Lesson No. 1: Body Poetic with Lisa Marie Basile

In this course, we will be exploring the language of sensuality and sexuality through a variety of different poetic excerpts. When I say “sensuality” and “sexuality” what I mean is I am urging you to explore how to tell the story of the body (as a sexual creature, as a desiring thing, as a beautiful thing, as a loving creature) and asking you to open your mind to different forms and voices.

While the Body houses many other lives (pain, sickness, humiliation, pain), I want to focus on the body a sort of “temple,” so to speak — a place where love and desire and pleasure is created and given. 

If you’re not comfortable exploring sexuality, you are welcome to explore the aesthetics of the body: its stories, its beauty, its secrets. We want to write poems that evoke the body (in shape or structure or in content) in new ways, without cliche and with daring, risky language.
While we will mainly focus on poetry, there will be some prose selections as well. For this week, I’d love to aim to generate 1-2 poems. Ideally, we’ll produce between 1-2 poems per week. Since we’re starting now, if you generate 2 poems by the end of this week, we’ll be both inundated and heady and drunk on the topic and you’ll have written two pieces that we can think about throughout the month.
A little about me: I approach poetry writing and workshopping not with the idea that, “If this were my poem, I’d do this,” (that’s not helpful–we’re all different people and poets!) but with the mindset that each poem belongs to the poet and is engineered by that poet’s heart and experience. 
Therefore, my goal is to try to understand you and your aestheticwhile challenging you to push your own boundaries and produce something innovative. My feedback is honest. It may verge on harsh at times. However, this is for one reason: I want you to explore your own writing. 
My advice: study the language of the excerpts I’m providing closely. What do you like about it? What stands out to you? What makes you feel uncomfortable? I ask you not to dislike a work (if you do or will) based on its narrative or content but but on its form or execution. Please keep an open-mind.
By now you should have emailed back about your goals and motivations for this course.
Reading assignment: I attached the selected readings for this week, to be read by Saturday.  I included contemporary work (Bruce Covey, Nathalie Handal) as well as canonical work. One or two of the poems included are included because they demonstrate how not to write poetry of the body. I did not label this poem. I’m interested in seeing what you think. Some of these selections are a little longer, so I hope you can carve out some time each day to read & make notes on what you think worked and why.
Please write 1-2 poems (prose-poems included!) inspired by the language, tone, voice, aesthetic or emotion of one of the pieces you have read. If you’re not feeling writing-based-off-writing assignments, you’re more than welcome to write something entirely your own.
I ask you to consider a few things before generating a poem — and I ask this now so that these ideas are sort of swimming through your mind before writing:
– Avoid cliche
– Tell the story of your body or someone else’s body. Understand it. Know it. Its sounds, smell, shape, story, history, desires. You can use body as metaphor or discuss the body without using words that are specifically related to it. 
– You don’t have to be literal. A poem can be about something without directly being about something. 
– Be honest. Be who you are. 
Email me anytime with any thoughts/questions/ideas you may have as you write the piece. If you can have some of this work done by the 7th, that’s be great.
A note on my personal reading favorites: if you have a Kindle or Kindle app on your iPhone, a great selection is House of Incest by Anais Nin. It is available for 99 cents (I believe) on Amazon. It’s also at bookstores. This book is a wonderful example of writing about the body. I have included some Anais Nin excerpts in the attachment, below, however. I would suggest buying Delta of Venus (Anais Nin) as well. I would also suggest buying The Lover by Marguerite Duras.

Week 1 Body Poetic Selections


lisa.marie.basileLisa Marie Basile is an editor, writer and poet. She is the author of APOCRYPHAL and a few chapbooks, war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York). Lisa Marie is the editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine, and she keeps a lifestyle diary at Ingenue X. Her poetry and other work can or will be seen in PANK, the Tin House blog, Coldfront, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, Thrush, PEN American Center and the Ampersand Review, The Atlas Review and others. Her writing and work as an editor has been profiled in BuzzFeed, Ravishly, The New York Daily News, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, VIDA, Poets & Artists Magazine, Relapse Magazine and other publications. She was a visiting poet at Westfield High School, New York University and speaker at Emerson College. Her work was selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Olen Butler for inclusion in the Best Small Fiction 2015 anthology in addition to the Best Emerging Poets Anthology, published by Stay Thirsty Media. Her work can also be seen in the CREDO Anthology, soon to be released by Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She was nominated for inclusion in the Best American Experimental Writing 2015 anthology.

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