Katie Waring wrote a new post, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Truth in Nonfiction But Were Afraid to Ask, on the site Fact vs. Nonfiction 5 years, 10 months ago
This post nicely sums up a lot of what we’ve been talking about this semester: is fact different from truth? How can anything be completely factual in CNF if nearly everything is, inherently, subjective and based […]
Katie Waring wrote a new post, "Identity has always been a fragile phenomenon": The Truth? About Hayward Kreiger, on the site Fact vs. Nonfiction 5 years, 11 months ago
When I was in the Poetry Workshop last semester with Lytton Smith, we read two poetry collections with documentary or journalistic elements–one of which was Erika Meitner’s Copia. In her collection, […]
Katie Waring commented on the post, Creative Nonfiction vs. Non-fiction: What’s with the Hyphen?, on the site Fact vs. Nonfiction 5 years, 12 months ago
Yes! I’ll see if it’s legal to pack pitchforks in your luggage for flights–maybe we can incite a formal protest at AWP.
Katie Waring wrote a new post, The Colbert Report, Didion, & Serial in Place of Shakespeare, on the site Fact vs. Nonfiction 6 years ago
Katie Waring wrote a new post, Creative Nonfiction vs. Non-fiction: What’s with the Hyphen?, on the site Fact vs. Nonfiction 6 years, 1 month ago
Have any of you ever wondered why CNF is sometimes “nonfiction” and sometimes “non-fiction”? I know I sure have (then again, that curiosity might just reveal my utter geekiness). But really, why do people […]
If you haven’t heard me blabbing about it at some point or another, I’m currently working on a Directed Study with Chris Perri. In the CNF workshop I took with him last semester, we had to incorporate some sort of research into our second assignment. As I tried to come up with possible topics, I remembered my mom mentioning something about a village specifically for people with epilepsy when we were driving up to Geneseo, and since my dad has epilepsy—and I had it, growing up—I decided to research that. Since then, it’s spiraled into a year-long research project.
A little backhistory: the Craig Colony for Epileptics (located in Sonyea, which is Exit 6 on 390—like 15 minutes south of Geneseo) opened in 1896 and was the first epileptic colony in the United States. William Pryor Letchworth (of Letchworth State Park) played a huge role in convincing the State Board of Charities to open the colony, with the end goal of removing epileptics (who were at the time considered mentally ill/retarded) from state poorhouses and asylums and giving them a place where (surrounded by other epileptics), they could lead as normal lives as possible. It was basically a self-sustaining little village, with houses and shops and farms—except that patients checked into the colony never really left the colony. As many as 1/3 of the population were children, and more times than not, patients admitted to the colony lived there until they died of old age (or complications from epilepsy/other medical issues). It operated through the late 1980s (but by then was focused more on developmentally disabled adults than epileptics), when the State began to push for community-based group homes over institutions. Now, the buildings from the colony are Groveland Prison.
So far, I’ve interviewed three people about the colony—two nurses who worked/went to school there, and a historian in Leicester who’s been collecting research and data about all colony-related things for the past few decades. I’m hoping to interview a few more nurses (and possibly a former patient or two) by the time this semester’s over. Next semester, I’ll (hopefully) begin drafting the beginning chapters of a book based on all this research.
I just happened to interview June Jones the weekend before my workshop poem for this round was due. June currently lives in Canandaigua, and a few months ago she donated the uniform she was required to wear as a nursing student at the colony to the Livingston County Historical Museum on Center Street. My friend is an intern at the museum, told me about the uniform, and the woman who runs the museum was kind enough to give me June’s phone number so I could reach out to her.
For the most part, the poem that was workshopped today is verbatim transcription from my interview with her—I recorded our conversation on my phone and transcribed it, word for word, onto my laptop. There are a few long pauses between bits of dialogue, and a couple moments when I interjected or asked a question that I decided not to include, but every word in the poem is direct dialogue from June.
Because I’ve been focusing so much on the research aspects of the colony in my directed study—the historical data on how it began and who the patients were and what went on there—I thought it would be cool to focus on a more personal anecdote that came about as a result of the colony’s existence: June’s romantic relationships sprung from her time at the colony, and I was intrigued by that idea. Hence, the poem.
For some reason, it never hit me that I could incorporate my nonfiction research into poetry until we read Copia for class. When Erika was talking about the process behind writing “All that Blue Fire,” I was really intrigued and inspired by how fluid the genre borders are between documentary poetry and new journalism/creative nonfiction, so I decided to do a little experiment. “Old School” is the result.
Wow, this post ended up being really long, I’m sorry. I could go on for ages about all this…if anyone’s interested in documentary poetry-nonfiction crossover/epileptic colonies/eugenics, feel free to track me down sometime. I’d love to talk!
I just learned I’ve been spelling “catalog” wrong my entire life. At least, wrong as in I’m American and we’re in America and Americans apparently drop the -ue endings of random various words. Yes, that means I’ve […]
One of the books Erika Meitner lists as recommended reading for Copia is a CNF book that’s part investigative journalism, part memoir, by journalist Charlie LeDuff called Detorit: An American Autopsy. I have a […]
Thanks for the link, Robbie! I read the info about this guy on Wikipedia, but this is the first time I’ve seen a video of him. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one strangely obsessed with jellyfish!
Okay, so before I signed up for Poetry, I knew a lot of poets had certain ‘obsessions’ that they tended to write about or get ‘fixated’ on. Perhaps because of my incredibly short attention span I didn’t, in a million years, think I would be one of those poets. After all, how can you fixate on something if you can’t even sit through a 20-minute episode of Parks and Rec without getting distracted by something?
Then came the jellyfish. I swear, I don’t have some sort of weird history with jellyfish. As far as I can remember, I’ve never even been stung by one. But they’re so interesting! One day, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and one of those, probably-spam, annoying buzfeed-but-not-buzfeed articles popped up–titled something along the lines of, “21 Weird Facts That Will Shock and Amaze You.” I, having a short attention span, got distracted by the jellyfish photo attached to the article and clicked on the probably-spam/site covered in random ads link.
And there, on my computer scrren, was the fact about the turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish being immortal.
I mean, seriously, what other creature out there has the ability to revert itself to sexual immaturity after growing old? And are completely see-through? And are just kind of floating, gelatinous balls of water and skin and tentacles?
Since then, I’ve had an odd fixation on jellyfish. They’ve shown up in several of the poems I’ve written for class, and I’m currently working on a nonfiction piece about the freakin’ things. (Also, we’re reading Lia Purpura’s On Looking collection for Lyric Essay, and she tends to fixate on jelllyfish imagery throughout the collection–coincidence much?)
Okay, so maybe I’m a little weird. But what about you guys? Do you have certain things that you fixate on in your poetry? And how did you first stumble across that fixation?
I’m interested to see a follow up on this post, Christina! I’m really curious to see if anyone will recognize the poem–although you never know, someone might. I’m always interested to see how people pair their […]
We’re a few weeks into the semester now, and as I’ve probably mentioned in class I’m currently taking Lyric Essay with Steve West, in addition to our own wonderful Poetry Workshop. I entered both classes with a somewhat strong idea of what categorized each genre: poetry has stanzas and line breaks, beautiful images that are stringed along with some sort of unifying idea or moment; lyric essay, a subgenre of CNF, I thought was usually more narrative—it could have beautiful images like poetry, but those images were usually unified through the personal experience of some sort of first-person narrator or embodied self presented within the essay.
Now, about a month into the semester, I’m more confused than ever as to what separates the two genres. I’ve had workshops in Lyric Essay where I was sure the piece we were talking about was poetry—not essay—and I’ve had moments in Poetry where, looking at a poem (especially, but not exclusively, prose poems), I was sure it was essay.
So where is the (*pun intended*) line drawn?
Take, for example, the Hairston poem we talked about (briefly) in class last Thursday. The first line of the poem reads:
And another line:
“but poppa we are in love but poppa i love him poppa but please poppa”
The back and forth comments between the speaker and his daughter gives the poem a kind of dialogue (a definite characteristic of prose), as well as a clear sense of a narrator or ‘embodied self.’ There’s also a sense of progression throughout the stanza/scene as tension mounts and threatens to explode.
Now, take an example of a lyric essay we discussed in my other class (actually written by Prof. West, when we were doing a practice workshop), entitled “Love Letters to Appalachia”:
“Dear spur trail to the summit of the mountain:
Dear leafless branches in early spring and 360 degrees of headroom:
Dear walking through clouds that whisper in your ear:
Dear driving with the windows down to a small cottage on a mountain lake, listening to the perfect song with one of your best friends curled up in the backseat and another slouching in the passenger seat with an arm outside surfing on the wind, all of you knowing all the lyrics and deciding to just listen anyway:”
There’s a lot of beautiful imagery throughout this essay. Prof. West even uses white space here (Can you call them line breaks if they’re used in prose? Or is each sentence just it’s own paragraph here?) to force the reader into thinking about each image he conjures before moving onto the next—a definite characteristic of poetry.
A prose poem, according to dictionary.com, is a “composition written as prose but having the concentrated rhythmic, figurative language characteristic of poetry.” In fact, according to an article I’m reading for tomorrow’s Lyric Essay class, (“Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Lyrical Essay”), prose poems can even be classified as a subgenre of CNF instead of a subgenre of poetry.
Obviously, poetry can be fictional. CNF cannot—it must rely, at least to some extent, on the experiences of the author. But, if a prose poem is based in truth, does that mean it’s also a lyric essay? Or could be a lyric essay? After all essay, at its literal definition (from its French roots), means to try. Try to understand, or make sense of something. Doesn’t poetry, at its core, also do this?
So, is there a definite line drawn between prose and poetry? Or is that line just a way of defining the context with which we discuss and analyze a text?
This is great! I’ve definitely written my share of terrible kid poetry/stories. Unforunately, I think I’ve lost a chunk of that writing after our ancient family desktop crashed a few years ago–even when I was […]
This is a topic that has come up a few times in the Gandy Dancer class, both this semester and last. I’ve talked a little with Lucia about this, and we both seem to agree: Geneseo has a definite school or style of […]
This is so true. I definitely think teaching contemporary poets in high school English classes will lead to more students reading poetry by their own volition post-high school. Personally, I was in a smiliar […]
I don’t have much experience writing poetry (or any, really), so when I signed up for this class one of my biggest questions was, well, what am I going to write about? A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a wikipedia article about Turritopsis Dohrnii, a jellyfish that has the ability to revert itself back to sexual immaturity after it progresses in age–basically, the freaking thing is immortal. I wrote a really rough draft of a poem about this jellyfish for our second poetry exercise, and that’s when I realized: weird, random facts can be a good source of inspiration for poetry.
A few other oddities I’ve stumbled across since this semester started: ducks quack in accents dependent on the region they live in, people living in Sardinia consider a cheese with live maggots a black-market delicacy, and in 2008 a penguin was knighted in Norway. Sometimes, just googling “weird facts” will uncover a whole hoard of poetry ideas, while other times I’ll look through random articles on Wikipedia in hopes of stumbling across something interesting enough to write about.
I know a lot of people rely on their own personal experience or history for writing ideas, but I always think it’s fun to create an entire poem/story/essay off of whatever random thing you happen to trip across on the internet.
I’d love to hear what you guys think! Where does everyone else find poetry inspiration?
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