Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sheilas Go Wild

Last Friday, I spent the day with my niece, who was the subject of the cluster-generated poem in my last post. We went to the movies, saw Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, and ate apparently-not-so-impossible amounts of popcorn.

The timing of our day out coincided with my receipt of one of Anna Ryan-Punch’s poems from her on-going writing project: Poems in the Wild. In an effort to motivate her own writing, Anna devised a project where she composes a poem, writes it on a playing card, and leaves it in a random public location for someone to find. She includes a Twitter handle from which there’s a link to her blog. Here the poem is replicated; and, Anna hopes that anyone who finds the poem will report its discovery in the comments.

I’d always read about Anna’s poem releases with a bit of envy. Following both her individual and Poems in the Wild Twitter accounts, I’d often clicked through to the blog to read the poem and see where she’d left it. I once sent her a message saying that if I lived in Melbourne, I would unashamedly stalk the poems. (Lest I sound too creepy there, I hasten to add that I’d probably only have done it once; the fact of distance probably made me more intense…) Bless Anna, she took pity on me and offered to send me a poem so I could release it.

Well, like Aunty, like niece; when I told Hannah that we had a special mission for the day–other than consuming copious amounts of popcorn–and explained what it was, her imagination was sparked. She wanted to know if Anna had included instructions with the poem; she had, and I showed Hannah the letter Anna had sent to me along with the playing card. (Hannah was quite delighted by the details of Anna’s son’s dinner.)

Together, Hannah and I discussed where we would leave the poem. For me, it was important to get a receptive audience, but not so receptive that it wouldn’t introduce someone new to the delights of poetry. We thought about leaving it at a cafe: one where the tables have those metal stands topped with rings to insert the menu or specials in. The problem with that was that we were at a major shopping centre and we’re not much classier than food-court dining in that environment.  Then, we saw the council library on the same level as the cinema.  We had found our release point.

Hannah releases a poem into the wilds of the public transport timetable rack at the Indooroopilly branch of the Brisbane City Council Library.

After we released the poem, we had some other things to do at Indooroopilly, but Hannah insisted on going back to the library, to peer through the window, to see if anyone had found it.  Of course, at that point, it was only 20 minutes later, so the card was still there in plain view.  Since then, however, I’ve received word from Anna that someone found the poem, and … Well, go on over to Anna’s blog, read the poem and then the comments to see what the person who found it had to say.

It’s all terribly exciting, and I’m very happy that I’ll be able report back to Hannah with the good news.

Update (24 July): Poems in the Wild #17 has been re-released.  It’s adventure  continues…

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Teaching Sheila

One of the necessities of trying to complete a PhD in a post-scholarship state is the need to find work to support my research habit. Like many in my position, I rely upon a series of teaching contracts for university level courses taught in my field–media, communication, and cultural studies–but the business of being a researcher and writer has equipped me with another whole set of skills, which I have also  drawn upon to find employment.

Most recently, I accepted an offer of a marking contract for a distance education course that prepares students for university-level education.  Specifically, the course seeks to equip students with the necessary skills for academic essay writing.

Whenever I’m first involved in a course, whether in a teaching or marking capacity, as part of my preparation, I try to do all the work that the students do on a weekly basis. I don’t do the official assignments, but I complete all the reading and any tutorial or other preparation activities. My strategy here is to familiarise myself with the course, but it’s also a way of attempting to cultivate some empathy on my part, for what the students have to do each week.  I’ll never be able to entirely experience what they do, since I’m used to reading the jargon-laden material of my field, for example, or, in the instance of this course, I have advanced writing skills by comparison.  Nevertheless, I enjoy immersing myself in the learning required for effective teaching (or marking).

It’s the first week of the essay writing course and the students had to use the clustering technique, proposed by Gabriele Nico, to write a poem about any topic.  Here’s what I came up with:

Hannah
 
She is love,
Quivering with excitement
When she sees me approach.
 
‘Aunty Kirsty!’ she cries,
Breaking into a wide-
Open run
 
Closing her arms around
My waist and squeezing
As hard as she can.
 
We hold on to
Love and joy and fun,
Life after heartbreak:
 
‘I wanted to die’, she’d said.

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