Lois Williams Workshop 3.07.2017Since teaching English for many years at the University of Pittsburg, Lois has kept abreast of what excites her about modern American poets. But it was a couple of her own poems that sparked our first exercise. ‘Take a little piece of something and look at it very carefully’, she said. ‘Use what is right in front of you, like that Ikea chair, rather than sitting round waiting for inspiration.’We looked at excerpts from David Lehman’s 2-year poem-a-day stint, reprinted in The Daily Mirror. ‘.. fifteen years ago it was / the day Henry Fonda died / where was I’ (from ‘August 12’). Weird things arise from adjuxtaposing past with present, Lois said. ’What contemporary poets value’ is the vitality of unlikely combinations. So we delved back 15 years, and wrote the memories hard against today.Still dwelling on material from the everyday, we looked at a tender romantic poem by Li-Young Lee (b 1957), an Asian American from a celebrated Indonesian family with a tumultuous political heritage. Wikipedia says ‘Many of Lee’s poems are filled with themes of simplicity, strength, and silence. All are strongly influenced by his family history, childhood, and individuality. He writes with simplicity and passion’Finally, we looked at Tim Siebles’ (b1956 ) rousing imagery, discovering its source in bold juxtaposition. When you come into the roomhuge fish turn underwater and I feel the lampscome on in my wrists (from Seibles’ ‘The Lamps’)Our aim was to write poems that move about in time or in character, poems that look beyond ‘self’. Our experiments stretched us, sometimes perplexed us, and it was fun trying them.