On Thursday Feb. 24 visiting Flagler College English professor Liz Robbins Ph.D., gave a poetry recitation and writing workshop in Gooding Theater. The accomplished writer and dedicated teacher moved through example after example of her own work, not only reading each poem but also explaining the styles and mechanisms with which she constructed the pieces.
Each member of the audience was handed a packet of poems, 13 in total, with a one-to-two-line writing lesson across the bottom of each page.
“Write from observation,” says the first line of instruction. “Don’t forget to examine all five senses when considering what imagery to use.”
Each lesson accompanies a poem in which that skill was applied. Robbins was able to bring the classroom and art form to the stage in a stimulating and informative representation of the author experience.
It is important for a writer to first understand their own perspective, or perspectives, and then to consider those of potential readers, Robbins said.
“Take a stand,” she said. “Issues that matter to you should be explored and then expressed.”
Following the workshop a brief question and answer period clarified thoughts lingering in students and faculty minds throughout the audience.
Professor Ed McCourt Ph.D., instrumental in bringing Robbins to JU, asked about a poet’s obligation to truth in writing. Robbins responded by admitting that poets have some license to exaggerate or, through the use of metaphors and other mechanics, to draw conclusions, but expanded the thought by suggesting that poets naturally bring to light truths often overlooked by the casual eye.
Robbins’ first memorable experience with poetry came in sixth grade when her teacher Ms. Millar put an E.E. Cummings poem titled “In Just Spring” on the board in her classroom.
Robbins, still able to quote the poem with ease, was inspired by the use of language. Other poets drawn on by Robbins for inspiration include Jane Hirshfield and Sylvia Plath.
Early in her writing career Robbins felt, as many writers do, like an outsider. She recounts her youth as a time when her urge to create and identify coincided with an underlying negativity, prevalent in youth as a source of angst.
“I finally gave myself the permission to be free, to be funny and light-hearted,” Robbins said.
That shift has permitted her to more freely explore herself as an artist and allows her to connect with her students in the classroom.
Liz Robbins is in her sixth year at Flagler and is continuing to grow as an artist. In April she will travel to Nanjing, China for a creative writer’s expo at the New York Institute of Technology. She is active in St. Augustine’s community of writers and continues to inspire those with the urge to create.