[DR]: 12/13

by Frances (’14)

On Friday, we continued our playwriting unit by workshopping our plays. I’ve always liked workshopping. It’s a staple of the Creative Writing department, and a good complement to the feedback we get from our teachers. Peer perspective is much different from professional perspective. When, for instance, Isaiah gives us criticism, he focuses on what he thinks we should change because he is viewing our plays from the eyes of a more experienced playwright. During workshopping, we tend to see each other’s work the way an audience might see it. We let ourselves get excited about our favorite parts. This is important, I think. We see our art the way an art viewer would see it.

In other news, Midori lost her phone and spent a good deal of class looking for it. At first, she assumed that she’d left it in one of her morning classrooms, but then she used a GPS tracker to locate it, and realized that it wasn’t even in San Francisco. She watched helplessly as it moved from city to city across the peninsula. Molly called several police departments. It was only after a lot of strife that Midori realized her classmate, Cristina Rey, had taken the phone.

Found Poetry

CWII had been with Maia Ipp for our poetry unit (recently ended), during which we studied Jack Spicer and his whole thing with Federico Garcia Lorca. There were a lot of bewildered questions and exasperated exclaims: “So Spicer just claimed that Lorca wrote everything in After Lorca? Even the ‘translations’ of other people’s poems? Even the poems Spicer himself wrote?” We studied the concept of translation, as well as Spicer’s “transmissions” from Lorca (who is, of course, dead at the time Spicer wrote in his name).

One topic that particularly gripped me was found poetry. Of course I’ve known of them– my fellow senior Giorgia loves them (and I the way she does them, by cutting out the lines in strips and manually rearranging them)– but I’ve never had much interest in the form. Maia’s class, however, and what my fellow CDubs were doing with found poetry, made me think twice.

The first exercise we did was to make found poetry from Spicer’s Vancouver Lectures. I’ve always been a categorical thinker, so the stuff I pulled out of the text belonged in certain categories, so my poem read more like a list than anything else. However, as my classmates began sharing their constructs, I realized how linear the poetry could be. My thoughts and intent had more freedom than I had initially thought; the original text is not a constraint, but a guide.

(As it happens, I like my poem enough to throw it on here– so maybe this entire blogpost had just been an excuse to show it off.)

After Spicer’s Vancouver Lectures

Tonight, Eliot on one hand and Duncan on the other, you know, nice poetry
hang it onto metaphors
emotion machines in perpetual motion

Infinitely small:

One-eighth of the struggle
FIve dollars from Ten dollars
First step, step Two, Third stage
Two or Three years later

I prefer more the unknown
Nonsense:

the furniture in the room
children’s blocks
Oscar Wilde

nonsense you have to avoid
Or you are stuck with
screwed up
being inside you

Some of my best friends are dying in loony bins
Some of m friends are dying in loony bins
Some are dying in loony bins
Some are dying
Some are loony bins

On found poetry, Poets.org says: “Many poets have also chosen to incorporate snippets of found texts into larger poems, most significantly Ezra Pound. His Cantos includes letters written by presidents and popes, as well as an array of official documents from governments and banks. The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot, uses many different texts, including Wagnerian opera, Shakespearian theater, and Greek mythology. Other poets who combined found elements with their poetry are William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, and Louis Zukofsky.” I had never thought that including lines from other texts could count as found (though now that I think about it, duh). That’s one of my favorite kinds of allusions– referencing not only the content, but also the style and form of another piece of writing.

The Found Poetry Review came up in my brief research for this post. It looks sleek and awesome, and I’m definitely checking it out. (Let’s end on a random plug.)

[DR]: 11/4, Thirteen Empty Goats

by Olivia A. (’14)

The Virgin Mary, three chambermaids who are actually literary critics, and a pigeon walk into a bar. Or a book. Today in Creative Writing 2 we finished reading After Lorca by Jack Sparrow. I mean George. I mean Spicer. Does it really matter?

We read an absurdist play written by Federico García Lorca and translated by Jack Spicer called “Buster Keaton Rides Again: The Sequel.” We laughed a lot while reading it though we acknowledged that most of the Spanish citizens who witnessed it back when Lorca was alive probably weren’t laughing. When we stopped laughing we were frustrated with the idea of absurdist art. We talked about how absurdist works all aim to do the same thing—that is, to exhibit the ridiculousness and lack of inherent meaning in life—over and over again. Someone said that we would probably only need one play in the world with this idea and then we could move on. But really, I think that the things we do are always absurd! Here are some things that have happened during this unit:

Giorgia asked Maia about Hebrew semantics halfway through the lesson!
Avi has a Kit-Kat addiction!
People (probably not C-Dubs) tape clippings of hair to the bathroom walls!
We think the phrase “13 empty goats” is really, really funny!
A boy tried to run out of the room and the door shut just in time for him to slam up against it!
Maia was in a puppet theater!
“Federico García Lorcker!”
Anyway, our poetry unit is ending and we as though it went by very quickly. I am going to miss Spicer, Lorca, Maia, and especially the static electricity on the cover of my reader.

Surrealism Friday

by Abigail (’14)

Have you ever watched a Key & Peele sketch? As we discovered on Friday, November 1st, they’re not just a great way to procrastinate—they’re educational.

Next time you find your cursor hovering over the YouTube icon, try these two videos: “I Said B*tch” and “Check That Sh*t Out.” While you’re watching, think about the surreal elements of each 2-minute narrative and how they point out the strange/ridiculous nature of some common human experiences.

CWI and CWII spent Friday together, learning about Surrealism—a timely subject to be studying the day after Halloween, the most surreal holiday of all. After Key & Peele, we watched segments of a lecture also found on YouTube introducing us to some of the main figures, themes, influences, and artworks of the surrealist movement.

We acted out a short, (very) surreal play by Jack Spicer, a poet CWII has been studying. Jules played Buster Keaton. Colin played Buster Keaton’s bicycle. Olivia W. played an owl, of course. Midori and I played Adam and Eve. Other characters included a rooster, an American, and four angels. Buster Keaton gets on his bike and…I can’t quite think of a way to summarize the rest, but it caused us to debate the function of surreal writing. Does it have a place in today’s world, or is it outdated?

During discussion, we came up with the general conclusion that surrealism is still relevant. (Happily, we have Key & Peele backing us up.) Surrealism reminds us of the innate strangeness of the world—which may be a reminder not to take things too seriously. What is “real,” anyway? What is “normal?” Most “normal” behaviors seem bizarre if you think about them too hard.

Does all creative writing have a surreal side? Many poems, at least, cannot be understood in a completely logical way. Here’s some reliable backup for that idea, too: former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall wasn’t even sure what his own famous image, “white apples and the taste of stone,” signified when he wrote it. Here’s the interview in which he discusses this fact: http://billmoyers.com/content/423/ (go to about 23:00 minutes). Language itself can feel surreal too: say any word over and over, and it will suddenly lose its meaning and start sounding like a mere collection of sounds…

In conclusion, some words of wisdom from poet Hugo Ball, who appeared in the lecture in a funny hat I’m pretty sure he made himself: “wulubu ssubudu uluw subudu…ba-umf…ba-umf.”

[DR]: 11/8

by Colin Yap (’16)

Let me set the scene for you:

Friday, 1:10. We, the students, are inhabiting the minutes after lunch but before class truly starts. It is just the freshmen and sophomores; the CW2 class has vacated the classroom. We sit at the ready, making quiet conversation, waiting and wondering about the class that lies ahead. What are we going to do today, I wonder. . .

Heather calls for our attention. We turn in our poems, the final drafts of the sound poems we have been working on for a while. Heather speaks: “so, going off your instruction from yesterday, and upon learning your weariness and lack of energy, I have decided to dedicate this time to sleeping.”

There is immediate silence. Someone says, “wait. Really?” We all think, “wait. Really?”

Heather smiles, and says, “yes, really.” We cheer. “But we need to clean up this room first; it’s been too long since it has been dusted and scrubbed down fully.”

We get to work, dusting the book shelves and wiping down the tables, trying in futility to align them completely. We play music and dance as we do so, and it is a joyous Friday afternoon.  We spend the rest of the day relaxing, lying on the carpet and reading, even reading poetry aloud in a circle to our peers, just because.

Heather sits at her desk, quietly finishing up her work. Josie and Noa doze off next to the book shelves. Sophie reads Dylan Thomas aloud to everyone. Everyone gives themselves the due time to relax and prepare themselves for the weekend, shaking the stress of the school week off our shoulders. It is a happy and free time in Creative Writing, all thanks to Heather’s respect for the benefits of doing nothing.

Image 

[DR]: 11/7

by Amina (’17)

Today in C-Dub I, we were joined by the delightful company of shadows (in case any of them are reading this, thanks for visiting, and hopefully we didn’t scare you too much), as we continued workshopping poems we all wrote with a special attention to sound and texture. Basically, our whole poetry unit has been based on sound, because as Heather insists, “SOUND IS EVERYTHING!” So, it was interesting to revisit Josie’s, Noa’s, and Olivia’s poetry with that kind of critical eye. I think we had a pretty rewarding workshop experience this week, especially considering all our comments today. Amazingly, seeing as it’s nearly the end of the week, we managed to stay on topic, sans a small tangent on sleep paralysis brought up by Noa’s poem.

On an unrelated note, Justus and I wore the same shirt today. (We didn’t plan it, I promise.)

amina_justus

[DR]: 11/6

by Olivia W. (’16)

Today we started off Creative Writing with a writing exercise, which
is not uncommon, given the nature of the department. Our instructions
were to write about where we were. Not literally, though, unless we
were planning on using that as a metaphorical device. Personally, the
prompt related to something that had passing through my mind. As a
teenager, I am in a constant state of growth, not so much physically
anymore as mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Some adults refer to
the moods of the human adolescent as “phases.” I refer to them as
“being between selves.”

After some time was spent responding to this prompt, we were
encouraged to engage in a group led activity known as bonding, or
“feeling circles” for those envious spectators not included in our
departmental cult. Yes, we bonded over pastries, our department head’s
favorite, these funny little half-madeline half-brownie things. I am
not ashamed to admit the ten of us devoured all twenty four
instantaneously. When this self-led bonding was done with we moved on
to the real work: workshopping. Today we workshopped the first of the
four sophomore poems, which are all heart-wrenching and breath taking.
This may be because I wrote one of them.

Creative writing always has good days. Today was mellow and
fraternal. Tomorrow, i know, will be much the same.

[DR]: 11/5

by Josie (’16)

Whelp, it was just an ordinary day in Creative Writing I. By ordinary, I mean abnormal by the denotations of ‘school’ but completely regular for Creative Writing. We spent the art block critiquing an assignment from last week. The assignment had to do with what we have been studying thus far in the poetry unit: Sound. We were all to edit a poem we wrote earlier by first recording our voices, then listening to ourselves read the poems and critiquing our own work.

I personally found this method to be very successful since I never listen to myself read a poem. I could tell instantly what needed to change solely based off the way lines and stanzas sounded. Today, we spent time reading the rewrites and thoroughly discussing each one. In fact, we so finely combed through each poem that in half an hour, we had only gotten through one poem! So, Colin, a diligent sophomore, was deemed with the title of “Time Manager.”

Being someone with a rather short attention span and exhaustion due to sleep deprivation, I could have been easily lulled to sleep. However, the level of discussion and the quality of the poems were so intellectually stimulating and extraordinary, there was not a second I did not feel like contributing my opinion or listening to what other students had to say. I found myself leaving school thinking about the sounds of words and the way poems sound. We came to a realization at the end of class: Poems about movement do not necessarily have to be about movement, but have to sound like the movement they are expressing. I thought that was pretty great.

Today we were also host to three kids shadowing the Creative Writing department. I wish I could have talked with them more, but I did manage to find out one girl was in the midst of publishing her very own novel in England! This is just an example of the unique and interesting people that come to Creative Writing.

On top of critiquing poetry, working hard, and meeting shadows, my friend Noa (16’) and I were also trying to come up with a name that was a mixture of our two names. Our purpose was to prove our level of friendship to the Emmas, freshmen in the department. I LOVE the Emmas, but Noa and I were upset that they shared a name and they were friends, so we decided it would only be fair to share a name as well. We finally settled on Nosie Wendoza. Below is a picture of the class, and gangster Noa.

[DR]: 10/31, In terms of Halloween costumes

by Frances (’14)

Most people dressed up, sort of. Heather had a spider on her head. Molly wore a dress and a horse mask. Olivia A was the Common Application, which was pretty much the scariest costume I saw all day. She’d even written out her personal statement on her legs. Among the others, there were many animal ears and many wings. Maia dressed up as herself in high school, which meant a funny orange wig that I think was supposed to indicate that she’d had different hair at the time, though not necessarily orange hair. I did not even sort of dress up, but I guess I also did a pretty good job looking like myself in high school. Staying true to her costume, Maia played some of the popular dance music from back when she was in high school, and we had a department-wide dance party.

Later, in Creative Writing II, we continued the Halloween celebrations by watching a video of Salvador Dali—who was a friend Lorca, a poet we are studying—as a guest an old game show where blindfolded contestants asked questions to figure out the guest’s identity. Although Dali answered yes to practically all the questions, the contestants eventually asked whether or not he had a mustache and figured out who he was from there.

Then we played a Halloween-themed word game—which was actually in some ways similar to the game show—involving teams and trying to convey the name of a monster to your team without actually saying it. We took “monster” pretty broadly, as C-Dubs do with most things. Our monsters included: Miley Cyrus, Ronald McDonald, several Frankensteins, and the counting vampire from Sesame Street.

[DR]: 10/30, Facing Fears in Poetic Expression

by Clare (’18)

Two weeks into Creative Writing One’s poetry unit, with Halloween and the end of the marking period looming near, we have arrived at a point where few brave writers have ventured before: meter. Last week, a whole hour was spent trying to define stressed and unstressed syllables. Many terrifying terms were floating around the room today such as iambic, trochaic, and –gasp – rhyming.

You see, although rhyming poems are pleasing to the ear, they can be challenging to write and often result in a circle of tired students shouting out words that rhyme with ‘nest’. Nonetheless, the class made a valiant effort, everyone tackling their own pattern of meter, and although some students concluded their poem by smacking their head repeatedly into their notebook, a few gems emerged. These will be read tomorrow with great enthusiasm (in full costume).