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tighter and stranger.

March 18, 2011

i just think that this language could be a little tighter – a little stranger.

emily davidson in poetry workshop.

when i mark papers for the undergrad class i TA, i often write something along the lines of “make this more unsettling. make this odder.” when i participate in my poetry workshop, i tend to say it quite a lot. when i get workshopped myself, i get that feedback, too.

i love this. i love the idea of weirdness, oddness, strangeness in writing.

people tell me that i’m too wordy, that i use too many ten dollar words (in the words of faulks.) but there is something that i always like in writing – strangeness.

sometimes i get frustrated with the program i am in. i love the people and i love the work, but sometimes i find that people sit back on their heels and don’t always make the weirdest choices. this is, of course, a personal bias, and not a blanket statement. i always rejoice, then, when someone hands in some WEIRD ASS SHIT. this extends to playwriting, as well. i like to write odd adaptations of greek myths, roman gods – i’m not one for naturalistic drama. i want weird stuff to happen on stage. i want weird stuff to happen on the page.

this isn’t a view that is held by many people, i think. and so when someone hands in something with really crude language or a really odd sex scene, or something that is a fantastic form, i get really excited.

language is our form. we play with it like sculptors dick around with clay, like artists sketch with pencils.

why say that something is one thing when you can say it is something else?

i tell my students that i want an image to be jarring. that i want an image to unsettle me. because the jarring and unsettling images are the ones that stick in my mind for a very very long time. one of my favourite images is from rm vaughan’s “troubled” (check it out. amazing book about his affair with his psychiatrist. so tense. so sexual. so troubled.) – vaughan states that something sounds like “glass balls in a blender.” a simple image, yes, but an odd fucking one. and i’ve never forgotten it, despite reading his book three some-odd years ago. or liz bachinsky’s image of little mothers in belarus pulling carrots out of the ground, of the carrots being related to misshapen, mutated babies. oh, so chilling. so powerful. so odd!

isn’t our duty to shake life into writing? to experiment with odd combinations of words to try and shock the readers? but not just for shock value. not as a gimmick, but as wordsmiths? i hate that word – wordsmiths – but i feel like it describes us writers. artists are praised for taking risks in their mediums – for making odd paintings of just one colour with knife-slashes across the canvas. sculptors gain notoriety for making images of pop stars giving birth, things that offend and jar. so why aren’t we constantly pushing ourselves to write harder, odder, farther – to write in more unsettling ways?

daniel edwards - what could be odder than that? i love his work.

i pledge allegiance to the oddity of writing. i pledge allegiance to the brutality and unsettling nature of words. i promise to always try and push the boundaries of writing while still being coherent, while still trying to make sense and retain a story. i promise to offend in my poetry. i promise to try and create images that will always always always stick in the minds of others.

this is the song that i would choose for march. i love cat stevens, and im very sad and disappointed that he no longer sings. can’t imagine a life without music.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 18, 2011 11:48 am

    Yes! I have achieved quotation status!

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