2250 Donald Barthelme’s “Not-knowing”

How much do you need to plan a short story before you begin writing it? Consider Donald Barthelme’s essay “Not-knowing.”

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2250 Margot Livesey’s “How to Tell a True Story”

We’ve been talking about autobiography and fiction in class. Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi’s Bringing the Devil to His Knees includes Margot Livesey’s essay, which is closely related to our conversation.

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Starting fiction

From David Starkey’s excellent Creative Writing, these are some strategies for starting a story.

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2250 Figurative language and extended metaphors

First, from David Starkey’s Creative Writing,

I.A. Richards coined the terms tenor for the subject to which a metaphor is applied and vehicle for the metaphoric term itself. If we say, to borrow an example from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, that a warrior was a lion in battle, the tenor of the metaphor is the warrior; the vehicle is the lion. As Ted Kooser says, “If you think of a metaphor as being a bridge between two things, it’s not the things that are of the most importance, but the grace and lift of the bridge between them, flying high over the surface.” The bridge between the tenor and the vehicle is most fitting when the connection between the thing being described and what it is being compared to is both unexpected and somehow fitting.

Second, three examples of poems as extended metaphors:

From The Beginning of September by Robert Hass

 

IX

The insides of peaches

are the color of sunrise

 

The outsides of plums

are the color of dusk

 

 

 

 

Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickenson

 

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune – without the words,

And never stops at all,

 

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

 

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.

 

 

 

 

Habitation by Margaret Atwood

 

Marriage is not

a house or even a tent

 

it is before that, and colder:

 

the edge of the forest, the edge

of the desert

the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat

outside, eating popcorn

 

the edge of the receding glacier

 

where painfully and with wonder

at having survived even

this far

 

we are learning to make fire

 

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2250 Formal poems

Here are suggestions on starting and examples of villanelles, prose poems, ghazals, pantoums, and the sestina.

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2250 Toward iambic pentameter

From Patrick Gillespie’s “PoemShape” site, consider how he moves from a prose paragraph and works it into iambic pentameter lines. Gillespie’s lines are in italics; Plutarch’s aren’t.

Here are the prose paragraphs he starts with: Therefore when she was sent unto by diverse letters, both Antonius himself and also from his friends, she made light of it and mocked Antonius so much that she disdained to set forward otherwise but to take her barge in the river of Cydnus,the poop whereof was of gold, the sails of purple, and the oars of silver, which kept stroke in rowing after the sound of the music of flutes, howboys, citherns, viols, and such other instruments as they played upon in the barge.

And now for the person of herself: she was laid under a pavilion of cloth of gold of tissue, appareled and attired like the goddess Venus commonly drawn in picture; and hard by her, on either hand of her, pretty fair boys appareled as painters do set forth god Cupid, with little fans in their hands, with which they fanned wind upon her.

 

Therefore when she was sent unto by diverse letters,

When she |was sent |for by |An-to|ni-us

both Antonius himself and also from his friends,
she made light of it and mocked Antonius

And by |his friends, |by var|ious let|ters – she
Made light |of them |and mocked |An-to|ni-us

so much that she disdained to set forward otherwise
but to take her barge in the river of Cydnus,

Disdai|ning but |to an|swer with |a barge

the poop whereof was of gold, the sails
of purple, and the oars of silver, which

The poop |was gold, |the sa|ils pur|ple and
The sil|ver oars |kept rhy|thm to |the mu-sic

kept stroke in rowing after the sound of the music
of flutes, howboys, citherns, viols, and such

Of o|boes, flutes, |viols |and ci|therns – such
And more |as can |be played |upon |a barge.

other instruments as they played upon in the barge.
And now for the person of herself:
she was laid under a pavilion

As to |her per|son: She |was laid |beneath
A cloth |of gold |of tis|sue – her |pa-vil-ion –

of cloth of gold of tissue, appareled
and attired like the goddess Venus commonly
drawn in picture; and hard by her, on either hand

At-ti|red like |the god|dess Ve|nus just
As she |is drawn |in pic|tures; next |to her
On ei|ther hand |were pret|ty boys |ap-par-eled

of her, pretty fair boys appareled as painters
do set forth god Cupid, with little fans
in their hands, with which they fanned wind upon her.

As if |they each |were Cu|pid, fan|ning her
To keep |the wind |up-on | her.

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2250 The Line

In a small group, answer these questions. Email me the result. One email per group, with a list of group members.

  1. Which meter is “the norm,” according to Oliver?
  2. What might other line length convey to readers?
  3. Do stanzas need lines with an equal number of feet?
  4. “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of _______ . . .”
  5. What does giving a word its own line do?
  6. Is rhythm an absolute? Should it always repeat itself absolutely?
  7. What is a spondee?
  8. What is a trochee?
  9. What are dactyls, anapests, and caesura?
  10. What is the most important point in the line? The second?
  11. That is the difference between true and slant rhyme?
  12. Oliver calls end-stopped lines what?
  13. What does she call enjambed lines?
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