After a much needed 6-ish week break, I'm stepping back into the classroom tomorrow to meet a group of incoming freshman and to attempt in 5 weeks to prepare them for the rigors of college-level reading and writing. This week's Huffington Post article on teaching is so clear a reminder of the struggles of this occupation. Because the bottom line is, you can only do so much in the short time you're given. And it's not a 9-5 job; it's an every-spare-moment job. And some students just aren't ready for the material you need to throw at them.
Just a snippet of Peter Greene's brilliant metaphor:
Teaching is like painting a huge Victorian mansion. And you don't actually have enough paint. And when you get to some sections of the house it turns out the wood is a little rotten or not ready for the paint. And about every hour some supervisor comes around and asks you to get down off the ladder and explain why you aren't making faster progress. And some days the weather is terrible. So it takes all your art and skill and experience to do a job where the house still ends up looking good.
Teaching is rewarding, don't get me wrong, or I wouldn't keep going back to it. But oh, this break has been so very necessary to relax, regroup, and now it's time to regain a little energy to jump back into that crazy space where I attempt to be enough for my students (while still maintaining a social life and a professional dance career).
Read the full article: "The Hard Part" by Peter Greene on Huffington Post
I am pleased to be included in the Summer 2014 issue of From the Depths just published today by Haunted Waters Press. The issue is available to view online or download digitally for free, or print copies are available. Either way, you should check out this lovely selection of literature!
View the new issue on MagCloud:
I am thrilled to announce I have recently had four poems accepted for publication! My work is forthcoming in the literary magazine From the Depths published by Haunted Waters Press ("Fall" - June 2014 and "Decomposition of Us" late 2014) and the anthology Crossing Lines published by Main Street Rag ("Waiting for the Blue Line, Chicago" and "Za Zrcadlem" - dates TBD).
Thanks to these publications for giving my poems a home!
I'm very pleased to announce the publication of Issue 8 of Glassworks Magazine. Working with the student editors on this through Rowan University's Master of Arts in Writing program was a joy, and what a beautiful issue we've put together.
Visit our website here: http://rowanglassworks.org
View the full issue online here: http://issuu.com/glassworksmagazine
Yes! I'm thrilled to see this article in The Atlantic about Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important. On a whim a few weeks ago, I threw some complex poems at my Writer's Mind class, a course for upperclassmen majoring in writing. The focus of the course isn't necessarily literature, but on how the mind of a writer functions, the rhetorical choices a writers makes and the elements and tools available to him or her. The class focuses on the process of writing, on being aware of and overcoming writer's block, and learning to articulate why certain decisions have been made in writing and revising. The kind of writing we practice is really up to the instructor, which makes this an exciting class to teach.
I wanted my students to practice writing about themselves, in particular, writing about the darker parts of themselves they generally don't share. The theory behind this is that if they can write about those dark, secret things, they can write about anything without fear or hesitation. At the last minute, I realized there could be no better way to approach this than through poetry. So in the 30 minutes before class, I threw out my initial plan and printed out copies of Sylvia Plath, Charles Bukowski, Billy Collins, and Sharon Olds, and hoped my students would be open to poetry. The results have exceeded my expectations.
After two class periods thoughtfully discussing not only the meaning and emotion behind these poems, but also the imagery, sounds, structure, and symbolism, my students wrote their own "shadow poems". They are blowing me away. We are workshopping them anonymously as a whole class, and while it is taking far longer than I planned, the conversations are insightful and exciting. Several students have asked if we can just keep doing this for the rest of the semester. The poems are intense, the feedback is constructive, and the revisions are promising. I am getting to know my students more deeply through this community building activity, and the techniques we are practicing will spill over into their other writing as well. While only a handful of the students in the class consider themselves creative writers, and even less poets (there are several education majors in the group) they are opening up and growing as writers and as people in new ways because of poetry.
As Andrew Simmons describes in his article:
"Poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected... Teachers should produce literature lovers as well as keen critics, striking a balance between teaching writing, grammar, and analytical strategies and then also helping students to see that literature should be mystifying. It should resist easy interpretation and beg for return visits. Poetry serves this purpose perfectly."
The proof is right in front of me in this group of students. I couldn't agree more.
Check out the full article here: Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important
The ever-so-brilliant Margaret Atwood presented her 10 rules of writing in The Guardian almost two years ago. I just stumbled upon them reposted on Brain Pickings and couldn't resist the urge to repost them as well.
My favorite rules of Atwood's are:
What are your rules for writing?
Read Margaret Atwood's full list of rules on Brain Pickings here:
And read the original article from The Guardian featuring rules from other writers, such as Jonathan Franzen, Neil Gaiman, and Joyce Carol Oates, here:
This article, and this quote in particular, perfectly sums up why I believe what I teach, writing and literature, provides students some of the most important skills they will gain in college.
"If you really think about learning, there are some master disciplines which unlock all the others. They are philosophy, history, mathematics, language (reading/writing), and science (mainly mastery of the scientific method). These disciplines form the core of learning and comprise the engine of its expression. The student who gains proficiency in these areas will maintain, for virtually the rest of his/her life, the capacity to learn new things and to organize those new things within the context of the older things. The learning that takes place in these areas does not really expire. It does not become dated. It is a fund that maintains its value. The same is not necessarily true of knowledge gained in professional programs."
read the full article here: "This College Professor has a Message for Liberal Arts Majors," The Federlist
Best commercial ever? Definitely one of the best speeches ever. Thank you Dead Poets Society.
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race and the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless--of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer. That you are here, that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?"
During graduate school, I was fortunate enough to attend the Prague Summer Program run by Western Michigan University. The program offers courses in creative writing, literature, and photography, and also includes several lectures and readings by a remarkable collection of faculty. The theme when I attended was "Faith and Art," and my assumption based on this was that the lectures would all come from a religious angle. Some did, but the brilliant writers and artists I encountered interpreted this theme in a much bigger way.
One panel in particular has stuck with me for years.
Rather than focusing on faith AND art, the panelist explored the idea of faith IN art.
The arts are something I have always believed in. Be it literature, dance, music, visual art, or otherwise, art has the power to affect people in profound ways. I truly believe art has the power to change the world.
To continue my diatribe on why literature matters (and by diatribe, I mean my string of quotes and articles suggesting such) a new study suggests that reading literary fiction as opposed to popular/genre fiction or popular nonfiction leads to greater emotional intelligence.
Somehow, I don't find this shocking at all. Makes perfect sense.
See the full article at the NY Times Blog: "I Know How You're Feeling, I Read Chekov"
BA in English