Kevin Bowen's Writing Prompt

At the workshop yesterday, at Longfellow's house in Cambridge, Kevin Bowen led a discussion on two poems by poets who wrote during the Troubles in Ireland, when north and south were split in a bitter feud.

One poem deals with violence directly, using regular language, metered with more attention to the way it’s read aloud than to the way it looks on paper. “Dresden” by Ciaran Carson winds around a domestic scene into a story about an attempted bombing in Derry and a memory of the bombing of Dresden:

The other poem uses refined meter and economic language for an indirect and subtle approach to discussing The Troubles in the context of Japanese isolationism. It conjures a tea party with the 16th century Japanese poet, Basho, in Nagoya. “The Snow Party” by Derek Mahon deals more abstractly with violence and terror setting itself off in a remote home in the hills:

Kevin’s writing prompt for us is to take one of the poems, and turn it into the other one. So take the tea party with Basho and make it into a poem like “Dresden,” with rambling language and minute focus on scenery. Or condense Mule’s story with attention to meter and rhyme, into a carefully constructed poem.