Site icon Margaret Coombs

A Morning with Irene McKinney

Today I attended a workshop dedicated to Irene McKinney’s poetry, most specifically, Six O’clock Mine Report.  During the pandemic, I have attended many helpful and fun webinars with great prompts for generating new poems. After receiving another invitation to register for another workshop, I began to wonder what it would be like to develop my own. Then I could pursue the directions I feel led to explore. So I planned one, knowing that I would be both the workshop leader and its sole student.

The schedule today ran from 9:00 am to 12 noon and followed this outline:

  1. Focusing: Write your answers to the following questions. Why are you here? What do you hope to learn? 
  2. Introduction to Irene McKinney.
    1. Read the Wikipedia entry for Irene McKinney
    2. Watch the interview with Irene McKinney conducted by Kate Long, A Conversation with Irene McKinney. 
    3. Write a response to the video. Does the video discuss how place informs McKinney’s poetry? In what way? How does this interview help you appreciate her work? What did you learn about McKinney? About Appalachia? About poetry? 
  3. Going deeper.
    1. Select one poem in Six O’clock Mine Report in Section 1 or Section 3. Apply the criteria for critiquing poetry listed in Vince Gotera’s Craft of Poetry Syllabus, to the poem. How did your impression of the poem change after you began evaluating the poem for this criteria?
    2. The Publisher’s Weekly reviewer of Six O’clock Mine Report concludes by stating, “Some readers may find the central sequence of poems spoken by Emily Dickinson less convincing, and McKinney’s evenness of emotional pitch enervates and frustrates at times.” Look closely at the poems in the Emily Dickinson section. What do they share with the poems in the other sections? Why do you think the reviewer found them less than convincing? Do you agree or disagree?
  4. Finding inspiration. Take this time to re-read poems of special interest to you in the text.  
  5. Creative response. Go through your notebook of responses to the questions above. Circle any notes you made that elicit a flash in you about your own life, something that might be the seed of a new poem. After the retreat, be sure to add the seeds to your ideas folder.
  6. Sum up. Write a very brief summary of what you learned about Irene McKinney’s themes. 
  7. Assessment. 
    1. What activities worked best for you?
    2. What went wrong?
Resources for a future session on McKinney organized around her books Vivid Companion and Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet? 
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