PDP Stories: Poet Naomi Cohn On Making More Time For Creativity

St. Paul-based Poet Naomi Cohn

St. Paul-based Poet Naomi Cohn

2013 is a landmark year for Creative Capital—we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of our Professional Development Program! In that decade, we’ve worked with more than 5,900 artists in 170 communities. In honor of each of those artists, we present the new monthly series PDP Stories, in which we’ll share our participants’ accounts of how we’ve impacted their careers and lives.
This month’s PDP story comes from Naomi Cohn, a poet from St. Paul, MN, who attended a 2010 Core Workshop hosted by the Minnesota State Arts Board.
I participated in the Core Weekend in Minnesota in May 2010. Since then that experience has helped me to conceptualize and gain support for a new project, Known by Heart, which explores the contemporary value of poetry and memory. I received a $10,000 Minnesota State Arts Board poetry grant and a one month residency at the Studios of Key West. I’ve gotten grants and residencies before. What feels different, informed by what I learned in PDP, is how this project integrates and advances both creative and business aspects of my work. The project gives me a chance to create new poems, to learn how to present them as spoken work by working with a theater/performance coach. The grant includes documentation that I will be able to use on my new website and also helps me develop a presentation and skills that I can potentially use as a teaching artist in school and community settings, which would represent a new income stream opportunity.
The Key West residency represents the first time I’ve been awarded a residency out of my Midwest region and also presents potential for a return visit in a teaching artist capacity. connected with a great goal buddy, photographer Dona Schwartz this has been a critical piece. Meeting regularly has given us both accountability and encouragement. Dona generously offered her incisive intelligence and talents in helping me pull together my basic tools and think strategically about my work and its future.
An image from Naomi's "Known by Heart" Blog: http://knownbyheartpoetry.wordpress.com/

An image from Naomi’s “Known by Heart” Blog

I also learned to articulate and periodically assess my creative career goals. Before PDP, I made annual goals for my work, but what I learned in the strategic planning workshop helped me take that to a whole new level. My annual planning process is actually simpler than it used to be, but includes things like creating a wheel of support (goal and actual) which helps me visualize where I need to grow income and thus where I need to devote effort.
Increasing the amount of time I devote to my creative life is another critical piece. The Core Weekend and the talented artists I met there inspired me to think, “what’s the point of spending more time on the business side of my art if I’m not spending more time on the creating side? What’s holding me back? Sure, I’m broke, but I don’t have kids to feed, I don’t have big debts. If not now, when?” That may not be a business piece, but I’m grateful to Creative Capital and my goal buddy Dona Schwartz for inspiring me to make that shift.
I’ve made progress on my community and constituency connection. The PDP experience made me say yes to a community and volunteer experience to which I would otherwise have said no: I’ve served on a local group called the Creative Enterprise Zone task force which has the goal of preserving and enhancing the creative/entrepreneurial habitat and activity in the district I live in. I’m not a big fan of meetings, but the issue and the opportunity to work with a broad cross-section of local movers and shakers, including property developers, bankers, city planners, architects, filmmakers, theater owners and others, made me join this effort. Without the PDP experience, I don’t think I would have seen the opportunity in this community activity.
In terms of updates, my biggest news is that Red Dragonfly Press will be doing a letterpress chapbook of my collection of poems about insects, Between Nectar and Eternity, coming out sometime in 2013.
I’m also doing a series of Known by Heart poetry events in Fall 2013 with the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, an outgrowth of the project funded last year by the Minnesota State Arts Board.
You can learn more about Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program at http://creative-capital.org/pdp.

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