September 11th, 2007

Saturn Ring Blues

Fun With Iambs

My creative writing class had to write sonnets last week.  Oh, the weeping and despair!  But by the end, they all had something (although many were what we called "fractured sonnets").  One of the activities we did was to go through the collection--all the poems are compiled into one document so everyone can see everyone else's efforts--and identify interesting lines.

Here are some of the interesting examples of iambic pentameter from their work:

I saw a pig make flatulence at night

As spiders spin their shining webs of silk,

At peace, a world of crickets’ singing soft.

It fills me with an effervescent high

With what you give to me, I see your faults

I saw the darkest shadows creep last night.

They launch milk bombs and cheese curds with a gun.

I didn’t get the golden talent rod.

Right now I'm assigning a poem or two a week (they've done the "uncorrupted" poem I described earlier, sonnets, haikus, cinquains, and acrostics).  This week they'll do a poem based on a memory as we work on imagery and appeals to the senses, and a limerick.  On Friday, they type the poems into the computers in one of our computer labs and save them in a community folder.  Then I can transfer the poems (without their names) into one document for discussion for the next week.

It's a great lesson.  Any time I can work publishing into the kid's writing assignments, their level of involvement jumps up.  An audience of just the teacher is a pretty low motivator.

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Saturn Ring Blues

Post Apocalyptic Fiction and 9/11

I write some post apocalyptic fiction.  After all, my novel is called Summer of the Apocalypse, and the title story in my second collection, The Last of the O-Forms and Other Stories, is also post apocalyptic.  It's a setting that draws me.  I'm not sure if that's because I have all these little kid fantasies of the empty world where I can wander (sort of like Ray Bradbury's "The Silent Towns), or if it's because I'm a deep pessimist about the world's fate, and I'm afraid that someone will be living in a post apocalyptic world.  At least I hope someone will be living in it.

The event of 9/11 put a weird spin on my post apocalyptic tendencies though.  Before, the idea of total destruction was in the abstract, and I always considered it from the survivors' point of view.  You know, the plucky kids emerging from the bomb shelter, ready to create a new world from the rubble of the old.  A sort of pastoral version of Mad Max where supremely competent, Heinleinesque heroes would take on the challenge of doing civilization right.

Since 9/11, though, and all those awful images of the buildings coming down, my post apocalypses have been much more about the grief.  A post apocalyptic world is empty because all those lives have been snatched away.  That's an entirely different emotional underpinning to the stories than I used to have, and I think that is because that is what 9/11 did to me.  For folks about my age, the world has taken numerous, painful hits.  I don't believe I have to go back to the trio of assassinations: John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, but I can certainly start the grief clock kicking with the explosion of the Challenger.  After that would be Columbine (an event that the schools are still reeling from) and the culmination of 9/11.  The tragic hit parade wears down the inner optimist.

I remember a cartoon about a year after 9/11.  It showed the cartoonist bent over his work table trying to come up with a cartoon to commemorate the event.  What he had done instead was to write the words, "When will it end?"

I think about that a lot.  Today's anniversary reminds me to think about it.
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