24 September 2010

About Revision

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

--Anton Chekhov

I don't remember seeing this quote before but it's a good one for thinking about the--about your--project this semester. Chekhov illuminates and gives us a good example of all my teacherly repetitions of Show Don't Tell. (Show Don't Tell: not simply a policy for hook-ups in the military.)

This Chekhovian tidbit is a good way to think about revision, which word derives obviously from seeing (vision) again (re). I'm definitely asking you to take another look at the poems and make sure that you are showing the reader as much as possible. We discussed this a lot last night in class and previously.

I also want to suggest that you have some respect for your poem. Imagine, if you can, that your poem had something to say that you are not fully in control of, as if your lines were half-written by a poltergeist or (better!) inspired by an ancient Greek muse. How can you let that part shine, that mysterious part that might not seem totally relevant to you at first glance? I'm suggesting that before you start scratching out lackluster words and pulling out the thesaurus and re-writing according to your teacher's suggestions, you listen to the poem.

Though, by all means, do pull out the thesaurus.

23 September 2010

Why Art?

One answer to this excellent question:

...works of art are the most intimate and energetic means of aiding individuals to share in the arts of living. Civilization is uncivil because human beings are divided into non-communicating sects, races, nations, classes and cliques....

--John Dewey

(With thanks to Evan Baer, who blogs here.)

21 September 2010

A fab YouTube lesson on Iambic Pentameter

I know that you are working hard on your sonnet and on placing your best insights and ideas into iambic pentameter. I can't wait to see what you come up with. I did a little research on iambic pentameter myself tonight and found the google to be very full of help. Or at least able to give me plenty of links.

For the record, the words "iambic pentameter how to" yielded a scary 229,000 results.

This 2-minute quickie youtube video is from the Kennedy Center and pretty helpful.

Fortunately I found a still better work of strange genius by a high school senior out there somewhere in America. Its 5 minutes will not waste your precious time. In fact, I can pretty much promise you will enjoy.

As for tomorrow's handouts, I have emailed them to your addresses. My attempt at blackboard failed.

15 September 2010

Why Sonnets?

This is a good question.

On another note, I believe that I have posted the handout for today's class on Blackboard, and that you will be able to print it out before class. The handout is called Sonnethandout.doc.

We will be discussing one poem that didn't make it onto the Blackboard handout. The Shakespeare is on the first page of your first day handout.

Please do print all three pages if possible. We will read and discuss.

09 September 2010


And a poem by Carl Phillips, mentioned below for his smart discussion of Oppen, called, Hymn.

While You Are Writing Odes of Praise: Considerations

I was thinking about the conversation last night about the Oppen poem, "Psalm," particularly about how we came to no conclusion. Good! Humanities teachers like that! And this morning, while looking for a few more poetry blogs to post for your reference, I came upon this one, Poetry & Popular Culture, in which blogger Mike Chasar discusses movies and poetry and nicely expresses the meat of our discussion:

"...the idea that perhaps, as often as not, we remember poetry because we don't understand it, not because we do understand it. That is, maybe what makes a poem memorable is the fact that it's to some extent indecipherable. Like the Sphinx's riddle, like Eliot's quotation of Shakespeare, like gnomic sound bites from Kipling or radio hosts, perhaps we remember poetry because it gives us something to chew on and think about, not because it answers our questions and solves our riddles."

I also found an excellent post by poet Carl Phillips that discusses the Oppen poem and comes to a few smart and helpful conclusions while not collapsing the poem into a neat algebra solution. Not to give it all away, but Phillips' subtitle reads, "How Oppen's broken syntax praises God."

Among other insights, Phillips examines the line breaks and wording that we found so interesting and says, "Syntax is the chief tool that language has for conveying meaning. And it is at the level of syntax that Oppen puts forward his concerns about praise, our obligation to give praise, and the limits to our ability to do so."

None of which is meant to incite bouts of incoherence in your assignments....

01 September 2010

Begin English 332: Open Mic Thursday Night

Shea Center for Performing Arts is hosting an OPEN MIC
Thursday 9/2 at 7:30 p.m.
Signup begins 6 p.m. in the Shea Lobby.

Now that would be something to blog about.

As you begin, I do suggest glancing at the blogroll to your left. The bloggers might give you more ideas about what you'd like to do with your masterpiece.