Villanelle for the Writing Centre: A Monologue

Lisa Kovac

What can I help you with this afternoon?
Try reading that out loud: how does it sound?
“Are,” not “is,” since there’s more than one raccoon.

You’ve organized this draft well. Now let’s prune
some modifiers: “kind of thing;” “around…”

What can I help you with this afternoon?

You have some good ideas, but they’re strewn
all over. What gives them their common ground?
“Are,” not “is;” there’s still more than one raccoon.

Your grammar’s fine; your thesis needs work: “June
is the best month.” Why? Summer? You’ll be gowned?

What can I help you with this afternoon?

That argument’s improved. If you fine-tune
the grammar, strings of words will be unwound:
“are,” not “is,” since there’s more than one raccoon.

Neat topics: “why our dollar has a loon,”
or “coin-retirement when new queens are crowned.”
What can you help me learn this afternoon?

Remember “are” for more than one raccoon.

I am a tutor in the Writing Centre at Brescia University College, an affiliate college of Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. I hold B.A.s in French and English from Brescia, a diploma from Western in Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication, and will receive my M.A. in English from Western in June 2017. I tutor undergraduate students from many disciplines in English and French.

Writing this poem has given me the opportunity to explore and articulate some facets of the interconnectedness of my writing centre work and my creative practice. My sense of the centrality of sound in my own poetry and prose reinforces my insistence to my students that learning to read their work aloud will be an invaluable asset as they gain grammatical and rhetorical skill; this reiterated message becomes, in turn, reinforcement for me to attend to the sound of my sentences as I perform close readings of my own work. I also find that the ingenuity I call upon as a creative writer is integral to my practice as a tutor, as I invent metaphors or similes to make sense of not-yet-intuitive conventions or conjunctions, and that this habit serves me well as I formulate figurative language in my own work.

 

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