Tension and terza rima: Griffin, Georges to teach on conflict and poetic form





Students at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center workshops will learn about creating tension and myriad poetic forms during Week Three.

Prose writer-in-residence Lynne Griffin will lead a workshop called “At Stake: Building Tension in Fiction,” and poet-in-residence Danielle Legros Georges will lead a workshop called “Poetic Forms: Familiar and Foreign.” Griffin and Georges will also give readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Griffin is the author of the novel Life Without Summer and has had her short stories and essays published in Salon and the Huffington Post. She said her workshop will use close readings, writing exercises and mini lectures to demonstrate the impact of carefully crafted tension.

“I’m going to be focusing on plot, character, setting, dialogue — I’ll be taking all of those elements of craft and really looking at how we can finesse attention and make the narrative more compelling,” Griffin said.

Griffin’s workshop is geared toward fiction writers, but she believes her topic is one that can be beneficial to any type of writer who’s looking to move his or her readers.

“I’ll be focusing on fiction, on that genre — short fiction, flash fiction and novel — but I really think it’s all writing,” Griffin said. “We have to talk about what’s at stake.”

Georges is the author of the poetry collection Maroon and was named as the poet laureate of Boston in 2014. She and her students will explore the numerous poetic forms that are available to them and how to use these forms to enrich their own writing.

Clara Silverstein, program director of the Writers’ Center, first met Georges at a poetry reading they did in Boston a few years ago. They reconnected when Silverstein was teaching Haitian high school students. Georges, who has Haitian heritage, came in to help.

“When I saw her working with the kids, I thought she would be a great fit for Chautauqua,” Silverstein said. “She has such an interesting background and teaches so well.”

Like Griffin, this will be Georges’ first visit to Chautauqua. Silverstein said she has confidence in Georges and her engaging presence since she’s seen her work in the classroom before. Silverstein said she hopes working with different poetic forms in Georges’ workshop will challenge the students while also helping them generate new work.

“I think, sometimes, poets are so enamored of free verse that they forget how much history and tradition is behind these forms, and they can be very useful to modern writers, too,” Silverstein said. “Instead of seeing them as a straitjacket and having to follow the rules, it’s going to get you, as a writer, to say different things than you would if you were just going through your normal process of composition.”

Georges and Griffin will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall during the week. Georges’ Brown Bag, titled “Articulations of America,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Griffin’s Brown Bag, called “Family Life Stories: The Power of Fiction to Teach,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.