Thursday, August 16, 2012

Conducting Poetry: All Aboard!

Photo ©2012 Cynthia Brackett-Vincent

In the Aurorean's most recent blog, I mentioned that I was set to attend the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. I did so almost two months ago, in an idyllic setting (the picturesque Franconia, New Hampshire 1915–1920 homestead of Robert Frost). You can visit the Frost Place website at:

Little did I know where that would lead. The Conference was led by Baron Wormser, former Poet Laureate of Maine, and Dawn Potter, poetess extraordinaire. For more information on Baron, visit and for more on Dawn, see

Both are gifted teachers. I'd had the opportunity to workshop poems with Baron prior to attending the Conference. What struck me most was his generous spirit, and his ability to direct a workshop in a gentle manner. I would use the words "conduct" and "lead" to describe his process. Often in a workshop setting, the word "critique" would be used. ("Critique" and "cringe" are close neighbors.)

Dawn has been published in the Aurorean (and in our new reprint anthology; see below); we have nominated her work for the Pushcart Prize, and I've been fortunate to hear her read her own poetry. I'm also acquainted with Dawn via social media, so I knew I would be experiencing something unique and special at the Frost Place.

One of the first things mentioned by Baron and Dawn is that poetry is an emotional gift. Secondly, it was said, it is also a director into language. And the next item mentioned was my Frost Place Great Epiphany. It was said that if people don't meet a conductior of poetry, they will never get on the (metaphorical) poetry train. Through my work with the Aurorean, I attempt to be a poetry conductor. But most people I encounter (readers/contributors) have already boarded the train. I also work with elementary students on a volunteer basis, and I feel as though I am inviting them to get on the poetry train at an early age.

The ephiphany for me is that I re-remembered what it is I want to do. I want to teach poetry—specifically, the appreciation of poetry. In my adult life, I went to college part-time for almost ten years, and finished in 2005 with a BFA in Creative Writing. I've facilitated workshops for students and adults. I began teaching poetry through the Maine Adult Education system in 2006. But I encountered a roadblock. In Maine, to become certified as an Adult Education instructor, I had to undergo a background check complete with fingerprinting (no problem), and I also had to take an exam in reading (flying colors), writing (flying colors again) and math (fail). The bottom line is: even if I had a doctorate in poetry I could not receive my Adult Education certification in Maine unless I passed the math test.

Therefore, I gave up on receiving my certification (I'd been tortured enough by mathematics in my college career) and I taught Adult Education poetry classes uncertified (definition: for less pay than if I was certified). I did so until I got sick in 2007. After a long struggle to find the proper diagnosis (Lyme disease), then came the struggle to recover. After eighteen months of treatment, and several months after treatment, I am finally almost fully recovered. Thus, the desicion to go to the Frost Place.

So how to teach poetry to adults? Get a math tutor? Emphatically, no. Apply for a master's degree program? Yes! I am ecstatic to say I will be pursuing my MA in English/Creative Writing beginning next month. I'll kill three birds with one stone: no math necessary (!); I'll receive a more comprehensive education in English than I now have; I will be able to teach at the college level.

I will be able to hand out the invitation "All Aboard the Poetry Train!" when I am done. I want to share my enthusiasm for poetry with adults who may be at the stage I was back in 1994 when I began college at a community college and had the good luck to meet my personal poetry conductor, my English Comp II professor.

I'd encourage anyone interested in poetry and teaching to take advantage of the programs offered at the Frost Place. It was recently announced that Baron has taken on a new role, as director of Educational Outreach. Dawn will stay on as director of the Conference on Poetry and Teaching and the two will work closely together. I'd venture a guess that participants in any program at TFP come away with their own personal poetry epiphanies.

In the midst of this busy summer, we have been focused on the release (just this month) of the Aurorean's first reprint anthology, Favorites from the first fifteen years. You can read a full review here The response so far has been very positive. This special publication has been a several-months-long labor of love. It is our wish that many of the poems included will become new favorites for our readers. To order your copy, go to:

As the summer winds down, keep in mind that our yearly chapbook contest deadline of 9/1 is just around the corner! See for more information.

I'll see you in my travels on the poetry train.

1 comment:

  1. Cynthia,my dear Friend(and Editor!)
    Once again your words have not only touched me,
    but have also been such a source of inspiration!
    You achieved not only your BFA,but
    you have overcome serious illness without loosing sight of your ultimate goal--your MA!!!!!! And teaching!
    Your future students( and I only hope to be among them!)are indeed fortunate--we join all of the poets graced to be in the Aurorean.
    Looking forward to joining you on the poetry train. You are our conductor!
    Love and HUGS!