Ago 8, 2015

Note on 106

Hi. Providing as asked, but referring to the two 30-student classes the last time I taught this. Distributed the Mayer list and asked them to bring their own dictionaries and a sonnet (four copies). Shared what I knew of the sonnet, then segued to an arc involving Dickinson's “Tell all the truth but tell it slant —” and Stevens's “Gray Room” and Waldrop's “Shorter American Memory of the Declaration of Independence,” all as prep for our sonnet-games.

Before tinkering with the sonnet though, I thought we could test-run the list and these were the exercises chosen:

* Write minimally: one line or sentence per day
* Write five short expressions of the most adamant anger; make a work out of them. 
* Write a work gazing into a mirror without using the pronoun I.

After we had gone through the sonnet and the arc of mini-discussions, we used the following exercises on the sonnets we brought to the basement:

* Take a traditional text like the pledge of allegiance to the flag. For every noun, replace it with one that is seventh or ninth down from the original one in the dictionary. For instance, the word “honesty” would be replaced by “honey dew melon.” Investigate what happens; different dictionaries will produce different results.
* Systematically eliminate the use of certain kinds of words or phrases from a piece of writing: eliminate all adjectives from a poem of your own, or take out all words beginning with 's' in Shakespeare's sonnets.
* Systematically derange the language: write a work consisting only of prepositional phrases, or, add a gerund to every line of an already existing work. 

Then I had them choose one more experiment from the list so they could work with that. We gathered reflections after this, shared our work, our experiences during the games. Some of that reflection was directed to (what I felt was) a provocative Mayer prescription: “Experiment with every traditional form, so as to know it.”