Fresno Poet Laureate Teaches Poetry

Poet James Tyner teaches a monthly poetry class at the Clovis Regional Library. (James Tyner/Facebook)

Contributed By Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Whether you can recite Shakespeare in your sleep or would just like to learn a little more about the genre, the Clovis Library invites you to its monthly poetry class. Fresno’s first Poet Laureate and Fresno State alum, James Tyner, teaches the one-hour Wednesday morning sessions. While lessons center around the basics of poetry, Tyner also answers questions on form and technique, for the more advanced student.

The most recent class, a 10 a.m. gathering on Wednesday, March 21, focused on image and clarity. During the session, Tyner brought out pens and papers, inviting students to participate in an exercise about image. Reading a simple clause (“the woman on the bridge”) aloud, Tyner asked the students to envision the scenario and write down descriptions. What was the woman wearing? Was she alone? What was the weather like? He then invited students to share their responses. Some participants had begun crafting poems from the brief phrase. Others jotted down notes about their impressions. The exercise revealed that each student imagined a different woman. Tyner affirmed each response, carefully pointing out each student’s strengths.

Next, Tyner led the class in a discussion on a short poem. Students contemplated the meaning of the work, searching for moments of clarity. As Tyner explained, poets must convey a clear meaning through their work. Readers will not have the same knowledge and experiences as the poets, so the work must speak for itself.

Tyner concluded the session by encouraging students to read poetry, good and bad, to get a better feel for the forms. “Everybody writes poetry,” Tyner said. “But not a lot of people read it.” He left the class with two (entirely voluntary) potential homework assignments.

Interested in attending a free poetry class? The Clovis Regional Library will be hosting its next session on April 18 at 10 a.m. Tyner will also be reading his work, along with numerous other poets, at Fresno State’s Andres Montoya Symposium (April 13-14). Or, if you’re just looking for an excuse to visit the library, consider attending the next recipe exchange (April 11 at 10 a.m.) or memoirs class (April 4 and May 2 at 10 a.m.).