Creative Writing - Fall 2003
English 223 Creative Writing - Fall 2003
Instructor: Phillip Crymble Office: 5211 Angell Hall
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Office Hours: MWF 2:30 - 3:30
"The Wood-Pile" of the Modern Era
Surrenders to "the slow smokeless burning of decay"
· Poetry Unit Coursepack - available at Accu-Copy
· Pop. 1280 - Jim Thompson - available at Shaman Drum
· Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton - available at Shaman Drum
30% - Midterm Portfolio
30% - Final Portfolio
20% - Reading Quizzes
20% - Participation & Attendance
There are but 14 weeks of study in this course, 7 devoted to the writing of poetry, 7 to prose fiction. Our time is short, but the course has been stream-lined to allow each student an opportunity to develop the kind of skills necessary to the creation of meaningful writing. Natural talent is a true gift, but just the same, whatever talent a given writer may possess, to create a memorable piece of writing, a fundamental understanding of craft and technique must first be reached.
Motivation, then, is key. Often times, it is a student of moderate talent who will excel in an introductory workshop - a student who recognizes that hard work cannot help but lead to improvement. If you think too highly of yourself as a writer, it is easy to fall into the trap of complacency. Skills continue to be honed and developed at every level - if you feel you have learned all you need to already, you are sorely mistaken. The way that student work will be evaluated in this course is on a scale of progress or development, so whatever level you are currently writing at, be prepared to push yourself. If you show little or no progress in your work by the end of term, it will have a substantially negative impact on your grade.
We cannot hope to create powerful or memorable writing without first attempting to understand those who have come before us. It is not entirely necessary that we emulate the great writing of the past, but if we are to depart from that writing, then it is crucial that we first wrestle with its more fundamental tenets before moving on to explore peripheral or innovative avenues of expression.
The course-pack contains a selection of readings from among the leading voices in poetry (in English) of the 20th Century. We may have occasion to reach a little further back, particularly when examining aspects of prosody, but if we do so it will be principally in the interest of sketching out historical perspective. It is seldom indeed that a critical scholar can manage to inform the field of craft in a way that is useful or comprehensible to working writers, so in all cases the craft texts we examine will be by writers concerning their own writing and/or the writing of those whom they admire.
We will devote each Monday class session (weeks two through eleven) to discussing assigned reading. On average, there will be twenty to thirty pages of craft material and/or seminal pieces of creative work covered during a given week, considerably more for fiction, as we will be reading two novels. I will provide you with questions and suggestions to help guide your reading of these texts, and in order to make sure our discussions are informed and lively, there will be a 10 question, graded quiz. If you have read the material, it will be an opportunity for you to earn easy marks in the course.
The majority of class time will be dedicated to workshopping your original poems and stories. Be sure to bring enough copies of your writing to distribute to your class-mates at least one day prior to your assigned workshop date. This is imperative, particularly once we begin looking at full-length stories. Try to be as objective as possible in your workshop critiques. We are here to help each other as writers - insensitive or misplaced criticism is of no value. It is not so much a matter of liking or disliking a given piece - we all have our own tastes - as much as it is about whether or not the piece is working. Speak only to the issue of intrinsic strengths and weaknesses. Criticism is never pleasant, but if thoughtful and objective, it will help you improve.
Throughout the term you will be expected to write a minimum of five poems, two point of view exercises in fiction, and a full length story of 10 to 12 pages. For the mid-term portfolio (due Monday October 27th) I will expect to see five original copies with my comments, along with further developed copies demonstrating a substantial amount of revision. The portfolio is to be prefaced by a two page meditative essay illuminating your process of revision. The final portfolio (due Monday December 15th) will contain original work with my comments and substantial revisions of both your point of view exercises and full-length story. Again, it will be prefaced by a two page meditative essay concerning your handling of revision.
You will be expected to have considered every piece of student work carefully and written substantial comments on drafts. This will help guide your contribution to discussion/workshop sessions. Once a piece has been workshopped, you can then return it, with your comments, to the student in question in order to help them through the revision process. I will be checking regularly to ensure you are living up to your end of the bargain. Neglecting to write comments will have a negative impact on the participation portion of your grade. Don't be afraid to ask questions in class, or to speak out, but be polite, don't interrupt. Let other students finish making points of criticism before you share your thoughts.
If you come to see me in advance concerning a legitimate absence I will be inclined to look upon it more favorably. Three unexcused absences amount to a full week's worth of class time. If you should have more than this, your grade will be affected. Six absences or more will seriously jeopardize your chances of being awarded a passing grade in the course. Remember, you are not only letting yourself down by cutting class, you are also letting down the other students, for they rely on your criticism of their work to further their development as writers.
You would be surprised at just how much poetry and fiction in English that I know well enough to recognize as belonging to one writer or another. Your own writing style will quickly become familiar to me, and any departure from it will most definitely pique my curiosity. You will be afforded plenty of time to write, take advantage of it. The blank page may be daunting, but not nearly as daunting as an F Grade in the class and possible expulsion from the University. Writing is intellectual property, to steal it is no different than, let's say, Grand Theft Auto. There is nothing wrong with seeking influences in the writing of others, and considering you are nearly all beginners, I would whole-heartedly encourage it. To borrow is fine, to steal is a crime :)
Robert Lowell Charles Bukowski Weldon Kees
READING: POETRY UNIT
WEEK TWO: The Figure a Poem Makes
September 8th, 10th & 12th
· Poetry and Ambition - Donald Hall (20pp essay)
· "The Last Days of the Suicide Kid" - Charles Bukowski
· "Ape" - Russell Edson
· "In Our Tenth Year" - Simon Armitage
· "Library Scene" - Robert Pinsky
WEEK THREE: Metaphor
September 15th, 17th & 19th
· On Metaphor - Marianne Boruch (17pp essay)
· "The Red Wheel Barrow" - W.C. Williams
· "Hurt Hawks" - Robinson Jeffers
· "The Legend of Paper Plates" - John Haines
· "Fish" - Marianne Boruch
WEEK FOUR: Poetry and Movement
September 22nd, 24th & 26th
·Writing Off the Subject - Richard Hugo (7pp essay)
·The Triggering Town - Richard Hugo (8pp essay)
· "Storm Windows" - Howard Nemerov
· "1926" - Weldon Kees
· "Fish Dying on the Third Floor at Barney's" - Gregerson
· "The Woodpile" - Robert Frost
WEEK FIVE: Image & the Visual
September 29th, October 1st & 3rd
·Images - Robert Hass (40pp essay)
· "The Fish" - Elizabeth Bishop
· "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, MN" - James Wright
· "The Train Stops at Healy Fork" - John Haines
· "Proletarian Portrait" - W.C. Williams
WEEK SIX: Exits & Entrances
October 6th, 8th & 10th
·Coming Across - Establishing Intent - Maxine Kumin (6pp essay)
·Closing the Door - Maxine Kumin (13pp essay)
· "A Lovely Couple" - Charles Bukowski
· "The Toy Maker" - Russell Edson
· "The Roots of Pessimism in Model Rocketry ..." - Lucia Perillo
· "This Be the Verse" - Philip Larkin
WEEK SEVEN: The Sound of Music - Rhythm & Cadence
October 15th & 17th
·The Sound of It - Marianne Boruch (16pp essay)
· "Degrees of Grey in Philipsburg" - Richard Hugo
· "Death of A Naturalist" - Seamus Heaney
· "The Time of Year, the Time of Day" - Robert Pinsky
WEEK EIGHT: Formal Arrangements - The Sonnet
October 20th, 22nd & 24th