Ever since last January, I’ve been involved with reading early US literature and poetry. For the class on early US Literature, it took a few weeks to get to the first assigned book, an apparent recount of being kidnapped by American Indians. It was interesting to see the views of such a piously religious women of that time but uneasy to read the natural racism that was ubiquitous at the time. I had to stay up some nights in order to finish the book since sometimes the day would be overfilled with news readings and I had a hard time pacing my time. It was certainly foreboding of the difficulties with certain long readings to come.
For the poetry class, we read poetry books to get a handle on the styles of poetry out there and find templates to use in creating our own. Unlike fall semester’s poetry class, where I created poems based on Gamera monsters and was proud of most of them, the poetry I wrote for the spring Semester was far more mixed for me. Sometimes I would take inspiration from a fanfic or original story I hoped to write someday. Other times, I talked about the writing process. A few times, I just wrote out-and-out fanfic basically if vagueness got in the way of the poem. It was challenging and frustrating but when I revised them for the final chapbook, I found I liked those results more. Granted, a different kind of frustration came in when judging which critiques from class to use and which to discard. We would alternate between Group A and B each week to review and critique each other’s poems. This could mean 16 reviews to sort through. In class, I often write notes that sort of form a consensus of what needs to be changed and what needs to remain the same but I kind of discarded those when revision time came. I did give more weight to the professor’s critiques since, well, he’s the professor, but if my classmates had an idea for improvement that would actually improve things and there was a consensus about, I would do it.
Speaking of these critiques, they were difficult to churn out. In the fall semester, I could usually find something to suggest for improvement, even if it’s a minor grammatical error. However, with the increased number of poems and my failing to remember how I handled a similar workload in Advanced Writers Workshop, I just more and more attempted to fill the critique word limit with the anything I could note about the poem, often in the praising sense. Having to fill seven or eight out within two days has something to do with that. Fortunately, I generally got a sense of what a poem was about on the second read through, if not the first and I wasn’t spending all day parsing out the meaning. Usually in those critique sessions I summarize what the poem is about when that question is asked, to the point it was wryly commented on at points. Sometimes I pointed out strengths and weaknesses in the poem and other times I just might be silent depending on how tired or distracted I am.
Sometimes it takes a bit more reading through the assignment poem books to get a meaning figured out. There were moments where I just guessed the meaning of a poem and moved along. The point was to get a general theme and feeling of the poem book that would be discussed in class after critiquing each other’s poems. Occasionally we would read sections to clarify the meaning. I can’t remember much about those moments and it was pretty rare I asked to clarify a certain poem. As you could tell from the big two paragraphs above, I have more memories of the workshop of the poems we created than the readings.
The early US Literature class provides a contrast. We read the Blithedale Romance and I remember thinking, with the premise a small community that’s formed to present an alternative to current society, that something horrible is going to happen. I haven’t read or watched many stories with that premise but I have the notion something bad always happens when an alternate community forms, as they seem to be often depicted as cult-like and drawn to the slippery slope of less than moral actions. A horrible event did transpire in the story but it was much less dramatic than I suspected. There’s another character that pops up throughout the story that ends up being very important and I only remembered that character after a reader’s second encounter with them. It was only later when I curiously rechecked the events of that first encounter did I realize that was the same character. I’m keeping the events of the book vague to avoid spoilers in case you want to read it but the book comes within the context of certain writing styles and movements emerging at the time and can be seen as a critique of some of them.
The other memory of note with US Literature was the ten to twelve page final essay. I could easily bang out more than twelve pages for a story single spaced depending upon the length of the paragraphs and the number of dialogue moments that take place. For an essay of that length, even double-spaced, it’s much more of a struggle. In the fall semester I had to write an essay 1.5 space concerning a poem and I half had no idea what I was rambling about before I came to tie it all together and revised it at the end. I got a good grade from that, so I must have done something right. I sort of did the same thing for the early US Literature essay. I picked out sources and had an idea of how to compare and contrast Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley in the context of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when it comes to writing. But halfway through the essay I ran out of material. At a loss, I just continued writing out whatever came to mind, tying in race and gender for the authors and how they related to intrinsic and extrinsic writers, before trying to tie things up neatly as I could with a conclusion.
A second draft would of course be needed and the critiques came from a classmate. I couldn’t read his writing though. Granted, I have had trouble reading the professor’s writing and it’s been a while since I read handwriting, being used to reading critiques and class-related messages on a computer. So I had to exchange a few emails with this critique partner to clear the basic gist of his message – the basic structure is fine but the noted areas needed some elaboration. For example, explaining the context of a quote. Once I got down to that, things got a bit simpler and the essay was spruced up but I’ll have to see if a similar good grade would be incoming with the work I did there.
That’s all that comes to mind at the moment. Admittedly, there was less recount of specific moments than I was thinking would come to mind but this is becoming long enough as it is. I do tend to rambling generalities unless I really plan my statements beforehand. I probably won’t update until the end of the month as I concentrate fully on my writing priorities. I might make that update on those writing priorities when it happens. Hopefully these past few entries have fully caught up about my actions for the last few months and what I plan to do. I hope when I look back on these entries, I would have some idea of what was going on at the time and what I was talking about. Until then, see you!