Posted in Reading, Teaching, Theatre, Writing

ENG 126: Drama Follow-Up, Introduction to Poetry

Drama Follow-Up

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and detailed feedback on the untitled monologue and The Story of Shabath. Before we turn from drama to poetry, I offer these follow-up notes:

Untitled Monologue

  • Mia noted the problematic detail of Deen’s parole. I didn’t mention that issue in my introductory remarks because it’s one with an easy fix. The officer needs a motive for his encounter with Deen, but that motive needn’t be a parole violation. A confrontation prompted by an unrelated minor offense—such as a speeding ticket or a shoplifting arrest—would add to the monologue’s irony. That said, who other than an officer might prompt Deen’s rant?
  • Brendan, Zane, and Brandy recommended delaying Deen’s revelations about her role in her family’s tragedies. I addressed the subject of sequence in my previous post for the same reasons that Brendan, Zane, and Brandy mentioned. If the audience is introduced to Deen as an unlikable young woman but one who is nevertheless a devoted friend to Carol, the revelation that Deen is responsible for her parents’ death and her brother’s paralysis will transform her from mildly annoying to morally reprehensible. The structure of that transformation might be similar to that of Donald Barthelme’s “The School,” as Brendan suggested.
  • Trevor recommended “Six Feet Under” and “An Inconvenient Inheritance” as possible titles. Is there a line of Deen’s—such as “So here’s the thing”—that might serve as the title?

The Story of Shabath

  • Trevor suggested that the monorail could appear as a projected image in the background, and that sound effects and props could differentiate Shabath Aizwald’s memories. Those recommendations remind us that playwrights’ scripts—unlike creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry—are starting points for collaboration (among the director, the actor/s, and the technical crew); it’s important to imagine how the story might move from page to stage. Trevor’s mention of props and sound effects leads me to Mia‘s observation about the number of acts and scenes
  • If stage hands costumed as citizens of Laghaz entered and exited with the props that signal shifts from one memory to the next, those visual cues could enable the monologue to unfold as one seamless scene.
  • Brennan, Zane, Mia, and Brandy observed that the audience learns more about the kingdom of Laghaz than they do about Shabath himself. What motivated him to found Faya? What in particular was painful about his regenerative process? What were the physical and emotional costs, and how might Shabath convey those through his words and actions?
  • Mia noted Shabath’s potential drug problem. Whether the elixir he injects is medicinal or detrimental to his health, its effects could develop his character and serve as a source of tension.
  • Brennan‘s words “the rain . . . mixed with a man pondering his life on a high-speed monorail” brings to mind  Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel that the writer might find instructive to read, or reread, with an eye toward the rendering of the speech of the bounty hunter Rick Deckard.

To the writers of both scripts, I recommend Jane Wagner‘s play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. It’s a one-woman show featuring a series of monologues linked by the narrator, Trudy, a deranged bag lady who befriends alien visitors who are studying Earth as “a planet still in its puberty” (136). I recommend it to the writer of the untitled monologue for the characters’ diction and speech patterns. To the writer of The Story of Shabbath, I recommend examining how Wagner’s monologues develop the individual characters while also addressing social problems.

Work Cited

Wagner, Jane. The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. 1985. Harper & Row, 1986.

Introduction to Poetry

As we turn from drama to poetry, consider again Janet Burroway’s, Carolyn Kizer’s, and Theodore Roethke’s observations about the similarities between the two genres:

Her [Carolyn Kizer’s] mentor Theodore Roethke . . . advised thinking of a poem ‘as a three-act play, where you move from one impulse to the next, and then there is the final breath, which is the summation of the whole.’ Kizer points out that Roethke’s poem ‘I knew a Woman’ (p. 127) contains the line ‘She taught me turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand,’ which is ‘the essence of the dramatic structure. It’s what a long poem has to do. It doesn’t require physical action, but there has to be some mental or emotional movement that carries through the poem.’ (313-14)

If a poem mimics dramatic structure and involves movement, it will need, like a story or drama, to achieve conclusion. In Roethke’s description, this achievement is the ‘final breath,’ or, in his line above the ‘and Stand’ of the poem. (314)

In Chapter 10 of Imaginative Writing, Janet Burroway includes three self-reflexive poems about language and writing (319-21). If you haven’t chosen a subject for your workshop poem/s, consider writing a poem that focuses on language or one of your own pieces of writing, another poem or a work of prose.

You might also try writing an ekphrastic poem: one about or inspired by another work of art. “Overblown,” the sample poem that I posted for you on Blackboard, is an ekphrastic poem that I wrote based on Momoyo Torimitsu’s Somehow I Don’t Feel Comfortable (the giant inflated pink rabbit in the photo) for an Art of Poetry Catawba Valley event at the Hickory Museum of Art.

For additional models and sources of inspiration, I encourage you to reread these poems in Imaginative Writing:

  • “I Knew a Woman” by Theodore Roethke (127)
  • “Nude Interrogation” by Yusef Komunyakaa (156)
  • “A Story about the Body” by Robert Hass (187)
  • “Columbine High School/Littleton, CO” by Albert Goldbarth (188)
  • “Woodchucks” by Maxine Kumin (188-89)
  • “The Hammock” by Li-Young Lee (189-90)
  • “The One Girl at the Boys Party” by Sharon Olds (312-13)

Also consider reading Louise Glück‘s “Gretel in the Darkness” as well as her poems posted on the Poetry Foundation website.

Since you are working on your poetry workshop assignment this week, you are not required to post a comment in response to this post, but I strongly encourage you to post one of the following as a brief response:

  • Any other poems in Imaginative Writing that you recommend to your classmates as models or sources of inspiration
  • A link to a poem that you admire and would encourage your classmates to read
  • Any of Janet Burroway‘s “Try This” exercise that have been helpful to you as you’ve drafted your poem/s

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Work Cited

Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing. 4th ed. Pearson, 2014.

2 thoughts on “ENG 126: Drama Follow-Up, Introduction to Poetry

  1. I find Try This 10.20 helpful. The concept of the replacement poem is useful to me because I have very little exposure to poetry so rather than stumbling around in the dark, I can use the framework of an existing poem to practice.

    1. Brennan, I’m glad that you mentioned Janet Burroway’s replacement poem exercise. The framework of another poem offers a valuable starting point. Here’s a variation to consider: rather than starting with the framework alone, begin with a variation on the frame and the idea. Consider Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” What subject other than a blackbird might you write about, and what number of ways?

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