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201 W. Mifflin Street
Madison, WI

March 2015


class report (Rita Mae Reese)

When I proposed Let's Get Lost: Finding Inspiration in the Stacks, I was excited about the idea but not sure exactly how it would work. I'd never taught a class like it before. I was inspired by The Artist's Library, a wonderful resource by Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer. That book has a lot of great ideas in it. I realized that I wanted to get the students in the stacks each week, with fairly loose guidelines, and get them writing about what they found. The first weeks the students went out in search of "found poems"poems where you lift the text of a bit of prose that wasn't intended to be poetic or beautiful. The second week we worked on persona poemsagain going into the stacks to look for voices that we could use for poems. The last week we composed a centoa poem composed of lines from other poems, with each of us contributing one line from a favorite poem. The poets in the class produced some remarkable work in a very short time; one discovered material for an entire book of poetry. We all had a lot of fun getting lost together.

The Lost Cento

by the poets of the Let's Get Lost workshop


How I lost my head to my merry, young dress:

The day was blue and clear

I recall the exact path of an ant

I came back from the funeral 

and crawled around the apartment

crying hard and searching for my wife’s hair.

Like the sound I heard when having an afternoon sleep

& someone walked through my room with ankle bracelets.

You might consider plastic as convenience, waste,

or deferred payment.


To test a wedding cake use a straw as for a camel’s back.

I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox.

Love, bone-quiet, said barely: See

Class description: Libraries aren't just where good books end up - it’s where they begin. This free and open class will help you explore the library and guide you through creating poems based, in part, on what is found here. We’ll take field trips into the stacks, cultivate obsessions, discover some of the wonders waiting in the stacks of the Central Library, and write poems that map uncharted territory. Note: For these three weeks, we’ll focus mainly on poetry (in order to leave the class with a finished product) but what you learn here can be used for fiction and non-fiction projects as well.

Instructor: Poet and fiction writer Rita Mae Reese was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia. She is the author of the poetry collection The Alphabet Conspiracy (2011), which won the 2012 Drake Emerging Writers Award. She earned a BA and an MA at Florida State University and an MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more about Rita, visit and follow her on twitter and facebook.

Tuesdays, March 10, 17, 24, from 6:30-8:00pm

This project was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.