By Lynnell Edwards, Associate Programs Director, Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing
On good days, mere chaos seems to swirl around us like smoke; on bad days it feels like we are staring down the apocalypse. Everywhere: the body oppressed and rent by violence, the body sickened (by virus, by fire, by flood) the body “distanced” or “essential.” Literature and the arts have always been part of healing in troubled and transitional times, but documentary poetry, with its arc beyond the interiority of the lyric and toward the external realities of the material world, has an especial urgency in these difficult days.
I am struck by how many of my students write beautifully in the midst of very dense lives. Some are working extremely hard on other jobs, some have young families, or run their own businesses, or care for elderly parents.
I ask them when they write. Some get up at four AM, or write after everyone has gone to sleep. Some write on their lunch hours.
Don’t wait for the right time to write. It won’t come. If you look around and there is no competition for your writing time, no one to knock and demand that you come out and play, no one to need you, you may have shut the door too firmly on life. Crack it open!
When times are tough, and frankly, they couldn’t be tougher, I turn to poetry. More specifically, I turn to formal poetry. There is something about molding language into prescribed patterns to express unwieldy emotions that I find incredibly soothing. Focusing on rhythm, rhyme scheme, syllable stresses and counts, as well as imagery, simile and metaphor, can be a great distraction. On the other hand, going over and over and over a poem as I try to get it right brings me closer to my emotions. This tension works its way into the poem and (hopefully) provides a rich reading experience.
For me, poetry is a balance, or a vacillation, between overthinking a thing until I’ve ground it to dust, and floating on the air, letting the writing happen. One translation of this happens when I try not to think at all, to the extent that that is possible, and write, and then follow that up later by looking at every last detail as I edit.
Kevin Willmott, screenwriter of BlacKkKlansman, visits residency to receive Spalding Prize
By School of Writing chair Kathleen Driskell
Due to the continuing Covid-19 crisis and out of an abundance of caution for the health of our students, faculty, and administrators, Spalding University has placed a moratorium on faculty travel to and from campus for the foreseeable future. This means the School of Writing directors and faculty will convene our Fall 2020 residency through virtual platforms.
We can’t pretend a virtual residency is the same as meeting in person, but I want you to know directors, faculty, and staff are working very hard to bring students a rich and thought-provoking curriculum. The School of Writing is building on our successful virtual residency experience last spring and will continue to innovate, taking advantage of the best synchronous virtual pedagogy and technology available. We’re also having fun planning social hours for you at lunch and in the evenings.
By Fenton Johnson, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Faculty
I spend part of these quiet days imagining how we will be together again. Is it possible that, once shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted, life will resume exactly as before? A dear friend, a Holocaust survivor, once pointed at the news on television and said flatly, “You see these things and you know we have learned nothing.” But I am an American, imbued with American mythology, and cannot so easily let go of the notion that we might learn from experience.
By Nancy McCabe, Creative Nonfiction and Fiction Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
My forthcoming book, Can This Marriage Be Saved? A Memoir, took me thirty years to write. I’m not kidding. It’s not like I was working on it every day for thirty years; I put it aside for long periods. But it didn’t fully take off for me until I embraced approaches I had long resisted, playing with extended metaphors and borrowed forms as shaping devices.