For the last three years, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the Columbia Scholastic Press Association writer's conference in New York City. This was a perpetually fruitful trip because, while traveling under the guise of a chaperone, I'm convinced I learned and enjoyed more than any of the students I had in tow. Just roaming the walkways of an Ivy League university provided me the glimpse of the college life I never recieved attending Florida International University. Beyond that, the trip afforded us the chance to take in a few Broadway shows, tour the attractions of the City, and purchase purses; the Latter being an adventure of, at times, questionable legality. But that's a post for another day.
The Maddening Crowd by NineDays
The writer's conference hosts a series of workshops on Journalism, Video Production, Yearbook, and Creative Writing. As the Literary Magazine advisor at school, my primary focus at the writer's conference was, naturally, the creative writing sessions. I attended many notable and valuable sessions, some which pushed my own writing and publishing efforts forward, but one session stood out above the rest each year. The session was presented by John Hampson, teacher, writer, and lead-singer/guitarist of the band Nine Days. (You'll remember their hit song "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" from 2000.)
I have a handful of personal experiences with celebrities (mostly professional athletes); some positive and some negative. Interacting with John Hampson was exceedingly positive because he did not set himself above anyone in the room. While the girls, both students and the female chaperones that accompanied me on the trip, fawned over the man, he remained grounded and open. After the session concluded, he stayed to sign autographs, give out CDs, and, much to the delight of my fellow chaperones, take pictures. I enjoyed my conversation with John because of the man's down-to-earth persona. We connected as writers, teachers, and fathers; discussing how we both hugged our children after reading Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic tour de force, The Road.
His session at the conference, Literary Lyrics, provided me with classroom activities I still use in my poetry units today. I used his lyrical breakdown of his hit song "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" to reinforce with my students the obvious connection bewteen poetry and song-writing. Deconstructing the literary devices used in their favorite songs was something the students always enjoyed.
During the workshop last year, John introduced a little warm-up exercise to the participants that involved choosing an inanimate object in the classroom and using it to develop a metaphor for love. I scanned the room for a moment, taking in my surroundings; the tight desks, the slatted windows, the dusty chalkboard. I settled on the chalkboard because, while it added to the old school feel of Columbia, it was an object that has largely disappeared in the modern classroom; replaced by either dry-erase boards or SmartBoards. I decided to develop my metaphor for love using the chalkboard, creating by my comparison between these two unlike entities.
Poetry has never been my primary focus as a writer; it has always been fiction writing. Moreover, its novel writing that has always been my ultimate concentration. However, writing poetry has been useful to me, helping me develop a rhythm to my prose, and honing the skill of manipulating language. My poetry still has a long way to go, but below, you'll find my short metaphor poem. It's not my greatest work, churned out in a short period of time at the workshop, but it's something I'd like to share, considering Valentine's Day is right around the corner. Feel free to let me know what you think, or share your own little metaphor for love. Here's mine: