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Denis Johnson, “Emergency“
Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried“
Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been“
ZZ Packer, “Brownies“
Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants“
Welcome to our Class!
Thursday, October 14: Theme
Poems of the Day: In the Theatre, by Dannie Abse
Cambridge Elegy, by Sharon Olds
Theme exercise here.
Please post your response to Joyce Carol Oates (story link on left) here.
This story was made into a movie in the 80’s called Smooth Talk (trailer), starring a teenaged Laura Dern as Connie and Treat Williams as Arnold Friend. In 2020, a restored version of this movie was played at the New York Film Festival, where the author was interviewed (link): if you start the video at 4:51, you’ll jump right to Oates talking about how the story evolved and the dedication to Bob Dylan. Laura Dern and director Joyce Chopra also comment. Check it out!
Tuesday, October 5: Poetry Workshop!!
Stick your workshop poem here.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021: Formal Poetry, Part II: Covid Sestina!!
Divide up into three groups of six. Crowdsource six end-words: Split up and come back with a sestina!
Thursday, September 23, 2021: Characterization
Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Meter and Rhyme in Poetry
Interesting thoughts about how breathing shapes poetry…. by poet William Wooten
Barely anyone writes in trochees. Notable exception: The Tyger, William Blake
Homework for Thursday: Read Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” and write a response here.
Thursday, September 16, 2021: Plot
- Which of the seven plots in Margaret Atwood’s list does “Emergency” fit?
- Time does not flow chronologically in this story. Why didn’t he write the story more like this?
- The rising action seems to have a few false starts. Why?
- What is the source of the story’s conflict? Is it literal or thematic
- Where is the “climax” moment in the story. What tension comes to a head?
- What has changed by the end of the story?
- What kind of unreliable narrator is F*ckhead? Deliberate, evasive or naive?
- What is the purpose of the unreliable narrator?
- What does F*ckhead “do” for the story?
- There is barely any description in the beginning of the story. Most of the action is propelled by dialogue. Why?
Plot Exercise: Working Backward
Turn it in here
Tuesday, September 14, 2021: ZAP
Imagery in poetry/simile & metaphor:
Short creative non-fiction piece of the day: “Finding the Hammam” by Fatima Asghar
Tips on writing imagery, by Margaret Atwood
Many Scientists Convert to Islam, by Nomi Stone
Different Ways to Pray, by Naomi Shihab Nye
Homework for Thursday: Read Denis Johnson, “Emergency,” and write a reading response here.
Thursday, September 9, 2021
The tone of your six-word memoirs tended toward sadness: it’s not surprising, given that we are living in the Burning States of Pandemic these days. I hope that Herbert’s poem from last week is a balm for your souls.
Question: Why do I/would I/might I want to write creatively? What has “triggered” me to create in the past? Post your answer here, anonymously.
Exercise: 10-line poem :
Give me ten random words:
Then, subvert a cliche!
–“it’s raining cats & dogs”
–“don’t let the cat out of the bag”
–“woke up on the wrong side of the bed”
Homework: Finish 10-line poem and post here
Song of the Day: “Dry Lightning” by Bruce Springsteen, from the excellent album The Ghost of Tom Joad.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
What’s a memoir, you ask?
“The past is not static, or ever truly complete; as we age we see from new positions, shifting angles. A therapist friend of mine likes to use the metaphor of the kind of spiral stair that winds up inside a lighthouse. As one moves up that stair, the core at the center doesn’t change, but one continually sees it from another vantage point; if the past is a core of who we are, then our movement in time always brings us into a new relation to that core.” Mark Doty, “Return to Sender: Memory, Betrayal, and Memoir,” The Writer’s Chronicle, Nov. 2005
Homework (due 9/9): In the forum, comment on a colleague’s memoir that strikes you as odd or surprising. Which words, or combination of words, evoke an unusual feeling or image in your mind? Write at least two sentences.
Today’s writing playlist: Aussie surf rock & worthy covers:
First thing, subscribe to this website so you’ll know when I update it: