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Kenyon Review Workshop, Day 1

There are a hundred students in this round of workshops; there are four workshops of poetry, three of fiction, two of creative nonfiction, and then the lone "literary/book arts hybrid" class I'm taking. My class has 7 people in it, while the others have ~15 per. Consequently, over the last day and a half, I've explained what book arts are to about 40 people.

I'm tired.


Here are some pictures of what we did just today:


This is a sheet of paper marbled using the Japanese suminagashi method, where you take a small paper circle, drop a few drops of dye on top, and then blow or move it around the water with a skewer; the dye only adheres to the surface of the water, and so you can place your paper directly on top. You don't have to treat the paper beforehand, or spend a few hours doing other set-up and prep as you must with Turkish marbling. Consequently, even though the dyes are less vivid, I am quite the fan!


We started off with two exercises. The first was "Twenty First Lines"--potential first lines to twenty works which we submitted before the workshop started. The instructors printed and bound these to create small prompt books. The "Word Dance" was an activity where we created cards using phrases from our writing samples which we shared and redistributed as a group, making poems with the new (randomized) material. Mine reads:

Excuse me
sound might grow a steady stream
if such was ever to be

maybe someone had someone
again and again
subject to the will

Shoes by the door nose each other like fish
tingling cheek
promise of London Devil
garb thin as a sapling.

[I'm only proud of the first six lines which sounds like an actual narrative to me. It's pretty clear I had no idea what to do with the other four.]


Another project we took on this morning was creating a commonplace book, bound accordion style and creating a collage on the cover. We were given envelopes of various interesting scraps, and this is what I put together. The ribbon ties in the back to hold the volume shut; it has an envelope glued in the back to hold various project materials. I don't typically care for accordion bindings, but I'm pleased with how this one came out at least visually.


I've written a story for tomorrow from a prompt; I'm happyish with the text but not the accompanying image, which I'm not going to share, because no, it looks juvenile. (OTOH maybe tomorrow I'll go to class and it will magically seem better, but I think not.) Here it is:


“If you stay with me, I’ll destroy you.”

At least we were honest with each other. And I knew--or at least, I thought I knew--how ugly it would get. My dad had died of cancer, too, when I was a kid. People act like it’s the most horrible thing, to have to watch your parents die. It’s way worse when you have all of the knowledge of an adult and still no power to do anything.

Sarah and I had long conversations when she was diagnosed. What it was going to be like, what we were going to tell my parents, her parents, our friends, our coworkers, the neighbors… You think illness should be something private, but it’s not.

I had to plan. We had to plan. Lawyers and wills and health insurance--it takes a lot of paper and money to die in America.

I could watch her shrink into herself--this gorgeous, robust woman I had married (legally! in our state, at least) becoming smaller and smaller. I won’t say ugly. Even with no hair and tubes in her nose, Sarah was fucking gorgeous. But time and leukemia wasted her body away, and then exhaustion and painkillers took care of the rest. It wasn’t like a dissolve, but--she just wasn’t all there anymore.

But there were some days. Some days when the light shone right and she looked as a radiant as a saint, pure and untouchable.

</i>“We must use what we have to invent what we desire.”
- Adrienne Rich</i>


Last night I wrote a poem, and it at least I an pleased with:

sent at midnight
and at 8am

read and responded

demonstrate only

that I am
the signifier
and you
the signified.


Tonight we listened to readings by each of the student fellows--effective "apprentices" to the instructors this term. Like the workshops, they were a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I suppose it was a classical "writing seminar moment": all of them white, at least approaching middle class if not actively upper class. One was a gay man. They all had, I guess you could say strong voices, but in that workshoppy way they were indistinguishable too, talking of permissible things like love and loss and extra-marital affairs. One older gentleman had a story from the pov of a recovering alcoholic struggling to connect with his son; the gay writer mentioned a bathhouse. This was the non-normative material. This morning my instructors had a brief spiel about "safe space" and to be aware and accepting of "raw" material, but I am rather underwhelmed? Does that sound awful? And you can count the POCs on one hand; I've spoken to half of them already through happenstance.

It has all made me feel rather anxious. But this may sound like I'm disappointed in the whole thing--I'm not, exactly, and I've never been surrounded by so many creative types before, so that's interesting. So, we'll see what happens. I have my personal conference with my instructors tomorrow, and we're going to discuss the chapter I sent them of my printerfic--the one with all of the triggery stuff. So. We'll see what they make of that.

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