1/8 Lesson Plan and Writing Exercise: “The Art of Losing”

Note: This will be my first meeting with my combined intermediate and advanced, undergraduate workshops. I hope that this exercise will open up our class in such a way that we get to know one another better and we begin to discuss meaningful craft elements. Like all of my writing exercises and readings beyond the required, book-length texts, this information is provided to students through a Google Document I call the “Course Reader,” which I update throughout the semester so as to provide necessary materials and instructions while developing a log for the course, the latter of which is especially meaningful for students who need to refresh on a class experience and/or who missed a class. I also like to have a record of our conversations, and so after each class I usually provide a quick, bullet-pointed list that recaps our conversations and/or important class decisions.

ENG 326/426 Writing Poetry: Intermediate/Writing Poetry: Advanced
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Spring 2018

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Writing Exercise: “99 Problems”

ENG 326 Writing Poetry: Intermediate
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Fall 2017

Note: My intermediate poetry students completed this exercise at the beginning of class on the third day we discussed There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker. Six students shared their work, and some of them framed their poem as “99 Problems” whereas others framed it as a countdown or as a list of tweets experienced on social media. This exercise presented a lot of flexibility, and it allowed students to think about implied narratives rather than explicitly rendered narratives.

9/21 Writing Exercise: “99 Problems”

  1. Let’s spend a little time discussing “99 Problems” on pgs. 66–69 of Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things
    1. What is her strategy for moving from one “problem” to the next?
    2. What are your thoughts about the form of the list poem?
  2. Write a list poem. You can either use the “99 Problems” as a frame, or you can write a list poem with some other function.

Text & Context: A Poetry Workshop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

IMG_9542

Text & Context participants sharing their new poem drafts in the Resnick Rotunda. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Last night I taught Text & Context, a poetry workshop sponsored by the Philadelphia Poetry Collaboration, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art‘s Final Fridays: Rebel, Rebel night. I prepared a handout with four poetry exercises inspired by pieces in the modern art wing of the museum for registered and drop-in participants. We had a total of twenty-seven participants, with the youngest participant at 7 years old. Although the exercises were meant for adults, they were easily adapted to younger participants, especially the acrostic and self-portrait poems.

I have included the writing exercises below, with photos of the motivating artworks. Because we only had two hours for the workshop, we were unable to get to the fourth and final writing exercise, inspired by Marcel Duchamp, called “Readymades.”

Writing Exercise 1: “Acrostic to What”
Artwork(s): “According to What” (1964) by Jasper Johns
Room: 177
Time: 20+ Minutes

Jasper Johns (1930– ) introduces words into this work by painting them on the canvas and allowing their ghosts to haunt the backdrop. In this writing exercise, I’d like for you to select one word from this piece and free-write an acrostic poem. In A Poet’s Glossary, Edward Hirsch contextualizes and defines acrostic poetry as “From the Greek: ‘at the tip of the verse.’ A poem in which the initial letters of each line have a meaning when read vertically. The acrostic reads down as well as across.” Here is a very quick (and unpolished example):

Just this: the gift-hibiscus
Anguished by the cold context of
Soil in a slow thaw, spring’s unguent tongue.
Poignant is a word that implies the poisoned well
Emotion, only it needs a human eye—
Raw and farsighted, mirrored to the about-face of desire.

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“According to What” by Jasper Johns, 1964. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Writing Exercise 2: “Memory Piece (My Heart)”
Artworks(s): “Memory Piece (Frank O’Hara)” (1970) by Jasper Johns
Room: 177
Time: 20+ Minutes

In 1967, Jasper Johns met Frank O’Hara, a poet of the New York School, art critic, and assistant curator at MOMA. Let’s read O’Hara’s poem “My Heart” and locate some visually associative connections between the poem’s images and Johns’s sculpture, “Memory Piece (Frank O’Hara).”

This poem is part self-celebration, part anti-apology, with a finalizing dash of ars poetica, that is, a poem about writing poetry. Ultimately, however, it is a self-portrait, one that fills in the speaker’s personality by degrees. Could we, however, think about Johns’s sculpture as a kind of figurative portrait of O’Hara? If so, what does the artwork imply about its subject?

Free-write a poem titled “Memory Piece (My Heart)” and use the epigraph, “After O’Hara and Johns.” In this poem, I’d like for you to create a self-portrait that is literal, as in O’Hara’s “I wear workshirts to the opera,” but also figurative, as this sculpture of Johns. What images describe you without describing you? Try to move back and forth between literal and figurative statements. Here’s a model of these two alternating moves:

All of my clothes have
at least one missing
button. Lately I’ve been a zipper
broken off its track. I drink
coffee on an empty stomach and peel
a rind on a clementine to find
rind upon rind underneath.
I am bad at self-portraits
because I have trouble looking
the stranger the mirror makes
me in the eye.

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Poetry Workshop: Text & Context participants writing in gallery 177. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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“Memory Piece (Frank O’Hara)” by Jasper Johns, 1970. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Writing Exercise 3: “Impress Me”
Artworks(s): “Sunflowers” (1888 or 1889) by Vincent Van Gogh
Room: 161, Resnick Rotunda
Time: 20+ Minutes

Think of something beautiful, startling, or grotesque you’ve recently seen from which you couldn’t turn away. It could be a flock of white birds rising from a snowy field or a deer skull on the side of the road, a clear vase on a basement shelf in which a spider has built a web or an evening shadow that crossed over a beloved’s face. Take five minutes to jot down every concrete detail you remember from that scene, no matter how small or insignificant.

Hirsch writes that “The poetic image is always delivered to us through words. Poetry engages our capacity to make mental pictures, but it also taps a place in our minds that has little to do with direct physical perceptions.” I would go further and insist that images are those tangible details in a poem that have extra meaning—what we might called “resonance”—than just their thisness, their thereness. They are the glittery surface images on a dark, deep well. That dark deep well contains our memories, the primary source of our meaning-making.

Read “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound, which emphasizes the image as the crucial and working element of a poem.

Go back through your draft and interrogate each and every detail: which ones are significant? Which are superfluous? Which details imply other details? Cut all those details that are just facts about that scene, and leave all of those details that ascend to the level of images. Remove all explanation, what we would call exposition, out of the poem. Allow the images to stand alone.

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“Sunflowers” by Vincent van Gogh, 1888 or 1889. Philadephia Museum of Art.

 I would like to thank Steven Kleinman and Sarah Blake from the Philadelphia Poetry Collaboration and Jenni Drozdek and Claire Oosterhoudt of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for all their work supporting and organizing this event. Special thanks also to Alexis Apfelbaum of PPC and Justine of the PMA for their on-the-ground assistance, organization, and knowledge.

Teen Arts Workshop Writing Exercises: “Beyond Rhyme: Poetry’s Music” and “Speech Bubbles: Poetry 10 Ways”

The Warren County Cultural & Heritage Commission asked me to teach as a part of their Teen Arts day. Although post-blizzard school delays prevented us from taking full advantage of my two planned workshops, the exercises and lesson plans I prepared for the day are collected here for other educators’ use.

9:30–11:00 AM: Beyond Rhyme: Poetry’s Music
How do we make our poems “flow”? How many word fireworks can we set off in a single line of poetry? In this workshop, we will explore the sounds and rhythms of free-verse poetry by listening to poems, trying out new techniques, and writing our own new poems.

  1. Introductions:
    • Who are you?
    • What school do you go to?
    • Why did you take this class?
    • What’s your favorite word?
  2. Discussion:
    • What is poetry?
    • What makes poetry poetry?
    • What makes poems sound good? How do they “flow”?
    • Some vocab: rhyme, cadence, assonance, consonance, alliteration, anaphora
  3. Reading and Discussion of Sounds:
  4. Writing Exercise:
    • Free write a poem on any subject. For every noun you use, you must select one that has at least one sound similar to the previous adjective, verb, or noun. Example, from “Inversnaid”: “This darksome burn, horseback brown.” The noun “burn” borrows the sound of r- in “darksome,” as does the noun “brown” from “horseback.” Additionally, the latter noun also borrows the b sound from “back.”

11:30 AM–1:00 PM: Speech Bubbles: Poetry 10 Ways
Ever heard the phrase, “The medium is the message”? In this poetry workshop, we’ll try our hand at writing poems using different mediums-posterboard, postcards, typewriters, and on our toes-to see if we can appeal to different parts of our brains and become more creative.

  1. Introductions:
    • Who are you?
    • What school do you go to?
    • Why did you take this class?
    • How (and on what) do you usually write?
  2. Writing Exercise: Poetry 10 Ways
    • Station 1: Writing by Hand. Freewrite a poem of at least 4 lines on unlined paper.
    • Station 2/3: Landscape/Portrait. Freewrite a poem on the index card laid out horizontally, and then rewrite it on another index card laid out vertically.
    • Station 4: Big Concerns. Using a pastel, freewrite a poem on a piece of posterboard. Try to “size up” your handwriting to the size of the paper.
    • Station 5: Boxing It In. Using the colored pens, I’d like for you to take one of your poems written at a previous station and underline the most important five words in that poem. In another color, I’d like for you circle all the nouns. In another color, I’d like for you to put a square around all the verbs. In another color, I’d like for you to put an X through at least three unnecessary words in the poem.
    • Station 6: The Snake Eating Its Tail. At this station, you will partner with another student. Rewrite one of your previously drafted poems in pencil on a piece of paper. Swap poems with your partner, and then erase 5 to 7 words from your partner’s poem.
    • Station 7: Address. Select a friend or a family member to whom you have a lot to say. Write a poem to them on the provided cards.
    • Station 8: Cut! Copy out one of the poems you brought in previously. Use the scissors to cut it in half.
    • Station 9: Walk It Off. Go out into the hall. You will compose a poem in your head while you walk to the end of the hall and back. Try to come up with one word per step. Record yourself (using your phone or mine) speaking aloud the poem.
    • Station 10: Type It Up. Come to this computer workstation and type up one version of one of the poems you have written today in this Google doc. Your only parameter here is that you must introduce new line breaks.

 

Station 1: Writing By Hand

Station 2/3: Landscape/Portrait

Station 4: Big Concerns

Station 5: Boxing It In

Station 6: The Snake Eating Its Tail

Sation 7: Address

Station 8: Cut!

Station 9: Walk It Off

Station 10: Type It Up

 

Spring 2017 ENG 2091: Literature to Film Texts

The following information comes directly from my Spring 2017 syllabus for ENG 2091: Literature to Film.

ENG 2091 Literature to Film Required Texts
You have five required texts for this course, which we will read prior to viewing their film adaptations.

  1. Albee, Edward. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? NAL, 2006. ISBN: 978-0451218599.
  2. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Anchor, 1998. ISBN: 978-0385490818.
  3. Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage, 2004. ISBN: 978-1400033416.
  4. Spark, Muriel. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009. ISBN: 978-0061711299.
  5. Woolf, Virginia. Orlando (Annotated). Mariner Books, 2006. ISBN: 978-0156031516.

We will also read select essays and excerpts about the history, craft, and theory of film, available to you on Moodle.

A Note About Ordering Books
If you choose not to order from the university bookstore, I encourage you to consider ordering books directly from the publisher. Cutting out the middleman helps ensure that publishers and authors are treated fairly in the transaction. You can also make a difference with your book purchase by placing a special order with a local or regional bookstore, like Labyrinth Books in Princeton or Black Dog Books in Newton; an independent bookstore with online ordering, like Powell’s or Strand Bookstore; or a philanthropic independent seller like Better World Books.

Reserve Texts at Taylor Memorial Library
All of our literary and cinematic texts are available, sometimes in other editions, through Course Reserves at Taylor Memorial Library, except for The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) film and The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) television series. In order to access these materials, go to the main desk in the library and request to use them in the library.

Cinematic Texts
We will screen the five feature-length films in class, and several other Lit to Film adaptations:

  1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Director: Mike Nichols.
  2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). Director: Ronald Neame.
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale (1990). Director: Volker Schlondoff.
  4. Moving Poems by John Lucas and Claudia Rankine
  5. Motionpoems
  6. Orlando (1992). Director: Sally Potter.
  7. Beloved (1998). Director: Jonathan Demme.
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu TV series (2017).

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.