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O, Miami's Poetry Texting Workshop Looks to Technology for Inspiration

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Poet Elizabeth Jacobson has a new approach to poetic inspiration: texting. Jacobson will be leading O, Miami's Poetry Texting workshop, a two-hour session that marries the now-mundane act of texting with the art of poetry. The idea behind the workshop is that partners will produce poetry by texting lines back and forth to one another, including quotes from well-known poets like Pablo Neruda and Louise Glück. The result will be a kind of spontaneous poetry, produced by a high-tech act that's so familiar, it seems almost vintage. 

Jacobson stumbled on the idea while texting with her daughter. The two were exchanging lines of Pablo Neruda's The Book of Questions when they began "writing/texting our own lines of poetry back and forth," Jacobson says via text. "We came up with these compact lines that pleased us," she adds. It was from that interaction, the familiar act of exchanging quick lines, the casual conversation of texting, that Jacobson decided that the concept might "work well in a workshop setting." She developed the concept first in New Mexico - where she lives part-time - and taught it at the Play+Write+Mix through New Mexico Literary Arts. 

The idea is for both aspiring and experienced poets to produce collaborative poetry through texting. Participants will be paired and begin the workshop by texting lines back and forth to one another. Jacobson says that the spontaneity of texting can "lead to some pretty interesting poetic lines." You have the small screen right in front of you, your fingers are tight to the keys, the entire activity calls fro compression and speed," Jacobson texts, "this creates an urgency for the mind to keep up with what the hands are doing." 

Texting itself has a very specific language, from emojis to the embarrassing autocorrect and the inevitable misspelling from a finger moving clumsily over a sensitive screen. And to a certain extent, Jacobson's workshop allows for the distinct language of the text, including familiar emojis:

And though the emoji has a place in the final poetic piece, other texting quirks like misspelling or the auto-correct fail are accounted for in the rewriting process. "I always encourage participants to edit the piece with each other after the texting portion of the workshop is finished," Jacobson says. "Although great writing may be spontaneous in some ways, for the most part writing is in the re-writing," Jacobson stresses. "This workshop is a fun way to gather new material, meet other creatives, and offer a form that can lead to more serious work." 

The workshop begins with readings from the work of several contemporary poets, the group will then discuss the work and do a handful of what Jacobson describes as "warm-up writing exercises." Then participants will pair to begin the texting portion of the workshop. By then everyone will be "feeling inspired and the creativity...flows well." 

O, Miami's Poetry Texting Workshop is Saturday, April 11 at the Chill Concept. It begins at 3 p.m. The event is free to the public, but advanced registration is required. For more information visit omiami.org. 

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