This week’s reading emphasized finding your voice in creative and academic contexts. Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer” was our inroad to perspective–she became famous for her use of second person point of view. I always enjoy reflections from people on this writing perspective; it can be enlightening for students to shift into second person. I used this piece by Moore as a model when I wrote “How to Be an Adjunct” for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
When discussing perspective I thought “That’s Me Trying” on William Shatner’s spoken word album Has Been illustrated genuine self-reflexivity in writing; are we honest about how we see ourselves? In the case of Shatner, he looks at his ability to father with severity: he knows he hasn’t been a “good” father. It haunts him.
I shared with my class that I read “That’s Me Trying” at a poetry event once and many people were moved to tears. Not because of anything I “did”–it was a straight reading, nothing fancy. The content is that of the unlikable protagonist. Not many admit to being a “dead beat dad” yet we know there are fathers who leave their families, sometimes to the detriment of their children.
When I read the piece I also introduced it as one close to me: one of the only good memories I have of spending time with my father is that we watched Star Trek together. So for William Shatner to create this song, essentially the anthem of the absent dad, seemed felicitous.
When I introduced the poem at the reading I remember saying that it’s easy to be angry at the people who wound us, much more difficult to enter the situation from a point of empathy. Listening to “That’s Me Trying” is an example of someone’s writerly voice and life experiences opening up a path to empathetic communication. The audience at the poetry reading was moved maybe because they were able to heal their anger in some way, just as I did when I forgave my father.
For Thursday’s warm-up we examined an art object, Picasso’s 1937 “The Weeping Woman.” Students pointed out the commentary on anxiety during the Spanish Civil War and remarked how the sharp edges contained violent undertones and how the colors were reminicent of a corpse.
Overall, this week was a reflection on developing authorial voice and the impact it can have on readers.