Sunday, November 15, 2009

Strange seeds

Anyone taking any literature classes that are expanding your writing in surprising ways?

I've been taking an Old English literature and translation class, and while the history/culture is fascinating, as are the crazy old poems, I've mostly been affected by this new way of looking at sentence structure, grammar laws and--really cool (I'm a dork)--word compounding. How strange where some words have come from, and how easy it is to make fabulous new meanings just by putting words together. Contemporary poet Chelsey Minnis does this, actually in one poem, with the fabulous "cry-hustling" (awesome poem, by the way, out of "Poemland." Thanks to Karie B. for bringing it in to share with the workshop).

It's a fun exercise, and can be applied easily (my decoy-heart being a contemporary one, grief-before-dawn being an Old English one).

Anyway, fun with language!

What kind of weird academic things have been affecting your writing, folks?


  1. This is a great topic. My non-workshop class is a film class, and I do think there has been some cross over in my work. I am trying to play with sequence and editing in weird ways, cutting together fragments almost like a montage. Well, in a few poems anyway. I have been reading D.A. Powell lately who has a similarly driven aesthetic in some of his books.

    Those compounding words you are talking about are called kennings right? My favorite is whale-road from Beowulf. On a somewhat related note Josh, one of my fellow first years is taking Old English and...hating it! Hahaha. Glad to know there's a living poet out there not suffering, but enjoying, such a class!

  2. I took a lit journal editing class as my one elective so I am only commenting here to say that I am jealous! lol

  3. makes me want to go back and read some chaucer :)

  4. Jessie, I know!

    JayTee, I'm sure you've got interesting stuff lined up for next semester. What are you taking as your next elective?

    Tory, the film class sounds interesting, especially with D.A. Powell's work enacting that kind of movement. And I don't think I've heard anyone use the word montage when describing movement in a poem, yet I feel like I should have. Cool stuff.

    But yeah, kennings are pretty tight (whale-road being an excellent example). That's too bad about your roommate (although yes, also funny). He probably has a bad instructor for OE--I think most language/literature/translation classes are so weird and niche that the teacher becomes central to its success/enjoyability.


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