Workshop for Blocked Poets

Last week, Luciano Iacobelli of Quattro Books held a workshop for blocked poets at the Toronto Reference Library.

“We’re going to produce a lot of nonsense today,” Luciano announced. Out of the nonsense – he assured us – something would emerge.

Luciano gave us permission to have fun. “Language is Plasticine; it’s Lego; it’s like sand in a sandbox,” he told us.

He wanted us to get out of our usual way of approaching writing and be ready to experiment. He asked us to be aware of what we’re telling ourselves, even before we begin writing. What is our “editor-self” or “censor” saying? In order to quiet this censor, we have to give ourselves permission to write badly.

Our first exercise began with a free write. The censor was not invited. We had to write whatever came into our heads and keep writing no matter what.

Luciano coached us through several other writing exercises, including one that I found one particularly challenging. We had to pick a phrase from the writing we’d done so far and write it down on a scrap piece of paper. These phrases were collected and used as our writing prompts. Every couple of minutes, Luciano would read aloud a phrase. We were to include the phrase in our writing and keep going from there.

Oddly, I found each phrase “fit” in some way with what I was writing. Yes, it broke the flow, but the beat change ended up serving the process.

We were also invited to read our work to the class. The readings were inspired, and we all patted ourselves on the back for having the guts to read. Whether experienced poets or just starting out, it didn’t matter. We were in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

Poet Beatriz Hausner of Quattro Books was also in attendance. She’s a librarian at the Toronto Reference Library and introduced Luciano at the beginning of the workshop. She even did the exercises with us.

Afterwards, several of the participants stayed behind to talk to Luciano about the various ideas he has about writer’s block.

It was a very productive and informative workshop. I left with some promising new material and a welcome sense of inspiration.

On my way to Luciano’s workshop, I felt squeezed dry – as if I couldn’t write another word. But that’s the magic of the creative process and a great workshop facilitator – we have so much more in us than we expect. 

Luciano has more workshops coming up in May at Quattro Books’ headquarters, 720 Bathurst Street:

“On the Spot” Poetry Writing Workshop will meet every Monday for ten weeks starting May 2nd, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. At the end of the course, each writer will edit and assemble a 20-30 page chapbook. Hardcover copies of each chapbook will be bound (compliments of Lyricalmyrical press) and then launched at a public venue. Cost: $400.

Novella Writing Course will meet every Tuesday for ten weeks starting May 3rd, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. This course is specifically designed for first time novella writers, and offers a formula for producing an eight chapter (70-100 page) novella. The objective is to have each writer produce the first draft of a novella in eight clear and easy steps. Cost: $400.

For more information see the Quattro Books website or contact Luciano:

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