Ten Commandments for Teaching Creative Writing

The commandments are short and, relatively, simple, but the strongest value is in the quality of the set-up and discussion:

I. Thou shall teach both theory and practice

II. Thou shall teach students to neither mistake, nor suppress, themselves for their audience

III. Thou shall articulate the difference between vision and revision

IV. Thou shall create a plan and be prepared to improvise

V. Thou shall encourage and practice freedom with restraint

VI. Thou shall boldly state absolutes in the realm of the relative

VII. Thou shall teach reading and writing, and the importance of both

VIII. Thou shall coach students to strive for art but be prepared for life

IX. Thou shall lead as an equal

X. Thou shall temper the dream with pragmatism

found via Pedablogue

A new poetry form

to me. At least, if it’s not new I only vaguely remember it. Found at Common Room, which I’ve been reading for quite a while now. But rarely have so many posts in one day appealed to me personally as something I need to blog and mark.

a pantoum from my poetry book, “The Roar on the Other Side,” by Suzanne U. Clark:

“It’s not too difficult to write but does require skill and thought. This form, originally from Malaya, was brought to the West by Victor Hugo in 1829. Here’s how it works. Write four lines of poetry. Fill them with imagery. Number the lines. In stanza two, repeat the lines according to this pattern: line 2 from the first stanza becomes line 1 in the second. Line 4 from the first becomes line 3 in the second. Lines 2 and 4 in this [second] stanza are new ones you will write. The next stanza repeats the pattern. There’s no limit to the number of stanzas in a pantoum, but let’s simplify the form by thinking in terms of four.

When you come to the final stanza, all the lines are written. It’s up to you to decide the order. Use lines 1 and 3 from the first stanza and lines 2 and 4 from the third. Ending with line 1 gives the poem a strong finish, like a circle being closed. “

Problems with English Class: 4

It’s a question of language. Newmark’s Door likes “straightforward modern English.” He says that nothing else should be read.

With an exception or two, students should only be asked to read works written in straightforward modern English. No dialect, no Olde English, little Faulkner. My high school English teacher delighted in having the class read aloud from The Canterbury Tales. To what end, I have no idea. (I’ll except Shakespeare and maybe Tom Sawyer.)

No one is reading Old English in their high school classrooms. It’s an entirely different language from English, with its own syntax, vocabulary, grammar rules, etc. You have to have a class in the language before you can read anything in it.

And I CERTAINLY agree that Faulkner’s not much fun. (I flunked a quiz on one of his books that another guy in my class aced using Cliff Notes.)

But to avoid the Canterbury Tales, just because it’s not in modern English, is to miss the funniest, bawdiest, weirdest tales in English history. What student wouldn’t laugh at someone getting farted on? Or having their butt burnt? Or someone thinking the world was really flooding? (“The Miller’s Tale”) I translated it as we read it in class. But there’s some fun stuff in there. I mean Chanticleer has even been turned into a kid’s story, like a more modern Aesop. (“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale”)

It is hard to read dialect. Modern authors are told not to write in dialect, but just to put it in “regular English.” But I think it sometimes diminishes the tale. No, I don’t always want to read dialect, but I do think it adds to the verisimilitude of the story.

Love Poetry in the Wall Street Journal

Joanne Jacobs today has an article about a teacher who got tired of “love is like a red, red rose” in her poetry class. So she required that the students write their love poetry only using words from an article in the Wall Street Journal.

I can so see where this would be fun.

I wonder if I will ever teach a college creative writing class. Maybe, if I get my novel published.

Poetry Stuff

This would be a fun site to copy for class on poetry next semester.

July 20, 2004 is “The Five Stages of Poetry Reader Grief.” Love it.

Here for your amusement, are Joan Houlihan’s Five Stages of (Poetry) Reader Grief:

Given a reasonably intelligent reader, the default explanation for his or her not being able to understand even a smidgen of the poem cited seems to be that they have not been properly educated in the art of reading. Therefore, their reading takes a predictable course, one that follows Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief:

1. Denial

This stage is filled with disbelief and denial. You can’t believe someone seriously wrote these words and presented them as something worthy of your attention.

2. Anger/Resentment

Anger at the situation, the baffling words in front of you, the poet and his or her poem, perhaps others– reviewers, editors or book publishers–is common in this stage. You are angry at them all for causing the situation and for causing you pain.

3. Bargaining

You try to negotiate with yourself to change the experience of reading this poem. You see the poem as an isolated instance, something idiosyncratic and not likely to recur. You make deals with yourself to “work harder” and “read more” poems of this type, to “give them a chance” when you’re not so tired. You might bargain with God, “I’ll be a more disciplined and patient reader if you’ll just give me a hint as to what this one means.”

4. Depression

You realize the situation isn’t going to change. The poem happened, it was published, you will never understand it or why anyone sees value in it, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Acknowledgement of the situation often brings depression. This could be a quiet, withdrawn time.

5. Acceptance

Though you haven’t forgotten what happened, you are able to begin to move forward and approach another poem, try to begin again.