In 2012 I attended a provocative and very useful workshop in Provincetown at the Fine Arts Work Center with Nick Flynn. Nick’s course is entitled “Poetry as Bewilderment” and he describes his approach as follows: "Frost would sometimes say at his readings that "poems are about what you don't mean as well as what you do mean." In our week together I would like to examine this idea by thinking about the concept of "bewilderment" and how it gets acted out in our poems—either through syntax, our accessing the duende, leaps into the unconscious, or simply circling around what is unsaid, unknown, unrealized. Or, as Aristotle puts it, "The mind in the act of making a mistake. . ."
“We will look for those moments we begin to stutter and stumble when talking about our poems, or in the poems themselves, for these are the thresholds beyond which is unknown, beyond which is the white space on the map. Over the course of our week together we will attempt to push a little deeper into this shadow world. “
You can find a compelling description of the role of the “duende” at http://duendedrama.org/. In this website the article ends with this statement: Duende is there to challenge us to keep our ears open to the ‘dark sounds,’ to keep our touch with the earth and with the ghosts of those who have come before, to never refuse the struggle which is needed to keep the spirits working on the side of truth.”
Indeed, Nick encourages the pupils in his workshop to think about the world with new eyes and with new ears. For example, his first assignment asked us to write a poem inspired by a recent science article. This was a challenging topic for me; it required me to look in new directiosnMy poem, “ The Universe without the Higgs Boson,” grew out of this assignment and is posted in the poems section of this website.
Other assignments from Nick included using “found” material, lines of poems, news articles, our own work as part of a new composition. He also had a wonderful collection of black and white postcards to use as inspiration for poems. Two of the poems in Migrations were born from these postcards and will be posted later on this site.
You can read more about Nick and his own work at: http://www.nickflynn.org/