what works

After all these years of trying to teach myself to complicate and nuance, I’m in a position of really learning to clarify and simplify for the purposes of first year teaching. One of the things I want my students to learn is that language is not transparent. But how do you teach that without exercising the assumption of transparent language?

I’m mulling form these days, after having witnessed Mark Nowak’s extraordinary poetry work with American and South African Autoworkers, and Walter Lew’s movie-telling exercises with his students. Both are about a kind of subversion and both have a kind of beauty, or strength, though not in the sense that I expect any of my own students to get. (Why don’t I? May they would get it.) Or my own performance/paper at Tracing the Lines, with Rita, in which had seven others help us perform a piece that engaged various kinds of texts functioning at various levels of consciousness about their textuality, and at the same time attempting to do work that is social and political. I’m not sure that it “worked” or that it was “strong” but it drew people together in a way that seemed to me to be step in the right direction—away from authority, towards community and recognitions of kinship in difference (between natives and settlers, between humans and the elements).

If I had my way, everyone who came out of my classes, or for that matter, any one with the good fortune of a Western education would write, read and share poetry. Its quality wouldn’t matter nearly as much as the engagement with text and with other readers and writers. What could an education be that wasn’t about producing elites? What would its poetry sound like?

Thanks, Myron, for the quality banner!

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