Poetry comes in a vast array of styles, from plain speech and straightforward to complex or “difficult,” including those that seem straightforward but are in fact complex. Why should we avoid one in favor of another, if any might be capable of touching us? Poetry isn’t here for us to “get” it; it’s here to join us on the journey we call life.
—Alice Fogel, Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader
It’s no secret that when it comes to people engaging with art, poetry often gets a “swipe left” in the face of other creative expressions that seem a bit easier on the mind’s eye, such as music, films, novels, plays, etc. Despite the art form’s emotional and imaginative charms, poems can—and often do—demand a lot from our readerly hearts and minds. How is it that we can feel so perplexed in venturing through one poem yet so at home inside another? Why do we feel double-crossed by one poem’s speaker while another has us at hello with the title alone? The truth is, there is always the opportunity for us to pull back the curtain on any poem’s word-wizardry and humanize our interaction with verse by replacing questions like “What does this poem mean?…Why am I so confused?…Wait, where was I?” with the singular, more experiential driving query: “Can I have a successful relationship with this poem?” The answer to this question may be different for each of us as we get to know any given poem, but our shared capacity to call a poem “friend” relies on how we as curious, open-minded readers approach, understand and engage with the actual words on the page. In this drop-in class, you’ll learn how to arrive at your own conclusions as to whether the poems you read hold the potential to be lifelong companions, casual acquaintances or mental swipes to the left. Each week, this hourlong excursion with verse will offer an insightful exploration of excellent poems, both celebrated and lesser known, and empower you with the critical know-how and daring spirit needed to interpret and enjoy poems of any size, shape, tone or style. (Note that drop-in classes are not a forum for critique of work; students looking for critique should register for multi-week workshops.)
Danielle Gasparro is a Brooklyn-based wordsmith, songsmith and teaching artist. She holds an MFA in poetry from New England College and a BA in creative writing with honors from Florida State University. Having devoted nearly two decades to performing, recording and building an avid national following as an indie singer-songwriter, in 2018 she shifted her creative life and lens to producing work as a literary artist. A published poet, impassioned educator and self-proclaimed “uncaped crusader of verse,” Gasparro partners with public libraries and arts organizations throughout NYC and the Hudson River Valley to present dynamic, eye-opening workshops aimed at expanding poetry’s readership. She is currently securing grant funding to launch a national library tour of her popular poetry-demystifying workshop. Beginning in the fall of 2022, Gasparro will be pursuing a “sibling” MFA in nonfiction with Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Through the JK School’s highly innovative low-residency program, she will produce a hybrid-memoir manuscript that fuses poetry, nonfiction vignettes, and photography. On rare occasion, Gasparro still shares her music through live performance, ever electing intimate listening rooms and private house concerts as her poetic venues of choice.