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Keeping Your Hand (Foot, Spleen) In It. (A Paul Nelson poetry workshop)

Keeping Your Hand (Foot, Spleen) In It Poetry Workshop

Thursday, July 23, 2009: Week Three (A poetry workshop with Paul Nelson)

Week One Outline

Week Two Outline

Week Three Outline




  • Thoughts, Questions, Comments about Last Week or the Assignment (Phrase Acrostic).


  • Read Sandburg’s Chicago as an example of a city poem.

(Read here.)


§         WCW reads This is Just to Say. (sound)


§         1st Exercise: Kenneth Koch’s Fake Apology Exercise (After WCW.) Koch version here.


§         2nd Exercise: Joe Brainard     I Remember (handout)


§         3rd Exercise: Fast Speaking Mammal: (handout)


§         Jack Kerouac: San Francisco Blues. Read from introduction:


San Francisco Blues was my first book of poems, written back in 1954 & hinting the approach of the final blues poetry form I developed for the Mexico City Blues… (See handout below.)


Have class read pages from Scratching the Beat Surface, Michael McClure, on Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues. (McClure copied Handout.)



  • Homework Assignment: Walking Seattle exercise (or Ballard, Queen Anne, Kirkland, &c.) Based on the poem you just wrote, or a phrase you get from another poem, or a famous phrase. Take a walk with that pocket notebook and jot down interesting mages, snippets of overheard conversation, interesting signs, American Sentences, whatever. Plan on taking a long walk, though it won’t seem long as you do this. When you feel you have had enough stimulation to write, or if you get a phrase that you know is an interesting start, sit down and start writing. You can use the blues approach, where a chorus is on each sheet of pocket notebook paper. Or you can take a regular-sized journal and write. Maybe one image is compelling that you focus on that edifice, or tree, waterfront view, &c. Or like George Stanley in his Vancouver: A Poem, you can write on the bus. You write poems after each of a series of walks, or trips in the region, like Meredith Quartermain in her Vancouver Walking book. Of course the poem can include ideas from books you’re reading, newspaper headlines and other sources besides what is in front of you. (You should be typing all your poems from this class.)


  • Have you determined that project that will define you as a poet? Something you can do daily, or at least weekly and in the best case scenario, for a few decades. Paterson, The Maximus Poems, History in Verse (Ed Sanders), &c. The August Poetry Postcard Project is another example.


Work Cited:


Brainard, Joe. I Remember. New York: Penguin, 1995.


Kerouac, Jack. Mexico City Blues. New York: Grove, 1959.


Kerouac, Jack. San Francisco Blues.  New York; Penguin, 1995.


Koch, Kenneth. Rose, where did you get that red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children. New York: Vintage Books, 1973.


McClure, Michael. Man of Moderation. New York: Frank Hallman, 1975.


McClure, Michael. Scratching the Beat Surface. New York: Penguin, 1994.


Quartermain, Meredith. Vancouver Walking. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2005.


Sandburg, Carl. Selected Poems. New York: Gramercy, 1992.


Stanley, George. Vancouver: A Poem. Vancouver: New Star Books, 2008.


Waldman, Anne. Fast Speaking Woman. San Francisco: City Lights, 1996.