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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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Seasonal Penumbra Workshop Turns Students into Poets

Attendees+at+the+Penumbra+poetry+workshop+gathered+around+a+table+and+discussing+writing.+%28Signal+Photo%2FMarc+Anthony+Briones%29

Attendees at the Penumbra poetry workshop gathered around a table and discussing writing. (Signal Photo/Marc Anthony Briones)

Autumn leaves and chilly weather present a perfect opportunity to brew a cup of warm tea and indulge in a good book. For the writers at Penumbra, CSU Stanislaus’s literature and art magazine, it was also the theme of their first poetry writing workshop of the semester:  “What Does Fall Mean to You?”
The workshop was held by Mary Worthington (Graduate Student/English) and Soleil Jones (Graduate Student/English), two interns who were very excited to be teaching and working with the students who came to learn.
The workshop was held on September 22nd from 1 to 2 p.m., in the tutoring center, Library room L221. The event organizers ensured the event was private, in order for the writers to feel comfortable sharing their work.
The workshop started with a brief speech covering what poetry is.  Most importantly, they wanted it known that there are no hard-and-fast rules about what is “good enough” to be poetry, and that anyone can write poetry.
While various poetic formats were mentioned, such as odes, lyrical poetry, and couplets, the star of the workshop was the “acrostic poem”. Worthington explained that an acrostic poem is a poem that has the first letter of each sentence spell out a word. One attendee, Madaline Grace, offered an example to help the other prospective poets:
“Fun hayrides
A pile of leaves
Lots of pumpkins
Let’s rake”
–“Fall”, by Madeline Grace
This poem gave a perfect example of an acrostic poem, and eased the young writers’ minds by showing that poetry doesn’t need to be deep or lyrically complex to be expressive and meaningful.
The workshop had many chances for the writers to ask questions and even take a stab at writing their own poems. 
Worthington, a graduate student in the English department in her final year, says that she was excited to teach.
“Every time I went back to look at the presentation to see how everything would flow, something would change,” said Worthington, “The things I changed I liked way better.”
Worthington wanted to prioritize the students, especially newcomers who might be less confident in their writing ability.
When deciding what the first workshop should focus on she said that her team decided to save fiction writing, which has a higher barrier to entry and is often more labor-intensive, for later in the fall. It seemed natural to put poetry first. 
“Poetry is more accessible, so maybe it’s a nice opener to welcome people back to the second workshop,” said Worthington.
Soleil Jones, a graduate student in her first year majoring in English with a concentration in writing studies, said she was also excited about the workshop.
“I personally enjoy presenting, I enjoy public speaking, and I write poetry in my own time whether it be writing it out or putting it in my notes app like every other silly goofy girl,” Jones said.
What Jones really wanted to portray in the workshop is to “shut down the stigma and stereotypes around poetry, that it’s very strict and linear and a one-way street, but it completely isn’t, it’s totally not linear at all.”
Essence Saunders (Graduate Student/Literature), who is paid staff at Penumbra, helps plan and manages the workshops for the semester.
They say that the reason they hold workshops is “to continue to incorporate ourselves into the campus as a part of the campus community as opposed to an isolated place that exists on the outskirts.”
Their feeling about the workshops is that they are “hoping students can come in and get the sense that writing isn’t as scary as it appears and really anyone can get into it, there a lot of different ways you can get into it even if you don’t want to be a writer”.
The Penumbra crew also wants the readers to know that the next writing workshop is a horror/Twilight Zone-themed fiction workshop and it will be on October 20th from 1 to 2 p.m., in the tutoring center, Library room L221, just like the poetry workshop.
Penumbra also has other things they do such as chat books, Penumbra online, a physical Penumbra journal that is published in the spring, podcasts, and playlists that go onto Spotify. 

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Seasonal Penumbra Workshop Turns Students into Poets