Poem : Individuation and Autonomy
Please choose one of the following assignments:
Write an animal poem. The animal may be the central character or may just make a cameo appearance. Let the animal allow you to say, discover, or admit something that you might not have otherwise allowed yourself to acknowledge.
Write an elegy. It may be for someone you knew well or someone you barely knew at all. It may be for someone you never met, or possibly, for something. Don’t make the elegy too easy for yourself. Remember that a poet often has to balance contradictory impulses in an elegy.Really try to do justice to whomever or whatever it is you claim to mourn. Try to help your audience comprehend what or who has been lost.
5. Myths, legends, and folktales have many functions within a culture. Such stories have been used to explain the universe or particular mysterious phenomena within it, or to record events. These narratives have sometimes been invoked to teach lessons, and to both reinforce and challenge social norms. For individual poets and writers, myths, legends, and folktales may take on a new set of functions. Robert Alter wrote, “Myth . . . enables man to experience imaginatively what logic might deny, that there is an essential link between the ultimate nature of reality and his own passions, his sexuality, his very biology and anatomy.” The Neoplatonist philosopher Salustius even proposed, “The world itself can be considered a myth.”
In this poem, invoke, retell, or reinvent an older myth, legend, or folktale, or create a new one. You might create your own cosmogony (creation myth) or eschatology (myth of how the world will end). You might turn to science for your subject matter, considering some of the similar functions of science and myth, or use metaphysical wit (see John Donne’s “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward”) in order to draw surprising conclusions from a seemingly harsh or oppressive world order.
6. The following assignment comes from David St. John: “Write a dramatic monologue (a poem spoken in a voice other than your own). You might choose a speaker from another time, place, or culture; you might choose a specific figure out of history or invent a fictional speaker (set in either a historical or contemporary context); you might choose a speaker of the opposite sex; you might choose a speaker much older or much younger than yourself. The point of this exercise is to step into the life of another person and to speak in his or her voice. Perhaps you should say some things that you’d never allow yourself to say in one of your ‘own’ poems.”
7.The following assignment comes from Edward Hirsch: “Ever since Wordsworth, childhood has been one of the great, necessary, and dangerous subjects for poets. Write a poem about childhood, about the deep—as opposed to the recent—past. Try to dredge up something otherwise neglected or forgotten, something with special retrospective significance. One of your central strategic decisions will involve the question of tense. Your poem might begin in the past and stay there; it might begin in the present and then turn to the past; it might begin in the present, turn to the past, and then come back to the present. Such poems are inevitably crisis lyrics. Think about what triggers the memory, about what’s at stake in the experience, about what’s lost (and found) in the writing of your poem, about what Samuel Beckett calls ‘that double-headed monster of damnation and salvation—Time.’”
A Possible Variation: Write a childhood memory poem—but let the poem that you write in some way scare you. Consider subject matter with which you are not entirely comfortable, for example.Discover something new about the past.