Saturday 27 September 2008

Reading matters

Leona Theis dropped into Luther the other day. The next two days I spent in Winnipeg at Thin Air, where I had a couple of readings.

Leona talked and read with my students, a great addition to our class. They made each other think, I think. I know I wrote a bunch of stuff down.

In Winnipeg I enjoyed the hospitality of Thin Air. With 7 of the 14 longlisted Giller writers on hand, I was surrounded by fiction writers. All the better. I laid a little Human Comedy on them.

At this point, I could try to explain either why I tape photos of Virginia Woolf and Gabriel Dumont to my office door, or why in Winnipeg I walked to the downtown Mountain Equipment Co-op store and Louis Riel's grave.

Either way, I had to press Friday morning to prepare for talk of Bruce Rice's "Story of a Tree" in one class, and a kind of journal-essay assignment in another. The talk of the Rice poem proceeded like this: I ask for questions or observations. Silence. Silence over here too. More silence. Ok, talk about it in groups then, I say. That works. Turns out, these readers were experiencing the very process the poem itself was more or less describing (increasing abstraction in Mondrian paintings of a tree). We moved on to something else eventually, but now I'm thinking we should come back to this idea for an update: how do you read? do you need specialized knowledge when you read poetry? can you live with surrender?

Thursday 18 September 2008

Today's Class

I just finished reading new work by my creative writing students, which was fun for sure. I notice that people who think about writing write better stuff right away. But that just opens the door to so much more these writers can do.

Part of the fun for me in the professor position is whacking the horse on the rear end, so to speak, not that I know a thing about horses. My point is that now that the writers have arrived onto the field, they have to let the animal go, and I'll stick with animal.

I think some students become friends, or at least neighhbours, of their characters. Which means, maybe, watch them veer off.

And now I want to come up with a way of putting these matters to my students.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Loco log, first pass

6063 standing still westbound Swift Current

8883 west near Swift Current

9840 eastbound near Morse

9418(some of these back to front)
9108 Parkbeg eastbound 3:58 pm Sept.1

Wednesday 3 September 2008

First Day of Classes

This week I start two new classes with poetry, beginning with talk of "what we're not going to worry about": hidden meaning, analysis, what the writer intended to say, what the poem is supposed to mean--the list is obvious, no doubt. Make that three classes, because we've already begun the same conversation in my creative writing class, around that John Fowles quote I lay on them: "An answer is a form of death." So what kind of poems do you like to read or write, ones that answer or ones that don't?

I'd like to tread warily around a poem with my first-year classes. Get it in play, then leave it off to the side as we talk our way somewhere else. Come back to the poem when conversation lags.

Now that I think of it, I wonder if the convocation address I have to deliver in October could claim that the situation of the grads about to embark on the rest of their lives is analogous to that of a first-year student about to read a poem?

At least this much is sure: in either case, the meaning is as close as your own use of language.