CW2 Final Poetry Project by Otto Handler

In Creative Writing Two, we finish off each unit with a larger project. Due to the fact that we have different fellows teaching each of these units, these projects look different every time. I am a junior and getting ready to finish off my first poetry unit in Creative Writing Two. The project that our current poetry fellow, Angie Sijun Lou, introduced was a call for seven poems, most of which we had already been working on over the course of the unit, plus an artist statement, a short artist biography, and an introduction to your work written by another student in the class. This all may seem like a lot, but I planned out my timing well enough and it worked out fine. 

When I started the poetry unit back in early October, I was purposefully trying to write my poems in a singular voice so that the collection would be unified. I had recently immersed myself in the work of Raymond Chandler, and my poetry is inspired by his short and precise images. Chandler was an American writer best known for his mystery stories, including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye.  His characters are lonely and sharp-tongued, and the world they live in is dark and desperate.  My poems’ speakers feel like the similar people, the way many of Chandler’s stories feature the same famous detective, Philip Marlowe. My poems talk about isolation and being stuck in one’s own thoughts–I was, without meaning to, writing about the pandemic. 

My poetry has taken on a new tone throughout this unit, either because of the current turmoil going on in the world, or just because I felt like I needed a change from the work I was producing before the pandemic started. Whichever was the case, I feel as though this change was an improvement and a sign that I had grown as a poet since Freshmen year.

Otto Handler (Class of ’22)

Struggling With Poetry By Otto Handler

Performance poetry is usually the first unit of the year in the Creative Writing department. Last year, as a freshman with two weeks of workshopping summer work, I felt like I wasn’t ready for the unit ahead of me. Not that our performance poetry unit last year was unsatisfactory, quite the opposite. I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if I didn’t have the case of the freshmen nerves.

Our artist-in-residence, Preeti Vangani, has helped me look at poetry with less tribulation. Now, as a sophomore, many things have changed, I have chosen the elements of writing that I feel I am better at. I am becoming more confident in my work as the unit progresses. Poetry is still a form that I need the most work on. I am fine with this fact and still have two more years to work on improving my writing skills in general.

I was able to fully experience and participate more like a full member of Creative Writing during this unit. I have written a more promising peace for the show coming up in late October. I am looking forward to the show because I now have a piece I feel more confident and generally happy about and that I didn’t just choose this piece a few short hours before school. I’ve actually had some time to type up some of the prompts, that I had written throughout the week no matter what I had thought about them originally. This is a poem that I wrote for this year’s performance poetry unit:

 

Unchangeable

You don’t like that word?

You like that word?

Burn in hell

I don’t care

Because I hate it

So, we’re gonna change it

NOW!

And I mean NOW!

The world will immediately and without noise bend to my will.

No one and nothing will ever describe anything as unchangeable again

No more unchangeable ADHD

No more unchangeable slow processing

No more unchangeable other things

 

How ‘bout

We knock the two letters “U” and “N” off a cliff

Never to be heard from again.

Let’s see what we have left.

You see, everything just becomes changeable.

Unsatisfied becomes satisfying

Uneven becomes even.

Unfortunate becomes fortunate

How does that sound.

Yes

I know and don’t care if its not grammarly correct.

That’s not the point.

What is the point one asks?

To change that mental mindset everyone carps about

No those words suck too

When one uses those words

They make me want to run away screaming

Out

Of

My

Mind

 

I know all of this

Small stupid rant

sounds too positive

So full of sunshine

So full of promise

So full of hope

So, I assure you

It will never happen

The two letters are

way too important to the English language.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t hope.

 

-Otto Handler, Class of 2022

Playwriting as a Freshman by Otto Handler

Being a freshman, playwriting was something that I had rarely tried out. As a result, I felt nervous going into this unit because it was one of the only forms of writing that I had little to no experience with.

As the Creative Writing Department usually does, we read a lot of the specific kind of writing before we try our hand in creating a piece of our own. As we were reading some different plays with our artist-in-residence, Sara Brody, a feeling of dread started to form inside me. I didn’t have even a fainest clue about what I was going to write my ten-minute play about. Even though most people didn’t have ideas, I still felt like I was the only one. 

For the end of every unit in Creative Writing I and II, all the students put together a final piece that includes all new skills learned throughout the unit. Playwriting was no exception.  After a week of workshopping these plays, the students turn in all scripts and Isaiah Dufort, our department head, Heather Woodward, and Sara Brody, our artist-in-residence chose the lucky plays that will be cast and performed at our playwriting show which happened last week. 

Being a freshmen, my play was not chosen for the show (thank goodness) but I was worried if my play would even make it through the extensive week of workshopping. It did make it though and despite my attitude toward it when I first wrote the play, I ended up with a decent ten minute skit.  

When I finally came up with an idea for my play, I didn’t like it, but my play was due on Monday, and it was Friday and I had already written a little of my play and it was too late to change my idea. I spent many weekend nights hating what I was writing and then, on the weekend, I slowly began to actually enjoy myself. That’s when my play was the best, when I accepted that the first draft wasn’t going to be perfect and that I required time to really become interested in my idea to push it to its best potential. 

The best part of the playwriting show was the casting process. It was interesting to figure out who worked for which role. When I was asked to try out different roles, it was the first bit of acting I had done since middle school. Most plays and musicals at Ruth Asawa SOTA are put on by the more performative departments such as Musical Theater or Theater. I think that the Creative Writing shows always turn out good, despite the fact that we are not a performative department. 

My parts in the play were playing two children. One of them is living in a sad suburban midwestern town that had pretty much nothing going on. The other one lives in a suburban town full of people with wacky christmas lawn decor.  They were both different characters with different emotions and personalities. 

This show was an opportunity to act and be a part of a bigger thing. Both are things that don’t often happen in a normal high school.

— Otto Handler, Class of 2022

Class Discussions by Otto Handler

Class discussions are a big part of Creative Writing, and we all have our own different opinions about the works that we read in class. These conversations are often hard for me because I get lost while reading very easily, and I tend to freeze up and stay quiet during class discussions.

When we entered the fiction unit after winter break, I was glad that it had arrived. I love poetry, but after six weeks of it, I was ready for something else. I also thought that with the fiction unit, I might participate more in class discussions. However, see above, regarding freezing up and staying quiet.

I thought that because I am having trouble finding my tongue in discussions, I thought I would express myself here.

We read a lot of interesting stories throughout our fiction unit but one stood out to me. “The Trojan Sofa” by Bernard Maclaverty was first published in the April 16, 2006 edition of The New Yorker. It’s a story about a boy named Niall who is literally in his family business. The business happens to be theft, and what Niall is in, is a sofa. Niall’s father sells a sofa to someone who is rich, and delivers it with his son sealed up inside, waiting for the owners of the house to go to work so that Niall can emerge from the sofa and assist his father and uncle in stealing all sorts of valuables from the house. Including the sofa. While in this sofa, Niall notices what the rich people do during the nighttime and feels a blend of nervousness and excitement to participate in his family schemes.

But that’s not all this story is about.

“The Trojan Sofa” brought up the divide in the 1980’s between the British versus the Irish. This brought on lots of conversations about the conflicts as well as a brief history lesson done by our department head, Heather Woodward. I appreciate learning more about a conflict about which I knew nothing.

But that’s not all this story is about. Niall being in the sofa reminded me of my class participation, which as I said before, is minimal. Niall obviously needs to be quiet when he’s stapled into the sofa, and I often feel mentally safer when I keep quiet too. But just because someone doesn’t talk much doesn’t always mean that they have nothing to say.  Even though I don’t say much in class, I still feel like I’m still part of my own criminal gang in Creative Writing. We make things happen and we always get the loot.

Otto Handler, Class of 2022