Portrait of a Poetry Workshop

by Edith N. (Nicki) Bourne, Companion, New Hampshire/Vermont Chapter, and Sharon Klander, Companion, Texas Chapter, as told to Lynn Adams

Portrait of a Poetry Workshop:

A Companion’s Enthusiastic Response

``There can never be too many good poems in the world!``

Something many Companions seem to have in common is the creative impulse, whether practiced professionally, as dedicated amateurs, or trying something new for fun.

NH/VT Companion Nicki Bourne wrote an enthusiastic review of the poetry workshop offered online by Sharon Klander in Advent 2021. Here is an excerpt from Nicki’s response.

I was excited about this opportunity to again write some poetry after doing so at our Companion Conference in June. Each was on Zoom, which is not a bad idea for this kind of work. It affords privacy for creating.

We listened to several lectures on different aspects and styles of poetry, on this day in December. Ekphrastic poetry, written on what you see and think about a painting, was particularly fruitful, and fulfilling to join one art to another. I will be reviewing and writing from information gleaned this day, with real joy.

I was truly amazed so much ground could be covered in just one day, very patiently and creatively! I am grateful to Sharon for such an enriching few hours.

December’s workshop was a special treat for me, in that I never took Poetry in college, and have written just a little as a member of an amateur poetry writing group when I was nearing retirement. I love to read, (and write) poetry, because it is capable of saying so much more with a few verses than prose can ever pull off in the same space.



Sharon Klander, Ph.D. (American Literature and Creative Writing), who led the workshop, has published poetry in numerous periodicals, including The New Republic, Shenandoah, Kansas Quarterly and many more. She is a member of the Resident Faculty in the Department of English at Houston Community College, teaching Literature, Creative Writing, and Composition. She also publishes scholarly studies of literature.

Sharon wrote this about the design of the December workshop.

The day was divided into three 1- 1/2 hour sessions with hour-long breaks between; I titled the workshop, “Making Space,” with the 3 sessions entitled

        • Making Space for Memory
        • Making Space for Description
        • Making Space for Sharing

I had already provided the participants with a 24-page anthology of poems for them to read before the workshop, since reading poetry is so important to learning to write poetry. We went over many of the poems in the anthology during the course of the workshop.

We also began with a visualization exercise to help them record the specifics of an imaginary room, its door, its window, the tree outside the window, the fruit on the tree—all before assigning them the first poetry prompt.

I covered ekphrastic poetry in the 2nd session. And we shared our poems with each other in the 3rd session as one way to learn how to respond to and help each other to write the best poems possible—there can never be too many good poems in the world!

I hope the participants left with increased confidence in their ability to compose, revise, to create the work of art that is a poem.

I really enjoyed leading this workshop! Teaching others how to read and write poetry is one of my favorite things to do, and I was greatly honored by this opportunity to do just that.


Sharon gave participants this poetry prompt: “Five easy pieces: This poetry prompt comes from poet Rickard Jackson. Write about hands” (with steps to follow).

Nicki reports, “My poem is written from a memory, in which those very steps came easily, because what took place fits them to a T. The man in it became a very dear friend, so I watched him many times amazingly fix or assemble tiny, intricate things with his large hands.”



Appealing Hands

Large, strong, weathered

            his hands held high in front of his face,

                        assembling something minute,

                                    with skill and finesse.


What tiny maneuver is he

            mastering with such ease

                        and obvious experience?


When finished, he glances

at me slightly amused.

            uttering something unrelated.


At second try

I learn he’s mounting

complex ski bindings.


—Nicki Bourne



The centerpiece of the December workshop was this prompt:

The word “ekphrastic” is the adjective form of “ekphrasis,” which means, “a plain declaration or interpretation of a thing.” It is often used to describe a poem that’s been written in response to a work of art, such as a painting, a photograph, or a piece of sculpture.

Please choose a work of art and write your own ekphrastic poem in response to it.

You could choose to have part of the poem be a description of the work of art and have the other parts be a meditation on or around the work of art. How does the poem change if the description comes first? In the middle? Or at the end?

On the other hand, the work of art could simply be a touchstone for you to enter into a memory in your own voice.

You could also choose to speak in the persona of the artist or, in the alternative, speak in the persona of the people or objects in the work of art.

Now, dear readers, it’s your turn. Go write a poem.