Response Poetry Unit by Leela Sriram

I have never been particularly excited about writing poetry. I felt as if my work wasn’t “poetic” enough and I would spend hours deleting and rewriting the same line trying to tweak it into perfection. On the first day in Creative writing, I knew that our performance poetry unit was going to be our first, which stressed me out a little bit because I didn’t have much confidence in what I wrote. As the school year has been progressing, my poetry has been improving slightly each time I write and compared to my summer work I believe I have improved drastically.

Currently, Creative Writing is split into two classes, CW I (a class for the freshmen and sophomores) and CW II (a college-style seminar for the upperclassmen.) In CW I, we are learning about responding to poetry in our new unit, which I like to call our “Response Poetry unit.” Initially, I was a bit daunted by this idea of mimicking the form and style of other poems, mainly because I didn’t really know how to properly use certain literary devices, but after giving these “response poems” a try, I feel more confident in my ability to respond to poems and share out in class. One of my favorite things about our “Response Poetry unit” is that we have a lot of freedom regarding what we can write about, but the poems have to be in a certain format, such as four three-line stanzas and a couplet. So there is a lot to work with within the format, which gives some guidance.

For our “Response Poetry unit,” we have been writing a poem a night, for our project where we make a book filled with all these poems. When first learning about this assignment, the making of a book filled with poetry that we have written in response to other poetry really interested me. Here is a poem I wrote and turned in for this unit, inspired by “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

13 Different Ways of Looking at the Moon

I

Within darkness,

The only thing disturbing

The void, was the glow of the crescent moon

 

II

Wind blew idly by,

As crevices

Creeped up upon the surface

 

III

The Moon Lady is solitary, they say

But she has the sun, for an eternity.

 

IV

The ocean bleeds onto sand

As the First Quarter moon hovers, heavily

 

V

Seven hungry men

Run through every crater

Searching for

The mythic moon cheese

 

VI

Sometimes,

If you look close enough

The moon

Has three eyes

 

VII

The full moon

Enchants the earth

With its melted-silver glow

 

VIII

What is it like to be the moon

To look out at a sea of stars,

Yet the only thing sparkling is you

 

IX

In Between the trees

And the waning gibbous moon

Another twinkle appears

But its just a plane

 

X

Maybe the moon’s

Not just a fan of the dark

But also enjoys time with the sun

 

XI

Drenched in rainwater,

And the moon is still

Shining

 

XII

A tear rolls down

Its rocky crevised face

But the tear never falls off the surface

 

XIII

We fly from coast to coast

In a pitch black sky

The waning crescent moon,

Is always with us.

 

-Leela Sriram, class of 2023

Idea House by Zai Deriu

This last Friday, Creative Writing had our yearly poetry show. We spend the week before rehearsing and reminding everyone we see to come to the performance, and in that time, I reflected back on how much I’ve changed and grown since last year’s show.

My writing has become far more precise and interesting, for one. It’s so much simpler for me to transfer my thoughts into words than it was last year. The fact that I know I’ll only continue to improve through my time in Creative Writing and through the rest of my life is incredibly exciting to think about.

Things that would have terrified me last year, like being the first to read their poem, was not quite so scary. After Heather opened the show and the first sketch was performed, it was my turn to read. My legs started shaking a bit halfway through, and I switched two words around at one point and had to backtrack, but I felt fine. There was no moment of oh god I can’t do this. Then I just got to relax backstage. I took off my shoes so I could walk backstage without the audience hearing my footsteps and listened to everyone’s poems. I didn’t have much time to stress over reading my own work before I did it.

It’s occurred to me this year, especially this past week, how nice it is in Creative Writing now that I know everyone better. In my freshman year, everyone already in the department was open and accepting to me, of course, but this year I feel even more solidified and comfortable in the department in a way I didn’t even realize I was lacking last year. It’s not as though I’m sharing my work with strangers or even close acquaintances but actual close friends.

Creative Writing has an incredibly strong and close-knit community, I might even go so far as to say a family. It’s not just a class that we all happen to be in together, we’re friends who care about each other on a deep level. As we all took a bow to close out the show, it struck me just how quickly last year passed by, and that it will likely continue to pass just as fast. It makes me sad to think that one day I’ll graduate and I won’t get to see my department five days a week, but it also makes me value the time I do have. I don’t want to take any of this time for granted or leave with any regrets in mind.

 

Zai Deriu, class of 2022

Ethics Bowl by Midori Chen

On Saturday, Abigail, Frances, Mykel and I piled into the Schott-Rosenfield minivan and drove down to UC Santa Cruz, where the annual National High School Ethics Bowl was being held.

This is only the second year since its inception, but competition was intense. Schools from across the Bay Area sent one or two teams— Bentley, Kirby, Hillsdale. Competing teams were given fifteen cases to prepare for before hand, each with its own ethical dilemma to consider. The day of the competition, two teams went head-to-head, giving a five-minute presentation, a three-minute response to the rival team’s rebuttal, then ending in a ten-minute section for judges’ questions. We were scored on presentation, depth of argument, and cordialness to our opposing teams.

There was talk of starting an Ethics Bowl team in SOTA since the end of last year. Jerry Pannone, SOTA’s previous Orchestra director, led the charge in November; we had two months to prepare. SOTA managed to put out three teams, so three graduate students at SF State coached us in the cases regarding argument and presentation. The team of CW Seniors (we actually didn’t plan it? It just ended up that way? Maybe?) got Matthew (or Professor Howery, in his classes), aaaand…

We got to semifinals! I’m typing with a stupid grin on my face. We won against three out of four teams and went to semifinals!

So philosophy has this reputation of being all, “So what is the meaning of life?” with bitter old men and wine, and there were concerns going into this that Ethics Bowl would be like that. It’s not that at all, thank the powers that be. We take very real, very contemporary situations (Frankenburger, Indian Child Welfare Act, One Child Policy, Trayvon Martin, just to name a few) and determine the essential ethical conflict, then decide on a stance to take. I’ve found that often times, I would discuss a situation and immediately have a gut feeling about it being right or wrong— the case that comes to mind is “Political Sex Scandals,” in which the question is whether or not it’s moral to reinstate a politician who conducted sexual indiscretions back into office. My gut feeling told me No, that’s just bad. However, Matt then told us to redefine the question, specifically where “sexual indiscretions” mean “a breaking of a sexual contract between the politician and his or her partner(s).” Given that the politician does not misuse public funds or violate another person’s autonomy/cause them harm, the question becomes a little bit harder. Ultimately, it was an argument that Mykel gave in favor of “Yes, we should reinstate the politician, if his/her previous track record proves his/her competence” that solidly changed my mind— that it was the duty of the voters to be rational and get over that gut feeling if the politician produces good results. This is just one case in which my ethical intuition (as it were) became more fleshed-out.

Competition day was intense. I’ve never done anything like debate before, so I was shaking, and I had a stomachache, and I was dizzy, and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears… It started out somewhat dreadful. As the day went on, though, my confidence in and love for my team grew more and more— gosh they’re so cool. Bee-Gail had this stately, austere way about her (as she often does), Frances was precise and eloquent, and Mickel was a boss on articulating snap responses. My favorite moment was when Matt was, I guess, so happy with one of our responses (I think it’s when Frances shot down someone’s attempt to draw a Hitler analogy) that he put on his shades in the middle of the relatively dim competition room. In that moment, I could feel my confidence sky-rocket.

Conclusion of this story: ethics is a ton of fun. Our team wants to begin building next year’s team now, as to better prepare them (as we found out, meeting once a week for eight weeks was not enough time). Also we just want to keep debating ethics. An interesting topic to possibly have in Creative Writing— questions such as the ethics of writing fiction (misrepresentation of reality?), or even a character exploration exercise in developing how they respond to the ethical dilemmas proposed in our cases. I’m already writing one for a character in my thesis. Matt is super cool— our team talked for hours during celebratory dinner on Tuesday night, and we’d love to share his brain and person with the rest of CW. (He’s even a cat person. Wow.)

[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).

Operative Word: Creative

There always has been lots of talk about how Creative Writing and our operations are vaguely cultish. This is completely untrue, if we understand the purpose of a cult to be veneration for a perceived idol. This is completely true if we base the label on actions alone— small, inclusive, apparently secluded. So for the sake of transparency, here’s a glimpse at one of my favorite aspects of CW:

Creative Writing, when the emphasis is on Creative.

Not in a bipartisan way where it means anti-writing (we try our hardest not to be “us and them,” here). Needless to say, I love writing— love it so much it seems completely inadequate to state it outright like that. I can write a full showing-not-telling discourse on my love for writing on a later date (maybe I’ll use it as a college essay, ooh), but for now, take my claim in good faith. Writing is so entrenched in me that I don’t even need to specifically mention it— it’s become part and parcel of me as a person.

(Consider cooking as an analogy. You get a new wooden spoon, a spatula, a panini press, whatever untensiland it’s the coolest thing ever. You explore all avenues of its use— the slight indents, the sleek metal that provide numerous functions, whatever you can think up. You do everything— stir fry, whisk, spread butter— with it. But once you get used to holding it in your hand, it becomes a tool, something to help you get to an end. What’s fresh and new become the ingredients, the recipes. It doesn’t mean you lose your love for the utensil, and it becomes so essential to your process that it’s completely unperceivable, the thought that you’d have to fry eggs without your spatula.)

So here in CW, Creative is as much of our content as the writing. My favorite example is that one time in freshman year when we went ice skating. For creativity. And it sounds like a nudge-nudge-wink joke (it most definitely 50% is), but we’re serious about it. To write takes knowledge in both its form and content, obviously, and we can’t write about or with knowledge we don’t have, obviously. So part of CW is supplying us with a large bank of knowledge we can draw from.

And here’s another thing that I absolutely love— the fact that we’re so judicial about what sticks and what doesn’t. We know that ice skating isn’t for everybody as much as we know that sonnets and rhyme schemes are not for everybody. We get that some people can do parkour or capoeira, and respect them as much as we respect us folks that lie on a sunny patch of carpet every chance we get (that is most definitely not just me). If our unit is on Beat poetry, no one will take it personally if that style doesn’t particularly resonate with you (appreciating the topic in context and seeing its value in its time is another story— one that I personally think should most definitely be a requirement). We get and respect that other people have opinions. Whoa.

This leaves us with a lot of freedom to pursue anything we wish. In case it hasn’t been hammer-over-the-head obvious yet, I’ve discovered a heavy fascination with the psychosocial effects of war. For other people, I know there are authors, styles they are enamoured with, or other topics of discussion (social welfare, the prison system) they explore and explore and always come up with something fresh for. It seems a bit counterintuitive, but honestly, in my experience, I think the more you write about a topic and the more you explore/research it, the more you have to write about. It’s all the different perspectives, see— the 7 billion in the entire world, and I’m not even counting the artsy interpretations of the POV of a molecule or something (but seriously, science poems are the best). And should you ever find yourself done with a topic… teach it, I guess. Impart that knowledge onto someone else who wants to know everything about the world (the entire CW department comes to mind).

I don’t know; I don’t really have a thesis. I just love to be around people who love to learn, I guess. That candle-lighting analogy might work here— that lighting another candle is not a detriment to your own, that the more candles there are, the more light there is.

Rehearsal Week!

Yes, that exclamation point in the title is totally warranted, even if the permalink doesn’t think so.

Voyager is off to a great start— we’ve got our whole cast and crew here: Heather, Tony, Rachel, Carol, Isaiah, Maia… Plus the brilliant tech crew we can’t do without (as Beyoncé once said, “Who run the world? [Tech]!”). For the first time since my four-year-memory (the average lifespan of a high schooler), we’ve got all our Skits-I-Mean-Interludes finalized and roughly staged in the first day of theater rehearsals. We’re also aiming high this year, in that every CDub will have their pieces memorized for the show. I expect to just cruise (badum–CHING!) along this week, until Friday, our big show.

In the mean time, here are some pictures to keep y’all entertained:

Melodica-Alien and Jules Justus-Alien Hula/Macarena (?) girls Audience

[DR]: Friday

by Lizzie (’14)

As this blog post is delayed and I have had the weekend (which seems like ages) to think (or rather not think) about class, much of my memory of Friday CW has been muddled by the utter blur of Saturday and Sunday. However, here are the details of class that have prevailed—It was a beautiful day, disproving Jenna Maroney’s (of 30 Rock) snarky remark on the Bay Area, “Have fun always carrying a light sweater,” for no outerwear was required. Now this point may seem irrelevant to CW but the presence of the sun completely alters the CW environment—everyone seems to have a sunnier disposition (pun intended). With that in mind, our class discussion on our soon-to-come show was light-hearted and (although correlation is not causation) thus more productive. Yet this was only the first half of class. For the second half, we went, as a class, to the Ruth Asawa memorial held in the Dan Kryston Memorial theater.

It was a well-staged production that reflected and respected Ruth Asawa’s artistic vision. The memorial began with a Taiko performance and ended with a ballad sung by the entire vocal department. Not only did it honor the life of Ruth Asawa but it also boosted the morale of us SOTA students, combining our art forms in a moving and well-executed way.