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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Replying to alternative solutions: three examples

In contrast, there are other proposed solutions aimed at reducing recidivism. Recent Princeton MPA graduate and government consultant Daniel Edelman writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that, “By addressing head-on the financial troubles of people leaving incarceration, we may be able to accelerate their reintegration and transition to stable employment, reduce recidivism, and meaningfully improve the United States’ criminal justice system” (Edelman 113). To paraphrase, Edelman believes poverty is one factor that increases the chances that a released inmate will behave illegally. Therefore, his solution to the recidivism problem is to provide newly released inmates monthly cash stipends to deter the convicts from returning to criminal activity.

While Edelman is correct in his assertion, the implementation of his solution isn’t as feasible as my proposed solution. One reason it would be difficult to implement is funding. With the Trump Administration declaring a second “war on drugs” in response to the opioid epidemic, funding for Edelman’s solution likely wouldn’t come from the federal government, since it would be quite expensive. Instead, funding would have to come from state governments, which would be even harder to obtain, since budgets for incarceration are already strapped. In contrast, my solution is to slowly allocate funds from the budget for prison education programs that are already in place. That way more prisoners have the opportunity to receive higher education and secure employment immediately after release.

***

There are other solutions to the problem of college students eating poorly. A recent study was done to find what students thought about how to promote healthy eating. Written in BMC Public Health, Habiba Ali and others say, “accessibility, peer influence, and busy schedules were the main factors influencing students’ food choices from campus vending machines” (Ali et al). To paraphrase their solution, the students decided that healthy vending as well as health promoting signs around the vending machines would be the best way for access to healthy foods.

While this study was very well done and made a few very good points, healthy vending is not the best option. Writing in the LA Times, Elena Conis contrasts the nutritional facts from the top snacks in normal vending machines with the top snacks in healthy vending machines. The snacks from healthy vending are slightly healthier: they have less fat and fewer calories. However, overall, they are not healthier (Conis). Healthy vending will only give students the idea that they are eating healthy when in reality, they are not. There are vending machines with fruit in them, but they are expensive to maintain and if not eaten quickly enough, the fruit will go bad. I believe that having a healthy food option in the cafeteria is the best option. It will be truly healthy food and not just the perception of healthy food.

***

Though there are many alternative ways to deal with the problem of mental health, the most common I have come across is implementing more psychologists in school. Summarizing the information found by experts from many schools, Anya Kamenetz, in an article by for NPR, says, “their topline message: Don’t harden schools. Make them softer, by improving social and emotional health” (Kamenetz). She goes on to discuss how the school climate may impact students and creating an emotionally and socially connected environment may help the mental health of students at schools. This all boiled down to the importance of school psychologists.

What Kamenetz is trying to show is very true, school psychologists can help with the mentally ill and have been shown to help the school environment (Kamenetz). The main problem is that not everyone is going to seek professional help first. In a study done by Guo Sisi and other researchers, they discovered that students are most likely to seek a friend in a time of crisis over an adult (Guo, Sisi, et al.). This can become very dangerous in situations of crisis. Teenaged friends are not trained and probably lack experience adult are more likely to have. If they solely go to a friend they are piling their own problems on them, meaning if they do end up hurting themselves, the friend is likely to blame themselves. To combat this, teaching coping skills and where and why to get help would be much cheaper. It doesn’t cost as much to change health textbooks, while hiring a new psychiatrist is going to cost more over time. The importance of teaching kids to help themselves may lead them to seeing they need help from others as well.

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