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March 12, 2016
by: Sarah Williams, Étude Studios Writing Intern

IDEAS students listen to the laureate

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“We accept all words” was how U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera opened his craft talk at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee on March 4. Twelve IDEAS Academy students attended the craft talk to learn about writing process.

Herrera made a lot of jokes throughout his talk, many about how he doesn’t know exactly how to write a lot of poetry. This was really surprising to me. I’ve been a writer for years, mainly novels and reluctantly journalism, but poetry was something I never tried to write, because I thought there were too many rules. To hear that Herrera felt the opposite, and that novels had too many rules, was really eye-opening for me.

“We need to put the book aside and just focus on putting it together” was another point he made. While he was mostly talking about collections of poetry, I interpreted it in the ‘novel-headed’ way I usually do and found it could apply to all sorts of writing. I’ve published a book before, and after doing that, I felt like everything else I wrote had to lead up to another book. It feels like in the world of writing, books are always expected to be the end product; to hear from the laureate that not everything had to lead up to a book was really refreshing

Herrera has been the U.S. Poet Laureate since 2015, and has published 14 works, including collections of poetry, short stories, and young adult novels.

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