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It is said there were no love poems between Sappho in sixth century BC and the troubadours in the High Middle Ages, a span of almost 1,500 years. While that may be an exaggeration, the tradition of passionate love poems was strangely absent from Western literature during that time span. We will read Sappho and talk about her time and place in literature. We’ll also dip into the troubadours and their tradition, and finish with some contemporary love poems and writing exercises.
Judith Roche is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Wisdom of the Body, an American Book Award winner. She has poems installed on several Seattle-area public art projects, has taught at various universities, and teaches poetry workshops throughout the country.
Teaching philosophy: My teaching philosophy is to met each student at his or her comfortable level and try to point out ways to extend that comfort level to gently and respectfully lead the student to try things he or she hasn’t thought of before. We all tend to write within our own conventions and I hope, by my exercises and suggestions, to facilitate students to surprise themselves by write something they might not have thought they would write. In other words, to break out of their own conventions, while assisting them to write further and deeper into what they are already passionate about..
Writers I return to: Blake, Whitman, Keats, H.D., Bob Hicock, Dorianne Laux, Sharon Doubiago, Anne Carson, Lorca, Hugo, Roethke, Richard Wilber, Robert Duncan, Michael Palmer, Sherman Alexie. As you can see, my aesthetic is all over the place in terms of poetic lineage but I teach (and read) what has really spoken to me and that’s what I want to pass on.
Favorite writing advice: A famous poet once told me to “go against the grain” and I’ve listened to that advice, which did extend my writing chops. Another famous poet told me to follow your obsessions. It’s that combination, which could be taken as contradictory, but really isn’t. To follow your obsessions but find new ways to talk about what you are really passionate about that makes for fresh and surprising writing.