Bringing the Magical to the Realism in Your Poems:
If ancient poems were originally incantations and spells, why do contemporary poets often feel compelled to stick to story or straight lyric, only allowing the fantastic to feature in their work through imagistic leaps or fanciful metaphors? Particularly as a way of exploring such very real-world strictures as gender, sexuality, race, or class, magic can create opportunities for a new kind of engagement with our identities. We’ll dig into how magic-making works on the page, and what we can do to bring more of it into our poems. By examining the use of magical realism in contemporary poetry—including work by Alberto Ríos, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Marilyn Nelson, Sharon Olds, and Cornelius Eady—we’ll explore the effect that the surreal has when placed within a poem that might otherwise feel narrative or naturalistically lyric. Finally, we’ll cast our own spells through writing exercises that ask us to both invent magic and also acknowledge the ethereal all around us.