First and Last(ing) Impressions: A Poetry Workshop
“Since when,” he asked,
“Are the first line and last line of any poem
Where the poem begins and ends?”
—Seamus Heaney, “The Fragment”
First and last impressions may not be everything, as the familiar sayings claim, but they are certainly critical in poetry. The first and final lines of our poems influence how our readers engage with them; the beginning is the enkindling spark that causes readers to desire a relationship with a poem, and the ending what inspires them to deepen that relationship by returning to it again and again. In this generative workshop, we will write new poems with a focus on the mechanics of beginnings and endings—on what makes a poem’s beginning alluring and its ending powerful—and in particular on crafting compelling first lines and final lines that manage to be provocative and/or evocative without “trying too hard” to impress. We will read a diversity of poets who adopt different but equally effective approaches to beginnings and endings, as well as do writing exercises that challenge us to grow and improve our own techniques, and leave the course with better strategies for both drafting and revising our work.