Valuable Poetry Feedback from Jot Writers' Conference

I just attended a poetry workshop at Jot Writers' Conference. The workshop leader, Matt Landrum, of Structo Magazine, asked participants to bring poems to be read and critiqued by the group. I brought my poem "Wildscape," which I shared in my last blog post.

I really, truly appreciated the feedback the participants shared, so I'm reposting the poem, updated to incorporate some suggestions from the workshop.

First, I've played with the structure. The lines run longer before breaking, which I hope gives the dream-like vibe more room to breathe.

Second, I've taken out the parts in which the narrator passes judgment — e.g., "he smiled at me sardonically / and answered me laconically" and "the years had not been kind" — and I've replaced them with more detailed description — aiming to show instead of tell.

Here's the updated poem:

(Photo: Free images)


By Rachel E. Watson

I met an old friend last night in the wildscape of my dreams.
It had been at least a dozen years since we last locked eyes.

I saw him sitting at my mother’s aging patio set in a sunny
wildflow’r garden bordered by a treehouse with a ladder.

He leaned back, tipping his chair, with that middle-parted
hair, grinding grooves in the ground as I regarded him anew.

I asked if he recalled basement jams and living room horror
film fests. He stared, lip twitching, and said, “It’s all gone.”

I saw his gaunt, waxy face—his frayed sweatshirt, sleeves
pushed up, baring black veins and cracked, stained nails.

How did such hardness spin from a childhood we shared—
our histories running parallel like train tracks for miles?

For all I knew, he saw the garden, the table, the treehouse
and chairs, and pitied me likewise, for not getting out— 

For staying put.

And again, here was the original draft of the poem, to compare. Fun stuff!

About Jot Writers' Conference

Jot is a semi-annual, one-night only conference founded by a Michigan writers' group, The Weaklings. The four-hour event features speakers from all walks of the writing life, from publishers and agents to folks who write fiction, nonfiction, memoir, blogs, poetry and children's literature. The lectures are followed by hands-on workshops in which small groups meet to share and discuss their work.

To learn more about the event, visit, or "Like" the Jot Facebook page.

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