Archive for April, 2009


Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 by tadros

I think the structure I am most interested in and most interested in further pursuing, generally speaking, is the elegy. I think I am particularly attracted to the open-endedness of the elegiac structure, the opportunities it provides to contain mini-structures within the larger elegiac structure, the opportunities for layers. I think mourning is very much a layered experience, so for the structure to offer this same layered complexity makes working with this structure an opportunity for exploration, discovery, and artistry. I think I have been psychologically working towards a chapbook-length work held together by an overarching elegiac structure, and this is something I’d very much like to pursue before I graduate—or at least something I’d like to attempt.

I think the book that has been most interesting to me, as far as my own work is concerned, though I would like to think I’ve learned and adopted techniques from all of the poets we’ve studied this semester, is G.C. Waldrep’s One Way No Exit. I am very intrigued by the idea of writing a cohesive book-length work in the course of 24 hours. I think this is because I am less drawn to received forms but think unity is crucial to works. The repetition in this book that must largely be a product of producing so much work within a time constraint unifies Waldrep’s work in a way that is very interesting to me and something that I would again like to attempt before I graduate.


Ironic Structure and Catherine Pierce

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by superduder

Out of all of the structures that we have read about this year I think that I find the ironic structure most interesting.  People have often noticed that I write the same way that I talk, which is at times very sarcastic or humorous.  Although this does not come out much in my poetry writing, I think that the ironic structure would be a good tool to use if I wanted it to.  The ironic structure first caught my attention when I read the poem, “You Fit Into Me.”  I found this poem interesting because it was only four lines, but it said more for me than some four page poems.  I enjoyed its ambiguity and the different ways in which it would be interpreted.  I would like to try to write a small poem like this one that I consider to be finished.

The author I liked the most was Catherine Pierce.  I found that many of her poems were on the shorter side like mine and their content was easier for me to understand unlike other poets.  While I like the images Asher Ghaffer presented in his poetry, I did not have enough time in my schedule to do all of the research needed to fully read and understand the poem.  I especially liked the poem entitled, “In which I Imagine Myself into a David Lynch Movie.”  I thought that after seeing numerous David Lynch movies in my film classes in the past two years the poem would not surprise me.  Actually, the poem was much like one of Silvana’s earlier this year and I was surprised how much the overall tone of the poem made me feel like I was in a David Lynch film.  Catrherine Pierce’s accecability and similarity to my writing made her my favorite for the year.

“In Retrospect”

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by erinl09

Going way back to the beginning of our work in Structure and Surprise–the ironic structure remains the most intriguing structure for me to work with. One thing I find continuously powerful as a poet is the ironic turn’s ability to almost chastise a reader. Maybe “chastise” isn’t the best word, but an ironic turn forces the reader to reevaluate their initial reading. ‘You thought it was this way, didn’t you?’ it says. The ironic turn makes us think about how we want to read a poem. Take, for example, Margaret Atwood’s You Fit Into Me.

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

We read the first half as a sweet ode to the couple’s Aristophanic jagged edges, whereas it could very well (and does!) mean something rather violent. We read the first half as we want to experience love, I think, but the ironic makes us double-take. Things are not always the way they seem, that much we often overlook, and I favor the ironic structure for it’s ability to make the reader (and poet) reevaluate such.

Katie Pierce’s Famous Last Words has been my favorite read for the class, though I am not sure how my consequent work is in conversation with hers. Many of her poems have something to do with age, with the timelessness of youth. She remembers her “illegal and brilliant” self at sixteen, learning the “alchemy of guilt, lust, and distance” in the backseats of cars (This Is Not An Elegy); she shows us a summer [someone not necessarily her] spent in Moab, Utah, and cautions that someone to “be careful with your memory, it was not deliverance, at the time you felt no relief” (In Retrospect); she speaks of discovering her first gray hair (Apostrophe to the First Gray Hair).

It is the poem Project Yourself Here that speaks to the overall themes of youth, with the girl by the river in central PA wishing she could be a muse,

it would make her glad to know that someone is watching now, even through memory, even through the blue gel of nostalgia. There’s more to tell about the girl, but it’s better not to know. If you did, you wouldn’t want to be her. You wouldn’t be remembering how once you were.

I connect to Pierce’s work because of that feeling, the feeling of incredulousness at the person you forget you once were. Her poetic voice’s consciousness of age also appeals to the soon-to-graduate-and-face-real-life part of me, and right now it is a rather loud part of me. And right now I am particularly prone to reflecting my situation, and naturally I reflect on the person-I-once-was. Sometimes we forget those people, or we want to forget we were those people–desperate, immature, foolish, et cetera. Pierce swings around to consider this chosen blindness/memory lapse, and given the current state of my affairs, I am trying to do the same.

Reflecting Back

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by bennett89

I felt that a lot of the structures we studied this semester weren’t exactly “new” to me. There were always poems that I read with these structures, and it felt like there was something there, but now it is good to be able to put a name to how the poem is organized. I enjoyed the Concessional Structure the most throughout everything we did. I feel that a lot of writing was already in this structure (or at least leaning towards this kind of structure with a bit of revision). For my future work I can use this structure to try to (almost) convince the reader to believe my thoughts through my words. I think this structure is also among a favorite because the turns in it are a bit simpler to pin-point when reading and easier to work with when writing (for me at least).

As far as favorite book to read from this semester, I would have to choice G.C. Waldrep’s One Way No Exit. I really enjoyed how he really thought out of the box and took everything a step farther than what would seem to the norm, from his title to how the book is bound to even the poems inside based off of photographs. G.C. Waldrep seemed to really push his limits to create a wonderful book. I really like the idea of writing a bunch of poems centered around one specific thing (such as the photographs). I would like to work with something along these lines, the problem is finding the time and the perfect things to be inspired by.

Stonecipher in first, with the emblem structure in a close second.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by alc215

I’d have to agree with Liz on this one, Donna Stonecipher’s Cosmopolitan has left a lasting impression on me as a writer since I first picked it up. There are so many things that I find completely intriguing within her poetry, and even envious in the effectiveness of her employing these techniques. I have an extreme appreciation for the way she is able to take a handful of images that seem unrelated to each other, and make them connect so concisely. In each inlay as well, each numbered stanza does not necessarily seem related to one another, unless you truly delve into each inlay and each stanza as a critical reader and reveal where the connections are made. I love how she gives to many possibilities for reading to the reader, yet there’s still this underlying message that holds everything together. It really is brilliant the way she is able to do this.

Obsessions too were a big one for me. I’m enthralled at the way she reveals her personal obsessions and connects them to outside ideas. It sort of gives way to this notion that everything could be interrelated if you really thought about it. I really tried to go into her writing style when we did the exercise in class regarding our obsessions and trying to go into details of it and then connect it to other things.

The biggest technique I probably took from her was her rhetoric questions that are strewn throughout her poems. On page 15 she writes, “Which would you rather your head be full of, facts or ideas?” On page 31 she asks, “If you’ve been to a city’s airport, can you say you have been to that city? And, especially questioning is in Inlay 6 (Mary B. Campbell), Poem 6, on page 30 where she writes:

Does every small town here have a disused castle? Does every small-town disused castle here have a park? Does every small-town disused castle park here have a maze? Does every small-town disused castle park maze here have an issue onto a formal garden where white violets flower in the form of a fleur-de-lys?

She utilizes the question-form, rhetoric and unanswered questions, within her poems throughout the book. I am fascinated with that, and have definitely noticed my own writing taking on a much more question-based form than it ever has before.

Plus, Donna mentions sex and whatnot in her poems, which is always a plus.

I really like the conciseness of her language, combined with obsessions, imagery, repetition, and questions. The Cosmopolitan has so many things to offer, technique-wise, that I would love to emulate as a writer myself. It was quite an enjoyable read, to say the least.

If I had to associate myself with a certain structure we learned this semester, I would have to go with the emblem structure. The use of that structure really helped me to take a second look at objects in my poetry. I am especially fond of starting with this central point and expanding outward from it and vice versa. I like too, in our Structure & Surprise book where it is said that the emblem structure “need not be primarily visual. Any of the senses might animate an emblem poem.” This really speaks to the idea of putting yourself inside the object at hand and writing through the object, which was a suggested exercise to use when we went to the art gallery. I think too, that the emblem structure is so appealing because it’s significantly more organic for me to write through, than something like the retrospective-prospective or the substructure.


Oh Donna

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by exclamate

I’d like to start with saying that The Cosmopolitan was my favorite book of poetry that I read this semester, in this class as well as contemporary poets and editing and publishing.  I love how Stonecipher has been able to make lists of images that could be totally unrelated and connect them and layer them.  Reading the cosmopolitan left me with a feeling of being cosmopolitan and the struggles that go along with that.  I also feel like Stonecipher uses imagery similar to the imagery that I would like to write.  In fact, we used the same image at one point.  Over winter break I wrote this poem called “Clementine Divine” in which I wrote:

“She is all things orange:

clementines peeled in single spiral, sewn back together with red thread, left on the sill for winter”

So, When I started reading the cosmopolitan before we came back to school, I was so surprised when I read the last line of part 1 of Inlay 16:

“eating clementines and throwing the perfectly sprialed peels into the sea.”

I want to write like Stonecipher.  I especially like how she strung lines of imagery throughout the book.  The most obvious one is the cosmopolitan.  Yet, everytime this words or images come up again, they are surrounded by new things so that the word has different meaning.  The reader, if a good one, will pick up on these repetitions of images over time.  I thought that this was extremely effective. The uniform form of prose poems also worked very well with this, because it allowed the strings of images to stand by themselves.

Structure wise, I think that the emblem sturcture was most helpful for me.  While I think it was the most simple and the one I used the most often unknowingly, it seemed like the base for a lot of the other structures, or, perhaps, what allowed me to understand the other structures.  For example, without understanding the description and meditation of the emblem structure, I would not have been able to understand the description, meditation, and re-description of the descriptive-meditative structure.

This also, I think sort of lends itself to why I like The Cosmopolitan so much.  Stonecipher is constantly describing and redescribing things, and I think that this way of trying to see things in many different lens is appealing to me.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by Silvana

The structures that I found to be most useful within my own poetry were the emblem structure and the descriptive-meditative structure. It is easy for me to use the emblem structure as an example, because I feel as though so much poetry (without ever having noticed) has bent towards this technique, escaping the realization that there is a name for the device itself. The emblem structure, at least for me, is tempting to play with and expand on because most of my poetry tends to be description and imagery based; this is something I’m trying to move away from. The emblem structure employs deeper thought and requires more insight when dissecting the meaning of the poem. In one of my earlier posts on the emblem structure, I connected the technique with a sort of two-act play, the first act serving as pure description and the second as explanation. I think that it’s not necessarily a constricting model to adhere to, and though it’s a simple device it has room for numerous turns and “surprises.” The descriptive-meditative structure is similar to the emblem structure in that it utilizes the first two steps which are explained in the title. However, the act of “re-descripting” after having meditated on the object, setting, or person can create a much different outlook on whatever that thing may be, after just a few minutes of meditation. The way these turns operate to transcend the turn, surprise, or style itself is a somewhat subtle leap that allows for an interesting outcome. As an avid reader of narrative poetry and having a fascination with punctuation (or lack thereof), I found Quarantine to be not only a morbid read but an interesting concept that works well to utilize content and form in a structure that makes sense. Quarantine was a character study; combining fiction with poetry has been a much more difficult task than say nonfiction and poetry, because so much of poetry is nonfiction. However, to rework the ability of developing character and dialogue and inner monologue and molding that result into poetry is admirable. The narrative is a period-piece, set a few hundred years ago. I loved that this read-at least to me-as such a modern technique while still employing the sensory images and thoughts of someone alive (or in this case, dying) years and years ago. The situation is broken down into pieces, and then reversed at the end-it’s difficult to talk about Quarantine without sounding morose, but the sequences read as though they are continuous; with the aid of Contagion, the nature of the book is spherical. I thought this was interesting in thinking about the afterlife. I didn’t find this application cheap, I thought it brought in abstract ties with case and point language.

Narratives and Shifting Gears

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2009 by VV

The structure which spoke to me most this semester was the Mid-Course Turn, particularly in the exercise where we brought in a “starter” poem and chose a place to open it up. In my case, I brought in the exercise where we wrote about waking up in a different body, and my choice of difference was to make the body female instead of male. In the original exercise, I found my exploration of this to be very mundane and blandly limited to physical description. Bringing in the idea of the Mid-Course Turn, along with its accompanying shift in genre or something equally drastic, I was able to use the turn as a way to access the material I really wanted to get at, which was the broader implications, socially and emotionally, of having a female body. Having done that, I feel as though the Mid-Course Turn could be a very useful tool for digging deeper into those pieces of writing which I feel are simply not getting at the most meangingful aspect of the territory, and so I may try it in the future whenever I find my writings to be stagnant or not going anywhere.

The books which have spoken to me the most this semester are Famous Last Words and Quarantine. The first because of its accessibility and the second because of its depth of character and narrative. Similarly, I find the accessibility of the first to be related to its more narrative or less disjointed content. I suspect my roots as a fiction writer are playing the biggest role here, which comes as no surprise since I’ve been feeling almost burdened by them all semester. But at this point, having gotten a much better feel for poetry itself and its languages and structures and modes, I think I’m probably better able to blend my love of narrative with the freedom of the poetic genre.

I credit this, at least in part, to the two books which I mentioned above, both of which bring a certain level of narrative which I couldn’t find in, say, Revolver or Wasps in a Golden Dream Hum a Strange Music. But what those kinds of poems have taught me is that a certain amount of fragmentation is not necessarily bad, and I think the extreme to which, especially, Wasps takes it, allows me to see just a little fragmentation as not necessaruly ruing acessibility. So as a whole I would say I’ve become more aware of what separates a narrative poem from a very short story, and while I can’t quite put what that is into words, I feel as though I might possibily be able to write a poem which would speak that difference for itself. And that was definitely one of the things I wanted to learn from this class.


Last Post

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2009 by karlakelsey

Both groups should respond to this post by Friday.

Consider the structures that we’ve worked with this semester. Comment on the structure that has been most interesting to you. Think about how you might continue to work with the structure in the future.

Consider the individual volumes of poetry that we’ve read. Comment on the book that has been most interesting to you. Think through the ways in which you do–and do not–see what you do in your work as being in conversation with this book.

Thank you!

Goodbye, Genre — Turns in “Goodbye, Toronto”

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2009 by tadros

In “The Mid-Course Turn” Gerry Harp discusses work that turns, midway through, from the “genre of its development” to a different genre all together. When you look at Asher Ghaffar’s work, what genres do you see incorporated? Describe the connections and disconnections Ghaffar makes as he turns from one genre to another in the course of a single poem.

I think I’m having a little difficulty pinning down a precise definition for “genre” in the context of genres within an individual poem navigated by turns, but it seems to me that Ghaffar uses turns to move to various genres in “Goodbye, Toronto” (page 72).

The first two stanzas seem to be mostly matter-of fact, delivering information with observation.

In the Toronto Star the alleged terrorist’s eyes appear red.
She scours the photos at Abu Ghraib looking for clues and emerges
from that short-lived project with a bag over her head, eyes torn out.

Take the rag off your head. This is how she slowly loses
her sexuality. You can see through the redness of his eyes,
with soup in your ears and sand in your eyes.

While I think the tone in the second stanza takes on a little more interest/investment than the first, I do not think the slight shift constitutes a change in genre.

Perhaps a shift in genre is arguable from the second stanza to the third:

Choice is a matter of taste.
We are gentle men breeding black babies
from tongues , alien words. We are pipers
who strife the sea. The plane circles the Atlantic
and we drop black silence.

Stylistically, Ghaffar seems to be writing differently; lines are shorter and broken farther from the ends of sentences and the speaker’s language is more abstract.

Again, I think a genre shift is arguable from this stanza to the fourth and then fifth:

Because the mass came from energy, and the Prophet(s)
were energy. The in-between was theorized as a realm
of smokeless fire. For this reason, it obeys one moment
and rebels the next. You can’t kill your double. Arabian

Nights was translated by a Victorian sentimentalist.

The italicized section seems to suggest either a change in speaker, or a different kind of reflection by the same speaker. What’s most interesting to me here is that the last line of the italicized section is enjambed, so the transition from the fourth stanza to the fifth is also a transition from italics to plain text, possibly a transition from one speaker to another, and a transition from one “genre” to another.

I feel like the tone and style, and perhaps thus the genre, shift again moving to the sixth/seventh stanzas:

Fingers grow enraged.
Trace scribing.

Memory knows
no limit. Present
to itself. Present to the body,
resurrected. The shards
of history shine. The body

The syntax here changes. The speaker delivers shorter sentences/fragments and breaks the lines earlier, adding to the abrupt/fragmented feel of the shorter sentences.

I think one final genre shift is arguable again in moving to the final four lines, which seem to simultaneously stand independently and together visually:

One leg lodged in ghostliness

Goodbye, Toronto.

We will not mourn this empty city.

This flowering house, deflowered.

The language here is also unique, certainly far removed from the more concrete, detailed, matter-of-fact first two stanzas.