[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).

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.

[DR] Monday, Oct. 28th

by Giorgia (’14)

On Monday we returned to the classroom from our annual camping camping trip at Kirby Cove sleepy and smoke-smelling with fresh faces and new stories. Among which Heather learned to play snaps, Giorgia (’14) tried to teach samba, Justus (’15) was a sexy bookcase, the freshmen underwent forceful (and ultimately unsuccessful) segregation, the Schott-Rosenfield (’14, ’17) sibling rivalry went crashing into the sea, and Colin (’16) finally took down Jules (’14), our own departmental kraken, during our traditional beach romp. Mostly, it was just, as the young ones say “cold as balls.”

Obviously, we had a lot to discuss on Monday. We did this eating delicious peanut butter chocolate cookies Noa (’16) made for her writing buddy, Lizzie (’14) (happy 17th birthday lizz!), and leftover croissants, potato chips, and izzes from the trip. We talked about our favorite moments, what went well and what didn’t.

After our Kirby Cove debrief, the freshmen went off to the dark cavern they call “Freshmen Seminar” with Maia, and the rest of CW settled down with Sarah Fontaine (<3) for umläut. It’s early on in the year, so we are currently lying out preliminary framework, along with rebooting umläut‘s online presence and overall mission statement.

That evening, five seniors– Midori Chen, Mykel Mogg, Giorgia Peckman, Frances Saux, and Abigail Schott-Rosenfield —read at the Book Club of California (of which Abigail is a member). We were asked to the Book Club by Abigail’s grandmother, Kathy, earlier this year. Each of us read through a section of the Club’s collection (the club specializes in fine print press), mostly Tangram books, and each selected one or two works from which to write from. Our response poems focused on California history, and the relation of landscape and the individual. It was quite exciting to read our work outside of the school community, especially in such a rich and resonant environment full of so many monumental works.

We also sold a full set of umläut to the Book Club!

Remember the de Young

For a week in September, Maia Ipp came into Creative Writing and taught a “Craft and Critique” class in order to prepare us (well, us being CDubs sans seniors, ’cause our three years of sweaty toil has earned us privileges, dammit) for a new department requirement— the literary critique (see Smolly’s Daily Report for reference).

We began by defining the word “critique” and its connotations— for someone to be critical is usually negative, though to look at something with a critical eye is pragmatic and sort of good. Using these definitions as a springboard, we then worked to redefine “critique” and came up with a new operational definition: analysis of the text and its effects with the intention to either better it or to simply point out its success.

(Yes, those are my words, and yes, they are carefully diplomatic, but that’s the jist of it, I think. Y’know, people always say to not shoot the messenger, but what if the messenger screws up?)

(No I change my mind. Please don’t shoot this messenger.)

We also discussed ekphrasis, which is sort of the evolved version of part two of the lit critiques, which are the creative responses. An ekphrastic piece of art is inspired by another piece of art in another medium— the example we looked at was a poem inspired by a painting. The poem stood on its own well enough, but with the painting there was a basis to work from, and there was suddenly a synesthetic duality to its evoked meaning.

On Friday, September 20th, Maia’s  class ended on a high note. We visited the de Young museum and the Diebenkorn exhibit (which I will admit I did not see, sadly— it was just so… populated there) to create our own ekphrastic pieces of writing. And it’s kind of hilariously awesome, because Maia was so inspired by all the poems we turned in, that she took lines from all of them and created a group found poem, so it’s something like meta-ekphrasis.

(Though if we really did the math, it’s 1.5 ekphrasis, because while not everything we wrote was poetry— mine certainly wasn’t— words to words still doesn’t count as an entire ekphrasis, I don’t think. Hence the point-five.)

On top of that, Frances (’14) and Lizzie’s (’14) poems were chosen for special mention. Here they are below:

After the de Young: a group found poem

The poem that follows is composed of lines taken from the Fold-Up responses. Every Creative Writer is represented, and lines have been only minimally changed where necessary.

Tell me about the life you’ve built
the way it seems to fall apart
in the drifting winds that run through empty houses.
I, too, remained nameless that year.

A stretched film over the skywater above us.
It fractures though, by gravity or worse.
How hard it is to keep it together:
the water that was made in darkness.

The sun is smooth and patient, a pulse of light wavering between leaves and branches.
The ocean offers a flat relief.

I would die in this place,
my body slouched on a blue plastic chair, the door
open for the world to see.

Skin the taut surface of water—
A round, flat eye.
It is dangerous without being alive.

Examine for bloodlessness the bold predawn birth.
I had golden feathers,
but now everything is moonlight
undersea.
Stung, bitter, by our blackened palms.

I found you beached,
your burnt snow gills gleaming.
To do something with these arms—
I nod quietly, stare into wind and snow, letting its sting replace the one I feel in my chest.
I am not to be approached.

The most refined woman is nothing but texture.
You may be full to the core with honey and old water.
So soon, we’ll both be useless things.

Frances Saux, after Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1955

I, too, remained nameless that year—learned in the clench of summer the constituencies of self, somehow—
One night she’d gone and I took three, four tries at a match, but too selfless to start supper I let them die out—
What was moving that year, what was anything?
I needed medicine and thought a spoon of vinegar, a slice of lemon looked all right.
And I thought I’d go on a walk but of course I didn’t. She came home, I stayed seated, she let the water run in the kitchen sink, I thought about the lengths of water, for lengths, the anonymous water.

Lizzie Kroner, response to The Wild Swan by Alexander Pope

It is wild—it is like painted taxidermy. The swan hangs so majestic but still so pathetic in its demise, tied to a door. With its full, faded head it can only exist as a symbol now. It evokes meaning without having a meaning of its own. In its death, as in all deaths, it has lost life, but its corpse, bright and beautiful and sprawled, wings spread, emanates such vivacity you have to question whether it is really dead or not. Of course it is dead, its webbed feet are tied by a string to the hinge of a green door and its gold is only visible when it is directly under the light. But the stillness of its heartbeat means nothing. The painting doesn’t have a heartbeat either, neither do these words, but they mean something.

[DR]: Tuesday

by Sophie (’17)

IsaacCreative Writing is the last class of the day which means that by the time we get here many of us are exhausted and want nothing more than to sleep for a few hours. Sadly, that’s not possible because we still have an incredible amount of work to do for our upcoming show. Today we started things off with a pep talk slash lecture which seamlessly meshed reassurances about our capabilities as C-Dubs with the fact that we need to go deeper with our theme. It can’t just be the funny story of aliens on a cruise ship— it must be the meaningful funny story of aliens on a cruise ship. As Heather and Rachel said, the best humor is the kind that reflects the truth.

After this Heather took it upon herself to energize and inspire us by jumping around and impersonating various animals on the carpet (see the sotacw Instagram) while challenging us not to laugh, which to her credit seemed to bring stress levels way down. We also fretted about what decorations are absolutely necessary for the show (not to give away too much, but, portholes).

For the second half of CW we worked on tightening up our skits, which are admittedly all over the place in a fabulous sort of way. We developed characters, reviewed dialogue, and tried to bring a deeper meaning into the show. I don’t know about everyone else, but I think my group has definitely got the scriptwriting thing down to a science. Write something down, laugh about it for a while, then realize it’s the best we can come up with and move on.

We wrapped up the day by celebrating Giorgia’s birthday (apparently I was too early with the cupcake/cronut thing yesterday) in a suitably CW-ish manner, involving the rapid consumption of chocolate cake and lemonade.

In conclusion, if you aren’t already planning to attend this year’s Creative Writing show, I have one word for you. C’mon! CW ’13: Insane Alien Cruise Ship Skits With Deeper Universal Meaning is really not something you want to miss.

[DR]: Monday

by Maya (’15)

We spent Creative Writing today presenting rough drafts of scripts we had written in small groups for the show. This took, surprisingly, the entire period, but we gave each other helpful feedback and will continue to develop our scripts and ideas. We presented in the order that the “interludes” will appear in the show. This was helpful because it gave us a better idea (or, an idea in the first place) of the cohesiveness of our scripts, and showed us how we can create more of a through-line. Also, we got necessary feedback on the content of our scripts from Tony and the rest of the class.

Another thing we did was start to cast the main characters in the “interludes,” which, without giving anything away, turned out to be exciting and efficient!