OPA Conference Fall 2013 – Teaching Poetry

OPA Conference Fall 2013, Forest Grove, Oregon

Saturday night open mic
Saturday night open mic

This conference, held at Pacific University, focused on student voices and techniques for teaching poetry. Poetry is part of the world and of everyday existence, and making people aware of poetry (and, to put it in the words of a panelist, “breaking down their resistance to poetry,”) is a vital part of our OPA mission statement.

On Friday night, OPA President and Conference Chair Tiel Aisha Ansari introduced the two workshop leaders, Stephanie Lenox and Robbie Pock (replacing the scheduled workshop leader). Lenox read about the teachers whom she honored and talked about using others’ poems as springboards. Pock read a poem about “Lucy” from her anthropological series and talked about ekphrastic poetry. Thirty-two poets stayed for the open mic, to listen and to share their poems, including some student readers.

Saturday morning began with Katie Eberhart’s presentation on the new OPA website. Pacific University faculty members talked about Pacific’s MFA program, followed by the head of the Creative Writing Department, who introduced readers from Pacific Slam, the university poetry club, who shared some of their writing. In the workshops, Stephanie Lenox and Robbie Pock talked about using metaphor in poetry and various ways to energize poems and take them into the public arena; engaging in “public acts of poetry.” At the lunch catered by the university, contest chair Amy Miller announced the judges’ choices for this Fall’s contest and introduced the winners to read their poems. The conference attendees then honored longtime poet Ruth Harrison for her notable writing and always generous mentoring with an OPA life membership.

Saturday evening brought five teacher-panelists to discuss the needs of their students and the techniques by which they were led to poetry. Sunday morning was reserved for Tim Applegate and Darlene Pagan’s invaluable private mentoring sessions with poets who had requested them. A coffee klatch at a nearby cafe gave a last opportunity to shmooze with fellow conference-goers.

Then the attendees left for home, once again supported and motivated by their inclusion in a privileged group: We are poets. We join with the relatively few others who write poetry—many kinds of poetry—and we band together to inspire ourselves, each other, and to affect the world.

Carol Brockfield
OPA Vice President


Photo credits: Carol Brockfield

Conference information and presenter bios


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