Friday, 27 February 2009

Just for the fun of it

After reading Judith Krause's "Black Ice", a poem selected by one of my students, I got this idea. Write a short prose narrative about a car accident or close call. Now re-compose your writing into about eight two-line stanzas, six words per line. Slap a title on it. Ok, now turn your paper over and answer this question: Is this a poem?

My favourite answers:

Yes, anything can be a poem and a poem can be anything.
Well, I wouldn't normally construct a poem this way. So I would have to say not really.
I think it's a poem because I believe it is a poem.
It can be read like one.
This has the potential to be a poem.
There are no set standards to say exactly how a poem should be organized.
It conveys way too much emotion to just be called a "story".
It could be a poem if I wanted it to.
It does not make the best poem because of punctuation, form, etc.

After running those points past my students an hour from now, I'll show them a few accidental linkebreaks like these:

-seatbelt never tightened and his airbag
didn't depl0y

-the right hand lane and cuts
me off

-I felt like I had
no control

-The truck flipped
four or five times, end over


-sister, cousin Brittany and my Aunt
and Uncle in the other.

The final step, for now, will be to invite my students to perform a few simple edits of "punctuation, form, etc." and see what they get.

Monday, 23 February 2009

My poor students, and poor me

I want my creative writing students to listen to what I say--listen, think about, accept/reject as required. But that voice saying
-push it
-I don't think this works
-play up the intimacy
-I think this poem wants longer lines
- delete?
-don't describe, be
-why such familiar responses?
-title a bit static
-try three-lines stanzas?
-love the prose poem push
-check sounds
-swing the lines
-reduce word count by 40%

and whatever else it's always saying--forget it!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Do you believe in God?

Still on the Ratzlaff, we must consider the above questions, since Ratzlaff's book, in the manner of memoirs going all the way back to Augustine, at least, notates a transformation in matters of the spirit, for which that question is a crude point of entry.

I'm going to put this question to my students today by inviting them to respond to it in journal entries (which no one sees) and maybe even by secret ballot. I suppose I'll invite students to respond verbally, although I'm not yet sure if I want to encourage simple statements of position, one way or the other.

My point is to approximate, somehow, the process Ratzlaff covers in Backwater Mystic Blues--an exploration of what he believes and how he believes it. We've seen how bitterly dismissive he is about fundamentalist dogma of any kind, especially the kind he was raised into. We've noted his radical changes of career--mennonite preacher, Ed Psych teacher and counsellor, writer--as he moves, decade by decade, into his own mystic territory (accompanied, from time to time, by an array of mystics from various traditions, and other figures as diverse as Carl Jung and Sandra Dee). All the while he's trying to save what's worth saving from religion and psychology, and he's trying to lay down some lovely prose about it all.