Workshop: Surreal Poetry by Tresha Haefner-Rubinstein

Tresha Haefner-Rubinstein is an ideal person to teach a Surreal Poetry workshop at the San José Poetry Festival 2016. Tresha holds an M.A. in the Psychology of Creativity, from Saybrook University, and has studied with such poets as Kim Addonizio, Matthew Dickman, Sally Ashton, and such notorious surreal poets as Brendan Constantine, Sarah Maclay, and Hannah Gamble (recipient of the Ruth Stone Lily Prize). Tresha’s own work has been published in many journals and magazines, most notably, The Cincinnati Review, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle. She currently teaches advanced creative writing in Los Angeles.


How are surreal poems both similar and different from other types of poems? In this workshop you will learn a little bit about the history of surrealism, its goals and aims as well as its aesthetic principles. You will discover new techniques for reading surrealist poetry and alternative methods for writing it on your own. Even if you are not a “surrealist” poet, you will discover creative new ways of using “surrealist” techniques to enhance your more traditional verses, and spark original ideas.

Here is a poem by Tresha  Haefner-Rubinstein.


Map: Something sepia-toned, full of sea monsters. It tells you where you want to be, everywhere you are afraid to go.
Cartographer:  A boy, looking out a window, dreaming about sex and butterflies.  He is looking for the right passage. He is looking for lost keys. He is looking for you.
Isthmus: In a large body of water, two narrow strips of love with death on either side. Cross at night. Cross at morning. Sleep long sleeps in the gusty afternoon.
Ocean: Something for whales to swim in. The eye of the same boy looking out the window, dreaming about sex.  A large body of water. A large communication network for whales who sing to each other from entire hemispheres away.
Hemisphere: An imaginary line.
Imaginary Line:  All lines are imaginary. Even the map is an invention, a basket we wove to hold the entire world.
Continents: What holds the body, holds the mountains. A place to find moose and lizards, tea-roses and butterflies, about which a boy is dreaming when he looks out the window, imagining the seas parting for the clean slicing bow of his ship.
Compass Rose:  A flower. The blossoming of discovery. The first boat broke through the water like a floret cutting the soil. Wherever way it was pointed, that was the way home.