Transitioning to CW 2 by Parker Burrows

Since the end of my sophomore year, I was eagerly anticipating the day when I would finally become a member of Creative Writing 2, an intimate class featuring the juniors and seniors of CW, as well as an artist in-residence. Following the conclusion of this year’s poetry unit, I got my wish. After being in the class for a few weeks now, I can already observe the big difference between CW 2 and CW 1. Creative Writing 1, a class for the freshman and sophomores, taught by Heather Woodward, is an opportunity to learn the basics of writing and analysis. Heather slowly guided us juniors through the essentials of writing, such as the importance of literary devices, how to find deeper messages in poems, and how to give constructive criticism in writing workshops. 

Creative Writing 2, taught by the wonderful Angie Sijun Lou, is a completely different world. Here, everyone is on their own, and given an opportunity to apply what they have learned after being immersed in the basics. A few days ago, we read through an Emily Dickinson poem as a class, a poem that I had read and struggled to understand in my freshman year. I found that I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I picked up different techniques that Dickinson used, such as metaphor and rhythm. When Angie opened up a discussion about the poem as a class, I was able to meaningfully contribute to the conversation, and articulate how the literary devices enhance the poem, something I couldn’t have dreamed of doing during my freshman year. 

Workshopping groups are another showcase of growth. When reading a peer’s poem, everybody in the class is able to recall their experience of reading and writing poetry, and can give honest, constructive feedback. On some classes, we spend over thirty minutes identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a classmate’s poem. Every person in the class is extremely familiar with the workshopping process, as a result of many years of workshops in CW 1, which creates a comfortable environment in our CW 2 groups. 

This new feeling of independence has allowed me to think about my growth from a clueless eighth grader to an actively participating 11th grader. I am grateful for Creative Writing 1 for helping me get started in my writing, and just as grateful for Creative Writing 2 for giving me a chance to show what I learned.

Parker Burrows (Class of ’22)

Creative Writing II Poetry Unit by Tess Horton

The Creative Writing II poetry unit has spanned over the course of the past month. Our artist in residence, Emily Wolahan, structured the six-week unit in a refreshing way: every other week, we read poetry and essays concerning poetry at home, then discuss them in class. Every week in between, we workshop the poems we’ve produced throughout the previous week. This intensive poetry-production-process has tested my ability to constantly keep up the motivation to write. I’ve written poems I like, I’ve written poems I don’t like as much, but the important part of this exercise is that I am writing at all.

Part of the weeks when we aren’t revising is to respond to various in-class prompts that Emily gives us (usually in some relation to a poem/essay we’ve read); one of the prompts I have particularly enjoyed so far was the haibun prompt. A haibun is a three-paragraph prose poem followed by a haiku at the end. Here is the haibun I wrote in response:

The Tambourine Man Haibun

I met the tambourine man behind the carousel when I was a good age. I am not sure whether I was supposed to meet the tambourine man or not. He was sinking in his pinstriped cloak and the hairs shaking on his upper lip seemed to shine, like the black armor beetles sport even on hot Saturdays. The tambourine man was red in many unnatural places. Red on his scalp. Red on his chin and only on the tips of his fingers. Red on the sagging parts of his pants where his skinny knees were supposed to fit. Skinny knees, I thought. The air was hot and I was suddenly glad I wasn’t wearing anything underneath my dress. The tambourine man looked down at me and slapped his hand on his wrist as if he were expecting hard cow skin instead. I was three feet and his bulging sunshine boots were perfect.

 

Yellow morning was the time I put on sunscreen. The day is early and cold with the promise of heat and pink skin later. White cream becomes a pocket item. I hare that white cream. That white cream is sticky, it sticks to my tongue for many hours after I taste it on my thumb. Soap, like soap. Tied down to a felt seat backwards: is this supposed to be fun? I am sad with the white cream. This morning feels like a white box, sterile from its lack of color, and I feel as if I am suffocating in its whiteness, its medicinal taste.

 

The circus is wet and dark. The tent is orange, tethered firmly to the dew-grass beneath the tarp, and when my father opens the front curtain and we enter as a family, the white cream against his lapel smears. This tent is large and dark. The tambourine man plays his cowskin arm off to the side, quiet. I smile at him from my mother’s shoulders.

 

With a gentle hand

The tambourine man leans downwards to greet me

The cream on my hands is sticky, yellow shoes slip against the mud

 

-Tess Horton, class of 2021

The Two Creative Writings by Lauren Ainslie

I had heard the phrase “Creative Writing One and Creative Writing Two” tossed around before, so when Heather brought it up at the beginning of class I wasn’t completely surprised. But being a freshman, I had no idea what it meant. It turns out, midway through the semester the underclassmen and upperclassmen separate into two different Creative Writing I and Creative Writing II. An artist in residence works with the upperclassman while the underclassmen are taught by Heather herself. Right now we’re focusing on poetry.

I was surprised at how few people were in each group. Creative Writing Literary Arts has twenty-nine people in total, but it seems like twice as much when we are all together. So when we are split up, it’s quiet (which is good because we are working on poetry), and there’s more flexibility in what we’re doing than there was before. I really like poetry, I like writing it and reading it, and having over two hours to focus on it, is really fun and interesting. But the best part about smaller groups and working on poetry, is the fact that I get to share.

Everyday when we start class, we push the tables in and settle in our seats, then whip out last night’s homework. And those who want to share raise their hands, and they do share, and we discuss it afterward. It lets me know what I did right, and what could be better. I now know how to properly analyze and read poems, and I have a better general understanding of language because of it. I also feel closer to my classmates, because we have shared our raw work with each other.  I am excited by this change, but even more excited by the prospect of graduating to Creative Writing II.

Upperclassman by Julieta Roll

As I enter my junior year I have realized the transition from being an underclassman to an
upperclassman. Although the shift was subtle at first, the piling homework and endless SAT prep
soon had me face to face with the responsibility of being an 11th grader. Even if I don’t want it,
I’m getting older, and that means change. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I’m going to college in a few years. Such a large transition seems almost traumatic, but I am
reassured in the fact that many students have done this before me.

I realize with being an upperclassman I understand things more. I have a map of the school in my head, I’ve learned how to take notes, most importantly I feel my writing has improved. What
Heather says is true, writing is rewriting. In order to create finished pieces I’ve had to workshop.
I’ve had to restructure sentences over and over again until I’ve felt crazy. It’s a painful process
but it’s a necessary process. As a junior I understand that, and I understand how vital it’s been in
my development. If it wasn’t for the Creative Writing Department I’d still be writing how I did
in the 8th grade, and oh! How sad that would be! I think this is true for most students at SOTA.
We spend half our days practicing, analyzing, and we get better. I guarantee you any senior who
looks back on their freshman work is going to cringe, but that’s part of the process. It’s how we
learn. It may be in three years time I look back on this very blog post and think, “Geez! What a
loser!” But that’s okay because I’ll know I’ve improved.

I think I’m trying to take junior year day by day. One thing I know is I’m going to keep writing,
and I’m going to keep rewriting. Hopefully soon I can find balance. Between my art, between
my academics, and within myself.

Julieta Roll, class of 2019

Poetry Through Jazz

by Hazel (’13)

We recently finished our Poetry through Jazz unit in Creative Writing II. It was a new approach in that it gave our writing a historical context, both in terms of subject matter and style. But the one thing that will really stick with me was something that Justin (our artist in residence) said on the last day. He invited us to thing about sentimentality and rationality. We’ve all been told, or perhaps told ourselves, to “stop being so emotional and just think rationally.” I’ve relied heavily on this approach to life, especially in recent years. I would banish emotion by placing it into ill-fitting, “rational” boxes. But here is the underlying issue that Justin brought to light: why is emotion fundamentally inferior to sentimentality? I think one would be hard-pressed to say that it is not viewed as such, at least not in the academic world (by which I do not solely mean schools, in case that was unclear). I view my own emotions with a certain contempt, subject them to scrutiny, and place them below essentially any “reasonable argument from anyone, no matter how unreasonable it may be.

I suppose my question is more of a “how” than a “why.” How did we end up here, thinking as we do? Can we find the roots of such thinking in the Enlightenment? Or is it older than that? Is it more prevalent nowadays, or is this simply the era in which I am alive and sentient? How is it affecting us, personally and societally? What would we be like without this bias? How would our thinking on a plethora of other subjects be altered if we did not hold it, if it had never existed?

Those are a few of my questions. Now here is my statement: let’s stop. Not entirely, of course; I’ve expressed my personal love and use of rationality. However, we should not discount our emotions simply because we have been taught that we are above them, that to feel is childish. To feel is not to be infantile, but rather to be mortal. We only have so much time, but there is enough both to feel and to reason. There is certainly not enough time, however, not to be honest with oneself.

ps. This was not just me building up to a yolo joke, I promise.