(Some unnecessary personal background in the spoiler, my actual point below )
Thanks to the “Poetry- Texts, Forms, Experiments” course taught by the wonderfully talented Joan Retallack, I experienced a dramatic improvement to my writing. I entered the class with only one previous poetry workshop under my belt (taught by the equally enchanting Celia Bland) to augment the “understanding” of poetry I learned in High School. I was familiar with the most prevalent forms, though not their application, and my poetry was still hardly a step away from sounding forced. Joan exposed us to more forms than I ever thought could exist – I felt ignorant. She challenged us to create using in form, then break and push the words until the form tore into a beautiful monster.I always felt that the mark of a great teacher is not beating to death a single topic, but exposing the student to several topics and encouraging independent study. Bull-headed since birth, I was always a difficult student. As an Elementary School student, I was in awe of the influx of new information seeping into my academic repertoire. I did extremely well during those years and was, admittedly, teacher’s pet. I loved the knowledge and the praise I received for doing well. Approaching my teen-aged years, though, my fickle attitude towards my studies gained more and more influence until I was in Middle School, when I let it take complete control. My perfect attendance and straight A’s became a distant memory, a reminder of the days when I was a good little girl (I had other serious problems that developed around this time that added to my stress and changed image). My parents and teachers were puzzled; one week I was acing tests while the rest of the month I was barely passing the class. I’ve since identified the problem and the reasons behind it. At the start of a new semester, I felt fresh and energized; I was ready to succeed! My studies would then suffer as the semester progressed and my grades would go “down the toilet.” This is the vicious cycle I battle to this day. Besides a general laziness on my part, I attribute my “rollercoaster” academic career to incompatible syllabi. I learn best through experience so I require an academic schedule that allows me copious “hands-on” learning. This is where independent study comes in. My Senior year in High School, I ditched my attempt to earn an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma and dropped the second year of the IB classes I disliked. The theory behind IB studies is an introduction to wide variety of topics with students responsible for exploring them outside of the classroom at length. I was doing better in school, but I was still strapped into that rollercoaster. I only wanted to learn the topics that interested me.
College was a shock of opportunities for me. Finally, I was in charge of my studies and the directions they would take. I had a wonderfully successful first semester to my Freshman year. Had I finally beaten the cycle? My second semester continued the success, at first, but lurking in the shadows of my mind was that rollercoaster, still at full-speed and about to fall after an extended incline. It was during this semester that I realized how utterly incompetent I was.
Our most important resource was not a textbook or set of instructions. Instead, Joan required us to scavenge the air for interesting thought. Each class, we had new entries of word combinations found in our everyday. This “Found Language” was our inspiration. We shared our favorite entries and allowed them to inspire each other. Some of my favorite entries were first recorded by a peer.
When I am feeling uninspired or unsure, I read through my notebooks. Sometimes I find inspiration for a new piece, other times I discover an exciting way to experiment with an existing piece. Found language allows me a collection of words with intriguing rhythm; I recommend giving it a try. For one week, carry a pen and paper with you everywhere you go, even when you’re simply watching television at home. If you diligently record anything you hear or read that strikes you, I guarantee you will have an inspiring collage of image and sound. Likewise, you may begin to realize how very beautiful everyday language can be.
Below is some found language I would like to share. Feel free to use any of it, verbatim or otherwise. If you do use something, I would love to read your product. You can comment, email, or PM. Also, if you have found something you would like to share, I am very interested in reading it.
• the very helpful “watch out”
• seems somewhat coital
• the compromise is that you do more work
• when you finally catch up with yourself, you’ve run out of time
• air is foul
• a whale of a good time
• besides, bad tippers suck in bed
• homo genius
• all bunnies are ethnic
• Peter, the shell-shocked panda
• if floppy disks still existed
• the frequency of your mind
• the mind is a beautiful thing to squander
• look for me at genre’s edge
• in heaven, everything
• I have silenced myself, my self
• insane asylum of the plants
• in memory, the eye is quicker
• no beauty here, just a donkey with three legs
• whiskey-raped voice
• red-winged black bird
• nipples and pennies
• a spider and a bee fighting violently
• chocolate-covered f**k-me
• semen boils in your sack
• make me a demon or call me your angel
• pull me apart like petals
• not many saw past the cheeky, wasted smile
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