Friday, February 24, 2006

Erica Carpenter releases new book of poetry!

Erica Carpenter, an artist mentor at New Urban Arts this year, has just released a new book of poetry, published by Burning Deck. Perspective Would Have Us takes us into experiences where reality seems to blink, and we find ourselves at home in the world. Dreams, films, foreign countries are entered as if they were fields of radiation with the power to mutate the forms of what we know or think we know. The underground currents of language move clusters of meaning in a dance not unlike the vibrations of quantam theory's fields of energy.

Erica Carpenter was born in 1970, in Wickford, RI (a fishing village at the time, now turned boutique village.) She got her BA at Vassar (1993), her MFA at Brown (1998). In between, she traveled in the US as well as Turkey, Greece, and the Czech Republic. She has managed antique shops and now works as a freelance writer and as an artist mentor at New Urban Arts studio.

Her poems have been published in magazines like Lingo, Twenty-Six, and No: A Journal of the Arts. A chapbook, Summoned to the Fences, was published by Etherdome in 2002.
Perspective Would Have Us is her first full book.

The following is a poetry workshop that Erica led in our studio on October 11, 2005.

)What is a constraint? Dictionary definition: con·straint (kn-strnt) n.

1. The threat or use of force to prevent, restrict, or dictate the action or thought of others. 2. The state of being restricted or confined within prescribed bounds: soon tired of the constraint of military life. 3. One that restricts, limits, or regulates; a check: ignored all moral constraints in his pursuit of success. 4. Embarrassed reserve or reticence; awkwardness: “All constraint had vanished between the two, and they began to talk” (Edith Wharton).

…Generally a negative word, but poets use poetic constraints to help open their minds to newer and fresher ways of saying things.

A poetic constraint is a random rule that you make for yourself before writing a poem – for instance: “I will write a poem without using the letter e” or “I will write the story of my life without using the words I, me, you, he, she, they, them, or it.”

WHY WRITE WITH CONSTRAINTS? when you write with constraints your brain is forced to find other ways to say things than the way you would normally say them.

Writing Prompt: I have neglected your love

Constraint: only use the words in the prompt plus 4 more of your own

Example of poetry produced:

I have neglected your love
I have your love
Your love has neglected me
I am your love
Me, I,
your love
Neglected I have or have I
Or have
your love
I am your love
I have neglected me.

By Maria Gonzalez, age 16

Rosa Cantor, age 16, also participates in Erica's workshop. It has influenced her when she designs poetry workshops that she leads for middle school students in Providence. Two workshops that she has learned in Erica's worshop that she has taught to younger students include:

IF AND OR poem

How to Write it:

· Write ten lines that begin with the word “if”

· Change “if” to “but” in lines 1, 6, & 8

· Change “if” to “and” in line 5

· Change “if” to “or” in lines 3 & 10

· Go back and look at the new meanings the changes have created, and rewrite the poem or take a few lines out to create a new piece of work.

1) but

2) if

3) or

4) if

5) and

6) but

7) if

8) but

9) if

10) or

Write 10 sentences that begin with "If."

Example written by Rosa:

If I never moved

If I never aged

If I was younger

If only I could fly

If I was a monkey

If age really didn't matter

If life was longer

If I was never able to die

If this never ends

If this never changes

Next change the first word from the line as shown below:

1. If to But

2. Stays the same

3. If to Or

4. Stays the same

5. If to And

6. If to But

7. Stays the same

8. If to But

9. Stays the same

10. If to Or

Here's an example of the final result written by Rosa:

But I never moved

If I never aged

Or I was younger

If only I could fly

And I was a monkey

But age really didn't matter

If life was longer

But I was never able to die

If this never ends

Or this never changes

Here is an example by Jason Pontius, our friend at

White Whale Web Services.

But I could stop asking myself whether I'm happy or not

If I had complete solitude for two hours

Or I slept all weekend

If Billie Joe Armstrong weren't as beautiful as he is

And the world was a more forgiving place

But I come up with five more sentences

If I were the person I dream of being

But I'm gonna get to the post office

If I get to make a speech when accepting my award

Or I took the rest of the day off

Friday, February 17, 2006

Interview with Mary Adewusi

Interview with Mary Adewusi, Age 16
Junior, Classical High School

Can you tell me what you are doing as a part of this AfterZone program of the Providence AfterSchool Alliance (PASA)?

We go to the YMCA and we do exercises with middle school kids to help them grow in their writing process and as poets.

What is your role?

I am there to listen and give positive feedback on their writing. You cannot become a great poet if everybody is telling you bad things all the time. Where are you going to get the confidence from?

Can you give an example of an exercise you have led?

We recently did “I remember.” The students write a line that begins with “I remember” for each year of their age. So, if they are 12, they write a 12-line poem. One student began with “I remember being scared watching Superman.” Another wrote “I remember spending time with my grandmother.” They come up with great ideas and stories. It’s so great to hear what they have to say. There is so much meaning. If you don’t ask, you wouldn’t know though.

You have been a mentee in our programs for a couple of years, and now you are a mentor. What perspective have you gained from mentoring?

I have gained even more respect for the mentors here. I do not ever want to say the wrong thing to the students. They are in middle school and if you say the wrong thing, they could be scarred for life. When someone says something negative, that’s what sticks. Mentors here have never said the wrong thing to me. Never. They are always positive and always feels like the right response. That’s amazing. Mentors here are making a choice too when they do it. That’s what I never realized. They are choosing to do and say positive things.

Tell me about “Respect the Poet.”

All these kids have great stories about their days… lives… There came a point when everyone was adding in though at the same time. We introduced “Respect the Poet,” which is what anyone can say when a poet should be given the floor… When we should be focused and paying attention to what they have to say. Students like it because they want to be respected. They don’t want their toes stepped on. It’s also great because they can say it to us when they want more of our attention. In this space, on the level of being poets, we are equal.

Final thoughts about your experience?

Meeting these kids over there has influenced me. They are very thoughtful. There is so much meaning in what they have to say. I spend a lot of time with my younger brothers and sisters. I don’t think too many people pay attention to what younger children say or do. They don’t recognize that when they say and do things, they do it for a reason. I think it’s important to sit and listen. There is something to be heard.