Monday, February 2, 2015

Assignment for February 24

from Sandy Dorr, copied from her email:

This first email describes the readings, with one attachment:  a two-page prologue and a chapter, "The Forest and the Trees," from The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert.

So for this class on Feb. 24, we'll read Elizabeth Kolbert, plus a story,"Annunciation," from the 1930s' by Meridel Le Sueur, and two more poems by Ellen Bass. 

Elizabeth Kolbert is a New Yorker essayist with a wonderful sense of humor and an ability to tackle any subject with graceful storytelling and precision.  This book focuses on climate change through a series of reportorial, first-person essays wherein she explores different sites of warming in countries around the world.  I think that any writer at this point in time can't ignore the repercussions of the vast changes we're living in, so I wanted us to have one class where we discussed this.  In the prologue -- an exquisite example of how to cover centuries in two pages -- she mentions a chapter on noticing something changing and dying off in her own backyard.  The assignment is to see what you have or are noticing closer to where you live or travel. 

The second prose piece is Meridel Le Sueur, whose book, Salute to Spring, was blacklisted under McCarthy politics, and which gives us a very eloquent picture of life in the U.S. in the 1930s,' and her relationship to a tree in her backyard and a child growing within her. 

The two poems by Ellen Bass (email #3) are about what she is noticing in her backyard.  (We WILL read other poets, but I'm very taken by what Bass has been doing lately, and she is at the top of her form in writing and publishing right now).

The fiction and poems both have a quality of deep tenderness.  I can't ask writers to express a particular emotion in a writing assignment -- which simply requires what you are feeling about the subject -- but I would like you all to write a poem or a prose piece about what you are noticing in our changed climate, and see if you can create within the reader the catharsis you are undergoing on the subject.

Note to self: Use The Book of Forms and use CINQUAIN form, p. 56, an American form:Syllabic or accentual-syllabic.  Five lines long, the lines consist of two, four, six, eight and two syllable respectively. It is unrhymed, a set form of the QUINTET.  Originally the poem was written in iambs: one iambic foot in the first line, two in the second, three in the third, four in the fourth, and one in the fifth line.

Scheme in syllabics:

Line                syllables:
1.                    x   x
2.                    x    x    x    x
3.                    x    x    x    x    x    x
4,                    x    x    x    x    x    x
5.                    x    x
For similar forms, see HAIKU and TANKA

Using the above information:

Old Trees (NM)
Old trees
Cottonwood shade.
Leaves fall in summer time
We are alarmed to see this change
Why now?

They thirst
Nature's moisture
From mountain snow is less.
Last year they needed supplements
To live.

Times past
They thrived with creeks
Sending mesa snow melt
Supplying water from nearby.
Not now.

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