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The By Heart Manifesto

October 3, 2018

We had a wonderful time at Lighthouse with By Heart: Seven Essential Poems and Practices. I got so excited I wrote a manifesto and here it is below.

Each of the class members, who lovingly committed poems to memory and their hearts, received a memento copy. I hope to offer another class next year.


On Knowing Poems

July 7, 2018

From William Stafford “Traveling Through Dark”

When I was in my spiritual poetry place in New Hampshire, I was always in awe, sipping scotch by the fire, of the teachers who could reel off poem after poem by heart. Sure, in ninth grade I had to learn a sonnet from The Merchant of Venice and in my early writing days I committed John Donne’s “Expiration” to memory. So far, that is all that I know.

But this year I’m coming home to knowing poems. Think of it as a Slow Poetry, or a Slo’ Po’ movement because you notice so much more from model poems when you slow down and question the guts and dazzle. Just look at the twists and turns in Frost’s “Mending Wall”: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” or the stunning end to Wallace Steven’s “The Snow Man””.

At bottom, the reason why I am so passionate about poetry is that it is in me. When you learn a poem by heart, you are never merely memorizing, but co-composing the poem with the poet, replaying and releasing her words into air.

And the benefits? You learn that the mistakes you make in reciting the poem are never better than the model. You learn about economy and combustion in language and that good poems truly are “the best words in the best order” as Coleridge said.

It’s going to be a good late summer session at Lighthouse with”By Heart: Seven Essential Poems and Practices”. I’d better start learning.


So you’re a poet

February 15, 2018

Lately, I’ve been teaching the Introductory Poetry Workshop at Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop.

Here are more than a half dozen things poets can do to keep the mojo going.

  1. Read. Make Poetry Daily  your home page or download the iPhone/
    Receive the weekly newsletter, read a new poem every day and find out poetry in the news
  2. Read some more. Try Verse Daily for a similar treat.
  3. Write. Keep a journal, try 750 words, You need to know what’s on your mind and besides, writers write.
  4. Celebrate National Poetry Month in April. Don’t let novelists have all the fun. Try NaPoWriMo –National Poetry Writing Month, an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April.
  5. Write some more. Stuck? Try these 30 wise prompts from Kelli Russell Agodon.
  6. Watch it. Try Lucille Clifton’s “Homage to My Hips”.
  7. Go beyond. Lots of links for haiku.

Lynn Wagner

December 20, 2009

LYNN WAGNER’s chapbook, No Blues This Raucous Song, won the 2009 Slapering Hol competition.No Blues This Raucous Song

Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Subtropics, 5AM, Chatauqua Literary Review and other journals. Her awards include an Academy of American Poets Prize and fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives and writes in Denver, Colorado, working as a health data analyst for a non-profit and teaching poetry at Lighthouse Writers Workshop.