Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dear Writing Project

Dear Writing Project (Yes, I mean you, UNCC WP SIers),

If Where I'm From poems hadn't gotten outdated, I would tell you that Writing Project is where I'm from. I am from people who care intensely about learning and teaching. I am from digging deep, hard discussions that crinkle my forehead, let down my tears and pull my thoughts out there toward yours. I would be from a Writing Retreat in 2006 in Bernsville in a curtained, doilied living room where other writers listen to my story, nod along and get me thinking beyond or behind Monday morning. I am from years now of heads huddled from across town on Skype, and the first time I read Hotel Nights with National Writing Project teachers in Portland. All those moments I couldn't tell you in five words or five paragraphs why they are Writing Project. Or why these two weeks of Summer Institute have swept in, through me, over me, dripping from my eyes in a wave of familiarity.

A little unexpectedly I am from Fretwell this summer. And Fretwell this summer could be, and well is, all those other stories that mean Writing Project for me. People who riff and rant and flock and tweet together. I am from people who write (and sing) of revolution and don't stop short. From people who tell our stories even when it is hard. From people who want the rest of us to ask questions about our ideas. Even when it is hard. From people who trust the rest of us to notice what works in our ideas. Even when it is hard. I am from a history of the Writing Project that has somehow gracefully, fully collided with the Writing Project that is right now.


Entering a Conversation: A Poem in Two Voices

Monday, July 11, 2011

Flood Waters

This is my piece from Tarra's demo on writing circles. My group, Jennifer, Carrie and I all wrote in different ways about the floods in the Mississippi.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not Always Negotiating

Jessie said in Summer Institute last week that once you are thinking on something you notice it everywhere.  I am so in agreement with that.  When we started our Murray Cards activity on Tuesday, I started with the momentary terror that those cards typically initiate for me.  It’s such a short amount of time to come up with something, then claim it by reading aloud to a partner.  As if I am coming up with something out of the blue; as if I am always starting on empty without anything to hold onto. 

 Well, this week after my initial floundering of over having something to say, I got going on writing about who gets to claim “composition.”  I got pretty tied up both emotionally and conceptually in writing and sharing those cards with Carrie.  I was starting to unwind my own disenfranchisement as an Early Childhood teacher and even as a writing teacher within the world of university composition.  

So Tuesday night I read two things that smacked me in the face with the connection to my own thinking.  Melissa’s blog talked about how it felt to her to claim expertise during the Murray Cards writing: the first card asks you to list things you are an expert on.  Well, that sure made me think about how connected my own, seemingly individual and personal concern, is connected up to other people and to the roles and narratives mediated by the Murray Cards.  

Later that night I was reading Joe Harris’ book, A Teaching Subject, on composition theory.  The thing that struck me in there was how he connected up the idea authority to name “error” to claims on expertise.  Wow!  So being able to name errors in the world is a material action related to the claimed identities and power.  

I said the connections are never-ending, right?  So on Wednesday night as I was sitting at Amelies (yes, I’m always there) with Lil and Lucy and Tony and Cindy and Meaghan.  We were thinking about how the claims of composition are contested even more deeply than I had been imagining.  

Lucy pointed to the ways that Joe hedges his way through the “composition” conversation, never really claiming his place and stake—always smudging his claim with language that defers  particular claims on particular conceptualizations.  

This is the really interesting thing about expertise and activity… Language can play around with how we name ourselves and others in the conversation.  Joe Harris defers a claim on an idea or identity.  He is not an expressivist.  He is not a post modernist.  He’s not in agree with or disagreement with Mina Shaughnessey.  At the same time his words and ideas do in their action claim things.  His ideas do place him in particular conversations.  He just tries to use more language to not claim it.  Like instead of using language the way Derrida  does to show the fissures, the fallings in of language, he is using it to cover up the spaces and to cover his own ass.  And in that he is claiming something, too.  He is claiming that negotiation is ultimate.  That standing your ground, making a claim, is not the way to be active in the world.  

And let me compound this.  The one thing that Joe Harris does seem to claim expertise to in this book is being a teacher.  He claims that identity and in claiming it via the primacy of negotiation, claims that teachers have no claim to any theoretical expertise of their own.  

So his claim becomes: Standing your ground, making a claim, only works for those with institutional power.  Laborers, like teachers and students, must always be willing to negotiate, not only their work terms but also their theoretical stances.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some Ars Poetica

On a Mission

Writing is not
Keeping just under the boiling point.
 Always at simmer either.

It's maybe the
Rice water bubbling out
of the pot
the starch left
on the stovetop

It's also not a flaking stain
waiting to be cleaned away

It's maybe the
Four (five, six hundred) of us standing around
the counter
Reading this Rorschach in my kitchen


Thank you, Jessie, for providing space and thinking in your demo about Ars Poetica and Mission Statements.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I'm a procrastiwriter.
At 2:08 pm on Sunday afternoon
At Dilworth Coffee
Words stuck
Down deep in my brain
Or chest
Or toes
Fingers still over the keys
Hands covering my face
Opening and closing
Email, Facebook, Twitter Skype
I'm a writer then.

I'm a procrastiwriter.
At 2:08 am on next Thursday night
With deadline
Words drowning my other words
Pouring out of my pores
Onto the screen
Jittering excited messages and attachments
Over to my sleeping writer's league on
Email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype
I'm a procrastinator then too.

I wrote this during Rebecca McKnight's demo.  She had us use Jack Prelutsky's Sranimals, as a mentor text.  We studied the craft of the poem and then tried these out in our stuff.  Totally fun!  And I LOVE this sophisticated use of a children's book.