Nathaniel Mackey: On writing workshops

This is Duke University. Teaching a workshop top-down is the wrong
way to do it. Certainly it’s not my way to do it. “Let me pass that around. Here’s the first
poem by Jason and maybe we’ll get to a second.” Workshops are mainly a place where people
who are beginning to write can meet with other people who are beginning to write and have
that in common. It also gives them an audience. “Prophets who’ve given up, prophets, inclusion
disguised as equality.” One of the objects of workshop is to make
them more conscious of what the writing is doing. “A lot of weight falls on that word, but at
the same time it doesn’t seem quite heavy enough.” What they’ve written may be doing something
different than what they intended it to do and sometimes the only way you can see that
is through an audience. “So it’s almost redundant to bring in that
line literally, whereas if you state that line before you say, ‘I know why the hived bee stings,’
then you’re ending on your own invention.” Produced by Duke University, online at

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