Meet the Teaching Artist: Generative Poetry Workshops with Sarah Carson
by Writing Workshops Staff
A month ago
Discover the world of poetry with accomplished author Sarah Carson as your instructor. Her poetry has been featured in well-known publications like Diagram, Guernica, and The Missouri Review. Sarah is also the author of three full-length poetry collections, including How to Baptize a Child in Flint, Michigan.
She extends her knowledge to aspiring poets through generative poetry workshops that explore the essentials of writing and revising poetry in her structured 4-Week courses, such as The Practice of Writing Poetry and The Practice of Revising Poetry.
Whether you're new to writing or looking to enhance your skills, Sarah Carson's expertise can help you navigate the nuances of poetic expression and refine your craft.
Hi, Sarah. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
I write poetry and flash nonfiction and fiction. My most recent book is How to Baptize a Child in Flint, Michigan, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Editors Choice Award from Persea Books. I began teaching for Writing Workshops in Detroit in 2020, and have been teaching online ever since! When I'm not writing or teaching, I'm usually in the backyard with a book or watching Disney movies with my daughter and two dogs.
What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?
I like teaching generative writing workshops that focus on process rather than product. I began writing as a teenager because I needed a place to express myself, but when I started my formal education in creative writing, I feel like I got sent down a path that focused too much on the end product and not enough on the way the process itself can be life-giving both to the writer and the writing. Teaching these classes is my way of indulging in the process--of getting to play and invent and get messy right alongside students who are also looking to generate new work and find new ways to enter the imagination.
Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?
In both The Practice of Writing Poetry and The Practice of Revising Poetry, we start by reading and thinking about what it means to engage in a writing "practice," and what this might look like for each individual writer. Then we engage in writing activities that are meant to be exploratory and generative. Students are invited to share what they come up with in an encouraging workshop environment designed to help each writer think about where they can keep digging or engaging with a piece. The goal is to surprise ourselves by experimenting. My favorite part of these kinds of classes is seeing how students generate work they never would have seen coming and learn to value new challenges in their writing lives.
What was your first literary crush?
Jim Carroll. I read The Basketball Diaries in 8th grade and it made me want to be a teenage poet loose on the streets of New York City.
What are you currently reading?
How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?
I try let myself be led by inspiration while also pushing myself to keep going when I feel resistance. I try to divide my writing time into both play and work. I always begin by letting myself play with new projects or follow new ideas, but then I have to check-in with myself about where I need to make progress. I think a writing life needs a balance of both.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find it everywhere: Driving around town, walking the dogs, playing with my daughter, watching TV. I think all aspects of our lives deserve recording and reflecting upon.
What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?
In a workshop once, the poet Matthew Dickman told the class that art should involve wrestling with an idea or experience. If you're feeling like you can't make progress with something you're working on, ask yourself if you still have something to learn from it. If you've learned what you need to learn, it might be time to move on to something new. I think this has stuck with me because it has helped me put my writing life into perspective. Not everything we write is for somebody else. Sometimes the work we're doing is simply to take us from one place to the next.
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is the book that changed everything for me. This book taught me how to let go and follow the writing. It helped me begin to see writing as a part of who I am and the life I live--rather than something I do or make. I definitely recommend it for anyone who struggles with writer's block or worries about being "good enough." She'll teach you how to write first and let that stuff go.
Learn More About Working with Sarah:
Join Sarah Carson in this journey to explore new dimensions in writing and enhance your craft!
Instructor Sarah Carson's poetry and other writing has appeared in Diagram, Guernica, The Missouri Review, Nashville Review, and Waxwing, among others. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, including How to Baptize a Child in Flint, Michigan (Persea Books, November 2022).