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Writing Ex. 1: The [Unconventional] Ode
In the Starkey reading this week, he begins discussion on poetry referencing the very old-fashioned notions of poetry that still float about in the world, mainly in regards to issues of meter and rhyme (a section we are skipping in the chapter). In identifying that poetry as an art form in the 21st century is much less rigid, he still emphasizes that poetry also isn’t “anything goes” (14). While there is variation in poetry (as there is in all forms of art & writing), there are still a set of characteristics that remain necessary for a poem to successfully reach a reader. Our initial ideas for a poem might feel like “inspiration,” but as Starkey notes, that type of “revelation visited upon a person by a god” cannot be relied on, as the muse is “notoriously fickle” (16). Part of your reading for this week is a packet of odes.
At its most basic, odes can be understood as praise poems or poems celebrating a person, place, or thing. The packet of odes we will be reading are all contemporary, having been written and published in the last 5 years (some much more recent). We are reading poetry published in the 21st century (with the exception of a few examples, such as the Neruda ode in the Ode Lecture PowerPoint), as we are learning about how to write poems in the current world, not that of Shakespeare’s time or of William Wordsworth’s. This means the poems we use as models will include younger poets (under 50 yrs. old), women writers, and poets of color. The assigned packet of odes are unconventional in that they do not follow the archaic rules of the ode and they are not written to usual “ode” topics, like spouses/significant others, the beauty of nature, Lady Luck, basically, things that people usually praise. Rather, these poems allude to feelings often not viewed positively (like Chen’s “Ode to My Envy”), music, or household items (like “Ode to Shea Butter”). For this exercise, work your way through the steps below to bring you to the free write.
List at least four (4) feelings that are not often considered “positive”:
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List at least four (4) songs or movies that you like and/or have emotional connection to:
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List at least four (4) objects that use to get ready for the day (Ex. Toothbrush, comb, hair gel, mascara, etc.):
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List at least four (4) things found in your house/apartment/dorm room/backyard:
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Choose two (2) of the items above and make a list of ways that you use/engage with/have relationship to whatever it is. Try to be very specific in the actions or in the physicality of use, as well as any relevant sensory details. (for example, if I were to choose vitamins as one of my “things,” I would list their shape, color, smell, texture, what time of day I take it, with or without food, why I choose to take it, etc.)
Thing 1 Thing 2
Now, it’s free writing time! Choose one of the two “things” with listed characteristics above and write for a minimum of 10 mins. If you want to work longer, that’s great. If you can barely make it to 10 mins, push hard, you can do it! This can be shaped like a poem or more of a paragraph, however you should try to provide as many details as possible including what the speaker’s relationship to the thing is. If you have not already done so, I’d recommend reading at least Chen and Nafis’ poems. It should be a free write, not a polished poem. Directions for each will be posted in that writing exercise’s assignment. These should not necessarily be labored over, but allow yourself to follow an organic progression, be fluid and flexible, & have fun, while still following the constraints of the directions. And don’t be concerned with form yet (unless that’s part of the exercise instructions). If the free write looks like a poem, great. If it doesn’t, that’s also great.