Renegade Writers Workshop



We have a writing group that meets in the Acadiana area called Renegade Writers. We meet every other Saturday to write new together. It is not a critique group. We draw names of the willing to choose a workshop leader and that person is responsible for the prompts and securing a location. Really, the leader can do anything they want to get us writing. It’s a blessed thing. Today I led the group. Below is my outline for the workshop I presented. I have linked the titles to sites where the books can be purchased. I hope to work on the pieces I developed in my participation in the workshop and post them tonight.

Please credit Clare L. Martin if you use these in a workshop. ©2016, Clare L. Martin

Sheryl St. Germain, The Journals of Scheherazade

Poem: “How to Write a Poem”

The poem gives a formula for writing a poem. We followed that formula.

4 nouns
4 verbs
A secret
A secret within a secret


Dana Guthrie Martin, The Spare Room: Poems About Survival (I could not find a link for this title to be purchased.  Limited edition chapbook).

Poem: “On the Long Narrow Stem of Life”
“this is where it starts and this is where it ends”

Think of a “conclusion” and make it your beginning. It could be a decision, a death, or reaching a destination. Take the poem anywhere, even into the realm of fantasy or horror. End with how it changed you, how you survived, and repeat your first line as the ending.

Susan Tepper, dear Petrov

“Floods” and “The Scarf”

Describe a falling down house. Scour every decaying inch with your mind’s eye. Consider the smells, the layers of dirt and dust. See every cracked pane of glass. Now, in this house, something miraculous exists. What is it? Start your poem from this.

Louise Glück, Ararat
Poem: “A Novel”

“Like echoes, the women last longer.”

Think of five inanimate objects that possess durability. Write a sentence for each word, without linking the sentences logically. Use these sentences to build metaphors for the hardiness of women.

Margaret Atwood,  Morning in the Burned House

Poem: “A Sad Child”

1) Try to remember your first heartbreak that was not a romantic one. Write a few cursory facts about the memory. Go deeper to your tender child-self and put words to the pain in one sentence.

2) Now, take this memory and the one sentence and create a list of images of the harshness of nature or physical aspects of urban life. From your one sentence and the imagistic phrases write a poem that can create dissonance in the tone while communicating the heartbreak.


Swimming as Prayer


Sometimes when I enter the pool, even when I am swimming, I think “this doesn’t seem real.” I don’t sense that I am present in my body at that moment. But then, body memory takes over and my mind follows. These are the best times, when my mind senses and recognizes that I am in the moment, in the pool, synced with my body so that all of me is coalesced in the present. Then, each breath, each moment is aligned with thought, and form becomes essential. My thought turns to prayer, or a mantra, and my body’s movement is prayer as well. I am a ‘living prayer,’ and not unlike a dance, my focused attention is on form, flow, freedom.






“La tristesse durera toujours”
“The sadness will last forever.”
           –Vincent Van Gogh’s final words

Madness stalks me. Through snow it tracks me. Blood on snow razes the mind. Fire rides my nerves. I cover my body in thick mud; smother the flames. I wake in the night and work: digging, sifting, rooting. Faces of strangers are stranger. I cannot avoid what kills, or afford to die.

I need and will never fill.

I will go, telling no one.
I will pack a bag full of secrets.
I will bring a word. The word will be a sword.
I will plan my leaving of this world.

Dawn-light breaks over the fields of Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent caught the sun and bled.

When blood escapes the body it cools. The blood on the ground is dust-cold. But the gun is hot, and still the sun is hot. I am holding my blood-hot wound as yellow light departs. The glint is gone.

I hate. I hate this penetrating hate. The sun does not hate—

It welcomes me.



© 2016  Clare L. Martin



March 17th, 2016

Pictured above: Van Gogh’s belived-to-be-last painting, “Wheat Field with Crows.” [Image used for educational purposes.]

Above is a poem I have been working on since 2004. March 30th, 2016 is Van Gogh’s 163rd birthday, and World bipolar day. Many experts believe he was bipolar. I have long identified this with him and have felt myself drawn to his works, for as long as I have been aware of him.

A quote from his letters to Theo, dated July 10, 1890:

They are vast stretches of wheat under troubled skies, and I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness…. I’m fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.”