CWCAB: Creative/Writing Center Note

Amy Hansen, staff writer, introduces our special creative writing feature to wrap up the spring ’17 semester! To read individual pieces, click the pull quotes below, or scroll through the creative writing section of the blog. 

I had no idea what we’d receive when we put out the call for creative writing about writing center work, but I was banking on the obsessive devotion both fields require to produce good results. We read so many good submissions from all over the world — from South Africa to Hawai’i to Canada (and beyond!) — and gradually, as these things do, a theme began to emerge.

Like our writers, all of whom identify as creative writers and writing center folks, each piece we chose features a space between the creative and the academic, between self and other, between prescriptivist and descriptivist, between music and poetry, and between play and form.

This makes sense to me! As writing center tutors and administrators, our work requires us to shift rapidly in and out of discourse communities and interpersonal roles. So why wouldn’t that same tension translate thematically and stylistically to our creative writing?

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Writing Lab Madrigal

Hilmar Klaus Luckhoff

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Grammar I and Grammar II

Elliott M. Freeman

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Grammar I: The Instructor Speaks in Defense of the Casually Heterodox

Sentence, paragraph are not units of length
but meaning—

every inch must push forward, a crescendo
of brass and oboes

until we reach the moment of breath. Under the bones,
there’s a rushing vein

of sound. A good paragraph is like a blanket fort
in the living room—

space within space, a partition as partable
as the skin on the sea.

Verb yourself righteous and silly, pestle what must be
pestled, but that and only that—

the blender’s smoothie, the mother bird’s nutrition.
Except poem-wise, then bend

everything with a spade or trowel; all the language
is silt. Lather your tongue

in love of syllables, roll the candy-color lozenge
of a vowel

in the pocket of a cheek. Your mongrel lexicon
eats like a starving man:

crack the bone, lick the marrow. The best nutrition
is hidden under a snap.

Run a tie around the neck of your words, but only
when you must:

don’t let someone teethe themselves on your grammar
or make it into a noose.
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Grammar II: The Instructor is a Descriptivist Anarchist

When people make grammar into a rustwire trap,
all syntaxteeth and rulebarbs eager for fleshbites—

When the world seems to turn on the too’s and to’s,
irreconcilable wordknots and soundknots simply not

worthy of worry—Think Darwin. Every bird’s blueplume
or redplume started as a freak’s feather, deviant

by way of accident. Why shouldn’t we speak that
feathertongue, freaktongue, apply ourselves

to the bendability of language, its cleverquick
knotability, not naughtability—why not get lost

on the road to somewhere unimportant? Why not
trip yourself into accidental brilliance?

 

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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.

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Locating Voices

Tani Loo

When the stranger comes, she claims it’s by accident; She points in different directions to tell you that she followed the wrong path. She sits facing you like all the others who have wandered down your path, but when she opens her mouth to say something—anything, really—no words come out. And when you try to answer her, you find that your voice is lost too.

The footprints of strangers like her are indented in the mud surrounding your home, and the path leading up to it turns from russet to sienna due to constant use. Some marks are darker because they bear more weight, while others are small and light. The strangers leave parts of themselves behind in the words scrawled in the mud, images of their imagination projected onto you, and signposts outlined by piles of grass strands spread over cracked soil.

You step aside and open your door to her. You wave your arm in a gesture that’s supposed to be welcoming, friendly. And she steps over your threshold and seats herself across from you at a table designed to serve the purposes of two.

You try speaking in different tongues to her: the one your mother and your mother’s mother gave you, the one your friends repeated after you until it was only an echo, and the one your mentors taught you to adapt to a different setting. But she doesn’t pick up on your linguistic cues or inflection of vowels immediately, and you don’t pick up on hers.

So, both of you lean forward across the table and mouth words without really saying anything. You read the subtle movement of each other’s lips and the shrug of a shoulder in order to comprehend what it is you’re trying to get across. You watch her fingers run over the grains of wood on the table. Then, you do the same over every nick and dent, hoping to grasp the concept solely through your sense of touch and the heat that strangers have left behind.

It seems to be nothing more than a futile effort.
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Conceptual Lineage: A Found Poem

Rob Linsley

Out of frustration
I expect more: no
investment in their ignorance
false sense of knowing—typical
manifestations, publishing
misinformation, diagnostic
taxonomy, despite all our
noise. Overlooked or
misrepresented, a doer—
an agent—a creator. The idea
of a writing center? No
algorithmic rules, no
fix-it shop, no writers’
hospice.

Rather, ideas
and ideals, subsuming
all the rest. Centers of
consciousness where
writers wrestle to revise,
battle with illiteracy,
disturbing the “ritual”
of composing.

A continuous
dialectic—its own end.

*All words are taken directly from Stephen M. North’s essay, “The Idea of a Writing Center.”

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