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 Formalist Creative Writing The improvement of reality (art as a hammer An escape from reality; a sedative or distraction Formalist Defiance of reality; reality as it ought to be A magnification of reality Formalist
Process… Something produced solely for others; a means of pleasing an audience A mysterious inborn talent Formalist 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 Art Formalist 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 Formalist …Product…
Maybe writing’s a constant NEGOTIATION of binaries SELF OTHER Artist Audience Past Present
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.
Ok. 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? = 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… 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… 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… 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, 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.
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? 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 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.”
Poetry 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 The Oral Tradition (the Bard)
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) • Getting poetry out of the classroom • Poetry read to jazz accompaniment
Ferlinghetti: http://www.ndsu.edu/instruct/cinichol/CreativeWriting/323/MiscPoemsFerlinghetti.htm Ginsberg: http://www.ndsu.edu/instruct/cinichol/CreativeWriting/323/MiscpoemsGinsbergHowl.htm
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 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! www.nuyorican.org/ AND www.poetryslam.com/
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. Describe what you see on the table. REALLY LOOK. The thing. The thing itself. Make the object… luminous
STOP ! ! Are you being dull? Are you being predictable? Are you thinking too much? Try a thesaurus…
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 Surrealism: 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) or: 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: 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 extinguisher, 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.