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Old 02-23-2014, 05:21 PM View Post #1 (Link) Welcome to the Gulag...
Spacepirate (Offline)
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Starting tomorrow, Isis and I will be pioneering a series of weekly discussions based around the art of writing; I will be tackling prose in the form of the short story, whist Isis will deal with poetry. (Yes I shamelessly stole the title from The Paris Review. But we can also call the project affectionately the Gulag.) On alternate weeks we'll post an interesting short story/poem(s) and offer it up for discussion to you guys.


To be good writers I think everyone here would agree that you need to be good - if not, great - readers, but I think for us we need to read in a certain way. In essence then the art of writing is the art of reading: what should we read, how should we read. And though I do not have the answers to those questions, I hope this series will offer new ways of thinking about texts and more importantly introduce people to writers they might not have picked up, nor had the time to read.


I guess for me personally I want to showcase that the idea of the short story is not merely an American invention. Yes, America has had many greats, but if you take a look at the names that always crop up in descriptions of the canon: Updike, Poe, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, (and many more) you would forget that the short story has been a tradition that's far older than America. Whilst as readers you may think it might not matter, the reality is that what we are taught to read is myopic, can be dangerous. I'm not advocating an unlearning - which can equally be dangerous - and Hemingway is one of my world's greatest writers, no question, but as we become more multi-cultural, as more people have the ability to write, there's an even greater need to seek out the jewels of history that have been all forgotten. For that purpose I plan to do an Around-the-World model, picking a short story from every country where applicable; Africa and Asia might be tricky but that's a bridge we'll cross when we get there.

Obviously the pool of literature is far greater in America than, say, Suriname so I'm open to coming back and picking out a few from larger nations, as well as picking suggestions from you guys. Feel free to use this thread as a general comments, spam, suggestion thread - I'd be interested in hearing from you guys about writers you like, and would like to be seen posted here.


Nothing. If you want. This series can be as low intensity as you wish, or you can think of it as a class; even by just reading the story, I hope that you will have learnt something. And if you want to participate, then even better for everyone else. For the most part we'll be looking at the craft of prose, of narratives from around the world and how you build a successful story, drawing in from literary theory - Yes, the dreaded theory. Whether you love the idea of deconstruction, or find the idea of différence far too different too handle, theory is unfortunately everywhere. When we critique, what we are basically doing is applying theory in an unadorned, unpretentious manner whether we know it or otherwise and though yes unfortunately academic theory is laden with very opaque, often French, words theory is at its most fundamental the study of writing and reading. It is what we as writers do on this forum everyday when we say 'the POV is unreliable' or 'this feels more like a novel than a short story.' I guess a secondary goal is I want people to embrace theory, especially people who do not study Literature (note, capital L), and think about the ways theory can affect our writings.

Like I said though, no pressure. The only reason I will be so invested is because I'm taking a course this semester called 'The Art of Fiction' and would like to give something to YWO from what I have learnt. I do not want to alienate but only to try to encourage new ways of reading and thinking. Although primarily it's about reading new, exciting, dynamic writings - if even one person discovers and loves an author they've never read before, I will be satisfied.


1. Canada, Alice Munro, The Art of the Nobel in 'Passion'
2. United States, Lydia Davis, The Art of the Flash in 'Varieties of Disturbance'
3. Mexico, Juan Rulfo
4. Guatemala, Augusto Monterroso
5. [User's choice]
						Last edited by Spacepirate; 03-24-2014 at 09:04 AM.
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Old 02-26-2014, 05:53 PM View Post #2 (Link)
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I’m going to tackle the poetry side of this series. My goal is to become a more conscious reader through investigating a poem, and to help us all develop the tools to become more conscious readers (and writers!) through discussion. When we read carefully and when we can pick apart how a poem works from the inside, we can start to pick up new ways to pump life into our poems, to shape our words with intent, and to bring the reader around to our ideas. By talking about poetry we’ll become more aware of language. While I bet a lot of you participating in this write poetry, I’d love it if prose writers dropped by every now and again. Reading and talking about poetry can help you develop the small-scale aspects of your prose like phrasing, imagery, metaphor, and sentence structure.

Like Spacepirate, I’m hoping not just to talk about a new poem every two weeks, but to start a dialogue where we all try out different ideas. I want us to talk about how the poem works, what the poem is saying, and how it fits into the context of ideas about poetry – either our own ideas about how poetry can be, or historical modes of making poetry.

There are lots of things that I want to touch on: different devices used when making a poem and how they work; different forms; different ways of thinking about what poetry is and what it should do. In addition to exploring the different ways of making poetry I’m going to try my best to include poetry from different points of view, or by poets with different experiences or cultural identities. I’d love input from all of you on this last front. I have some poems and poets in mind, poems that will bring us out of the “usual” and make us experience and analyze out of our comfort zones – or at least, out of my comfort zone. Do you have a favorite poem or poet that you think more people should hear about? Is there a point of view you wish you read more from? Names, links, poem titles, magazine titles – send it my way if you want to see it discussed! I think that the more this series is a collaborative effort the better it will be.


For now, keep an eye out for a poem and some notes and questions accompanying it: I’m planning to post between Saturday, March 1st and Monday, March 3rd. There will be a new poem and discussion every other week, alternating with the short story discussions. You can participate in whatever way works for you, and I’m hoping to get as many people involved as possible! You should be able to learn something just from reading the poem and the accompanying post. Even if you’re not keen on discussion, I hope you drop by. Maybe the poem will be a new favorite, or the discussion introduce you to a new term, a new form, a new idea about poetry and language.

I’ll ask a few questions at the end of the poem notes to get the ball rolling. Feel free to answer those questions if you want. But if you have something to say about the poem that’s not in the questions, say your piece! I’d love it if people go beyond the questions that I ask and describe their take on the poem – what works, what doesn’t, what they think the poem is saying. If the discussion veers in a different direction, that’s ok too. This isn’t English class. We don’t have a set number of things to cover each week. We can wander as it suits us. There won’t be wrong answers to the questions that I ask (If you just post a My Little Pony gif in response that might qualify as "not right", but I think you know what I mean).

Everybody is welcome. If you've just started writing and thinking about poetry and your 8th grade or 11th grade English class isn't helping you as much as you'd hoped, please try out the discussion. If you're studying writing or literature and know more than me about a form, a movement, a school of thought, stick around and help out - we'd love to hear from you and could all benefit from your knowledge. If you've been out of school for awhile and feel a little rusty, this is a great place to get your reading and thinking skills polished up again.

If you have suggestions for poems, subjects, or other stuff we should do, please post in this thread.


1. Amy Gerstler, “For My Niece Sydney, Age Six”
2. Aimee Nezhukumatathil, "Red Ghazal"
3. Deborah Digges, "Vesper Sparrows"
4. Litany poems - most likely "Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out" by Richard Siken, maybe "Litany" by Billy Collins. And whatever else I can turn up in the next few weeks.
5. Claribel Alegria, "From The Bridge"
6. Lyn Hejinian, excerpts from "My Life", plus maybe essays like The Rejection of Closure.

I’ll link to discussions in this list as they are posted on the forum, and upcoming poems on other sites if available. Bold numbers have been posted. Regular numbers are yet to come. If you’re looking for a particular Art of Poetry thread on the forum and can’t find it, search for “AoP” – I’ll put it in all the thread titles.
						Last edited by Isis; 06-15-2014 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 04-29-2014, 08:16 PM View Post #3 (Link)
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A while back, Spacepirate suggested that I write up a timetable for all the novelists and their books that I intend on writing about. This is so that, even if you cannot get the specific book I intend to write about, you can hopefully get a book by the same author. This will cover the year of 2014 (which hopefully I shall see through).

I shall post the articles (hopefully) midway through the month. So for example, you can expect April's article to come out anytime between the 10th and 20th. Due to exams in May, I have had to skip that month and move the discussion to the following month. Obviously, if there are any novels in particular you would like to see discussed, then please VM me with your suggestions. (And I will promptly ignore you if you suggest Gravity's Rainbow or Twilight.)

Thus, I present to you, The Art of the Novel Timetable.


April - Mao II, by Don Delillo
May - N/A
June - One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
July - Fight Club, by Chuck Palahnuik
August - ?
September - ?
October - ?
November - ?
December - ?
and he saw himself nailed to the cross of his own cradle and coffin
						Last edited by lostbookworm; 06-17-2014 at 08:54 AM.
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