Summer teaching once more

Decided last week to dumpster my course design for Intro to CrW. It’s gotten old and tired. Was real fresh and alive when I started it (as an overhaul like this one it happens) cuz I made it day by day in relation to what I sensed from my students, who they were, what gave them life. And then, over the next few years, I institutionalized it, why, cuz I belong to an institution, and it presses on me, walls, ceiling, floor, in the form of hours demands infighting and discouragement. Well fuck that shit. I can’t ask my students to keep it fresh if I don’t. So I’m pitching the design and going back to the unknowing my own work comes from.

It’s scarier and it burns more brain glucose, which I want to hoard for my own creative work, but I think a mistake we make in the profession is to feel we’re in a zero sum game. In fact if I’m feeling on a live edge teaching, that enlivens my creative activity, too. As I said to a friend at a little fest held this weekend to mark the vertical publication of the first part of SCRO, the visual poetry courses I’ve taught have fed and informed my own work in visual poetry – have made, in a sense, my current work possible.

So here’s the bit of my syllabus where I explain there’s no plan for the class.

(Overheard at Menace as I write: “Are you really worried about rhizomes?”)


Course Outline

There is none. I’ve taught this course many times and it’s grown hidebound. So I’m doing the same thing with my course design as I tell a student to do with a story or poem or essay when they’re bored with it: throw out your structure, your idea of where it should go, and discover from the materials at hand what it’s supposed to be. It’s scary fun and way more real, as a way to write, a way to teach.

We’re going to wing it, figuring out, class by class, what we’ll do during our time together, and what your assignments are for the next class. I’ll be making the decisions at first, but I expect that, as we come together as a crew, you’ll collaborate in the calls we make. Rest assured, we won’t be structureless; we’ll just discover as we go the structure natural to our being-together. And, by the end of our six weeks, you’ll have met and grappled with most or all of these creative writing constructs:

General

showing and telling
concrete significant details
triggering and generated subjects (Hugo)
diction and etymology
“the writer’s antennae”
using found material
revision and editing

Poetry

sounds
the poetic line
poetry and Poetry
imagery
simile and metaphor
metonymy
making sense less

Fiction

dialogue
characterization
point of view
story structure (inverted checkmark)
text and subtext (Hemingway’s “iceberg”)

Creative Nonfiction

scene and exposition
truth and truthiness
questions of ethics
nonfiction forms

That’s for the worrypants. May send ’em, first day, to Cage’s guidelines:

cagerulesteachersstudents

It’s all just organic form in pedagogy, not so scary.

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Cage on teacher, student

Found this on a blog that linked to this one and looks kindred but clearer headed. John Cage on being a teacher being a student.

cagerulesteachersstudents

Gonna direct my students to this, and this blog, because honest to G-d, sometimes I think they think I’m making this shit up all on my lonesome.

P.S. No, my students, rule 6 does not sound like Yoda. Yoda sounds like rule 6. Am I sounding testy? It’s that point in the quarter. Nothing is a mistake. Try (note to self) trusting it awhile.

Stray thoughts on aleatory poetics and conceptual poetry

Thinking about aleatory poetics, that is, chance operations, the acrobatics one does to get will or self or intent out of the way. Whether that’s rolling the dice, or opening a silence to ambient sounds, or transcribing a day’s traffic reports.

Well the thought was this. “Let the universe compose the part of the poem proper to it.” A relief not to have to express yourself!

Thought that came a bit later was, “The trick is telling what part’s proper to it and what part’s proper to you.”

Then I found I wanted to put “it” and “you” in just those scare quotes. Where does the one end and the other begin?

Cage might not have needed his cageyness, nor Heidegger all that wildering swirliness, had he trusted the emptiness more wholly.

Like I’m one to talk. Whimpering about my achy gut.


My other wonder’s about the the title Against Expression that Craig Dworkin (for whom I feel true affection) and Kenneth Goldsmith (with whom I feel true amusement) gave their anthology of conceptual poetry.

Could be argued that in it, expression isn’t opposed there so much as front-loaded – the expression’s in the inception, the inceptive idea, then the rest is allowed to unfold either deterministically or chancewise, which is fine and fun and sometimes beautiful and very often a vital corrective to a navel-gazing aesthetic consensus. And it lets the cosmos show its chops.

But it’s still expression. And it tends to be an expression of will and intellect and even a kind of control and mastery – at least it has a sort of coolness to it often that suggests, I master the inception, I need not master the rest. I, poet, watchmaker god. 

I dunno. I’m just thinking out loud here. I’m drawn to these practices and offput by them too. They offer a way out of the nutshell of the self. But it seems a way of intellect and will, coolness and mastery, wit and a kind of Classicism, and for all that their productions, some of them, turn me crazily on, I’m shut out in the end by the paucity of impulse in them.

They seem the place where the animal in us goes to die. Seem to renounce rather than transform what in us pisses fucks and shits. Am I wrong? Have I missed it?


I want a poetry that weds the animal to the angel in us, the algae to the nebula, not one that subs the higher for the lower (Classicism) or the other way round (Romanticism). Christ I’m sounding like Rilke kill me now.


The aleatory, in our poetry, may be our spontaneity externalized.