Wednesday 27 February 2008

One way of looking at this afternoon's English class

I have often told my students that I love the sight of them writing, a sight I saw again today.

One hand to steady the page, the other to move the pen. The writers lean forward, their eyes watching their hand. Innocent as children sleeping.

Who they are narrows for a moment (especially in this case, a midterm exam).

Maybe the simplest way to say what I try to achieve with my students is this: to open that range back up again. Use writing to do it.

Either that, or I've been watching too many classic movies

Thursday 14 February 2008

Survivor: Love Island

After some Survivor-style foolery, in which four love poems were voted off the island by my first-year English class, the winner was Burns' "A Red, Red Rose" in a close vote over Kim Addonizio's lusty contemporary sonnet (its title escapes me at the moment) about kissing your tattoo. (The other poems were an E.B.Browning sonnet, a Sharon Olds lyric, and one of C.Bok's letterplay pieces.) All along, as we read and talked about the poems, my students claimed the Burns poem was too "cheesy", but in the end it won.

Today in another class, given fifteen key words on which to produce as many "short talks"--quick hits--as possible, the two words least used were "sexuality" and "mourning".

In both cases, then, the safest choices were made. This tendency toward safe readerly/writerly choices is the largest single impediment to effective teaching of literature and writing, in my opinion.

Tomorrow I'm heading up to St. Peter's Abbey for a week of writing. Unsafe writing, I hope.

Saturday 9 February 2008

Meanwhile, love-wise

In the very spot we'd touched for the first time, we touch for the last, memories already.

The winds'll do ya, someone must have sung.

Bring on the anger and humiliation, and a set of essays.

Monday 4 February 2008


I'm thinking of getting a gizmo that provides about two or three octaves of piano keyboard. Just to lay down some bass lines.

Writing a song right now. Or would, if I could shake that Tom Waits snarly blues tune "got the push, got the shove".

Mine goes something like this so far: Got the switch, got the fan. Got the sunlight, got the tan--homesick. That's what I call it, homesick. Or, backing up a page or two: Got the room, got the shovel. In times of doom, I use a shovel--homesick, etc.

My friend Regan was telling me about the new system he bought. Can lay down multiple tracks, vocal or instrumental or electronic, cut a cd just like that.

You'll know I'm serious about the songwriting thing when you hear me do "Stan Still's 5/4 Blues for Brenda Brown" with only my only voice for instrumentation, beginning with a bass line groove.

Saturday 2 February 2008

The Forecast

Today old friends will be seeing winter sunshine for the first time in months. They're writing at St. Peter's Abbey, a Saskatchewan Writers/Artists Colony at the southeast edge of Muenster, Sask.

I'm just kidding about the sunshine, but they'll love it anyway for how cold it is, how jewel-like and colder yet.

In two weeks I'll be up there as well. A good day to be writing, for sure.