Saturday, March 31, 2007

Long & Busy (not to be confused with productive) week

I had to go to work on a Friday to hear a job talk. This going to campus on a Friday has happened before but not usually for the whole day. Or the four hours of the day.

For some reason, this semester has been so much less productive writing-wise than last semester even though last semester I taught 4 days a week and had just moved here. I was in a bit of a panic then, and less so now, but I really should have been able to devote Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to writing work. Perhaps April will reveal a new energy and dedication to that vein of the work since after talking to Dean and Chair, the scholarly element of the job is where they would like us to shine.

I suppose I'm less in a writing panic because of the grant but also because I finally found an agent who loves my book. Flat out loves it. So rare. No weird side critiques. No but's or if onlies. She's an angel even if she doesn't sell it. I always write more when I've been rejected, which is sick and means I need to focus on the my failures.

Speaking of which, I sent out my book of poems again. I checked out the book to see if this one poem that I hate is still in there. I think of taking it out all the time but for some reason, don't. I went to check it out. It's title is the problem. "The Intersection of French and German" is so pretentious. But the poem itself isn't bad. It's about belly-buttons. How bad could that be. So I sent the book off with one more period that it had before but otherwise the same as always. The rejection should be in the mail already.

So now my self-doubt has been relegated to teaching. One of my students, late on a Monday night in the parking lot on campus, suggested that I teach poetry via grammar. I thought he had an interesting point. I tried not to be defensive and to hear why he thought that was a successful method--he'd done a lot of reading about workshops and was interesting in teaching soon and in the near future. Still, I thought it a bit of an odd suggestion though possibly workable idea. It did make me think about different possibilities to teach workshop. As I've mentioned before, I've had some good workshop teachers and some mediocre ones but I don't think a perfect model has been demonstrated to me.

I'm trying to shake things up at the end of the semester just to experiment about how to make the students more responsive and responsible to each other. Although I don't know if talking about prepositions is the way to develop a methodology, as my one student suggested, but it may be a manner that would make the workshop less formulaic. So I divided my class in half and will have them workshop more fewer pieces more slowly. After the writer has been thoroughly critiqued, she'll come tell me what her workshoppers thought, what she found helpful, what she still needed help thinking through and how it might affect her revision. This second part might be the trickiest part--taking the student out of the workshop for a small conference and asking her to recapitulate what she heard but I think the students will pay attention differently, which, if nothing else, will be a small sign of success.
The hardest part for me about teaching is logistics--some of my ideas seem great until I put them into play and realize that whoops I forgot to account for the 17 contingencies and the desire for students to know exactly what's going to happen every day for the whole semester. I suppose I will take the risk to shake things up at the expense of the students feeling comfortable. Perhaps it will even work.


Scorpion's Tail said...

wish I were in your workshop. I do think there is some perfect balance between being busy enough to stay focused (because lots of time begets lots of stalling) and not too busy to be overwhelmed. I'm amazed you can handle so much...oops and I forgot you're a mother too.

Dr. Write said...

I want to hear more about the agent and the loving of the book. More more!!
And I'm sure your poetry book will be loved and accepted. Unless that's bad for your writing...

Earnest English said...

I too want to hear more about this agent! Excitement, excitement! Rock on!

About teaching: I don't think it's bad for students to be a bit uncomfortable. After all, being comfortable often has the unfortunate side effect of making us complacent. Just as you tend to write more after rejections, some students at least will find they push themselves more when they are a bit uncomfortable and have to stretch. Do they want to write poems that will make their reader comfortable? What's the old saw? If your writing doesn't keep you up nights, it won't keep anybody else up either.

Lisa B. said...

I heard a poet at AWP talk about teaching the cw workshop as a "sentence bootcamp," an idea which I'm still kicking around. I also have thought about using something like the book Rhetorical Grammar to teach at least part of a cw workshop. So I think it might be interesting to play with that grammar idea, even in an agonistic way.

Good luck with the poetry ms! I just did a big revision of mine, taking the opposite tack you did.

So great to hear about the agent and the love. Can't wait to see that book in print!