Thursday, March 25, 2010


Final Projects
Your final project will consist of a substantial creative work based on any one of the readings we have done for class. The project should be a short story or one-act play of about 10 pages, or approximately 6-10 pages of poetry, prose poetry, or flash fiction. It may be in a single genre, or it may incorporate all three (poetry, playwriting, and prose).

You may interpret “based on” in any way you wish, including: borrowing and/or reshaping the text; re-envisioning the situation, location, or time period; taking the point of view of a different character or characters; placing the text in a central place in your narrative; or borrowing a procedure used in one of the books we read (working with the dictionary, or a Shakespearian sonnet, for example).

A description of your project is due when we return from break, on April 8. I will look over project descriptions and contact you that week if your plan is not suitable for any reason.

In addition to the creative work, the project will include an informal 2-page essay discussing your creative process, the challenges and successes you experienced while writing, any discoveries you made, and the ways in which your creative process or the project itself changed (or not) as a result of working on the project.

Your complete final project and your essay are due in class, Thursday, May 13, 2010. Final projects are worth 20% of your grade.

Project Presentations
On May 6 and May 13, we will present our final projects to the class. Final project presentations should be no more than 10 minutes long, and should include the reading of a substantial excerpt from your project, as well as relevant passages from your essay. It is imperative that you plan to be present these weeks to act as an audience for your classmates.

Final project presentations are worth 10% of your grade.


April 8
1) A description of your final project. This should be a paragraph or two in length, and include the following details:
• The artistic work that will serve as the basis or inspiration for your project
• The form your project will take (a series of poems, a short story, a one act play, etc.)
• How your project will relate to the text that is serving as inspiration (for example: a series of re-interpretations of a story, a re-setting of the story in a different time or place, a telling of the story from a different character’s point of view, a set of poems starting with or centered around favorite quotes)

2) The first portion of your project. This can be a poem, a scene, or an excerpt from the story, and can be as short as a page, but it should be something that you plan to use as part of your project.

May 6 and May 13
Final presentations

May 13
Final Projects due in class.

Week 9 Assignments

Writing Assignment ~ Due April 8
Note: Please see the final project information sheet for more details, and feel free to email me if you have questions.
1) A description of your final project. This should be a paragraph or two in length, and include the following details:
• The artistic work that will serve as the basis or inspiration for your project
• The form your project will take (a series of poems, a short story, a one act play, etc.)
• How your project will relate to the text that is serving as inspiration (for example: a series of re-interpretations of a story, a re-setting of the story in a different time or place, a telling of the story from a different character’s point of view, a set of poems starting with or centered around favorite quotes)

2) The first portion of your project. This can be a poem, a scene, or an excerpt from the story, and can be as short as a page, but it should be something that you plan to use as part of your project.

Read for April 8
Sonnet 56, by Paul Hoover

Method, John Cage from Composition in Retrospect
Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun, Heather McHugh
Sonnet 2 and Sonnet 18, Ted Berrigan
Be Drunk, Charles Baudelaire
New Years Resolution, Lydia Davis

Read for April 15
Wit, by Margaret Edson

1. Post an entry about any one of the readings this week. This may be a critical or creative piece of about 200-300 words. It MUST respond to your chosen reading in some way, either by identifying and discussing craft elements, themes, or techniques or by using those elements in a creative response.

2. Post comments on at least three other entries. Remember, this is not a place for critiquing each other’s work. Instead, identify something from the piece that strikes or interests you, ask a neutral question about the work, or suggest ways the author could deepen or expand it.

Anna in the Tropics

This play was definitely one of the best I have ever read. There were so many words and sentences that I had to underline because of Cruz's rich writing. He sure knows how to write in layers and make the readers think as much as possible. I especially liked the part in the beginning where Conchita talks to Marela about changing destiny. "That's how witches get started - with brown sugar. Then they begin to play with fire. Look at what happened to Rosario, she put a spell on her lover and the man died. And not only did she lose her man; she's gone to hell herself" (15). This quote reminds me of how my mom tells me not to be superstitious. I found it hilarious and entertaining.

I also enjoyed the strange relationships in the play and the way the characters feel about love. One reading brought on so many suspicions between Conchita and Palomo. Conchita accuses her husband then and there for having a mistress, and finds herself a man to have an affair with. "You don't make love to me like you used to" (35), Conchita complains. Her husband knows that the book Juan Julian is reading to them will ruin their marriage.

I really enjoyed this play, especially after recently reading "Waiting for Godot", and totally HATING it. :)

Anna in the Tropics

I thouroughly enjoyed reading Anna in the Tropics because the play maintained a sense of simplicity in its style, making it a quick yet enjoyable read. The subject matter is delivered with a strong sense of clarity through its beautiful style. Although the basic subjects were clear, it left the reader hungering for more—a deeper understanding of what they had just absorbed. Cruiz’s style of writing was extremely approachable, using very clear cut storytelling to transform into something of more depth and complexity. This play was much more interesting to me, from the standpoint of comparison to other works we have examined in this class, because of its ability to captivate but not aggravate its readers. It’s a beautiful example of classic linear story structure.

Through this play, I am given the opportunity to examine my own abilities as a writer. I personally, am a poetry writer, and I feel as though a lot of the things we have read so far in this class are more poetry oriented. Anna in the Tropics is a more linear fiction piece with strong story development and a fantastic use of language. It inspired me to work on other forms of writing in my own time as well, possibly even to attempt something along this same style.

I enjoyed Anna in the Tropics. I like how Cruiz was able to use accessible, simple storytelling with a relatable and classic plot to do many complex things. He is able to contrast the convoluted complexity of Anna Karenina with his own Anna in the Tropics while still keeping the homage clear, pitting the modern problem of technology versus tradition against the ancient conflicts of interpersonal interactions, and touch on such issues as education of the lower class, all with a clear and linear plot that was enjoyable to read.

So much of the material in this class has been alienating to read or obscured and inaccessible, all in the name of complex higher meanings. This play defies those to me, by showing you can acknowledge all of these complexities and non traditional goals without having to abandon linear story telling or simple pleasurable prose.

The only thing that really bugged me was the urination bit in the beginning. What was the purpose of it? It did not fit her character for the rest of the play, that is a juvenile, almost incompetent action, one that suggests that the character cannot even control their own body let alone their own actions. Was it supposed to be a joke? Additionally what is the ‘sound’ of someone peeing themselves? This is a nitpicky criticism but it came so early in the play that I went into the rest with a some what negative opinion, though as I pointed out above, it did win me over in the end.

Anna in the Tropics

After reading Anna in the Tropics I found myself experiencing a feeling of satisfaction. This play had an air of simplicity that I find refreshing. By writing in a manner that allows readers to understand the surface of the text, Cruz in turn has his audience wanting to search for a deeper connection to his play.

One passage that really intrigued me was in Act Two, Scene 1 where Juan Julian and Cheche are debating the reasons to switch to a machine that rolls cigars, instead of continuing the more traditional method, currently in place, of hand rolling. Juan Julian, takes Cheche’s idea of modernity and the need to keep up with a fast paced world and throws it in his face, making the point that the whole point of a cigar is to step out of that modern world. He notes that a cigarette is the modern answer to the cigar, and that is what is actually preventing the potential progress of their sales.

I’m not exactly sure why this scene grabbed my attention so intensely; perhaps it’s simply my interest in things of the past becoming obsolete, which makes sense considering the way technology is progressing. That contented feeling I experienced after reading this play, I believe took place because I was able to carry it around with me, and feel the pages of the story. Soon that feeling might be passé and just a fond memory.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Curled up on my couch during a rainy day, I read “Time”by Anne Bogart. And to be honest, it could have not been more fitting. Bogart reveals perspectives on time, both as someone experiencing it and as somoene looking at it objectively. I found that the ways she expressed time most interesting. For instance, she discusses how to some it is a number on a clock, some the sound of a bell, and others a visual change of the day. She challenges how real time actually is and how it effects those that measure it so closely. This is a compelling argument for anyone who frequently experiences a creative process. Bogart explains that time is in fact a partner in completing a creative piece rather than an enemy. I found this idea most striking because it allowed me to reevaluate my own writing process. Rather than staring at the clock telling myself “You only have two hours!,” Bogart reveals that time is merely an illustion. When one feels connected to a creative piece, time should not effect them. As I read her piece I could physically feel my mood relaxing. “Time” did not feel very much like time at all, but an objective understanding of how much control it actually has.


Bogart made a lot if interesting points in the treatment of time and priority within art. I generally share the views she expressed during her explanation on the subjectivity of time, giving cohesion to my otherwise nebulous understanding of the subject. Some moments are irrelevant, forgotten so soon afterward they might as well not have happened at all no matter how long they took on the clock. Conversely, a few moments can take pages and pages to describe and stay with the reader/viewer forever, just like a wonderful or traumatic moment can stick in the mind in real life, regardless of technical length. The quote about tragedy becoming comedy with added speed is true too - compressing or abridging a long dialogue can make even the most tragic of subject matter seem trivial, and everyone knows that speeding up film can make any scene funnier. I have a lot to think about with the use of time in my future works - how can I play with it to enrich the experience?

Creative Response to Time

Here's my creative response to Anne Bogart's Time.


Age is the number of years one has been living life. In some cultures when you are born you add a year. It is denoted by the number of candles you put on your birthday cake. After ten, there are too many to count. In numerology, age is important component to compute your fortune.

Currently, we are in the age of Aquarius. We are in the age of global communication and technical innovation. We are in the age where battles are still fought over religion and in the name of peace.

Age is the wear and tear on paintings in the Louvre. The weathered and worn marble statues in the Colosseum. The flasks uncovered in ruins once held wine that was aged to perfection. Wheels of sharp chedder cheese ages for months on shelves. Soybeans ferment in covered pots. The roots and rings on a tree tells its age and history. Wrinkles on a human face tell us their age and the journeys of their lives.


I'm not so sure I share everyone's enthusiasm for the article on time. While I did appreciate the writing and enjoyed reading it, I wasn't necessarily as effected by it as much as everyone else seems to be. It was decently insightful and I loved some of the examples that she gave (especially the one about the Jazz musician), but that's all they were to me, neat stories. I think I was even less affected because she spends a lot of time talking about paintings and sculptures, art forms that I have minimal interest in. I could see myself enjoying this article more if it was more focused on time in the practice of writing specifically instead in a more general sense. Or perhaps I am too shallow to fully appreciate what she is trying to say through this article, either way, it was a good read for me but not much more.


I thought Bogart did a good job making the distinction between objective time and subjective time. This was never something I really put a lot of thought into when I work with fiction, but having it broken down into terms like this made it easier to turn to my own work and apply this. I found it interesting to think of the times I've read or written a physical representation of time in a piece of fiction, be it a clock, watch, etc. This piece made me wonder why we use these images. What about time are we trying to represent with these?
I think the most helpful line of the article that simplified things in a way I can apply them to my own writing is, "You cannot literally manipulate time, but you can influence perception of it" (129). Time is a difficult thing to work with in writing and molding it can be confusing when you don't have the right approach. This quote made it easier for me to understand what I set out to do in a piece of writing, that I'm using words, pacing, and tension to manipulate a reader rather than the story.


This peice will stay with me for quite some time, maybe forever. I was immediately seduced by Bogart's theory of art and time, it's unique relationship and delicasy of such a paradox. Bogart goes on to explore the function of art; to awaken what is asleep. When I read this, I see the awakening of one's imagination- one's wounds, memories, desires, even one's innerchild. Art displays something beyond the objective routine of day to day life and it's very fixed material presence of both the man made and nature. Art, is the awakening of what is asleep in us, most of the time, if not all the time. I just loved this, and being an artist myself- this resonates with me on so many levels, as I personally turn to art as a form of awakening and meditation.

Bogart speaks of subjective time vs. objective time, and in the "time" I have taken to read this piece I learned that I just might be lost, endlessly in subjective time, pondering Bogart's fact, I believe time is subjective in all cases, depending on your immersing surroundings. Some of Bogart's examples of this are...

"While sitting in a car at a stoplight...the time between the red and green lights can feel endless. Three minutes in a boxing rings is eternity."

And in the family of time, serving as the mothership of all that we percieve as "time", are the subsets of time that are personal, relational and collective.

"There are many aspects and subsets of time: the internal clock, the individual's fated time on earth, the changing times within relationships and endeavors, the timelessness of sleep and dreaming and the times to act and times to be still, breath time, responsiveness in time, and so on."

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of my response to Bogart's piece, in fact, if we are given a similar prompt for our Final Paper, as we were given for our mid-term, I have already decided I will more deeply engage myself in "Time"

What a stunning work; subjective, creative, right brained, intuitive....unique!

Time is on my side

I loved all that Anne Bogart explored with time. More than loved, in fact. Exploring the concept of time has been one of my favorite interests for a couple of years now. The perception of time and the roles our own space (person) play in time’s progression are endlessly fascinating. It makes so much sense to investigate time through the lens of art, for better defining the relationship between the two brings us a better understanding of what it is exactly to create in the first place. Though Bogart focused on the theatre, all art mediums are affected in time, if not in the same way, definitely to the same magnitude. Essentially I believe art seeks out presence, which is a place of timelessness. It is thus the artist’s job to create an environment where time is suspended, or at least manipulated so that the audience’s own concept of time is suspended or manipulated. If the artist can embody their medium with this kind of presence, that opens the gate for the audience to embody the thing that is created so that they may have a unique experience that is both part of time and timeless. If artists are supposed to be vessels through which something greater than the individual flows, what is subsequently created serves as a portal to the rest of the world to another dimension so to speak where time ceases to exist in the linear fashion of day-to-day living.

Anna in the Tropics

This is one of the few plays I've ever read. Plays often get the short end of the attention stick when it comes to the Creative Writing department, and I'm glad to see that we have Anna in the Tropics and Wit. Unfortunately, I've never read Anna Karenina, but the parts they did have read out loud in the play I noticed correlated with the story line, and I knew enough of Anna Karenina and its crazy love triangles. I didn't really like the character Cheche, he seemed to obvious of a bad guy, and perhaps that's just personal taste. The only time he really seemed human was when he was trying to persuade the workers to accept the new machine, to bring in modernity.

The clash between traditional and modern ideals, the romance and other social undertones of the play made it overall a very enjoyable work for me.


Kate: I agree, I thought it was really interesting to see how much the novel was affecting their personal lives. Had it not been for that novel specifically, would Conchita have had that affair with Juan Julian?

BRent Hutchinson: "Hot and cold" is the perfect way to describe the novel--the cold and calculated language of Tolstoy mixed with Cruz's very passionate voice, a voice much like Juan Julian's.

aliset: Your poem really captures the mood portrayed by Marela. She seemed to float above her duties and life and observe, much like the dew you described.


Time has always been a difficult thing for me to grasp, it gives structure to our lives in a way that is incomparable with any other human invention. One thing in particular stood out to me in this essay, that if you slow down a bit you'll realize you've got all the time you need. I'm a career procrastinator and I believe wholeheartedly with this statement, when things get down to the wire and my due date is rapidly approaching it seems all my thoughts come together, instead of three weeks of concerted effort a 5 page paper or creative work will take me an hour (assuming research is done before hand). This decisive limitation I impose on myself is the catalyst that allows my work to be completed. It is kind of like the weeks of inactivity were filled with subconscious brainstorming and rough drafts, in the longer fictional piece I've been working on the characters proceed in much the same way, they live their lives without acting on their agendas until the shits about to hit the fan and then they spring into action, mainly to avoid consequences rather than to accomplish goals.

A last note on time making beauty into the norm: I used to be an art major, I did ceramics for about seven years, some years saw drastic improvement but after the third or so I stopped trying out new forms, it was enough for me to keep making the same bottles and bowls because I experienced each in the moment and felt my skill increasing. However, everyone else saw stagnation, to them I had stopped progressing and lost my creativity. Until I read the section in this text on subjective time and time making one numb to art I hadn't realized why it was I felt each piece was unique when outwardly they looked the same.

Anna in the Tropics

I loved this play. I am surprised to see myself type that because I'm really not one who enjoys plays. Maybe I just haven't read the right ones until now, though.

First thing's first, I loved the interpretation of Anna Karenina. I read Anna Karenina two years ago and definitely did not sense the passion within it that Nilo Cruz does. I mean, yeah, there's a love triangle, things are messy, people are trying to follow their hearts in a time when the heart's desires aren't considered that important, there's violence, but somewhere after page 400, finishing the book was more about finishing it than enjoying it. This might have to do with the chapters where we follow Levin's thought processes and learn about all the politics of the time. In any case, it was really inspiring to read Anna in the Tropics because it condenses Tolstoy's moments of magic into an enjoyable experience. I also liked how the presence of Anna Karenina within the play enhances the characters' personalities within the play. Marela is an innocent and beautiful dreamer who doesn't get the man she wants, like Kitty. Cheche and Palomo are the jealous types like Anna's husband (ah I forget his name). Conchita has an affair and discovers new ways to be alive like Anna Karenina.

I think the final scene where Cheche shoots Juan Julian is amazing too. The story parallels his action, and shows the desperation of Cheche. There's no begging for mercy, no explanation of motive required. The audience knows why Cheche is committing the murder and how it will affect the rest of the characters.

Anna in the Tropics response

The idea of telling a story within a story intrigued me about this piece. How the romance novel affected the characters within the play got me to thinking about stories and what they really are. It seems like everyone's life is a story to them, and the ones that they hear within that life connect them to the lives of others, whether they reflect to actual people or not? Follow me?

a story line, in literal translation
is not any more than a life.
which character is a person we know
hope to know
hope to describe
and one day hope to love
as if they were encased in
an imaginary body.

we sift through layers of situations
looking for one that
affects our outer reality
and can provide something
more than
for our subjectivity.

where is the line defining
a plotline from wishful thinking?
when do the tales of others
become recollection of ourselves
and the places we never will travel to
and the conversations we will never have

Anna in the Tropics

One of the things that I loved about this play was the way Cruz was able to infuse Cuban tradition with the literature of Tolstoy, two seemingly, completely different things. By structuring the play around the reading of Anna Karenina, not only is Cruz able to comment about the parallels between the characters of the play with those from Tolstoy's novel (which suggests such passions and romances are universal and, as suggested in the play, entirely human), but also suggest the romance we have lost with the coming of modernity. This is exemplified by the inclusion of lectors which has been a tradition since the Taino indians as said by Juan, giving the play a romantic yearning for what we have lost.

Anna in The Tropics

Anna in the Tropics presents differing perspectives on how to approach life. One of those approaches is through violence. In the openeing scene of the story, we are introduced to the game of cockfighting. In the game, victory goes to the opponent who is the fastest, strongest and smartest. These are elements that Cheche, a man who is cautious but also believes that if approaching a problem with reason doesn't work, then power and violence will surely get the job done. This line of behaior is evidenced when Cheche grabs Marela and forces her to him after rejecting his looks and attempts to seduce her. Further examples are when Cheche asserts his power over reason when he kills the lector whom he believes hsi iews are practical in their modern age. Howeer, these actions seem to be born of failure because they can be seen as a reaction to failing to mechanize the factory.

Adversely, the characters of Ofelia and Santiago seem to hold a more empathetic view. They oppose the mechanization of the factory because the process would take away workers jobs. Instead of agreeing with a majority of the people at the factory they decide to invest in a new line of cigars they plan to strategically market and sell. Another example of the power of reson in the story comes during a piotal moment when the workers are trying to decide whether or not to install machinery in the factory. Ofelia and Juan Julian insist that they take the democratic process by putting it to vote. These clashes with Cheche's assertion of power as the two use judgment and reason to come to a solution.

I felt that this story was reaffirming in the fact that it was about people whom decide to use thinking over intimidating uses of power. The power of the mind is emphasized in the story with positive consequences while Cheche, whom believed that through displays of power you can achieve any agenda, was driven to madness at the refusal of his plans. I identified instead with Ofelia whom sought the most logical solution that would help her fellow workers. I would agree with Cheche's view to the extent that the workers need modern technology to work with so they can compete and be more efficient. That to me is sound reasoning, but not at the expense of other people whom were replaced by machines.

Anna in the Tropics

"There is nothing like reading a winter book in the middle of summer. Its like having a fan or an icebox by your side to relieve the heat and caloric nights."

I think this line does a wonderful job of describing the juxtapositions that make the story. Nilo Cruz has many opposing forces acting at the same time. Marela and Conchita are caught up in the romance of the literature and contrast the disenchanted and desperate Cheche. Cheche's arguments for the cigar rolling machines oppose the romance of hand rolling the cigars that Santiago and Ofelia seem to value.

The reflection of Conchita, Palamo and Juan Julian in Tolstoy's story give a good structure. The passages from Tolstoy build our expectations and then Crus delivers scene's that match those expectations with the added benefit of a contrast of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Hot and cold.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

emiT- tragoB ennA

"Ultimately, one cannot touch time. We grasp it with our minds, not our hands." While I was reading this essay and arrived at this line I just felt to inspired. I stopped reading and wrote my Writing assignment for this week. Towards the end of her essay she tends to stray away from what is interesting, pushing on even though much more isn't really needed. As a whole I came away with some pretty good and insightful passages. Some were so deep that I don't really know where to begin in interpreting it. "The essence of time as most concretely experienced is the continuous unbroken passage of existence." Umm. What?


Anna and the Tropics

Didn't you just love the way Marela would go off on dreams?
She made me dreamy...

"Marela: No, everything in life dreams. A bicycle dreams of becoming a boy, an umbrella dreams of becoming the rain, a pearl dreams of becoming a woman, and a chair dreams of becoming a gazelle and running back to the forest.

Ofelia: But, my child, people like us... We have to remember to keep our feet on the ground and stay living inside our shoes and not have lofty illusions."

(pg. 30)


I dreamt once of becoming a dew drop
It was a surprisingly short process.
My molecules
each one
turning lighter and soft

Till i was a dew drop.

Then the sun came
from behind that short hill.
and I rose to the sky.

To the clouds.

To the stars.

The moon never looked so bright,
the earth,
never so small.
never so far away.

Then I cried,
a dew drop star.
For my love was far below,
and i was being pulled.
towards the sun.
so hot.
so hot.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Week 8 Assignments

Writing Assignment

Choose One:
1) Write a story or one-act play that unfolds backwards in time, revealing new information or changing the way we understand the events of the narrative present.

2) Write a story or play where the structure and the use of time reflect each other. Carefully plan your narrative moment so that you can successfully trick your readers into believing they know where they stand in the timeline of the story. No more than two pages.

Read for Next Week
Anna In the Tropics, Nilo Cruz
Time, Anne Bogart (from And The, You Act) pg. 37 in the Course Reader

1. Post an entry about any one of the readings this week. This may be a critical or creative piece of about 200-300 words. It MUST respond to your chosen reading in some way, either by identifying and discussing craft elements, themes, or techniques or by using those elements in a creative response.

2. Post comments on at least three other entries. Remember, this is not a place for critiquing each other’s work. Instead, identify something from the piece that strikes or interests you, ask a neutral question about the work, or suggest ways the author could deepen or expand it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Juliette Details!

Hi Folks,
Just a reminder that we'll be going to see Juliette tomorrow night.

* The show starts at 8 PM on campus. We'll meet in our classroom, and then go over there as a group at about 7:40. Make sure to arrive in our classroom by then so that you can get your ticket!

* The director, Mark Jackson, will be on hand after the performance to talk with the crowd and answer questions. Plan to stay for the conversation if you can - it should be quite interesting!

* If you know you cannot make the show for some reason, please let me know, and I will offer your ticket to others who may want to bring a date. If someone wants it, you'll get your money back!

* Here are a few links to information about the show, and some of the ideas behind the way it was created. Please take a look if you have time!

I'm looking forward to seeing the show with all of you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Week 7 Assignments

Midterm Paper
Due in class Thursday, March 18!!

Writing Assignment
1) Write a poem, short story, or one-act play based in some way on Romeo & Juliette. For example, you could set the story in another time, place, or situation (as in West Side Story), you could write about or from the point of view of one of the secondary characters, or you could take one scene or moment and expanding that to a full-length piece. You can find the play online at:

Read for March 25 (2 Weeks from Now)
Anna In the Tropics, Nilo Cruz

1. No blog posts this week – work on your midterm!

the colonel :narrative and prose

I have often found that when conveying certain types of emotion, written is far more potent than spoken. In written form you can come off sounding far more eloquent, articulating differently in inner dialogue or in something that is to be read than aloud. With the "Colonel" we are able to see in depth far more details of what is happening through narration. Forche is able to go back and forth from seeing images then explaining what they resemble. It is repetitive and bounces around to various thought process like most people do in real life when making observations. Going from noticing a cop on the TV back to real life. On the page next to the piece it talks about being able to take prose essentially out of every novel. Below I have taken sections from David Sedaris’ book “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”  and formed it into a poem with persona original works.

In times of weakness , sitting in that hot little room, stress and it’s connection to stress

pg. 278,279 

pounding hearts, that nervousness like you are set a flame with anticipation

and how your body would steam if were cooled even a few temperatures 

you hear the screams , and notice the dew upon the cobble stone ground and take a deep breath and come back to that feeling of never ending situations of disaster.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Creative Response to the Colonel

What you have heard is rumor. I didn't see a thing. The Bride never left her Vanity. Her mother sat at her side, draping pearls, he father, nursed a cigar in the walkway of the Church. Cream linens adorned the pews, anchored by wired ribbons gripping pink tulips and baby's breath. The sun spilled rainbow shapes through stained glass windows, the likeness of the Virgin distorted as she fell to the leather shoes of the Groom. The Old Women retired to the balconies above with ornate hand fans and whispers. The Minister rotated the Bible in his palms. The Groom and his Brother argued mutedly at the altar. When one would challenge, the candles stilled, when the other contended, the candles danced. The Brother pulled a pocket notebook from the Groom's jacked and dropped it to the tile. Fuck you the Groom said. A handkerchief had fallen too, and spilled a lock of hair, tied pristinely with a scrap of lavender ribbon. But not just one lock. Two, three, four locks. Lavender ribbon for the chestnut brunette, yellow for the jet black, royal blue for the golden blond, kelly green for the locks of deep amber. The brother dropped his foot onto the locks of hair. Something for your vows, no? he said. Some of the hairs on the floor struggled under the weight, slithering to escape. Some of the hairs bore into the Church floor.

The colonel

I attempted to re-write the colonel from his perspective....HERE IT IS!

Yes I allowed it. They were in my house. They saw my family. Sat on my couch. She seemed distracted by the broken bottles and security bars but shortly after her attention was to the television. We had dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, green mangoes, salt, and mint cake. I asked them how they enjoyed the country. She was distracted again by the television. My wife took everything away. I then spoke to them about how difficult it had become to govern. Fernandez wouldn't shut up. I went to get the sack. I spilled them all over the table. Prettier than I remembered. I put on the usual act. Even dropped one in her water. I was tired of fooling around. They can go fuck themselves. I toasted the last of my wine. I wish every last one of them could hear it.

Pet Milk - Analysis

Pet Milk by Stuart Dybeck charts a character's development from a single, isolated personal fact outward. The narrator mentions his drinking coffee with Pet milk and watching it snow. Although neither of these actions intrinsically provide any genuine characterization, they both immediately segue into much more personal material. The narrator tells us why he uses the milk, that it is for aesthetic reasons and moves into a memory of his grandmother, and how the milk then is the same as that of the sky in snowing sky, and how that sky is the same as in a King Alfonse, a drink he and his girlfriend Kate shared. He then discribes the more basic elements of their relationship, their hobbies and relation to the drink. This description moves into very general events, giving the reader the feel for their relationship and their average interaction before finally moving into a scene that takes place concretely within time: specifically on the narrator's birthday. The scene plays out, and eventually the two board a subway train and begin to make love in the car. However, the story ends, in a way, as it began - with a single, characterizing detail largely divorced in itself from the rest of the piece (the boy at the train stop). The piece almost feels like an experiment in characterization, and in that way I myself would like to use its general structure as an exercise myself.

The Colonel

I've always been fascinated by dictators, renegade commanders, and the warlords of lesser developed/historical nations. One that always peaked my interest was Mussolini. When I was in middle school my father had me read The Secret of Santa Vittoria; this is a fictional story about a town in Italy during Mussolini's reign that produces wine, it is pretty much their only source of revenue and the government demands a substantial portion of it. Without going into details I vaguely recall; the story talks about the tortures he inflicted upon dissenting citizens (whether these were invented by the author or not is irrelevant), these ranged from being buried in the snow naked up to their necks to electrocution. The torture itself doesn't fascinate me, it is the mind set of the torturer and those who order then to commit such acts. What struck me in this piece was how casually the author seems to mention the broken bottles in the wall and later how dramatically the Colonel strews the ears upon the table. I think these aspects of brutality say a lot about the character especially since they are juxtaposed by what otherwise seem to be normal behavior such as the details of his wife, daughter, son, and meal, as well as the casually referenced pistol on the cushion and relative normalcy of a situation that at the core is an act of intimidation. I feel I'm not being entirely clear in expressing myself so here's the short of it: I love how the author calmly tells a detailed tale of a horrendous experience, I thought it gave me insight into the mind of the Colonel, these atrocities are so incorporated into his life that he can dine in a room with torture devices in the wall and toast above a pile of ears. The question i'm left with is: how does someone become like that? If some have that capacity then don't we all? I'm reminded of a question posed by the Flaming Lips, with all your power what would you do?

The Net

The Net is a play which has tons of back story plushed in with a simple tone of dialogue. We get basically a psycholigical profile of Alfonso just from the little things he says. The relationship with him and the "flatfoot" trying to save him has an offset feeling. The feelings of Alfonso's past give a dynamic sense oof why he is now attempting suicide. His passion for dancing and injury drive him to end his life. The two strangers start creating a friendship through their situation. Alfonso is annoyed with Stuart but in the end falls to help him. "Stuart catches the hat and Alfonso falls"

Jason Yelland

The Setup

"I didn't kill him."
"I know."
"We need to find somewhere to hide, the police are going to come looking for me soon enough."
"Where do you suggest?"
"Do you have an office? Somwhere?"
"Yeah... uh, we can't go there."
"Why not?"
"Uh... renovating."
"Fuck. Ok, we're going to Bunker Hill. Why are you helping me?"
"Let's just say we have mutual friends."

About an hour later, they had arrived.

"This is perfect."
"Listen, I just need to call my boyfriend and tell him I'll be home late."
"No. No phone calls. How do I know I can trust you?"
"You have no choice."


"Let me just call my boyfriend. He'll be worried. And who knows, you could have another charge against you. Kidnapping."
"I've never kidnapped anyone."
"I'll just be a second."

About fifteen minutes after the call, the police had arrived, and he was going to jail for the murder of his wife.

Pet Milk

Okay, for starters I have to get it out. I have been drinking evaporated milk with my coffee for several years, I have attempted to get people into it, they say they will and never do, they always go back to their half and half, I hope this story inspires someone to give it a try if they are coffee drinkers (I recommend Santini brand, but I will definitely try Pet milk now)
With that out of the way, I loved this story. I thought that it was beautiful how Dybek allowed this story to follow a memory in what I think is a realistic way. He's drinking coffee with Pet Milk, it reminds him how his grandmother did it in the past, how he liked the way it looked, then it instantly took him to a restaurant where he used to get an alcoholic beverage that had the same swirl that coffee did with pet milk, and then we are instantly in a fun love story. At first read I had a hard time relating how his grandmother drinking evaporated milk with coffee had anything to do with him having goodbye sex with his girlfriend on a train, but then I realized that maybe it didn't have anything to do with it, it was just what triggered the memory. I thought this way of transitioning into the story was effective and inspired me to write a story on a memory triggering a memory that triggers more memories. That might only be interesting for myself, still I am inspired to try.

"Pet Milk"

“Pet Milk” by Stuart Dybek is a wonderful short story that encompasses intimate moments between two lovers about to embark on the journey of adulthood. Dybek’s voice is playful and uplifting, which is refreshing to read. Personally, I felt that his use of “Pet milk” in the story was a metaphor for the sensation of love. Kate, who is the narrarator’s girlfriend, is this sensation personified. I found that this story is easy to relate to anyone who has ever experienced romance, even if merely a high school date. Additionally, I found it was easy to relate to as a young college student since it illustrates the transition from youth to becoming a “professional” in the real world. “Pet Milk” is a story that moves quickly, which I felt reflected the romance and passion Dybek was trying to portray. Small details such as “She had lovely knees” were such small moments that gave the story so much character and realness. As the story concludes with them in a moment of passion on the train, this lasting image seems to be a beacon of hope. As we may grow older and go on, these moments of love live forever.

The Colonel Imitation

Hey all. So, here is my attempt at copying the style of "The Colonel". I believe I failed, but hey, I guess that's creative writing for ya.

Wonderland's Waiting Room

What you have heard: it is false. I may have slipped, but I never hit my head. I fell too long. The ground welcomed me after crashing through the ceiling. I sat up. There was blood pouring from my knee in a crimson torrent of passion. Around me, a bizarre décor. There were doors surrounding me of nightmares and dreams. Clocks had wedged themselves into the dirt. They go counter-clockwise, until time is irrelevant. It is just a passing fancy. The glass table is round with ornate legs. It looks as if an author had penned them from cursive. The bottle was meant to be consumed, so I did. Upon shrinking, the checkerboard ceiling appeared a gigantic game with debris acting as the pieces. I found the right nightmare, acquired the correct key, and I opened the door. Stepping through the threshold, I found a ground that existed in my mind. Its pebbles were memories. Its stones were dreams. The brilliance of the sun reflecting off the giant face-flowers blinded me. I felt myself on the brink of war: did I hit my head? Can this be reality? A pinch did nothing to stir the world from being. Compared to the dim reaches of the waiting room, the air around me sang. The air always sings in Wonderland.

The Bucket Rider

This was my favorite piece that we read this week. I attacked it after reading the article on "Lightness" and am glad I did. After the quote "I must have coal; I cannot freeze to death." I had the gut feeling that the narrator had already frozen to death and the rest of the story is his spirit's progression towards "the regions of the ice mountains." The speaker has already been swallowed by his cold environment his voice nonexistant, as it is "burned by the frost and muffled in the cloud made by [his] breath." And after the reading the lecture of "Lightness" in regards to this piece, I feel as if he is as light as a spirit, his actions unnoticed by the living, though he was able to reach out to the Coaldealer through his desperate energy. The wife, shaking out her apron outside before going to bed, wafts the speaker away where he is "lost forever."

Perhaps I'm wrong but this was my thought process in approaching this short story.


Andi Smith: I agree, the transition in Pet Milk from the grandmother's coffee to the cocktail at the restaurant was deeply profound in how our thoughts connect through the web of memory.

Hilaryyyyyyyy: Thank you for saving me Google time. I was going to look as soon as I finished the story because I was a a bit confused by the label myself. Though, I feel that the initial memory of the grandmother worked as a transition from the present to the past memory with Kate.

Kate: Your analysis on tone was excellent. I had not consciously realized the word pairs of "bucket-empty" "shovel-useless" etc. though your keen eye picked them out. Thanks!

Creative Response to the Net


House Tenant: If anyone is there I can see you, and leave me alone!

Ghost: You see me? I always knew you could.

House Tenant: I live with my mom and sister and none of them can see you.

Ghost: I guess I am just haunting you.

House Tenant: Who are you? What is your name?

Ghost: I don't remember, but I can change my shape at will.

House Tenant: Was that you shaking the floor last night?

Ghost: Probably.

House Tenant: Ghosts are here because the're lost and not at peace.

Ghost: I don't know, all I know is I can see you.
I can turn into an eagle or a rabbit with long fangs.

House Tenant: Why are you here? I'm glad I can not see your deceased self.

Ghost: I wish you could, that would be a frightening sight.

House Tenant: I remember seeing shadows on the ceiling that where not the trees dancing outside,

Ghost: I exist here to do this, I don't know why. I can change your perception of things around you see what I want you to see.

House Tenant: I guess that is why you do this.

Ghost: I guess.



I thought Calvino did a wonderful job of articulating such abstract and almost other-worldly notions in “Lightness”. His use of mythology to extrapolate meaning and symbolism that still embodies our present day ways of living was much appreciated. Most importantly, the specific subject matter of lightness vs. heaviness is one I find infinitely fascinating. One of the questions this aroused in me throughout the course of the reading was a thought that’s been reoccurring a lot for me over the past 4 months: are writer’s fated to feel the heaviness in its fuller weight than perhaps some of humanity? Is that what drives them on to write, to create, an act of almost transforming heaviness into lightness. Is writing the journey of that action, at least at times? I suppose the reverse often happens as well, something written lightly can have more weight than one can fathom when done at the hand of a skilled artist. I also greatly appreciate the inclusion of science’s version of weight and lightness. Calvino masterfully finds ways to expand what he is saying to such a large audience, spanning the topics of art and science, and merging them with this common theme of lightness.

Pet Milk

I really enjoyed reading "Pet Milk." I googled it, and on the can it's really PET Milk. I am not sure why Dybek made the choice to change the capitalization of the word, but think perhaps it has the effect of sweetening the image a bit. Pet milk makes me think of pet name, something sweet, and he uses the Pet Milk to evoke sweet memories from his past.

I sort of feel like Dybek shouldn't have included the memory of his grandmother in this story, the meat of it all lies with his memory of Kate, and as a whole I don't feel that the two memories converge that well.

One thing I cant stop wondering about, and maybe I'm just a sicko, is... is Pet Milk (the thick, off-white liquid) supposed to be present in the last scene of the story, on the train? I'm probably reading too much into the significance of the Pet Milk, though.

"The Bucket Rider" response

Kafka uses some interesting tactics in this piece, and I feel like it could be read on many different levels. After re-reading it several times I started to make sense of what he was trying to do.
The word choice of this piece has an intense effect on the way that it is read. From the beginning the descriptions are solid and short, almost cold, in order to reflect the bleakness of the situation. bucket- empty, shovel-useless, stove-cold, trees-rigid. The word "must" is repeated over and over again, which gives you the feel of a man's thought process when balancing on the edge of existence, almost creating a "begging" tone within the narration. The repetition in general, in the dialogue too, reflects this tone. I enjoy Kafka's surrealistic style, and had to look back and check the authors name after reading it. The way that he pairs common events, like going to ask for coal on a freezing day, with almost dreamlike images gives the reader a better sense of the statement he is making through his writing. Like others in the class, I pieced together that he is really discussing how susceptible we are to the influence of others in life. The influence of a single person and the decisions they make can determine, essentially, whether we live or die. The image of the bucket sliding along the ice is clearly a metaphor for this idea.

The Colonel

I thought this story paragraph poem, whatever you want to call it, was pretty interesting. It conveys a sense of danger and urgency almost, as can be seen with the line "My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing". The first line, "what you have heard is true", suggests that no one really knows much about the Colonel, but the narrator is there in person and is able to confirm the rumors that the villagers have heard. We can see that the Colonel is not a benevolent ruler, he even yells at the parrot to shut up, an animal that most likely doesn't understand the meanings behind the words it mimics, and the Colonel thinks that people who believe they should have rights "can go fuck themselves". The comparison between the human ears and dried peach halves is extremely vivid and even after reading the story I still can't get the image out of my mind. While reading this story I couldn't help but wonder who the narrator could be, and how it is they were able to have dinner with such a tyrannical person.

Bucket Rider

Franz Kafka's The Bucket Rider seems to be commenting on the limited control of man as he tries to survive in a world that seems to be governed by chaos. This is evident by the fact that the man only wants coal but is denied in the end by the woman and is left to freeze to death. The world does seem to act around some order for the man could get coal if he had money, but its a chaotic one where his lack of money causes another human being to let him die. I thought it was interesting that Kafka was able to convey this limited control of man right in the very first sentence. The sentence is "Coal all spent; the bucket empty; the shovel useless; the stove breathing out cold; the room freezing; the trees outside the windows rigid, covered with rime; the sky a silver shield against anyone who looks for help from it." From this sentence one is presented with a series of unfortunate events that the man has to deal with. The long sentence and use of semicolons works to link these unfortunate circumstances to suggest that these events are linked together, albeit in a chaotic sort of way. The fact that as the sentence progresses, the scenarios get worse until the man is faced with mother nature itself, serves to suggest that he never stood a chance and that there was no way to avoid the position he has found himself in. In this way, Kafka is able to comment, in one sentence, on the futile nature of man as he tries to struggle to survive in a world governed by chaos.

Pet Milk

I love this story. Dybek manages to take the smallest details and illustrate just how personal they are to the narrator. This story is like a quick glimpse into the narrator's life, the meaningful details of his memories, those of his grandmother and girlfriend Kate, the Pet milk and the similarly meaningful cream in the King Alphonse drink- seeing the same 'swirling sky' in two significant worlds within his life. The narrator takes us from the image of cream and coffee on Grandmother's table to a standstill moment with his lover, and he is mesmerized by these moments of deepening; her reflection in the window is beautiful and he longs for her, accepting the reality that she might not always be his, and in fact she isn't- as long as he is an admirer of her existence, an infatuated man. The narrator is humble in presenting Kate as someone he is with in the present, but already missing from his life- illustrating his longing for her as he knows she will soon be a part of his past, a beautiful memory like the Pet milk in his instant coffee, and again in the King Alphonse drink they shared so many times together.
I think what is profound about this piece is the way the author ties everything together, creating a small window into a much bigger picture. This short story is written like a web, or a mind map, details and events stemming from one another but fitting perfectly in one whole picture. One detail is not significant with out the next.

On Lightness

On lightness takes an interesting philosophic approach to themes within writing, extolling the virtue of ‘lightness’. I found his argument interesting, but, rather like the quality she was describing, ephemeral. The world around Italo Cavoli seems heavy and stone like because it is heavy and stone like. Light things do not last. The morning dew is quickly dissolved by the sun, the delicate spider’s web trampled by a passing horse, and the wisp of smoke dissolved by the wind. Much as beauty is often the most difficult to attain attribute (which is to say that that the attributes considered most beautiful are those most difficult to obtain or have), it could be this very attribute which makes lightness so attractive. In a way, Lightness, or perhaps even the desire for lightness, can take on even more meaning. It can represent the escapist desire within literature. Only in the purely abstract world of writing can something as delicate as lightness last on forever and the desire to escape the heavy reality of the world is what drives us to leap into books, and live in the realm where lightness is possible.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Week 6 Assignments

Writing Assignment

Choose One:

1) Write a conversation between two liars. Give everything they say a double or triple meaning. Never state or indicate through outside description that these two people are lying. Let the reader figure it out strictly from the dialog. Try not to be obvious, such as having one person accuse the other of lying.

2) Write two poems or monologues in which two characters see the same situation from very different points of view. Let the characters speak. Experiment with voice, tone, and characterization. Format the two so that they go on simultaneously as in Double Trouble (page 186 in the course reader).

3) This week, listen in on the conversations you hear around you – on the bus, in a café, between your housemates. At some point during the week, settle someplace where there is lot’s of conversation going on. Eavesdrop on those around you and transcribe as much as possible of what you hear. Write a story, poem, or scene using the dialogue you “collected.”

Read for Next Week
Lightness, Italo Calvino from Six Memos for the Next Millennium
The Bucket Rider, Franz Kafka
Pet Milk, Stuart Dybek
The Colonel, Carolyn Forche
Net, Geetha Reddy (Passed out in class)

1. Post an entry about any one of the readings this week. This may be a critical or creative piece of about 200-300 words This may be a critical or creative piece of about 200-300 words and must follow the blog response guidelines. It MUST respond to your chosen reading in some way, either by identifying and discussing craft elements, themes, or techniques or by using those elements in a creative response.

2. Post comments on at least three other entries. Remember, this is not a place for critiquing each other’s work. Instead, identify something from the piece that strikes or interests you, ask a neutral question about the work, or suggest ways the author could deepen or expand it.

A Gentleman's Agreement

This piece uses child’s imagery in away that is both obtuse and highly descriptive.

“To arc and trajectory add the lessons of apogee and descent, the rock descending into a broken glass poke in the eye for the friendly family car,”

A broken glass poke in the eye, it evokes the non-linear connections in a child’s mind, the association of one thing with another that we, as adults, for whom the order of the world is already is set, would consider unreasonable. This blends with the flowing, unending sentences that jump from one thought to another:

“And in the tin-roofed shed the child saw where the goat should have been parked - the goat, the big, yellow fire bike, the marlbe-size knobs on the tire treads, the homemade steel-mesh cages the old man had welded around the chain and the spokes against brush and branches, his father riding the Goat’s back in wild reconnaissance of the fire’s forward lines, and on sundays when the world was not on fire the old man and his disciples drank beer in the backyard and rode the Goat down the washed out driveway fast enough to leap the gully, doing drunken doughnuts and wheelies in the cornfield until somebody’s wife went home mad or until somebody broke his arm and though it was funny.”

This is a hundred and twenty word sentence, and it flows through the information in unending flood, the bike, a description of the bike, its association with his father, his father drinking beer, on and on and on, unfetted by any responsibilities other then to tell what the child wants to tell.

Every Exit is an Entrance

This piece, although lacking greatly in a creative tone, was extremely insightful and definitely caught my interest. The idea of dreams is one that is often played with in literary works, which is evident through Anne Carson's analysis. This essay breaks apart the odd sensation we come across while dreaming and compares it to other interpretations or themes of dreams that authors have used in the past. I especially appreciated the inserts from Virginia Wolfe's To the Lighthouse, seeing as it is a book that I had read in the past. It is interesting to see how authors play with the use of dream, especially authors like Wolfe who tend to work with a stream-of-consciousness style of narration. All in all, I found this essay extremely enjoyable as it revolved around a topic that I hold in great interest.

Ode to Pricey Shoes

Could she ever live without them?
Without black satin four inch Louboutin pumps-without pumps.
Without the glitter, the bows, and the scent
so intoxicating
to her shoe-needing spirit
only to hold one and smell
its soothing spell-which could mend it all
if you have enough
money! Money
will get her all the Louboutins Christian can make in his lifetime-
but she first needs a man.
A man to watch her undress as she keeps on
a pair of pink suede peep-toes
that arch her back
"You look priceless," he'll tell her, "Those shoes
were made for you."
Yes, one day. But for now,
It's the Christian love affair.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

gentlemen's agreement

“Gentlemen’s Agreement” by Mark Richard is a light hearted yet incredibly disturbing take on a unique father and son relationship. The story seems to weave between childhood fantasy and the brutal art of consequence and reality. I thought the author was clever in that the story begins with a boy being scolded by his father for throwing a stone at someone’s windshield. Such a common predicament that happens among so many children gave the story an innocent tone. This was a perfect set up for the quite gruesome ending of the story. Much of the imagery described in this piece made me recall moments from my own childhood such as imaginary settings, treating ordinary objects as people, and even being scolded for throwing harmful objects. The author uses reputation throughout the piece, a technique that gave the young boy a lot of character. For instance, when discussing the aftermath of the boy’s stone throwing the words “God Dammit” are repeated. It is written in such a subtle manner, giving the idea that it is a phrase embedded into the young boy’s head. He scolds himself the way his parents would. “White” is also a word commonly used in the piece, which suggests clarity and absence all at one. I thought the tone gave a dark humor to the story, which was easy to enjoy.

Gentleman's Agreement

Richard’s writes long sentences that are very effective. They keep the rhythm. I think if he’d chosen to use more periods a lot of the imagery would be lost. It would also probably be harder to read all the way through.

I also thought it was good and interesting the way that Richard’s left out most dialogue. The characters speak a few times but there aren’t quotation marks. It is driven by the narration.

There is an abundance of imagery found in the long sentences. I particularly like the descriptions of the father. The “smoke smelling pants” and all the “goddamn its” and the description of the father crawling into a cave with a bear make a clear image of a rough and tumble, blue collar father. I also really like the description he provides of the doctor in one terribly long sentence, which is again, rich with imagery. From the first four words we know he’s a pilot. “Flawless liftoffs from Florida tarmac.” This is almost poetic with the iambic pentameter and “Flawless and Florida” go well together. Then we get “warm pulpy orange juice,” which is a fantastic image for me. I can almost taste it as I read it.

Response to Dream Song 14

Customers, people, are stupid. While you are
one of them, you must
agree. When the kitchen buzz quiets with
Ajax-laced abruptness, we too
quiet, and no longer wish to see
you. My mother says "a job

is a job." Thanks Ma. But she's right.
Waitress. That is a job.
A job where people
with rose-pinned noses see me
and think

I am the stupid one. And these
people with their ugly children and shocking
etiquette overstay
and eat
and booze
leaving behind: their ugly child.
Please, take him.

"Dream Song 14" by John Berryman

This will be a critical response to John Berryman's Poem.

This is a unique poem thats subtle organization lends to the writers tone of overall dissatisfaction with his life. More so, the speaker of the poem rejects the flashy way of life that has become a natural way of living for the majority of the population and instead chooses to alienate himself from society by pointing out all of its shortcomings. The person that is most representative of this way of thinking is the speakers mother, who says that her son "has no inner resources." The poet seems to find life boring, with that fact even spreading over to his environmental surroundings such as the "tranquil hills. Another aspect of this poem that caught my eye was the rhyme scheme. The poem is composed of three stanzas and uses alternating alternating long and short lines in the pattern: A, A, B, A, A, B. By creating the sonnet in such a short amount of space, Berryman really grabs for the emotional intensity of the subject with his cutting verbs and sharp adjectives. In many ways, this poem is Berryman's opinion on those who live an overexamined life, and is a telling piece of work that makes sense of his suicide.

My Ode

I adapted the structure (loosely) of Carson's "Ode to Sleep" to write a poem about a band. Played with Antlers lyrics in places, in others I was just trying to put into words what listening to them feels like. Their lyrics often involve hospitals, death, etc, so this is what I came up with:

Ode to Antlers

With the door closed, shades drawn, you're dead enough.
The ghosts gather at the foot of your misshapen bed-a hospital bed.
"There's no saving you," the doctors had said and they called you
a hurricane thundercloud
there are no patients, no visitors
just ghastly illusions rolling in with the fog
which-whispering in your ear-will comfort you
if you can drown out the sound
beep. Beep,
the morphine alarm's out of tune, snowy television set out of focus-
but what does it feel like in the mortuary?
Your tears are running hot.
Blood is running icy.
You remember being small and swinging from a tree branch
it snapped and you were falling.
Hundreds of thousands of hospital beds
and all of them empty but yours.

Creative Response to Gentleman's Agreement

The Woman's Promise

The woman now gray and somewhat unlined despite the years looked at the young girl's face and smiled a melancholy smile. The young girl tried not to dawdle behind others and always looked forward. The older woman said to the younger woman you are so lucky to have your youth, the time you spend today you will never get back. The young girl paid little attention to what was being said. She noticed the weather being cold and overcast. She looked around herself apprehensively swallowing the anxiety that seemed to come with every negative criticism that was thrown her way. It felt like her situation in life reduced to quivering mass of nerves and dull pain. She could only remember it being one day in the week that she truly felt at peace. She didn't ask for much. It seemed her predicament loomed way above in her thoughts. How could she solve her crisis when there was no easy answer. How could she spend everyday knowing the answer will never come. The older woman, wise beyond her years, says to the young girl be happy don't worry about things that can't be helped, but the young girl says I know some things can not be helped but I can't help feeling this is not how I want my life to be. I was fine until this started happening to me, if only I can go back in time, but going back in time is impossible she realized. Everyday I am surrounded by misery, I am forever plagued. The older woman replied don't lose hope, someday the answer will come and you will find piece. The young girl realized at that moment that she will not give up. She will have faith in hope.

Ode to Feet

This is a creative response to "Ode to Sleep"

Ode to Feet

Stink of your life, without them
Without the patter punctuating the pavement—without the pavement.
Without the big black toe nail above the boil that popped on your
yellow sandals.
The pain snakes up your legs, your arms
and forms unspeakable sounds
which—you weep with instant abandon—will save you
in the crux of excruciating things,
later. Later,
not much left but an attended wound between pink flesh and nail—
you’ve dabbed that ointment on your leather petals,
it’s the moment when the burning stopped.
Burning is a broken lover
who brings damnation.
“After all that,” she confides in her coffee, “it was
a little bit of caught sand I mistook for a boil.
My foot hurt me, I now know
while making a pearl inside my big toe.

"Ode to sleep" imitation of sorts

You can run towards her as fast as you want,
the spirit of nightly release,
but she's a master of evasion
and your fingers won't even come close
to the tail end of her wraith-like hair.
The trick is to try and stay awake.

Pay no attention to your half-ton eyelids
or random thoughts fired from tired
nerve endings in your brain.
Just fix your eyes to the darkened ceiling,
get comfortable
and rest assured she'll find you.
Her hands collect random ideas, fears and memories,
mashing them together into a muddled mess of a play,
the greatest play you'll ever witness
and the greatest play you'll ever forget.

Who's to say our dreams aren't reality?
That we're stuck in a world
were the impossible is possible,
and upon nightfall
we dream of normalcy.

The Dream Song-14 Rendition

I enjoyed this poem by Berryman but I'm not exactly sure where the hell I took it.

My life, friends, is decent. Please don’t say - “no”.

For this I know, I’m only 20, but only ordinary

unlike those who touch something more

please don’t tell me - “I’ll figure it out”

that - “it takes time”

and that - “some of the greats had no real ‘plan’”

Plans make me feel productive. But I’m not

I just whine to those who are forced to read

You hate this, I hate this,

He, she, it, hates this

and by this I mean my poem

But I do like my socks

and some of my friends, who seem not to mind me

walking in the sun, rare, but not unheard of, keeps me better than bad,

than okay. I like what I have. And right now

it’s paper and ink and a silly grin.

"Ode To Sleep" response

I enjoyed reading "every enterance is an exit" and "ode to sleep" by Anne Carson because I myself am a huge fan of sleeping, and here is my Ode To Sleep

Its never a place I desire to descend upon.
A day's discontent never seems to give up hope that it will turn itself around- but as for now
there must be a time for silence eventually.
How is it that
There are sections of time where millions of bodies lay
like motionless corpses entertained only by the subconscious mind?
catching dreams in a net of hair-
I like the why she wraps herself around memories.
She sends a whisper of relief
inaudible, but recognizable
Like the silence between a heartbeat, an experience skipped
When is the instant when the sky begins to brighten?

Mark Richard-Gentleman's agreement.

I found this story very enjoyable and interesting to read. First of all, as others have said, Richard does an excellent job with creating the characters. The child has a very distinct voice in which the reader can detect his naivete as well as his genuine love and respect for his father. The random spots of alliteration also work well to give the child a very young, school yard sound. For example on page 164 Richard writes: “Time slowed for them, the rock arcing towards the friendly family car parked pleasantly in the pecan tree shade.” This sentence, as well as others, do a good job of not only making the story more believable, but also in taking a story told in the third person and making it sound somewhat like first person. In addition to the character work, I found the ending of the story quite enjoyable. I was so jaded from reading stories like Papa's Waltz that the narrator had actually convinced me that he was going to drive a nail through the boys hand. This of course did not happen and instead the ending was a somewhat happy one where all was not resolved but the father, despite his gruff descriptions, was just as kind and loving as any.

The Dream Songs - Again

This is my take on The Dream Songs by John Berryman. I chose to mix up the content of his while, hopefully trying to capture the essential contextual feel he has created.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I am excited by both. There
company fills the sky with pleasure. There is no object
which is in this great, tidy, emancipating world, which
tires me. My life is grand and beautiful. Sentimental moment
after sentimental moment. My father expressed his vigilance
on the matter. "Enthusiasm is for people who have a lack of
creativity". I applaud his meager attitude for it has made

me stronger. Strength is what protects the world, fights the
wars that so one should. Blood running down an abandoned
river glides upon a slick rock. Cracking a fresh wound to the
exposed sun. Like a child

being born, sprouting out its head in a sea of blood. Forging an
eternal bond with mother and Earth. Mother Earth. Forces
encompass the path which many are denied. Love is a much
grander endeavor, beinging joy, respect, alertness. Unyielding
to the scrutiny of a village idiot. Bored people suck the utter

essence of charisma out of the world. Living for no purpose but
to deny the healthy and happy, magic and joy. I find the joy of life,
miracle of life, pro-life, the most genuine feeling in the world. I love
my mother and father for what they have inspired in me.

Jason Yelland

For Esme

For Esme- with Love and Squalor, is, at its heart, a love story between two characters. It's a love story not about romance but about the need for human connection between two lonely people. It places childhood as something innocent and pure but still insightful while portraying the adult world as something tainted. This is a theme popular with Salinger and, in this short story, it is exemplified by the relationship between a young girl and a soldier. The first half of the story is spoken in first person by the soldier and recounts his meeting with the girl. In this first half we get a sense of isolation that narrator lives in as him as his fellow solders typically just go their own way. He engages in a conversation (something he hasn't done in days) with a girl, named Esme, where it is decided that they will write to each other and that he will write a story to her that is "extremely squalid and moving." Her use of high level diction expresses that, although she is a child, she is as insightful as any adult. She then tells him to return with his faculties intact, something that comes up in the end again. The next half of the story is what the narrator refers to as the squalid and moving part and stops using first person narration in favor of third. The squalid comes in the fore of the central character now becomes Sergeant X, whom we can tell has been deeply affected by the war by his inability to read books, his smoking habits, his description of war as being unable to love, his twitching hands and face, his inability to sleep, and more importantly his nervous breakdown. This clearly depicts the dehumanizing effects the adult world can have on a person. However, X's humanity is saved at the end when he reads the letter from Esme and receives her father's wrist watch. It is here that Salinger again switches to first person, signaling that X and the previous narrator are the same person in fact, although by now one has already probably figured that out. Before the narrator referred to himself as X, illustrating the alienation he had from himself admist the destruction around him and the deterioration of his mental state. However, the letter from Esme warms him up and he is able to reassert his own identity. This life-affriming relationship the two have and the love that it exudes amidst the darkness that surrounds the narrator is further supported by the fact that he is finally able to sleep after reading the letter and speaks of recovering his faculties. Thus, he is able to keep his humanity by forming a human connection with a girl who, in her youth, is his only tie to that world of innocence and purity that he as lost in the adult world.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Character Description/Gentleman's Agreement

Mark Richard has an incredible way of creating a loaded character description, without stopping to take a breath- I read the following passage and was inspired by the intense tonality that would not pause for a moment- in hopes to truly illustrate the intensity of this character.

"His father in his dirty, roughened-up denim, of all days to come home, mud and ash, machete on the hip and the snake pistol, timber boots laced with wire that wouldn't burn, the blackened shanks of ankles, the boot soles cracked by heat and desperate shoveling, his father footprinting crazy mazes of topography across the clean wooden floors."

My imitation of this tonality/style:

"Her sister in her visionary, transparent white blouse, of all the days to come home, powdered and porcelain, skinny belt hugging her waist, mini skirt lined with lace that cannot rise, the perfectly shaped face, shining from the reflection of her sweet summer sweat, her sister floats by me, leaving patterns of seductive scents all over my body."

Ok, so I took a shot at this...and it was hard! Not exactly on, but I am liking this approach - a sort of run on character description that brings the intensity with the notion of no periods. I am focusing on character development right now in my personal writing, and I enjoyed Richard's piece in that his style truly emphasizes this.