Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Fiction Second Workshop Notes & Impressions

Regarding the idea of the mimetic sense of a piece, or, for example, writing something in a confusing manner to suggest how confused or confusing was a situation to a character tends to backfire. When a reader is confused, the sense of credibility that would assure her/him that the sense of bewilderment is being engineered is troubled. A reader just feels as if the narrative is not clear, not as well-written and crisp as it might be. To establish a sense of the swirling confusion for the reader, you would want a good sense of what is happening that might contain a passage or paragraph or shift in perspective where some of the narrative gets foggy. Check out how it works in The Yellow Wallpaper (online) and you can see how unreliability gets established.

Consider "thisness" the idea of this love, this eating disorder, this day when this event happened as opposed to the larger, general catch phrases that make it easy for a reader to "relate." Readers "relate" best to that which is so specific, so detailed, so textured, so sensorily-rich that it makes it seem as if no other could be telling THIS story and that this time, this illness, this love are being told because they are so particular, unique and unusual. Because we feel this way when we are experiencing anything profound, the reader will often "relate" more to that sense, that intriguing telling than to the large, broad, general telling.

Imitations: The big question to ask is "how well can this function without the original text?" One way of handling this is to consider a new setting and one that perhaps provides a really informed perspective. EX: Here are the kilns and there is the slip.

Another way to tackle this is to "speak back" with information that is so voice-driven and original that it can apply without any "original text." Example: "I get it. The paperclips are alphabetized according to the minute variations in the way that they are bent. The soup is labeled with the soup-eater's first and last name, from this we are given to understand that the soup is someone's and that someone is not us. From this we gather too, that if someone other than Soup Eater opens this soup and consumes it, there will be event referred ever after as "The Chicken & Stars Incident." Soup is king in days that end with y as in Why this job? Why kill days with the steel edge of a full can of soup? Why leave them bleeding and hungry on the ground like that? But it's only Tuesday anyway."

As to Ands and other grammatical debates, check this out. Beware that you might still have to adhere to the rules as many people understand them. (Professors, etc.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Hi there,

I am going to leave the official roll sheet in my mailbox in the main Liberal Arts Office.

The boxes are stacked on a file cabinet to the right of the door in the main lobby. Mine is about four down. There is a form for the roll sheet that I would like to have filled out (back) and delivered to One Stop after class (or as you leave for the museum.)

Thanks so much.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


1. Make sure you sign in with Natalie.
2. Go to the museum or any of the galleries and find a piece of art that you would like to write a poem about.
3. Select any aspect of the piece: a character, the landscape, the artist and write from or to any part of the piece. You can use the letter form or you could write as if say, the woman from Woman from an Aquarium (just an example). Be sure to get the name of the piece.

For inspiration check out the following poems:

Musee des Beaux Arts

The Starry Night

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why I Can't Cook for Your Self-Centered Architect Cousin

Because to me a dinner table's like a bed--
without love, it's all appetite and stains. Let's buy
take-out for your cousin, or order pizza--his toppings--

but I can't lift a spatula to serve him what I am.
Instead, invite our favorite misfits over: I'll feed
shaggy Otis, who after filet mignon, raised his plate

and sipped merlot sauce with such pleasure
my ego pardoned his manners. Or I'll call Mimi,
the chubby librarian, who paused over tiramisu--

"I haven't felt so satisfied since..." then cried
into its curls of chocolate. Or Randolph might stop by,
who once, celebrating his break-up with the vegetarian,

so packed the purse seine of his wiry body with shrimp
he unbuttoned his jeans and spent the evening
couched, "waiting for the swelling to go down."

Or maybe I'll cook for us. I'll crush the pine nuts
unhinged from the cones prickly shingles.
I'll whittle the parmesan, and if I grate a knuckle

it's just more of me in my cooking. I'll disrobe
garlic cloves of rosy sheaths, thresh the basil
till moist and liberate the oil. Then I'll dance

that green joy through the fettucine, a tumbling,
leggy dishy we'll imitate, after dessert.
If my embrace detects the five pounds you win

each year, you will merely seem a generous
portion. And if you bring my hand to your lips
and smell the garlic that lingers, that scents

the sweat you lick from the hollows of my clavicles,
you're tasting the reason that I can't cook
for your cousin--my saucy, my strongly seasoned love.

--Beth Ann Fennelly


Friday 09/17/10 Workshops Negation poem
Write a poem following these steps:

1. Ask someone for a word and include it.
2. Find a foreign word or phrase and work it in.
3. A specific breed of animal and one bit of trivia about it.
4. The name of a city or country.
5. A flavor of ice cream or sherbet
6. A song phrase misheard.
7. One fact or figure from the news.

Use this in any order regarding any topic. Bring in one copy typed and ready on Wed.

Friday 09/24/10 Gallery poems assignment

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Contemporary Literature

Thursday 09/16/10
Dickinson video.
Homework: Considering any of the poets we've discussed, write a one page manifesto in the spirit of Whitman or Ginsberg's America or Howl, Langston Hughes' Let America Be... or I, too, Sing America that directs a present-day command to America.

This should be a full page, single-spaced, not under 300 words.

Your upcoming larger reading assignment will include Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin and White Angel by Michael Cunningham.

Fiction Workshop Schedule & Homework

Thursday 09/16 In-class discussion of Orientation & How to.. pieces. Designation of Workshop Groups.
HOMEWORK: Read Alice Munro's Boys and Girls be prepared to discuss it.

Tuesday 09/21 Discussion of homework/in-class writing.

Thursday 09/23 WORKSHOP ONE

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Poetry Homework

Write a poem using negation.

You can use any of the following prompts to begin or begin with your own.

1. Here's what didn't happen
2.There wasn't any__________, no _________________, or_______________
3. S/he/we/they/Matilda/etc didn't,/wasn't/hadn't ...

Employ lots of sensory detail, concrete imagery and specifics.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Choose any poem from one of the following sites

and write an imitative poem.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Writing Fiction Homework

Read the following stories and know them well enough to "workshop" them.

How to Become a Writer


Attention Poetry Class

Cindy King's book will not be available until later fall. Disregard the book order for it and just be sure to get the other two books.


Fiction Workshop

Thursday 09/09/10
Using the endings that you wrote for homework last class, you will spend the class period writing the start. Number one rule of in-class writings:
Keep your pen moving. If you get stuck, write the last thing you wrote over and over again until you can keep going.

Endings for those who might have missed class.

The remembering becomes one thing, flickering through the past like a small cameraman wandering the faded, paper-print rooms of a bliss dollhouse.
Someone was saying back again in Pakistan over the shouting from the next room. Someone excused himself from the party and walked out into a downpour. When he put his arms around his body, it looked like he was wrapping himself up in rain. I tried to remember who named their dog Only and who called their cat Satan but the names of the people had vanished. I walked out onto the deck at one a.m. and stretched out on my back beneath the early winter's ink well of sky, listening for crickets and longing for so many things whose names were just beyond my reach.

We hadn't even started out yet for Amarillo but the horizon was Texas leaning into morning. There were reasons for most things, but what happened over summer could not be explained. Ray said that most of life was a multiple choice test and that some questions had several right answers but some were tricks: anything you chose wound up the same, wound up wrong. The trick was not to put too much into guessing about the ones you'd already answered. We'll never know if that's true but summer was in the rear-view mirror and up ahead, and inevitable town whose name sounded like a flower.

If he hadn't believed T before, he believed enough. The horses spooked during storms knew as much about fear, lightning, the way the world sounded angry when thunder commanded the sky. He wanted only now simplicity, a faith in only the weather's temper tantrums and _________________ and to find himself finally cattle-wise.

Contemporary Literature

Thursday 09/09/10
Whitman video, discussion.
Fernando Pessoa

Also, go over the Dickinson reading and for the weekend's homework be ready to discuss Dickinson, the poem by Fernando Pessoa (link above)

this review of Lynn Emanuel that discusses her Whitman poem as well as how Gertrude Stein talks about America (a good quiz question would be how Stein describes America or one way that Whitman does).

Also, the introduction to The Beat Movement

Monday, September 6, 2010

Texts for Poetry:

An Algebra by Don Bogen

Ghost of Fashion by Lesley Jenike

People are Tiny in Paintings of China by Cynthia Arrieu-King

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thinking of You Guys

Just reading this morning and I encountered a couple of sentences that would have been nice to have had for the discussion yesterday on poetic terms. I am posting this for the Writing Poetry class but the Glossary of Poetic Terms link would be useful to all of you as you work on your dramatic monologues/Lynch pieces.

For example, the repetitions of both consonant and vowel sounds are really well-illustrated in the following lines by Bernard Cooper in his novel A Year of Rhymes.

"September ended in a stretch of white weather. The montone of morning would continue into noon."

Note the repeating short e sounds, the S and W and the T. There is near alliteration in September stretch, white weather, and monotone of morning and the n sounds throughout the second sentence are great examples of consonance, while the long o of monotone and morning are examples of assonance.

Paying attention to word choices and sound makes a sentence that otherwise just sets up a season and its quality of morning into something artful and pleasing to the eye and ear.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing Poetry Weekend Homework

Read all of the information and examples of the dramatic monologue here.

Also, go to the Lynch link on this blog (two entries down) and listen to some of the interviews there.

Your assignment for Wednesday is a dramatic monologue, at least twenty lines in length. Bring in one copy,typed, ready to read and discuss it, plus the Lynch interviews and all of the poems on the poets.org drama. mono. page.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fiction Workshop Weekend Syllabus Installment

09/02/2010 Thursday
Discussion of Lynch project and your first writing assignment.
Consider the characters of your hometowns, people that Lynch might have interviewed and using one of them or a character from the documentary, write an opening scene to a story that uses someone else from one of these character's stories and has them telling their tale or one of the character's themselves continuing on or telling a new portion of the story that you make up for them or your own character--real or invented that tells a piece as if one of the Lynch characters.

Example: Seems like me and Izzy had been here longer than the river. Really we met in 1936 and Izzy's father just dead and me just fourteen and walking from church to home and school to home and nowhere else but Izzy's place was on that road and I saw him and he looked to me like something carved from the prettiest wood, gold-colored and satiny like that. Izzy smiled at me one Wednesday after school and he seemed like a big man on that tractor though he was just seventeen, he seemed uncle-old or like a big brother I wished I had.
The Andersons lived between our farms and their girl, all yellow-haired and bright-eyed, caught Izzy's eye first. Then the town caught fire and we lost our one bank, half the post office and Izzy's father had been caught on the second floor and after that, he was a changed-boy.

Contemporary Lit. Syllabus Installment Two

Thursday 09/02/10
Discussion of Whitman, David Lynch's Interview Project.
HOMEWORK: Considering one or more characters from the Lynch link, write a 250 word minimum response either in the voice of one of the characters or in Whitman's voice responding to, extending the story or drawing comparisons between Walt's ideas and the characters. Get as creative and theatrical as you like or you can do a kind of epistolary piece where you write back to or as Whitman or one of the people in the Lynch project. Type the piece up and bring it to class ready to read on Tuesday. Note which character or characters from the Lynch piece that you used and we'll play some of those in class.
Start familiarizing yourself with Emily Dickinson's work and biographical information.

Tuesday 09/07 Whitman discussion continues with your Lynch work incorporated.
Thursday 09/09 Whitman and Dickinson and some contemporary influences.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Writing Poetry

The glossary of poetic terms gives a rough and simple set of tools.