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Today, June 6 th. 9:30-11:00: Creative Writing (Me) 12:00-1:30: Literary Studies: (Davin) 1:30-3:00: Composition & Rhetoric (Steve) 3:00-4:00: Afternoon Workshop (Jade) In Creative Writing today… We’ll share and talk about our favorite quotations from Skittish Libations.

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today june 6 th
Today, June 6th

9:30-11:00: Creative Writing (Me)

12:00-1:30: Literary Studies: (Davin)

1:30-3:00: Composition & Rhetoric (Steve)

3:00-4:00: Afternoon Workshop (Jade)

In Creative Writing today…

We’ll share and talk about our favorite quotations from Skittish Libations.

We’ll dive into the whole enterprise of Creative Writing with questions and no answers. If you actually think you have answers, I hope to set you straight.


Let’s sort of start by just yapping a bit about the whole creative enterprise.What quotation did you select in Skittish Libations, and why? What, for you, is “art”? What is “creative writing”? What is the process one goes through on the way to creating fabulous poetry and fiction?


A confrontation with reality; facing reality

Note that some types, such as satire, mock or interrogate reality

The invention of reality


Creative Writing

The improvement

of reality (art as a hammer

An escape from reality; a

sedative or distraction


Defiance of reality; reality as it ought to


A magnification

of reality




Something produced solely for others; a means of pleasing an audience

A mysterious inborn talent


A commodity

Expression that is shaped and crafted

The honoring of tradition

A pile of crap; a hoax; excuse for not having a REAL job

Creative Writing



A learnable skill

Emotional or psychological therapy

The subversion of tradition

Expression that is wide-open and free

Self-expression; solely for self ; exploration of one’s unique vision




Maybe writing’s a constant


of binaries


Artist Audience

Past Present

speaking of past and present here are a couple of competing claims
Speaking of Past and Present, here are a couple of competing claims:
  • Creative Writing (Literature) is the art of language in the present moment. The live, unstable, mysterious evolution that is happening continually and right under our noses. Brand new poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, script-writing, and genres we don’t yet know how to name.
  • Creative Writing (Literature) is the art of language as an ancient activity. Something we’ve been doing since we first opened our mouths to speak, write on cave walls, and sing around a fire. Some theorists say that the impulse to create poetry is at the root of the human impulse to communicate, period.

So nobody knows how to define it.

Or there’s no final definition.

Then how do we learn it?

How does it get taught? Should I, as a teacher, emphasize process or product? Craft or free exploration? The work of antiquity or the work of the future?

How is it distinguished from any other kind of writing and so what’s it’s place in the schools at any level? In other words…

what is creative writing with a capital c and w
What is “Creative Writing” with a capital C and W?

= the branch of English Studies that involves teaching and learning how to write creatively, right?

Yeah, but…

Isn’t all writing “creative”? Why call it Creative Writing?

Can it really be taught? Isn’t it about talent and a mysterious ability to summon the muse?

What’s it doing in a university? How do you evaluate it?

How does it relate to Rhetoric and Composition, Literary Studies, Linguistics, Technical Writing? Isn’t writing in these fields creative also?

What’s more important: the writing of literature or the study of it?

Isn’t all language creative, really? Why even have a distinct field called Creative Writing? Can’t business reports, department memos, shopping lists, Facebook status updates, even check-writing all be “creative”?

did you know
Did you know…

In some of its earliest appearances in higher ed, Creative Writing was offered to help students understand literature better. I.e., it was in the service of literature studies.

The idea was that by writing some fiction, poetry, or drama themselves, students would better understand the masterpieces of literature.

but also
But also…

a bunch of teachers who were also writers wanted to get together with other writers and blab about their work—

in a college setting. (Couldn’t hang out in the bistros of Paris or Gertrude Stein’s salon anymore, so had to get together somewhere…)

it s always been a bit of an outlaw
It’s always been a bit of an outlaw…

Not scholarly like other disciplines. The MFA is a studio degree. Very different criteria.

Not really “academic.” Considered to be even a “spiritual” discipline.

A “soft” subject. Workshop approach is considered by some to be whimpy: writers who want to talk with other writers sit in a circle and read/discuss their stuff, while a teacher/published writer chimes in.

since the 80s though
Since the 80s, though,

It has been influenced by postmodern theory, composition studies, and English education.

The way it is taught is changing here and there…

You can now study “the teaching of Creative Writing” as a subject itself. Or “Creative Writing Studies” which examines:

Creative writing pedagogy

The culture of creative writing/creative writing in the culture

The history of creative writing in the university.

You can get an MA and PhD in “Creative Writing Studies.”


Me? What in the heck do I do as a teacher of the stuff? When I go into the creative writing classroom…

I teach genres. Poetry, fiction. Creative nonfiction. Some script writing.
  • I encourage wide-open, glorious self-expression. Go for it.
  • I encourage self-denial and disciplined attention to the needs of audience. Craft.
  • I encourage demented new ways of thinking about the world.
  • I encourage thoughtful appreciation of very old traditions.
  • I try to do everything.
  • That’s why I’m burning out.
  • That’s why I’m insane.
  • Don’t tell my boss.
poetry going back to the very beginning
PoetryGoing Back to The Very Beginning
  • Playing with language: Kenneth Koch, The Luminous Object
  • Surrealism
  • Worst High School Metaphors
  • Harmonious Confusion
what s figurative language
What’s figurative language?

How do you say that someone is drunk?

How many animal metaphors do we use everyday?

Where did most worn-out metaphors come from, and how do we keep the language alive? Look at Lorrie Moore…

worst high school metaphors
Worst High School Metaphors

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. Instead of 7:30. 

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. Traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. At a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are want to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Sometimes it helps to take a really unusual perspective…say, that of an animal.

Once a student wrote a piece from the point of view of a deer. It described a hunter’s gun as “a branch that barks.”


Focusing on particular traditions:

  • The private, inward-directed lyric poet.
  • The community bard.
  • The craftsman or maker.
  • The mad or divinely inspired visionary.
spoken word poetry

Spoken Word Poetry

The Oral Tradition (the Bard)

this stuff is really old

Hey, Daddy-o

This stuff is really old…
  • Homer 800 BC
  • Old English poetry 400 AD
  • Native American 8000 BC to present
  • The Beats 1950s
  • Slam Poetry 1980s to present
the beats 1950s 60s
The Beats (1950s,60s)
  • Getting poetry out of the classroom
  • Poetry read to jazz accompaniment


rap and hip hop
Rap and Hip Hop
  • Came of age alongside the poetry slam phenom.
  • Hyperbolic, gymnastic, inventive
  • Heavily end-rhyme based; rhymes often funny, clever, silly
  • Distinct prosody
the poetry slam and open mike coffee house reading
The Poetry Slamand Open-Mike Coffee House Reading
  • Harks back to the Beats
  • Again, desire to get poetry out of the classroom
  • Emphasis on anyone can write poetry
  • Tends to be political
  • Theatrical, sometimes mixed-media
check these out
check these out!



What makes a good spoken-word

or slam performance?

Listen to Spoken Word selections,

plus Beat poems with jazz accompaniment

Blurring the line between poetry and theater; performances are like one-person, one-act plays.
  • Aggressive, clever, sometimes funny rhyme, not in any strict pattern (triple rhymes, internal rhymes, slant rhymes, repeated words, etc. In video, “Lazarus, Lazie, Lazy”).
  • Projection! Loud broadcast.
  • Number of unstressed syllables don’t matter, maybe. Success depends on how cleverly you get the four stresses in (rap).
  • Getting into a groove.
  • Memorizing the material adds interest.
  • Mixing genres: insert singing, use accompanying sound, etc.
  • Ritual presence of performer.
ok so
Ok. So.

Describe what you see on the table. REALLY LOOK. The thing. The thing itself.

Make the object…



STOP ! !

Are you being dull?

Are you being predictable?

Are you thinking too much?

Try a thesaurus…




1924 andre breton
1924: Andre Breton:

The Surrealist Manifesto

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a sur-reality.”

“The idea of surrealism aims quite simply at the total recovery of our psychic force by a means which is nothing other than the dizzying descent into ourselves, the systematic illumination of hidden places and the progressive darkening of other places, the perpetual excursion into the midst of forbidden territory” (Breton).
between wwi and wwii
Between WWI and WWII


the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural juxtapositions and combinations. An attempt, through these random, irrational juxtapositions and combinations, to make make a new reality or a new whole.

Instead of:

I saw the rabbit, as soft as cotton, his eyes bright, munching the grass.

you get:

I saw the rabbit, ripe as a hammer, his eyes boiled, baptizing the grass.

(random words from carpentry, religion, cooking)


I saw the rabbit, as Monday as Van Gogh’s ear, eyes in search of Harvard, document the grass.

(random words from stuff on my desk)

early surrealists valued
Early Surrealists Valued:

The names of Aztec gods were on one page,

serotonin uptake inhibitors on the other.

  • random CHANCE and the seizing of accident;
  • “convulsive beauty,” the marvelous, the uncanny, the disruptive, and the unexpected;
  • strange and unexpected juxtapositions;
  • defamiliarizing the everyday so that it once again appears strange and new;
  • liberation of mind from bourgeois modes of thinking;
  • the oblivion ha-ha silly brain brillo stain

Here, you said: another baby avocado tree.

You threw your shoe. I broke

the refrigerator and the fossil fish.

I broke my shoulder blade.

I tried to make jambalaya.

To relax the organism, the cookbook said,

pound with a mallet on the head or shell.

I love you. This remarkable statementhas appeared on earth to substantiate the clams.

Here's your fire


welcome to the glacier.

Don't think I wasn't shocked when

you were a traffic signal

and I a woodpecker.

I can't make it any clearer than that

and stay drunk.


“intelligence is often the enemy of poetry, because it limits too much, and it elevates the poet to a sharp-edged throne where he forgets that ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head—”

“The duende...Where is the duende? Through the empty arch comes a wind, a mental wind blowing relentlessly over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents, a wind that smells of baby’s spittle, crushed grass, and jellyfish veil, announcing the constant baptism of newly created things.”

Duende is “the melancholy demon of Descartes: a demon who was small as a green almond and who sickened of circles and lines and escaped down the canals to listen to the songs of blurry sailors”

"The Guitar“
  • "Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías": #1, 2, 4
  • "Casida of the Lament," p. 91

Yes! Absolutely! Except…

Creative Writing is any writing that isn’t done for someone else.Creative Writing is for the writer. The same I would say holds true for any kind of art.An artist creates a painting for his/herself, and the folks walking around the gallery are privileged to see it. A musician creates an album about something personal in his life and the listeners are simply “along for the ride”.

Is the audience really that irrelevant? Is this the kind of art you/we typically spend our money on? CDs? Big budget films?



Creative writing is without restrictions, or not many of them. Individuals are free to express themselves and be original. Too many rules and restrictions suppress creativity since individuals are so limited. Creative writing can be described as freedom of writing where emotions are not concealed and the creator is present within each piece of work.

Yep, completely true!

—except, um, what about form? Craft?

And, again, how come this isn’t the art that most of us actively support?


Rhetorical component of any piece of writing

Creative writing is one of the most powerful ways to expel and express feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Writing and all art is meant to affect and influence the minds and emotions of others. The needs of the audience are important and writer should make some compromises, however a writer should never compromise their message.

Or is it something we do for its sake—without any exterior purpose?


Creative writing is something that I want to do because it helps me feel connected. It is a way for me to tap into my subconscious thoughts and desires. It’s a way for me to express those to others.


What did Plato say about this?


Ethical purpose of art?

All art should be educative (assuming there’s a way things should be – that there is a right way), for what possible value could art possess if it did not lead us towards what is ultimately good? This leads us to the point that we must first know what is good. I’m not so sure we (as a people/collective consciousness) actually do know what is good (though we often assume we do). Fortunately, creative writing allows for the opportunity for each individual artist to search (however they so choose) for what is true and good through a process of self-expression, and thus, self-realization. I could go off on this for hours, but I hope this gives a general outline of why I write.

P.S. Sorry this is so late, I was at the RNC and then went to a musical this weekend. But I can’t wait to meet you all later

Ok, the REAL truth comes out. Art’s an excuse to be a slacker! Plato was right…


Who judges?

Creative writing is for writing very creatively. It is for fun, enjoyment, and school type people. Art is for those people who enjoy art. It is hard to say if the writer’s or audience’s needs are more important because, when juxtaposing them, only an english teacher could determine whose needs institute more need. It should be determined on an individual basis. All students should take creative writing so they can learn to write better.


Ancient DNA: a History

Lacey L. Locket (Sam Schanhaar)

The extraction and amplification of ancient DNA (aDNA) is a recent discovery in the history of science. The concept of ancient DNA has eluded scientists …within the Cretaceous epoch, reportedly also yielded authentic DNA (Cano et al. 1993). DNA retrieval was also not limited to y and epidemiology. The field of ancient DNA is constantly growing with the advent of new techniques concerning extraction and amplification in conjunction with individuals such as Savante Pääbo and Russ Higuchi. There have been numerous tissues that have been subjected to aDNA research including Neanderthal remains, King Tut, and Otzi.

Ancient DNA is genetic material that is recovered from historical and pre-historical specimens. Ancient DNA can be obtained from archaeologically or preserved in a museum environment. Ancient DNA can be retrieved from skeletal material, mummified tissues, and hair. Viable samples can be obtained from dry, wet, and frozen specimens. Samples of ancient DNA can be extracted from plants, animals and insects […]

Exploitation of Accident!

the oblivion ha-ha


Notice how little attention in these items on the work itself



Forget all these questions—creative writing is the writing of poetry and fiction. Duh. The end.

Creative writing, in my opinion, is poetry, prose, really it’s anything that you don’t need to do extensive research to writeand doesn’t need a bibliography. Creative writing can be something totally new, or something ripped off from one of the greats, just a little different; different enough, at least, to not get sued. It can be a way of expressing yourself,resolving inner conflicts,or just killing time.

therapy (back to the self)

Does/can the work have a mind of its own? Some artists have spoken about it in these terms…


the life & rights of the work itself!

the very broad view

I don’t think I can answer all of these questions in a single paragraph (or a single page) so I’ll focus on one of them. As to the question of whose needs are most important the writer’s or the audience’s, I believe that once a particular piece of writing is set down, that the author in a sense ceases to exist. The writing takes it’s place among all other forms of writing and is organized and categorized based on the work that has come before. Once the writing is set down, it becomes an entity onto itself, an artifact of a specific time and environment. Asking whose needs are more important is like asking who gets the most value from a relic unearthed in an archeological dig, those people who originally used it in their daily lives, or those scientists who use it to gain a glimpse of that daily life hundreds or thousands of years in the future.The artifact meets both groups needs in completely different ways and remains ready to fulfill other needs in whatever situation is brought to bear. As a writer, I try to remain focused on this belief, as I think it helps me distance myself from the work, and allows me to approach it from a vantage point other than one of self interest and vanity.

the cultural and historical dimension

where did eric go?

who was eric…

was there ever an eric…




losing one’s self in the work?