Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wordplaygrounds: Week Three!

Day One: Today, guest speaker Jim Davis gave a reading of several of his poems, including "Genesis of a Poem", "Summer Storm", and "Day trip to Carl Sandburg's Boyhood Home". Afterwards, the class had a chance to ask him a few questions, leading to a discussion of topics such as how to end a poem and why a poem must always remain "suspicious" of even his or her best lines. Next, the class read a sample from "Letters from Germany", a collection of poems in which the port writes through his father's voice during the war. We attempted a similar exercise-- each member of the class was given a picture of a random person and asked to flesh them out into a character, eventually writing a letter or poem through this imaginary person's voice.

Day Two: On Thursday we focused on the effect of sound and speed in poetry. To kick off the class, we read Paul Simon's song "Changing Opinion". In the lyrics, the "electrical hum" that is the subject of the song is mimicked by the very sound of the words in the poem; words like "hum", "room", and "from" all create a constant "mmmmm" sound just like the hum described in the song. In two groups, we all tried our hands at finding words that sounded like the noises we might hear in a particular place-- for example, the sound of splashing at the pool or the ringing and clicking of a cash register. Next, the class studied the effect of speed on the meaning of a poem. In Dick Lourie's poem "What It's Like Living in Ithaca, New York", for instance, the frenzied pace of a car without breaks speeding down a hill is reflected in the poem, in which pauses such as punctuation are almost completely removed. In the last part of class, we too focused on the pace of our poems, adding or removing punctuation to create a speed similar to that of the activity we were writing about.

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