For My Students

I’ve opened this blog for my students, and am starting in the fall semester of 2017, when I am teaching two classes at Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles: an introduction to Creative Writing (ENG 106) and Poetry Workshop (ENG 151). I’m writing at a time when I’m not sure what writing is about, that is, real writing–the kind of writing that sets out to move us, make us think, struggle with ourselves and the world, and see the world through aesthetic lenses.

But the world isn’t as aesthetic-minded as before. To think in artistic, literary ways, you can’t be distracted. And distraction is the mainstay of our times. Distraction is our Big Brother, only, unlike in 1984, we are accomplices to its hold on us.

Here, I will rail against the very things that so many of you hold so dear, the things that you feel you can’t live without. And really, you can’t, not easily; for, just like a heroin addict, social media has slipped into your veins, into your skull, and is clawing your brain to shreds with the noise of others. All of them: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and god knows whatever else is out there, control you. You look to them to see if you’re worth anything. You look at “happy families” on vacation and read about others’ latest successes and think your own life is less than theirs. And you know this. And some of you have tried to break away from it, have shaken your body like a deer tries to shake a hunter’s arrow out of its hide.

These two classes are meant to help you get clean and sober. We’re going to read the best literature, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. We’re going to shut down all the noise of the world outside of Classroom 301, and get to work on cleaning out the Philistine, crude, loud, violent attacks on our ability to think for ourselves. And you, my students, will write: your own short stories, poems, memoir essays. You will get in the thick of rumination, a time to look both inward and outward, to see what moves you, frightens you, puts you in a rage. You’ll look at your own shadows and light; you’ll write about them; you’ll change.

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