I’m never really keen on posting my creative writing assignments, mostly because I don’t think they’re worth posting, and this time is no exception, except to say that I had lots of fun writing it, and ultimately, it was useful to get me writing. Our assignments are geared to help us develop a poetics about our writing. The graduate students in this class must also include a poetics, or a descriptive about their work along with their portfolio. The assignments are intended to make the students think about what they have or are writing, along with how and why. They’ve been challenging in a fun way, especially this one, which is to write about a certain style that has influenced your writing (or at least that is how I determined the exercise, so of course, I may be completely out to lunch, but it’s only worth 10% of my mark, so bah). I must stress that while I completely ripped off Gertrude Stein’s style, and perhaps Stein herself, I tried to use her method to write how I formulated mine (of the annals–the poem follows the assignment).
Here is what I did:
A=N=N=A=L=S of Style
1. Gertrude Stein knew how to push all the right buttons.
2. Someone called them the Women of Modernism. Stein. Djuna Barnes. Marianne Moore. These women of a certain age were so much more: the good Stein, the bitter Barnes, and the well-mannered Moore.
3. There is another woman in this story; this other woman has a fine, steady upbringing. One winter she took a class.
4. Three Lives intertwined in her mind like origami windmills all that cold season.
5. The woman with a fine, steady upbringing believed she was celebrating the genius of the good Stein, the bitter Barnes, and the well-mannered Moore by thinking about their writing.
6. The Women of Modernism worked hard to stitch and sew their works together. The biggest suture in the mind of the other woman was that of the work of the good Stein. In the late darkness swelling the hush of the classroom, the other students were not pleased to be reading Melanctha and Jeff’s passionate, yet gloomy world. The other woman in this story was pleased.
7. The other woman in this story, the woman with a fine, steady upbringing, often attempted to piece together works of her own. Sometimes, she thought, the reading of the good Stein was like her body paging in and out all those imagined lives.
8. The thing she ought to do, the simplest thing she could do, she thought often as she sat in that class, would be to write something like Stein.
9. Reading Stein became her method of understanding those rituals, traditions in writing that began in the early twentieth century. Lying on the couch early one morning, thinking of writing, she thought she should be writing, but couldn’t do any writing because of all of her thinking.
10. The other woman in this story wondered how all those Tender Buttons could follow such bruised lives.
11. The woman with the fine, steady upbringing wondered why she wasn’t more attuned to her own wondering, and why she couldn’t wondrously write what she was thinking when sometimes she thought she was thinking good.
12. This woman thought what she needed was an object. A computer. The quick blink of interest.
13. Maybe a change. A shower. A surge of hot water washing out words, crashing against the wall, and the curtain opened by hand. Something was stepping in.
14. Stumbling was the way she wondered the scene. Stumbling was the entering.
15. Rinsing was her purge, her moment and an urge opening.
16. Nevertheless, it was someone else that pointed the way out.
17. The other woman with a fine, steady upbringing in this story noticed that bleak winter that within a cheeky man’s seminar, there were the works of chronological annals.
18. The annals were a form, solid yet thoughtless as a toilet seat left up by the other woman’s man. Somehow, what she should do is find the way to put it down, she thought.
19. The good Stein lingers on that seat.
20. The other woman thought she should put down a little, maybe a little box, where words might be fit, or be tried on in the fitting.
21. Somehow then, the other woman with a fine, steady upbringing in this story, carried her own story in her head for a few months before writing it down.
22. Even now, the other woman in this story carries another story, where it will arrive late one night, or early one morning, or even in the afternoon, when she thinks that her thinking may very well be worth the thought.
Annals of January
1. A large stocky sky. Cooked the roast.
2. Sleep. Snow.
4. Frost. The window is blind.
5. The day before returned. Rime. Hard.
6. Wine. An expansion. Bread.
8. Snow. I dream in white.
9. Sleep is uneasy frost. Goldfish died.
10. The sun acts as June. Charms the window.
13. Wine. Red lessening. Gold.
14. Loneliness is an owl. Up all night.
16. I sleep in white. Dream in wine.
17. Read a book. Growth.
20. An inch of hair. Language.
21. Bought a fish. Something and nothing.
23. Unexpected delivery. Sunset at six.
25. The sun. Two minutes later.
27. An end. I dreamed.
28. Light is horizontal. A beginning.
30. Rain washes the car. Found money.
31. Snow. Loneliness in inches.