Special Topics in Writing: Poet's Notebook   
Carolyn Forché

Aphorism from the Greek aphorizein, to mark off , to divide, from apo- (from) + horizein (to bound) = from or outside the bounds, across the threshold [liminal, transgressive].

Fragment from the Latin frangere, to break = (n) a part broken away from the whole; broken piece; detached, isolated, or incomplete part; a part of an unfinished whole; (v) to break into fragments.

--Stephen Barker, School of the Arts, UC-Irvine

Course description: As Maurice Blanchot has written, "the fragmentary does not precede the whole, but takes place outside the whole and after it." This course will investigate the possibilities of fragmentary writing: the aphorism, maxim, citation, thoughts, and themes. We will read the philosophy of the Antheneum (Schlegel, Novalis), as well as Sappho, Milosz, and others who have composed in fragmentary forms. We will also investigate the collage and visual poetry, and produce texts, notebooks, collaged works, book art, and visual art incorporating language.

Along with our readings on and in the fragmentary, we will ourselves be writing our own fragmentary lyric, thoughts, citations, themes, which will later be assembled, together with our notes responses, captures of texts, into a "commonplace" book, a book-as-object which we will create ourselves, in response to our own creative work and our readings. We may aslo choose to work in other visual forms: video art, the box (Joseph Cornell), and other sculptural forms. Book art, binding, design, works-on-paper will enter into this, as will collage, assemblage, "found poems," calligrammes, and any other appropriate forms, as each individual course particpant determines for her/him/self. Work may, of course, be presented in simple manuscript form. Written works will be read, shared, and critiqued in class.

Required texts:
Collage Techniques by Gerald Brommer
The Art of Handmade Paper and Collage by Cheryl Stevenson
The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry by Willard Bohn

Required materials:Please bring to each class a pair of good scissors for cutting paper, several glue sticks, a paperback English dictionary, blank typing paper (10-20 sheets), a notebook (black, hardbound artist sketchbook, spring binder or other form for making the notebook), and whatever materials are specifically required for class assignments.

Recommended websites:

Course requirements:
1. A "poet's notebook," of no fewer than fifty pages, including poems, notes, commentary, collage, sketches, catalogs, experiments, etc. Due at end of semester, and submitted for review periodically during the semester. 20% of grade, or 20 pts. out of possible 100.

2. A work which combines visual art and language (collage, box, video, web site, sculpture). Due at the end of the semester, with oral presentation to class. 20% of grade, or 20 pts. out of 100.

3. A portfolio copy of poems written during the semester, exercises completed for class assignments, revisions, etc. This is separate from the notebook, but can duplicate material presented there. Due at end of semester. 20% of grade, or 20 pts. out of 100.

4. Participation in class discussions on assigned readings or original work doen by class members (which obviously means attendence). 20% of grade, or 20 pts. out of 100.

5. Completion of all assigned readings, exercises, and class presentations. 20% of grade, or 20 pts. out of 100.

Grading: 90 - 100 pts. = A 85 - 90 = A- 80 - 85 = B+ 75 - 80 = B Below 75 = C
No late work will be accepted. No incompletes will be permitted, except for health reasons.

Schedule of Classes:

September 3: Course introduction. Assignment: Bring a poem (copies) which introduces your work to the class, and one which introduces the work of a poet in whom you are currently interested. Be prepared to present this poet to the class. Find a book (art sketch, scrapbook, or whatever) which you will use for your commonplace book. Bring it to class next week.

*Compile a fifty-word list. Write ten "verbal photographs" and ten "treasures." Save one copy for your notebook and hand in one copy. (Note: "*" indicates that assignment is a standard assignment due every week.)

Bring an old poetry book or 20 xeroxed pages of poetry (your own or another poet's) + scissors, 8 1/2" x 11" paper, and glue stick.

*Seven writing spillages (one copy for intructor and one for notebook).

September 10: Sharing of poems and poets. In-class exercise in language collage. Read pp. 2-11 in the course packet. Assignment: Construct a second collage poem. Bring original and copies to share. Standard assigments.

September 17: Sharing of collage poems. Introduction to book art. Assignment: transform a book and bring it to class next week. Standard assignments.

September 24: Share book art. In-class exercises and presentations. Assignment: Select an experiment from the Bernstein/Mayer list (couse packet pp 17-20). Perform the experiement and bring copies to class. Standard assignments + gleanings from writing from spillages thus far.

October 1: Share Bernstein/Mayer experiments. Presentation on visual/concrete poetry. Assigned readings in The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry. Also read "The Imperative of Invention: Brazilian Concrete Poetry and Intersemiotic Creation" by Charles A. Perrone (course packet). Make a visual/concrete poem and bring copies to share. Standard assignments.

October 8: Sharing of visual/concrete poems and discussion of assigned readings. Assignment: Choose one of the following : (a) 100 one-line poems; (b) four poetic prose passages of a page or more in length (see C.D. Wright's experiements, p22 in the course packet. Bring copies to class on October 22. Assigned readings in The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry. Standard assignments. By October 22nd, be prepared to tell the class about your proposed visual art project.

October 15: Field trip. Papermaking workshop and visit with Joan Retallack.

October 22: Sharing of written work and discussion of assigned reading. Sharing of visual art project ideas. Introduction ot the work of Ray diPalma. In-class exercises and presentations. Distribute small boxes. Assignment: Bring your notebook-in-progress for sharing with the class. Create the small box and bring to class November 5th. Assigned readings in collage texts and Joan Retallack on "The Poethical Wager" in the course packet, pp. 22-31. Standard assignments + new gleanings (since September 24).

October 29: Attend Ray di Palma reading this week. Share notebooks-in-process. In-class exercises and presentations. Assignments: readings in collage texts. Continue to work on small box poem. Standard assignments.

November 5: Share small box with class. In-class exercises and presentations. Assignments: work on paper/language collage and bring results to share next week. Assigned readings. Standard assignments.

November 12: Share paper/language collages. In-class exercises and presentations. Assignments: Be prepared to report to class on your visual art project. Writing and reading assignments. Standard assignmetns. Bring note-book-in-progress for sharing next week.

November 19: Present report on visual art projects. Share notebooks in progress. In-class exercises and presentations. Assignments: Complete visual art project, notebook, portfolio. Standard assignments + final gleanings.

November 26: Thanksgiving.

December 3: Presentations of visual art projects and notebooks. Hand in portfolios.

December 10: Presentations of visual art projects and notebooks.