Friday, November 27, 2009

With Thanks for My Awesome Students!

Hope you're all enjoying the break, the rest and the extra time for all of those end-of-term projects.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ah, Shucks

I'll truly miss you guys. Have a happy Thanksgiving break, a safe holiday and come back all lit up with literature!

Okay, just come back and I'll help you slog through to the end.

Your sappy teacher, s
...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903in Letters to a Young Poet


On writing the emotionally-loaded topic but using form to dissipate the sentimentality.

Writing Assignment

Put a character into a setting where s/he is preparing for an activity, an event, a celebration--in any event, a gathering that includes one or more characters or anticipated settings (stations of memory/nostalgia) that hold a friction or tension within them.

Do not blatantly name the tension or remembered conflict/loss/incident, instead hint at it through the activity and details of the activity that the character is engaging in in preparation.

Optional words or details you might include:
slotted spoon, gin rummy, avocado, bookmark, papyrus, the color of any sky in any weather, a kind of cloud, clowns, a harp, harpsichord or harmonica, a hairstyle, chia pet, a kind of beauty/grooming product, any spice or seasoning, an automotive part.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dream House Assignment

A paragraph per room.
Each room should contain one thing that is out of the ordinary.
Ex: We kept the flowerbox in the laundry room and the linen closet in the kitchen.

One paragraph minimum should contain an odd p-o-v choice--the family pet, a houseplant, the mailbox, whatever.
Ex: There were only six of them and they wandered my halls like crooks. The smallest of them wore jumpsuits, made messes and noise. The largest of them brought out the arthritis in my floor-boards.

Use at least one type of fabric, one intrusion, (whatever that means to you), one happy accident, and one form of correspondence.

The piece should be no longer than 500 words total.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fiction Workshops

The piece we read in class

is to inform the assignment where you work to answer, employing as much anaphora as you can stomach, one specific question. Consider how many textures, specific details, and the like that Wright employs.

This will be the assignment that you type up, bring to class and workshop. Everyone is to bring in sufficient copies for your group and then we'll discuss them as a class.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Creative Writing Assignment Word Bank

Remember, in addition to this assignment, you are reading Amy Hempel's story (link below) and are prepared to discuss it on Thursday. (Friday class, you will do the writing exercise and we'll discuss Hempel on Wednesday of next week.)


W-F: vicarious, akimbo, reticent, lavish, plethora, Contusion, Pluck, Philander,asundry, Cocktail, intoxication, silhouette, fusion

Prestidigitation Eulogia Genteel Necrosis Jugulation Torsion Corporal Angioplasty
Consumption Catharsis Azure Yawp Gossamer Merkin

1. Were it not for__________, might have ______________

2. There are no absolutes in _________, except for __________ and _____________.

3. Every good____________ relies on ____________________

4. Rounding the corner of _________ and ___________

Student Competition

Monday, November 9, 2009

Contemporary Lit. Imitation Assignment

Consider Mary Oliver's poem When Death Comes and her Wild Geese poem. (Both good examples of her work.) Then look at Matthew Dickman's poem:
When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don’t ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,
crying in the checkout line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? she says,
reading the name out loud, slowly,
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person’s body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.

and this poem from Eliot Wilson's book This Island of Dogs.

Swans: Against Mary Oliver
Did you, too, see it, falling through moon-hung mists to the black mirror lake?
Did you see it in the silver morning, drifting down, swinging into the wind,
a bough of magnolias, a bustle of satin white spun from the moon,
a votive whiteness, testing the air, trumpeting the dawn with its ebony beak?
Did you hear it, clarion clear, its feet and wings
making a cross of cascade as it lands
by your pallid decoys
as you slide back the pit cover?
And did you hear the guns of your buddies pounding
around you as you pull up on the closest swan, a young gander, and fire?
And did you see it crumple like a blasted pillow?
And did you see it, wounded, weakly try to escape
the dogs? And have you reloaded?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quixotic Fiction Workshops One & All


As we are wrapping up Round Two, your assignment for our next in-class writings is to bring in a word that you'd like for us to master. I am looking for a good vocabulary word, something with nice sounds, whose origin and use we might become more familiar.

Bring your word in for next class and we'll make a big list as a group. The other parts of the assignment will be included at that time.

For now, I'd like for you to read: In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel.
Consider for our discussion, what the title has to do with the story, and how and why the random, digressive facts work through the story. Be able to discuss Hempel's techniques and how they work for or against the notion that large topics, such as death, are difficult in the realm of short fiction.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some Words on Creative Non Fiction

I thought that both the workshops and lit. students might enjoy this post by a poet and creative non-fiction author about what CNF is. I plan to teach a class at some point and know that Akhim often offers one, as well. This just offers another view at what people talk about when they talk about creative non-fiction.

See you soon my zombie assassins, fans-of-gruesome-eyeball stories and soon-to-be cupcakers. Fight this grey day! Fight this grey day!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"No Ideas But in Things" WCW

"The natural object is always the adequate symbol." Ezra Pound

Key concepts of Modernism. Also, note the possibilities for imitation in poems such as Patterson. (Getting at a place through collage, etc.)

Contemporary Lit.

T 11/03 William Carlos Williams Film and/or Discussion. Be ready to do either/both.

Homework: Read Marianne Moore's bio. and all poems here: (poems in links to the right).

H 11/05 Williams & Moore discussion.
Homework: (Hefty reading, plan for it and be prepared. A quiz is always possible.)
Bio and all Dickinson poems. (Most are short, all read through very fluidly.)
Robert Frost:
Plus the poems: Design, Stopping By Woods, The Road Not Taken, After Apple-Picking, For Once, Then Something.

T 11/10 Discussion Frost & Dickinson.
H 11/12 Discussion continues.

Homework: Write an imitation of one of the poems or poets that we've read (Pound, Williams, Stevens, Eliot, Moore, Frost, Dickinson etc.) Bring in enough copies for everyone in class on Tuesday and we'll "workshop" the poems. Make sure your copies are typed-up, cleanly edited and revised. Some examples of how one goes about imitating will be discussed in class. Consider the parody.

Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach

Note to the worriers: This assignment is meant to be a fun way to get numbers in the gradebook. It will not be graded as if it were a creative writing class, so be original, and have fun with it. I'll give more ideas and examples in class and we'll just have a good time with our final pre-Thanksgiving written assignment.

T 11/17 Handing out of poems to everyone and workshopping.
HOmework: Workshop notes for poems distributed. Reading: Beat Poet,
Alan Ginsberg. (yes, I know that we've studied him during presentations but I'd like for you to see the text and to review.)

H 11/19 Likely a continuation of workshop and/or The Beat Movement.

T 11/24 Catching up what remains. Homework:
Read a brief overview of the New York School:
Kenneth Koch (brief bio) and this poem:
Frank O'Hara (bio on the left and these three short poems)

and Confessionalists. Reading: (all poems and the bio.) Also, these:

Sylvia Plath: TBA (keep checking for these readings)

Robert Lowell: TBA

and final assignment: A response to the poets we have read subsequent to the Modernists. Consider the Beats, the Confessionalists or an author of your choosing, as long as you discuss it with me prior to beginning. Your response will be ekphrastic in the broadest sense. You might write a poem, story, essay or song in response to a writer or entire movement. You might respond in other art: illustration, painting, animation, sculpture. In addition to the assignment, I want to see a grammatically-polished, edited and typed "artist statement" for your piece, 250 word minimum. If your response is a written piece (say a series of poems based on Ginsberg or a story written with Robert Lowell in mind,) you will still discuss how you employed some of the same conventions as the piece that inspired. You can also discuss what you left-out or opposed in your piece. We can discuss all of this further in class. Feel free to ask any questions you have about the assignment. (Not due until 12/08)

H 11/26 Happy Thanksgiving!

T 12/01 Confessionalists

H 12/03 Continued

T 12/08 Final Assignments Due for Presentations.

H 12/10 Cupcakes and final words
Fall Semester Ends