Every January, Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc., sponsors January Jumpstart, a weekend of writing geared to jumpstart writers early on in the year, to inspire us to get writing as soon as possible! This year’s workshop facilitators included Darnell Arnoult for Fiction and Jane Hicks for Poetry. I rarely take Poetry Workshops, and have never had the opportunity to have a workshop with Jane (a wonderful lady, friend, and fellow Emory & Henry Alumni), so I decided to change it up early on this year! And I’m thrilled that I did!

In all honesty, I need to produce more poetry this year! I’m hoping to pull together a fourth (maybe even a fifth) book of stories and poetry in 2022. And I’m way behind in poetry for even one volume, much less two. Jane gave us some tremendous prompts during our Zoom meeting. I typically turn off my camera while I am writing because I tend to be a “messy” and incredibly emotional writer in my rough drafts. I forgot to turn off my camera, but was sobbing uncontrollably, ugly-crying supremely, during the first rough draft, which was about things kept in childhood – mine was a driver’s license of my absent father, a driver’s license that represented what I thought a father was supposed to be, but of course, it was miserably one-dimensional… It did a great job of stirring up, invigorating, and connecting emotions, though, which is important to poetry and is often lacking in my attempts at poetry.

I really enjoyed all of our prompts throughout the day, but especially enjoyed learning a new poetry form, the duplex. I won’t describe it to full justice, but basically, it’s seven sets of couplets for fourteen lines in all, with 9-11 syllables per line (which was the hardest part for me and is at the heart of my revisions). From the worksheet, “The poem starts with a couplet of two distinct lines. The second line is repeated and a new line is added, and then repeated until there are seven couplets of nine to eleven syllables each.” The master of this form is a poet named Jericho Brown. Check out his poem “Duplex,” for a great example!

Typically, I’m immensely timid about reading my poetry aloud at workshops like this. Jane made it painless and effortless to read aloud, though. I can’t speak highly enough about her leadership abilities and her gifts as a poet herself. You can check out Jane’s work in her books Blood and Bone Remember: Poems From Appalachia, and Driving With the Dead, as well as other publications featuring her work, including Now and Then, Appalachian Journal, Shenandoah, and others.

To see news about upcoming events for the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc., check out their website – www.TMWI.org