My student and I were meeting about her piece of writing about an unwieldy subject, full of backstory and memories that span 15 years of her life. We talked about how it might be more helpful to work in smaller parts, not worrying about the whole. Write a scene, a single memory. Describe one room. Or write, at least at first, from the beginning to the end in linear, chronological order, then reordering, chopping, and adding onto it afterwards.
I see what you’re saying, she said to me.
And then she says something else.
“I write about it the way I want to think about it.”
I had to write that down.
In The Poet’s Notebook, a 1997 collection of excerpts from 26 contemporary American poets’ notebooks, Alice Fulton transcribes a rather famous quotation from country singer Dolly Parton: “Most people spend so much time looking natural, when somebody like me takes less time to look artificial.”
Because the timeline is approximately right, I have always liked to think that Fulton was sketching out a study for her poem “Unwanting,” which first appeared in the literary journal Epoch and later published in her 1995 collection Sensual Math. On the surface, the Parton quotation is similar to “Unwanting” in its use of comic relief to address the rather serious subject matters. Both also raise very potent questions of what is “natural” and “artificial” in an American experience rife with excess and artifice. Fulton addresses these themes in “Unwanting,” and pits descriptions of Middle Americana against what I will say is the thing represented: reality, memory, and ultimately, death, what the poem calls the “exdream.”
Neisser, Ulric. “The Five Kinds of Self-Knowledge.” Philosophical Psychology 1.1 (1988): 35-59.
Kaplan, R. B. (1966). Cultural thought patterns in intercultural education. Language Learning, 16, 1-20.
Been meaning to blog about this for months. I teach a Friday morning creative writing class for adults over at Rennselaer County ARC. We’ve been creating comics–both original and ones with found art, like above. We’ve been writing poems (the sestina are superb). A lot of collaboration goes on–group word, pass-arounds, exquisite corpses–but we’re writing solo pieces as well.
We’re also writing stories. Some are realistic, some are crazy, and all of them are super-creative.
The latest: some friends of mine–Hallie Goodman, Sean H. Doyle, and Todd Colby so far–have volunteered to read some of the stories.
I’ve posted the audio files along with the stories here.
The performances are so fun!