Poetry. Writerly Advice. Memoir. Literary Analysis. Book Reviews. Serious Journalism.
If everything is interesting, then nothing is.
This is a common thought that I have in a workshop or seminar setting. Most often, this word is used in a way that divulges zero information about the poem or story in front of me. When I hear a colleague say, “This poem was really interesting to me,” all I hear is, “I read this poem and I have nothing to say about it.”
Before I continue, it is vital to explain the definition of the word, that to me, has lost all of its meaning due to the construct of the MFA program.
Merriam Webster says,
Interesting: adjective ; attracting attention and encouraging the participant’s involvement in learning more about something…the thing being modified is not dull, nor is it boring.
The word was first used, or known of its use around 1768.
Over the past year-and-a-half, I have collected words such as this from conversations in workshop and seminar that have lost actual meaning because of the vague over-usage of them.
To change this, I think it would be wise for writers working with writers to use other words, or hell, if you are going to say the word interesting, then at least back it up with why it is interesting…and then, when you do that, do muffle together 20 big words that skirt the point. Pinpoint something. Is it the voice? Is it the tone? Is it the diction? What the fuck makes it interesting.
I absolutely love coming up with story ideas. I have too many ideas and I will never write through them all, so I keep a running list of story starters for several genres. Recently, I put together a selection of science fiction story starters. The little book was picked up by a no-website press called Rogue Books PNW (I submitted to them after I found them on PW). They quickly formatted and put together the book. From the work that I did with during the past six months, they are busy acquiring titles to build a steady catalog before opening a website...which totally makes sense. Anyways, it was great to work with them and the book is available on Amazon if you want to pick up a copy.
But before you do, here is the first prompt from the book:
A woman has been harassed by an alien species that invaded earth two years ago. They continually bring her in for questioning and come to her house and look for human paraphernalia. When an alien trooper breaks a frame that contained the only picture of her husband who was taken by the alien army, she decides that she’s had enough.
I am taking a contemporary American poetry course this quarter. It is my first class outside of the writing program, and the first class that I am mixed in with undergraduates. And while I strongly believe that many undergraduates are intelligent and capable of operating at a graduate level, it has come to my attention that both the graduate and undergraduate students many not understand the differences between “prejudice” and “racism.”
And I’ll say that sometimes, I muddle the definitions.
The OED defines “prejudice” as a preconceived notion not based in reality. The negative implications of prejudice can cause anger, frustration and irritation, among other things.But most prejudices do not result in the blocking of one person and a group of people’s abilities to operate in society.Many stereotypes result from prejudice.
On the other hand, racism is based in historical trends and involves a power dynamic. Racism blocks equal power from one or many groups based on race. For example, in America, Caucasian groups have used their power to unequally access resources. Racism further entails one or a group believing that a specific race (every single individual within the race) possess certain characteristics or abilities, and the race in power uses them to interfere and impede the “second class race” from achieving the same goals or accessing the same resources.
That is my understanding of it. If you would like to add to this, please do so. I would also ask you to behave professionally.
Covered up. That’s what happened to the name of the original author of The Mansion. Mary Ruefle seems to care little for the previous author, shamelessly taking the book as her own by erasing the original text and everything else that once made it Henry Von Dyke’s book. That is, until you dive into Ruefle’s heavy-handed process of creating something new from something borrowed:
Everyone knows that I can afford to live/ in/a text
The formation of immortality surfaces through the erasure, for both Ruefle and Von Dyke. The omission of the original text under whiteout quiets the pages and allows new meaning to come alive through what remains seen.
Erasures, the poetic act of deletion, censure and hiding what once was, is an art form Ruefle has claimed as her true form. In the act of erasing, Ruefle manages to open the book up, breathe into it new energy, and give it an audience it didn’t have before Ruefle hid the contents away from our sight.
Not only does Ruefle cover up the text with white out, she affixes images, “stickers” and other visual layers to the top of the pages. Through erasure, she writes:
Using you as an illustration
We see Ruefle surface in this line with the vague ‘you’ often seen in the bulk of her poems. She calls out to a 'you’ to serve as a piece of the erasure. The line is followed by a photo of a large, hairy spider glued over the remaining text on the page. As The Mansion progresses, Ruefle begins to use varying graphics to add a new element to the poetry.
The book becomes a multidimensional art piece that relies on Von Dyke’s words, Ruefle’s poetics, and visual collage. As it seems, Ruefle isn’t erasing Von Dyke; rather she is collaborating with him.
The standard system of verse composition in England since the 14th century. The meter relies on the number of stresses and syllables in any given line. Iambic pentameter anybody?
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
From Lord Byron’s She Walk in Beauty, a poem written in iambic tetrameter.
Because I am constantly on the verge of researching myself into a tomb, I thought that I should share my hard work. Here are some outlets that take excerpts:
The Southern Review
Blue Moon Literary & Art Review
The Drum Literary Journal
Printers Row Journal
Extract(s): Daily Dose of Lit
Circa: A Journal of Historical Fiction
Joyland: A Hub for Short Fiction
Solstice Literary Magazine
Two Hawks Quarterly
Quarter After Eight
American Short Fiction
Alaska Quarterly Review
Apple Valley Review
Cold Mountain Review
The Carolina Quarterly
The Florida Review
The Hudson Review