous African American writers. It is quiet, has a lovely large parlor conducive to chat, and its location on 16th and R Streets in Dupont Circle afforded easy access to a number of coffee shops (Steam Café and Tryst), restaurants (Eatonville) and other literary hotspots around U Street (Busboys and Poets).
Prior to arriving, we agreed upon what it was we wanted to accomplish during our time together and a daily agenda was prepared to incorporate those aspects. For example, we decided to devote time to the following:
- Workshopping some ‘old ‘ poems
- Discuss manuscripts by published poets (‘Lives of the Heart’ by Jane Hirshfield)
- Write new work based upon poetry prompts which were matched to excursions to Washington, D.C., sights.
In fact, during the course of our sight-seeing, we not only engaged in writing prompts at the location, but on occasion read poems about the place. For example, at the National Zoo, we thought/wrote about how we might relate to any specific animal and their behaviors. In addition, we read poems including “The Panther” by Rainer Maria Rilke and “The Woman at the National Zoo” by Randall Jarrell. Admittedly, sometimes the exercises felt a little contrived and the writing a bit pressured when what we really wanted to do was enjoy the animals!
Other places visited included the Library of Congress (to write there you will need to get a library card, which is well worth the effort) and several Smithsonian museums for inspiration when addressing prompts related to writing about a work of art or book.
A special bonus was the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit“Poetic Likeness” and the courtyard there is a particularly lovely venue for working.
A central location like Washington, D.C., afforded the opportunity to meet up with additional poetry acquaintances. Maintaining such friendships in these busy times is important. And let’s face it; most of us write in solitude so make the effort to spend the time to grow and gather the tribe.
About the authors:
Elizabeth (Betsy) Kudlacz is a full-time scientist and part time poet. Born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, she currently lives, works and writes in Groton, Connecticut. Some of her haiku and poems have appeared in journals, including Cicada, Aurorean, Connecticut River Review, Caduceus, Bellowing Ark and Freshwater, as well as in various anthologies.
Shradha Shah is a practicing poet and physician in San Francisco. She aspires for her writing to informs her medical work as vice versa.