Wednesday, September 16th, 2:35pm, Hagerty Lounge
with Geoffrey G. O'Brien
"Escaping Pastoral: Ashbery's "The Instruction Manual" and Genre Responsibility"
This talk will carefully read John Ashbery's mid-century example of what I call "broken pastoral," an imagined escape from conditions that knows and slyly admits it can't get away with it. I'll use this reading to describe a few recent examples of innovative genre use and will gesture at what poets must take on when they they adopt and adapt genres like pastoral, bringing ancient conventions and long histories into the contemporary.
Geoffrey G. O'Brien is the author of People on Sunday (Wave Books, 2013). He is also the author of Metropole (2011), Green and Gray (2007), and The Guns and Flags Project (2002), all from The University of California Press. He is the coauthor (with John Ashbery and Timothy Donnelly) of Three Poets: Ashbery, Donnelly, O’Brien (Minus A Press, 2012) and (in collaboration with the poet Jeff Clark) of 2A (Quemadura, 2006). O’Brien is an Associate Professor in the English Department at UC Berkeley and also teaches for the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2:35pm, Hagerty Lounge
with Rachel Howard
"Building Boxes, Making Fences, Forcing Leaps: Some Strategies for Three-Dimensionality in Prose"
As a writer who works from life experiences in different ways—as I think many writers do—I’m less interested in distinctions between fiction and nonfiction than I am in the difference between writing that feels “flat” and writing that places the reader in a charged space of heightened experience, renewed perspective, and active meaning-making. To me, that three-dimensionality is the difference between prose as art and prose as mere relay of information (also a noble and needed function of prose, but not the one we are working toward as literary writers). How is that three-dimensionality created, and what do you do when you find your language stuck in 2-D? This talk will look practically at a few strategies for three-dimensionality drawn from contemporary writers like Sheila Heti and Maggie Nelson, and classics by Marguerite Duras and Bruno Schulz. We’ll also look at examples from other artistic disciplines, particularly dance and the work of choreographers Ohad Naharin and William Forsythe. We often think of technique as separate from the states of consciousness that make for great writing. I’d like to propose that a shift in one can create a shift in the other.
Rachel Howard is the author of The Lost Night, a memoir about her father’s unsolved murder. Her short stories, personal essays, and criticism have appeared in Gulf Coast, Waxwing, ZYZZYVA, The Hudson Review, Canteen, The Arroyo Literary Review, Berfrois, and in the New York Times’ “Draft” series. She received an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and returned there to serve first as Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow and then Interim Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing. A longtime resident of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, she recently moved to Nevada City, CA, where she is finishing a novel.
Wednesday, November 4th, 2:35pm, Hagerty Lounge
with Karolina Waclawiak
How do we assemble the framework for jaw-dropping moments in our stories? We drop hints, leave clues, and create landscapes of dread to prepare our readers for impending doom. In Object Lessons, we'll look at short stories from writers like Leonard Michaels, A.M. Homes, Junot Diaz, Mary Gaitskill, Charles D'Ambrosio and more to study how they create a sinister feeling with tiny clues laid out for the reader to brush past. In looking at how authors lay the foundation for their stories, we will be able to look at how we can integrate clues into our own work.
Karolina Waclawiak is the author of the recently published novel The Invaders and How to Get Into The Twin Palms, which was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice and on many year-end book lists including Salon, Largehearted Boy, and others. She is an editor of the Believer and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, VQR, and other notable publications. AWOL, a film she co-wrote with director Deb Shoval, will be released in 2016.