So last week I brought Theme for English B by Langston Hughes to our Writing 1101 course as the starting point for Writing Into the Day. We generally begin class this way with a point of inspiration and time to just write anything that comes to mind.
day I brought the Langston Hughes poem was the second day of class. As
I sat writing with students also writing around me, I had one of those moments when I was struck by an immediate idea about what I wanted to say about this
poem. (I don’t always just have a spark of an idea right away
when I write... sometimes I can’t think of anything to say.) But in
this moment I was immediately reminded of a recent conversation with a
friend and my ideas just flowed out onto the page in a messy and
sprawling kind of way. I put pen to paper and just freewrote my thought-flow onto the page,
I learned this strategy of freewriting
from Peter Elbow... and it is one of the most useful tools to me as a
writer. Just get your thoughts down on the page. Keep your pen
moving. Even if you are writing “I don’t know what to write...” It
frees my thoughts up (even at 8:00 am) to go in directions I didn’t even
realize I wanted to go.
I did this writing in response to Langston Hughes, I knew that
issues of race, class, gender and sexuality... issues of identity...
are concepts that I want to be visible part of our conversations in class. And I
did choose Langston Hughes’s piece about school writing for that reason,
but I guess as I sat down to actually write alongside students and
Langston (via the coffee stained poem glued in my daybook) I started
thinking newly about my own position as white, middle class teacher and
feelings of insecurities in broaching issues of race, even as I know
intellectually that I want to and need to. Writing into the day with
the Langston Hughes poem let me start to articulate ideas that had been
simmering that I didn’t even realize I needed to think through.