Wednesday, August 12, 2009

MIstakes and Craft and Gabriel Gudding

This is one take, and an interesting one, on how poetry ought to be thought about and taught, in an interview with with Gabriel Gudding originally on MiPOesias. His book Rhode Island Notebook knocked me the fuck out, made me think more/better about my own work, made me want to work.

You're a professor of English at Illinois State University. Presumably, you teach writing workshops. For the benefit of our audience, what, in your opinion, are the most common mistakes made by aspiring writers? How do you help them to improve their craft?

Way I see it it’s a great privilege to get to teach something as important as creative writing and literature. Because of this, the words “mistake” and “craft” don’t come out of my mouth. Those categories have no place in my pedagogy: I strongly feel these are terms of schooling -- schooling in the Illichian sense, in the sense that “schooling,” as opposed to education, destroys souls. So, I try to disabuse students of the notion that the categories “mistake” and “craft” can have anything to do with writing. Lot of these kids come in to our classrooms very shut down. I really feel they don’t need a teacher talking about mistakes. “Craft,” though a wonderful idea, is what German novelist and linguist Uwe Poerksen calls a plastic word: it connotes far more than it denotes, such that it has become more a tool with which to yield power and status and less a word that communicates, aids, teaches.

In fact I tell my students to welcome the experience that they had initially label “error”: do not try to avoid error; embrace it, use it, transform it. All rocks are broken rocks: once a young writer twigs to that insight, she’s home free.

More here.
A note I feel ought to write: I am not a professional or even a hobbyist critic or reviewer; I am not learned in theory and criticism; the shit scares me off; I know more about fiction than I do poetry; yet I've always written poetry despite calling myself a fiction writer. So take everything you read here with generous amounts of NaCl. I read a lot of poetry, though, from all over the aesthetic map,and I like to say dumb things about it while I work out how I feel and what I've taken from it. I hope there are people out there in the same straits. Maybe they'll like this blog.

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