Spring SAVY 2017, Day 3- Writing and Reflection
In this week’s Writing and Reflection, we first played a game to see if we remembered each other’s names and reviewed the meaning of “cliché.” We discussed how and why we should work to avoid clichés in our poems and stories, examining the writers we have read in class and discussing why and how they use strange and exciting imagery to help the reader enter their world. Afterward, students reread the stories they composed in our last class, in which they identified and rewrote overfamiliar plots (a superhero’s background is almost always tragic, or the main character almost always discovers s/he is the “chosen one). Students spent some time adding to their stories and revising imagery to make their descriptions even more interesting and unexpected, before reading their amazing writing to their classmates.
We now know that writers often use new combinations of words to make their readers think of something in a new way, but is there a limit to how readers are “supposed” to think? Is there such a thing as an incorrect interpretation of a book or poem? Students thought long and hard about this question, writing short paragraphs in response and explaining why they felt the way they did. As before, they shared their answers with their partners and developed new answers that combined both students’ thoughts. Quite a few students argued that there was no such thing as an incorrect interpretation because one cannot control someone else’s opinion and no writer can control his/her reader. However, after discussing the issue together as a class and listening to each other’s perspectives, many students found that their answers to the question had changed! What if someone argues that Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself is about getting cheeseburgers after a football game? If that interpretation is not a valid interpretation, is it fair to say that there is ever a single, “correct” interpretation to a book or poem?
We continued our foray into the use of strange imagery and the complexity of interpreting a poem or story by talking about “synesthesia” – the ability to understand one of the five senses in terms of another sense. After composing a few examples together of imagery that uses synesthesia (such as “these chocolate chip cookies taste like hard rock” or “rose perfume that smells like warmth”), we read “The Guitar,” a poem by one of the strangest and most beautiful poets of the twentieth century, Federico García Lorca. Students read through the poem, identifying the synesthetic imagery that describe the sound of someone playing a guitar. Students discussed why Lorca may want to use such surreal images and composed poems of their own about the sound of their favorite instrument. They took care to include at least two examples of synesthesia, to avoid cliché, and to use concrete, specific language. Students then took turns standing in front of the class to read their original compositions to their audience.
Although we had already done a great deal, we learned about yet another kind of poetry: “ekphrastic poetry.” In ekphrastic poetry, the poet speaks and pays homage to another art form (sculpture, painting, music, etc.). After listening to the bassoon in the opening to Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” students examined Wassily Kandinsky’s poem “Bassoon,” which uses woodblock prints and synesthetic imagery to describe the sound of a high-pitched bassoon. As a group, we talked about why a poet might want to include pictures with his/her poems, or reference music by using highly imagistic language. In our next class, students will create an ekphrastic poem of their own before studying how authors like Madeleine L’Engle and James Wright use scenery to shape characters’ perspectives and convey their emotions.