This semester I am teaching Literature to Film, and I’ve assigned the following Short Film Adaptation of a Poem in order to offer my students, who come to the class from all majors, a chance to engage with poetry in a way they haven’t before, through a multimodal project that connects to our upcoming visiting writers event in April.
Short Film Adaptation of a Poem
This project requires that you and a partner select a single poem from either Aracelis Girmay or Jenny Johnson, Centenary’s Spring 2017 visiting poets, and create a short film adaptation of it to screen to our class and then again at A Reading by Aracelis Girmay and Jenny Johnson on Wednesday, April 15th. In completing this project, you will use a free video editing software like Splice or a similar program to render and support the poem through images and sound.
In preparation for this project, students have watched:
- “The Sleepwalker” by Theodore Ushev, a film adaptation of Lorca’s “Romance Sonambulo.”
- Moving Poems by John Lucas and Claudia Rankine.
- Selections from Motionpoems
- Riding the Highline, a short film by poets Kai Carlson-Wee and Anders Carlson-Wee.
They have also had the good fortune of Skyping with Saara Myrene Raappana from Motionpoems and Kai Carlson-Wee, poet and filmmaker. This past Monday, the class also went over storyboarding, and actively created a short storyboard for their film adaptation, some of which I will share if the students give me permission.
The first drafts of these short films will be shown and critiqued in class next Monday, with final drafts screened at the reading by poets Aracelis Girmay and Jenny Johnson on Wednesday, April 12th.
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.
- 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:
This morning I created a little exercise for myself, a prompt to keep me creative when I don’t have the time or energy (ahem, end of the semester) to keep me writing poems. I collected tweets, with some redaction and the introduction of some punctuation, from three other Twitter users with the name Emilia Phillips, and I created the found poem below. The line breaks are mine. The exercise could easily be adapted for the classroom setting, especially if you have your students search for their online name-twins.
Found Poem Made Up of Tweets By Three Other Emilia Phillipses, All Teenage Girls
Today marks the first time in history
I have ever been satisfied
with my school photo. There’s a special place
in hell for people who think it’s okay
to rip out your earbuds and eat
your food without asking. If only
emotional stress used up
calories. When I say there’s nothing
to eat I mean there’s next to nothing
I enjoy. Quit saying I wish and begin
saying I shall. Scratch that,
I hated summer when it was still
winter. Do you ever just think
to yourself what the hell
are you doing with your life. Oh,
shut up with all this
“Previously on…” crap,
I’ve already binge watched
six episodes today. Can’t do this anymore
and I don’t see why
I have to. Wow I really
like Chance the Rapper
#plottwist. I can’t pretend to smile,
all I do is think about how
my life can be better. You don’t
understand true fear
unless you walk in on somebody
using your laptop
without your permission. I just monster
sneezed all over
my phone. Lana del Ray is
queen. I spent 12 dollars on
frozen yogurt 2 months ago
and I get angrier everytime
I realize it. I don’t feel 18…
My mom is trying to explain
the patriarchy to my sister.
Ain’t nothing gonna put out
that flame — my chem teacher.
I couldn’t resist trying my hand at another one.
Found Poem Made Up of Tweets By Three Other Emilia Phillipses, All Teenage Girls (II)
All I do is grumble about being bored
and tired. I’m always playing this game
called am I overly sensitive or were you
really being an ass. Politeness is becoming
so uncommon that many people mistake it
for flirting. The friend zone was invented
by guys who are friends with girls
and believe they are owed
sex for being a good friend. We all love
a nice ass. I am so stressed out. I have
way too many things to deal with right
now. My parents are literally watching
a nature documentary and narrating
the thoughts of the animals. My cat thinks
the Christmas tree is grass and keeps trying
to eat it. I actually feel shameful for having to use cutlery
to eat pizza. Braces suck. Who hurt you?
Why are you so pretty! So bored
of my hair. Ok next week I’m going
healthier. Need next payday
already. Christmas just isn’t the same
when it’s in the middle of summer. It’s awesome
how you can read a book, watch a film, listen
to music, speak with someone you love and forget
that there is a world
around you. Does anyone else remember
The Country Bears? I used to love that film.
Fucking vile creatures. They’re the spitting
image of a piece of shit. Peep this
gross pic of me. The proof is in the way
it hurts. I’m not always vulgar.
Sometimes I’m sleeping.
Yesterday I drafted a poem titled “Why I Write Poems About My Body.” As an undergrad professor, I’ve been thinking a lot about what writing I was exposed to when I was an undergraduate, what that offered me, and how it limited me. One part ars poetica, one part invective, the poem needed me to write it, even if only for myself.
With a subscription to Poetry magazine as one of the required texts for my Poetry Workshop class, students will have read “Violins” by Rowan Ricardo Phillips prior to completing this exercise, “Of Violins and Violence,” based around the tension between similar sounding words.
Note: In an effort to keep this blog updated regularly, I’m going to be storing my writing exercises and handouts in my Google Drive. I will post these exercises as a link here.
This single document includes three different components:
- An introduction questionnaire, allowing students to tell me a little about them, their needs, and their preferences.
- A Poetry Reading Calibration Exercise, featuring Ari Banias’s poem “A Sunset.”
- A Writing Exercise titled “Home” after the Safiya Sinclair poem by the same name.
I’m giving these exercises on the first day of class in order to get a better sense of where the students are in terms of their poetry knowledge and reading ability. Additionally, I wanted to introduce them to some terminology (e.g. line breaks, tone, concrete details, etc.) that will make it easier for them to talk about poetry throughout the course.
—Pierluigi Cappello, “Staying” (trans. Portnowitz) in new Poetry
ENG 2015: POETRY WORKSHOP
Instructor’s Course Description
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 a couple of poetry collections and The Best American Poetry 2015 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.”
- The Best American Poetry 2015, ed. Sherman Alexie. Scribner, 2015. ISBN: 978-1476708195
- Charms Against Lightning by James Arthur. Copper Canyon, 2012. ISBN: 978-1556593871*
- Poems by Elizabeth Bishop. FSG, 2011. ISBN: 978-0374532369
- A Larger Country by Tomás Q. Morín. Copper Canyon, 2012. ISBN: 978-0966339598*
- Miscellaneous poems/packets on Moodle
*Arthur and Morín will be reading at Centenary College on September 23, 2015.
ENG 2016: PROSE WORKSHOP (ONLINE)
Instructor’s Course Description
This online course will introduce students to a variety of prose forms: flash fiction, the short story, personal essay, and memoir. Using Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing as a technique and terminology guide, students will analyze published prose and write their own pieces for workshop, a collaborative discussion about the effects of writers’ 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.” 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.
- Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway. Longman, 2014. ISBN: 978-0134053240
- The Best American Short Stories 2014, ed. Jennifer Egan. Mariner, 2014. ISBN: 978-0547868868
- The Best American Essays 2014, ed. John Jeremiah Sullivan. Mariner, 2014. ISBN: 978-0544309906
- Miscellaneous readings on Moodle
Proposal for a new form, because I’m writing in it . . .
A “Boulder” is wedged somewhere between a prose poem and a micro-essay, as if between a rock and a hard place, but gestures toward fiction through its willingness to engage in absurd scenarios instigated by the true occasions or circumstances introduced in the title. At under 500 words, it is a rhetorical form that posits itself as another form (i.e. a disclaimer, parable, alternate history, etc.) and it must respond in some way to STUPID SHIT (i.e. sexist, discriminatory, or otherwise dumb-dumb things) said to the speaker. Figuratively, the “Boulder” can be seen as a roadblock, avalanche, or agent of Wile. E. Coyote-style injury.
I have written three so far and I’ve started several more. An example of one of the titles: “An Alternate History In Response to the Man Who Told Me Canned Biscuits Ruined America.”