30 November 2011

Final Portfolio Guidelines

Please read and follow the the below guidelines for your Final Portfolios carefully, as deviations from this formatting could cause you to lose points. If you have any questions regarding what is expected of you, or how your material should be assembled, please do not hesitate to email me:

1) All material should be place in a pocketed folder; no binders, plastic sleeves, or loose pages. Make sure your name is clearly identifiable on the front of the folder.

2) All five, individual poems, their critical introductions, and their subsequent revision hisitories should be stapled in separate packets. Each packet should be order in the following manner: a) a one-paragraph introduction that outlines not just what or how you revised throughout the various drafts, but, most importantly, why you made particular revisions (While I don't expect you to quote Kinzie, directly, your decisions should be predicated upon concepts and ideas we've read in The Poet's Guide to Poetry. Just justifications should be clearly stated.); b) the final draft of your poem; c) at least two intermediate drafts; d) your prose meditation that you used to initiate the writing process.

3) One of your five poems must be the poem we worked on in your conference. For your conference poem, you must included, in addition to the material stated in the above guideline, any notes you or I wrote during our conference session. These notes should be stapled with the other material at the bottom of the packet.

4) One of your five poems must be the poem we work-shopped in class. For your work-shop poem, you must included, in addition to the material stated in the above guideline, the comments made by your peers and myself about your poems. These comments should be stapled with the other material at the bottom of the packet; if, for some reason, your peer did not write any comments on your poem (or wrote very few comments that happened not to be relevant), do not include these in the packet.

5) Final Portfolios will be due at the beginning of class on Monday, December 5th. Those students whose poems will be work-shopped during our final class session will need to drop their Final Portfolios in my campus mailbox by 2:00PM on Wednesday, December 7th.

21 November 2011

Poet Q & A: Jeff Alessandrelli on Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound

1) Tell us about when you first became interested in poetry. Who were your first poetic influences? When did you begin writing poetry? What do you think poetry does or can do for us today and does this differ from your earliest conceptions of what poetry is/does? etc.

I first became interested in poetry in high school—I really liked the Beat poets, particularly Gary Snyder. Allen Ginsberg I was half-scared of, but him too. I started writing—both poetry and fiction—during my sophomore year of high school, but not seriously; just as a lark. The first creative writing course I took was as a junior in high school from Tom Meschery, former center for the San Francisco (now Golden State) Warriors—Wilt Chamberlain once scored a 100 points on him (there were other defenders as well but Meschery was the primary one). He was a good teacher of creative writing generally and fostered my interest in poetry particularly—I remember on the first day we had to write a variation on W.C. Williams’ famous poem “so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water/ beside the white/ chickens” and mine was “so much/ depends upon/ the first sound/ of laughter/ shared/ between/ new friends.” Along with one or two other examples, he chose to read mine out loud to the class, which probably stoked my poetry writing ego a bit. As for what I believe poetry can do today vs. when I first started writing, I’d again refer to W.C. Williams, this time with regards to a statement he made to fellow poet Louis Zukofsky near the end of his life: “To write badly is an offence to the state since the government can never be more than the government of words.” That sounds melodramatic, and it is, but I do think it’s true. More so than just about anything else in this world, language matters, and poems are written out of particles and schisms of language. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me is bullshit—a smack to the face might hurt more in the moment, but the words leading up to it will in all likelihood last in your head longer. Your face will probably heal.

2) Give us some background on the creation, development, and gestation of Erik Satie Watusies... How does this collection differ from your previous collections or current projects? etc.

Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound was originally conceived in a poetry workshop class like the one y’all are in right now. The final obligation for the course was to put together a chapbook of poems, one that had some type of overriding thematic concern. Going into the project I didn’t really have a subject; I had a bunch of disparate poems all written over the course of 8 or 9 weeks, all with different subject matters/ line lengths/ syntactical notions, etc. But I needed to come up with something. Actually, that’s a lie—due to the fact that since my first year in grad school I’ve consistently read a lot of serial/ longer poems (John Berryman’s The Dream Songs and Homage To Mistress Bradstreet, Wallace Stevens’ “The Auroras of Autumn,” Anne Carson’s Short Talks, a hefty amount of Jack Spicer’s work, Mathias Svalina’s serial-poem-chapbook Creation Myth, and a few months before the workshop I started working on Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound) I wanted to come up with something—not for the class as much as myself really. Throughout the workshop I’d been listening to a lot of instrumental/ vaguely electronic music, particularly the group Boards of Canada (check them out, especially their albums Music Has the Right To Children and The Campfire Headphase), as well as the solo artist Brian Eno. Somehow this got me thinking about Erik Satie—before I moved to Lincoln I lived in Portland, Oregon, and the first year I lived there I’d discovered Satie’s “GymnopĂ©dies” and “Gnossienne” pieces and listened to a mix cd of them and a few other Satie compositions every morning for about 8 months straight. I really liked that Satie cd because I didn’t really have to listen it; for me it was (and is) background noise in the best way possible. Soothing. While in Portland one night my friend Dylan had told me about how weird a dude Satie was, specifically that he tried to push his girlfriend out a window and only ate foods colored white. To make a long story short I listened to that same Satie cd for a couple of days while thinking about a longer project type deal, still liked what I heard/was inspired, checked out some books on Satie/by Satie and started working on the book. It came together as a final collection about a year or so later.

3) What is your favorite or most memorable poem from the collection we're reading? What about the poem, its process, or its inspiration makes it particularly remarkable for you?

My favorite poem is the “Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound” prose poem on page 16. I like history—I minored in it as an undergrad—and I think the part about Napoleon/Caesar/Alexander the Great/Hercules is interesting. I can’t remember where I read it, but I’m 95% sure it’s true. I’ve also been to a lot of all-age punk shows and have seen my fair share of wilting mohawks.

4) What was the most difficult poem for you to write? Why? How did you overcome or think through these challenges?

They weren’t difficult to actually write, but all of the “sheet music” poems were difficult to transfer/ transpose onto the individual pieces of sheet music, especially due to the fact that I am horrible with computers. In the end they came together, and I think that for the most part they look good in the book, but they were by far the most difficult part of rounding together the manuscript. Your teacher helped me out a lot with them, and I am eternally grateful to him for that help.

5) What, to your mind, is the overriding concern of Erik Saite Watusies...? How do specific craft or poetic elements contribute to, intensify, or complicate to this concern?

This is probably a cop-out, but I’m not sure there is a specific overriding concern. Contextually I’d say it’s important to have heard maybe one or two Satie pieces of music before starting the book, but I’ve talked to a couple people who read the entire collection without listening to any of Satie’s music and according to them it didn’t make a whole lot of difference—they treated him as more of a character rather than a historical figure. Which is fine, I suppose, although I think listening to at least a couple pieces of Satie’s music—specifically the “GymnopĂ©dies” and “Gnossienne” compositions perhaps—might make reading the book more rewarding. Very early on in the publishing process there was talk about including a Satie cd with the book, but that idea got shelved quickly because of conflicting rights to the music/ feasibility issues/ etc. I don’t know—we live in a rapid-fire, 24-7 world, and I realize that writing a book of poetry loosely based around the life/work of a French avant-garde composer that’s been dead for over 70 years might seem kind of silly to a lot of people. But I think Satie’s music stands up, and he was in the epicenter of what has since became known as “Modernism,” at least in terms of Western Culture—he worked on plays with Picasso and Jean Cocteau, hung out at Gertrude Stein’s place on occasion, and along with Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel is known as being one of the first “Modern” composers because of some of his harmonic/tonal innovations. He was an interesting guy. I suppose, then, the overriding concern of the book for me is making both Satie’s music and personality interesting on some level to the reader, and I hope I achieved that to a certain degree at least.

16 November 2011

UPDATE: 11.16.11

Class, as always, you will need to write a craft-based review of this week's poetry collection, which is Emily Carr's Directions for Flying: 36 Fits: A Young Wife's Almanac, quoting both the text itself and Kinzie's A Poet's Guide to Poetry when appropriate. Below are your individual poem assignments:
Miranada: "Sparrow"
Kelly: "Tiara"
Matthew Carter: "Home"
Matthew Chanlynn: "Birdbath"
Kimberly: "Piano"
Katlin: "Sprawl"
Samual: "Tongue"
Alyssa: "Lyric"
David: "O"
Taylor: "Child"
Jennifer: "Skyscraper"
Jessica: "Hinge"
Ashley: "Selvedge"
Rachel: "Mayfly"
Hailey: "Yolk"
Lindsay: "Limbo"
Hanna: "Bus"
Luke: "Groove"
Joseph: "Zoetrope"
Reviews will need to be turned in at the break during Monday's class session. Also, please be actively working on revising the five poems you've selected for your final portfolio. I'm expecting at least four substantial revisions for all five poems, as well as a paragraph or so that documents your revision history, etc. for each poem. These documents will not only outline what and how you've revised, but, most importantly, why you've revised.

Finally, Jessica, Ashley, and Hailey should email me poems for next week's work-shop by tomorrow night so I can send them out to the class.

08 November 2011

Richard Greenfield's Tracer

Richard Greenfield, unfortunately, wasn't able to answer the questions I presented to him, but there are a variety of online sources that may help you when engaging his work. Check out the following reviews, etc. that address some poetic concerns found within Tracer:

Finally, below are two videos of Greenfield reading some poems from Tracer during a book tour. He prefaces these selections with some explanatory statements that might be helpful:

UPDATE: 11.08.11

For next class period, please read Richard Greenfield's Tracer. As I mentioned in class, this will be the most difficult (and longest) book we'll read this semester, so please begin early (i.e. now). After reading Greenfield's collection, please write a one-page, single-spaced review of the book. As a reminder, focus on an elements (or elements) in Kinzie, such line breaks, syntax, diction, tropes, or rhetoric/voice, quoting her when necessary, then use specific examples from the poem you're assigned to demonstrate how they function. Finally, explain those elements's overall effect on that poem. Hard-copies of your reviews will be due in class on Monday. Below is the list of poem assignments:
Miranada: "Guideline"
Kelly: "Two Reports"
Matthew Carter: "Last of the Butterflies"
Matthew Chanlynn: "Actuary"
Kimberly: "Artificial"
Katlin: "Annals"
Samual: "Tacit Rainbow"
Alyssa: "Sale"
David: "Was It / It Was"
Taylor: "The Future"
Jennifer: "The Sign"
Jessica: "Eris"
Ashley: "The Session"
Rachel: "Sublimity Will Not Be the End"
Hailey: "Rapier/Ravine"
Lindsay: "Speaking For"
Hanna: "Bastion"
Luke: "Maverick"
Joseph: "Newness"
Also, we will meet this Saturday evening for the Clean Part Reading Series. Below is the notice from the Clean Part blog. More information can be found here:
On Saturday, November 12, please join us at 7 pm to hear Lily Brown and Elisa Gabbert read for The Clean Part. Free and open to the public, drop by Drift Station Gallery, located at 1746 N Street in downtown Lincoln (corner of 18th St.), to hear some wonderful poetry and win some November-ish raffle prizes! See you soon!
As with the previous event, you will need to write a one-page, single-spaced response to the event, focusing on a particular image, phrase, or poem that you found compelling, unique, or troubling and discuss its effect on the poem, reading, or yourself. Do not provide, merely, a narrative of the evening. Reading responses will be due, via email, on Wednesday, November 16th.

Also, David, Taylor, and Jennifer, please email me poems to be work-shopped by tomorrow evening so I can get them to your classmates as earlier as possible. As a reminder to all, make sure you've commented on your peer's poems thoroughly and before class, focusing on the concepts we've covered in Kinzie.

Finally, everyone should be actively working on selecting the five poems you'll want to include into your portfolio and revising them extensively.