Erasure and Revision Writing Exercise: “Love Poem Lost”

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The Heracles Papyrus (Oxford, Sackler Library, Oxyrhynchus Pap. 2331), a fragment of 3rd century Greek manuscript of a poem about the Labors of Heracles.

Last week I had my 24PearlStreet Erasure and Revision students burn, soak, and rip up handwritten copies of a new love poem. I called these “environmental erasures,” inspired— or, rather, after—Sappho’s surviving verses on papyrus fragments. Here are the directions:

“Love Poem Lost”

  1. 1. Draft a poem addressed to a (real or imagined) lost love. This can be a romantic love or a love based in friendship, someone once known or a teenage celebrity crush.
  2. Write out by hand or print three copies of the poem, and then perform the following acts of environmental erasure, taking pictures along the way:
    – Burn: Go into a safe, open environment and hold a match or lighter up to strategic places on the page.
    – Soak: Use water, wine, coffee, vinegar, or some other liquid to ruin or occlude portions of the page. (Works best on free-flowing, not ball-point, pen ink.)
    – Rip: Tear up the poem into quarters. “Lose” at least two of these quarters.
  3. Post pictures from each act of erasure, along with paragraph-long reflection about the process. What happened to your poems in each of these environmental erasures? What was brought out? What was subverted?

Craft of Poetry Discussion Exercise: “What Is a Poem? What Is Poetry?”

Note: In this in-class discussion exercise, my ENG 2030 students were able to interrogate the questions “what is poetry?” and “what is a poem?” by looking at different texts, some poetic and some religious and some musical, in order to answer the question. The links to the texts are below the directions.

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  • A traditional Irish blessing.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

  • These passages of religious texts (Qu’ran and Bible).

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Have you considered him who turned away?

And gave a little, and held back?

Does he possess knowledge of the unseen, and can therefore foresee?

Or was he not informed of what is in the Scrolls of Moses?

And of Abraham, who fulfilled?

That no soul bears the burdens of another soul.

And that the human being attains only what he strives for.

And that his efforts will be witnessed.

Then he will be rewarded for it the fullest reward.

And that to your Lord is the finality.

And that it is He who causes laughter and weeping.

And that it is He who gives death and life.

 

Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.

Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

 

 

 

  • Benjamin Bagby performing excerpts from Beowulf with harp accompaniment:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craft of Poetry Writing Exercise: “Possibilities”

Note: This semester, I will share my ENG 2030: Craft of Poetry Writing Exercises as images, since they live all together within a Course Reader document on Google Drive. On the first day of class, my ENG 2030 students completed this “Possibilities” writing exercise as a supplement to their personal introduction. The questions about Szymborska’s poem likewise allow me to get a good calibration of what things they know or don’t know about poetry and poetic craft.

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Group Notes Documents

This semester I started a Group Notes document in Google Drive, one for each of my classes. I created it so that students with learning differences would have built-in note-taking services; absent students could catch up on missed discussions; students could contribute insights they couldn’t, for whatever reason, share in class; students could add additional notes from their readings; and students wouldn’t lose their handwritten notes or have their typed notes lost in a computer crash.
 
For my Craft of Poetry class, it’s become a sort of playpen for our in-class writing exercises, where students can share their work and collaborate on things like lineation and formatting. It’s also incredibly easy to set up, and although I don’t yet have a majority of any three of my classes participating, the use of the resource by a few pioneering students has helped it gain some traction.
If my students give their permission and I can anonymize the contributors, I hope to share the documents in full after the Spring 2017 semester.
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Creative Writing Curriculum Proposal Accepted!

My proposal for a new Creative Writing curriculum here at Centenary University went for a full faculty vote today and was accepted. The proposal was fourteen pages, so I’ll only share the new courses, their descriptions and their goals below.

NEW COURSES

  • WRI 2005: Intro to Creative Writing
  • WRI 2040: Writing Poetry
  • WRI 2041: Writing Prose
  • WRI 3050: The Form and Theory of Poetry
  • WRI 3051: The Form and Theory of Prose
  • WRI 3052: Hybrid and Digital Genres
  • WRI 3055: Literary Editing and Publishing

 

PROPOSED COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

WRI 2005 Intro to Creative Writing
4 Credits
This course is designed to introduce students to four primary genres of creative writing: fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, and poetry. Students will learn key terminology that will help them understand, analyze, and discuss these genres in a workshop setting. Students will write and contribute original pieces of writing to workshop, a collaborative and evaluative discussion about the writer’s craft, and look to a variety of published writers as guides for incorporating different new techniques into their own work.

Course Objectives

  • To introduce students to the fundamental concepts of creative writing
  • To differentiate creative writing from academic and scholarly writing
  • To learn key terminology that will allow students to workshop their peers’ work
  • To encourage creative thinking through in-class writing exercises
  • To teach students what to expect from each genre (poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction) and how to read them
  • To ready students for more advanced discussions in genre-specific creative writing courses

 

Content Areas Covered

  • The course will contain units on fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, and poetry.
  • Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway, the proposed textbook, covers all four genres and fundamental techniques for beginning creative writers.

 

WRI 2040 Writing Poetry
4 Credits
Pre- or co-requisites: ENG 1001 and WRI 2005
This course is structured around workshop, a collaborative discussion about writing techniques and their effects on readers. Students will write and submit original poems to the workshop and participate in the discussion of their classmates’ work. As such, the focus of this course is creative output so that students will have a portfolio of original poetry by the end of the semester. Additionally, students are asked to examine the work of contemporary poets in order to learn new techniques and approaches to writing poetry.

Course Objectives

  • To further students’ knowledge of contemporary poetry
  • To have students create a portfolio of original poetry
  • To establish a regular writing and revision practice
  • To increase their experience and expertise in a workshop setting

 
Content Areas Covered

  • Students will write at least six original poems for workshop and revise at least three for a final portfolio.
  • The course will also focus on three contemporary poetry collections to introduce students to new techniques.

 

WRI 2041 Writing Prose   
4 Credits
Pre- or co-requisites: ENG 1001 and WRI 2005
This course is structured around workshop, a collaborative discussion about writing techniques and their effects on readers. Students will write and submit original prose pieces, including short stories and personal essays, to the workshop and participate in the discussion of their classmates’ work. s such, the focus of this course is creative output so that students will have a portfolio of original prose by the end of the semester. Additionally, students will examine the work of contemporary prose writers in order to learn new techniques and approaches to writing in the prose genres.

Course Objectives

  • To further students’ knowledge of contemporary fiction and creative nonfiction
  • To have students create a portfolio of original fiction and creative nonfiction
  • To establish a regular writing and revision practice
  • To increase their experience and expertise in a workshop setting

Content Areas Covered

  • Students will write at least four original prose pieces for workshop in addition to in-class writing exercises.
  • The course will also focus on two contemporary prose texts or anthologies to introduce students to new techniques.

 

WRI 3050 The Form and Theory of Poetry   
4 Credits
Pre- or co-requisites: ENG 1001 and WRI 2005
This course focuses on improving skills in the reading and writing of poetry, especially as it relates to considerations of craft, form, and theory of the genre. Students will analyze, practice, and demonstrate elements of poetry construction through critical reading, writing exercises, and collaborative workshop. Using contemporary poetry collections and poetic craft texts, students will develop their skills of “reading like a writer” and situate their own work within poetic theory. Other assignments may include imitations of other writers, scansion of poetic texts, revisions of original pieces, and group presentations on assigned texts. Additionally, they will consider the context and relevancy of poetry in their lives, communities, and culture, and explore the opportunities for serious poetry writers.  This course will feature a revolving theme oriented around poetic concepts like a lines and sentences, rhythm and sound, and received forms and prosody.

Course Objectives

  • To further students’ knowledge of the history of lyric forms, with special attention to the influences of the 19th and 20th century movement on contemporary verse
  • To expose students to the form and theory of poetry by introducing them to received forms (sonnet, ghazal, etc.), contextualizing free verse in literary history, and engaging specific craft concerns including cadence and lineation
  • To establish the reading of poetry, canonical and contemporary, as a vital part of the writing practice
  • To engage in texts about the craft and theory of poetry so that students have the language to discuss advanced writing concepts
  • To have students create a portfolio of original poetry, including specific exercises in form and with prosody

Content Areas Covered

  • Students will write biweekly poetry pieces in various forms or using specific techniques.
  • The course will introduce students to theories of meter, form, and lineation, in addition to various poetic composition practices.
  • The course will pair poems with critical and craft texts that introduce students to the theory and history of poetic form and craft.

 
WRI 3051 The Form and Theory Prose   
4 Credits
Pre- or co-requisites: ENG 1001 and WRI 2005
This course focuses on enhancing skills in writing fiction and/or creative nonfiction, especially as it relates to considerations of craft, form, and theory of the genres. Students will read, analyze, and discuss the contemporary prose texts and incorporate skills learned from the texts into their own work. Using contemporary novels, memoirs, short story and/or personal essay collections, students will develop their skills of “reading like a writer.” Students will regularly participate in in-class writing assignments in order to practice new writing techniques and work in new forms, such as flash fiction, travel writing, memoir, and personal essay. Other assignments for this course include imitations of other writers, revisions of original pieces, and group presentations of assigned texts. This course will feature a revolving theme oriented around literary concepts like world building, character development, and genre expectations.

Course Objectives

  • To further students’ knowledge of the history of prose forms, with special attention to the short story, flash and micro fiction, the personal essay, travel writing, and memoir
  • To expose students to the form and theory of prose by having them read and imitate the styles of touchstone writers of the 20th and 21st centuries
  • To establish the reading of prose and craft texts as a vital part of the writing practice
  • To engage in texts about the craft and theory of prose so that students have the language to discuss advanced writing concepts
  • To have students create a portfolio of original prose, including specific exercises in various prose forms and imitative styles

Content Areas Covered

  • Students will write biweekly prose pieces in various forms or using specific techniques.
  • The course will introduce students to theories of prose styles, structures, and forms.
  • The course will pair poems with critical and craft texts that introduce students to the theory and history of prose form and craft.

 

WRI 3052 Hybrid and Digital Genres
4 Credits
Prerequisites: ENG 1001 and WRI 2005
This course will introduce students to hybrid and digital genres of creative writing, including but not limited to the lyric essay, prose poetry, poetry comics, graphic novels, video essays, and digital media storytelling. Students will try their hand at these genres for workshop, and they will likewise try their hand at multi-modal and multimedia composition.

Course Objectives

  • To further students’ knowledge of non-traditional genres and forms by having them analyze and create hybrid and multimodal texts
  • To expose students to the form and theory of creative writing, especially as it relates to new expressions of genre
  • To teach students new technical skills that will allow them to express themselves through multimodal composition
  • To engage in texts about the craft and theory of hybrid and digital genres
  • To have students create a portfolio of original hybrid and digital works

 
Content Areas Covered

  • Students will explore and compose in hybrid genres like lyric essays and prose poetry, as well as multimodal forms like poetry comics, video essays, and digital media storytelling.
  • The class will pair hybrid and digital texts with cutting-edge criticism and craft texts about hybrid and digital genres, relying heavily upon new research into genre theory and digital humanities scholarship.

 
WRI 3055 Literary Editing and Publishing   
4 Credits
Prerequisites: ENG 1001 and WRI 2005
“Editing, like writing, is fundamentally about composing a world,” Peter Gizzi writes in his essay “On the Conjunction of Editing and Composition.” In this course, students will learn how this act of composition takes place, from submissions to printing, by reading first-hand accounts of editors in the profession and through practical application. This reading intensive course will challenge students to read like an editor and consider how literary magazines contribute to literary culture. Although literary magazines will be used as a case study for all publishing inquiries, the book-publishing process and market will likewise be explored. The class will include an investigation into the history of literary magazines; editorial meetings in which students will evaluate and debate sample pieces; papers that analyze literary magazines, editorial roles, and the state of contemporary publishing; and a final editorial project in which student groups will “compose a world” through a mock literary magazine by developing its mission, design, and content. In many ways, this course acts as a kind of introductory practicum for students interested in pursuing future publishing opportunities as editors, production editors, and as writers.

Course Objectives

  • To further students’ knowledge of literary editing and publishing by providing them with insight into the book publishing and literary magazine industry
  • To contextualize their work as writers within the business of creative writing
  • To expose them to the work of editors, agents, and publishers through first-hand accounts in articles and class video conferences with professionals in the field
  • To offer students the opportunity to experience the work of creative a literary publication from start to finish with a mock literary magazine project
  • To consider the ethics and issues of contemporary publishing, especially as it relates to the decolonization, parity, copyright, and stewardship of literary works
  • To explore the history of literary magazine publishing to better understand contemporary trends and advances
  • To better prepare students to work in publishing or to engage professionally as writers with the publishing industry

Content Areas Covered

  • Students will discover the history of literary book and magazine publishing, consider the ethics and issues in contemporary publishing, and establish best practices for compiling and designing a literary magazine.
  • The course will use two texts, Paper Dreams on the history of American literary magazines and Thinking with Type on the materiality and design of texts, along with many supplemental readings that will allow students to contextualize literary publishing within its history and contemporary issues.

Fall 2016 Required Texts & Course Descriptions

ENG 2015: Poetry Workshop

American poet C.D. Wright once wrote: “If I wanted to understand a culture, my own for instance . . . I would turn to poetry first. For it is my confirmed bias that the poets remain the most ‘stunned by existence,’ the most determined to redeem the world in words.” In this course, we will hold poetry to this noble standard, as an amplifier for the voices in our culture and an invocatory rendering of our world. In doing so, I’ll ask you to not only read and write poetry but also begin to look at your surroundings as a poet would. This requires close examination of images, scrutiny of your thoughts and feelings about subject matter, and consideration for other points of view. Additionally, you will be asked to think deeply about language, in terms of its meanings, its sounds, its rhythms, and its forms. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. As a means of introduction to the craft of poetry, students will submit original poems for workshop, a collaborative discussion about writing techniques and their effects on readers.  In addition to workshop, you will be asked to engage with the writing of contemporary poets, to read like a writer would. I’ve chosen Poetry magazine as our required text so that you will have a lens through which to examine the current landscape of American poetry and to see that even today poets are still trying to “redeem the world in words.”

Required Texts

  1. Hirsch, Edward. A Poet’s Glossary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. ISBN: 978-0151011957.
  2. Poetry magazine student subscription, available at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/subscribe

 

ENG 2016OL: Online Prose Workshop

This course will focus on the prose forms of the short story and personal essay, and emphasize drafting and revision. Students will respond to published prose and write their own pieces for workshop, a collaborative discussion about the effects of a writer’s choices on readers. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. We will base our discussions on how texts work rather than what they mean, after Francine Prose’s ideal of “reading like a writer.” We will use Megan Mayhew Bergman’s collection of short stories, Almost Famous Women, and Zadie Smith’s collection of essays, Changing My Mind, as a touchstone for learning writing skills and discovering genre conventions. My approach to teaching writing is founded on the belief that our writing skills must be practiced and cultivated, and that one must continually challenge one’s aesthetics, habits, and concerns throughout one’s writing life in order to write anything of consequence to one’s readers and, perhaps more importantly, one’s self.

Required Texts

  1. Bergman, Megan Mayhew. Almost Famous Women.  Scribner, 2015. 256 pages. ISBN: 978-1476788814.
  2. Smith, Zadie. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays. Penguin, 2010. 320 pages. ISBN: 978-0143117957.

 

ENG 2031: Craft of Prose

In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Marco Polo tells Kublai Khan that “the city must never be confused with the words that describe it.” In this course, we will shoot high and aim to write so richly and uniquely about our fictional worlds that they will be rendered in our readers’ imaginations as palpable, the words and places indistinguishable, symbiotic, “real.” We will take as our lodestars a number of texts, including Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a short story collection by Centenary’s fall 2016 visiting author Megan Mayhew Bergman, and one of the Harry Potter novels. We will translate these immersive reading experiences into writing skills through discussion, exercises, and workshop. Several times throughout the semester, students will turn in original writing for workshop, a collaborative discussion about writing techniques and their effects on readers, and later revise one of the pieces using the comments received in workshop. Additionally, we will play host to Centenary’s Fall 2016 visiting writer, Megan Mayhew Bergman, and prepare accordingly. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. We will base our discussions on how texts work rather than what they mean, after Francine Prose’s ideal of “reading like a writer.” My approach to teaching writing is founded on the belief that our writing skills must be practiced and cultivated, and that one must continually challenge one’s aesthetics, habits, and concerns throughout one’s writing life in order to write anything of consequence to one’s readers and, perhaps more importantly, one’s self.

Texts and Supplies

  1. Bergman, Megan Mayhew. Almost Famous Women.  Scribner, 2015. 256 pages. ISBN: 978-1476788814.*
  2. Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Harcourt, 1978. 165 pages. ISBN: 978-0156453806. +
  3. Everett, Percival. I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Graywolf Press, 2009. 234 pages. ISBN: 978-1555975272. +
  4. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Scholastic Paperbacks, 2002. 752 pages. ISBN: 978-0439139601.*
  5. Russell, Karen. Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories. Vintage, 2014. +
  6. Writing Journal

 

ENG 3099: Special Topics: Literary Editing & Publishing

“Editing, like writing, is fundamentally about composing a world,” Peter Gizzi writes in his essay “On the Conjunction of Editing and Composition.” In this course, students will learn how this act of composition takes place, from submissions to printing, by reading first-hand accounts of editors in the profession and through practical application. This reading intensive course will challenge you to read like an editor rather than a reader, writer, or critic, and ask you to consider how literary magazines contribute to literary culture. You will be exposed to many different types of editing styles, and you will be asked to begin to cultivate your own approach to editing a literary magazine or journal while being introduced to all the skillsets needed to create a publication. We will use literary magazines as a case study for all of our publishing inquiries, but we will likewise touch upon the book-publishing process and market. The class will include an investigation into the history of literary magazines; editorial meetings in which students will evaluate and debate sample pieces; papers that analyze literary magazines, editorial roles, and the state of contemporary publishing; and a final editorial project in which student groups will “compose a world” through a mock literary magazine by developing its mission, design, and content. In many ways, this course acts as a kind of introductory practicum for students interested in pursuing future publishing opportunities as editors, production editors, and as writers.

Texts and Supplies

  1. Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type, 2nd edition. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.
  2. Kurowski, Travis. Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine. Atticus Books, 2013.
  3. Art supplies, paper, etc. and whatever else you may need to create your final editorial project.