Wednesday, August 10

Creative Meets Critical

I recently started taking a creative writing class at The Learning Appendage. I suppose some less generous readers of these posts may be thinking, “Well, it’s about time” but I will forgive you those thoughts.

Unfortunately not enough people signed up for creative writing so we were combined with another class called "Critical Thinking for the Twenty-First Century". I have never been sure what was actually involved in critical thinking - regardless of the century - but I was about to find out.

At the first class the teacher asked if anyone wanted to read something they had written, so I read from a poem I have been working on for some years.

When I had finished the teacher asked the class for some feedback.

One of the critical thinking students said “Complete drivel.”

“Can anyone expand on that?” queried the teacher.

From the back of the room I heard a voice that sounded disturbingly like my nemesis, Nelson, add, “How about ‘unmitigated drivel’?”

“Better”, said the teacher. “Are you a critical thinker or a creative writer?"

"I'm a double major", said Nelson.

That figured. Nelson is nothing if not an overachiever.

"Now just a minute", I defended. "It's easy enough to be critical. Now how about some thinking? What's wrong with this poem?"

"Well, for one", said Nelson, "it's in iambic pentameter." The teacher nodded approvingly.

"and WRONG with THAT, i ASK you SIR, is WHAT?"

"It doesn't sound natural", said Nelson. "Language like that sounds unmanly. In fact, if you think about it, just writing poetry is kind of unmanly."

That really got my knickers in a twist.

"Hey, being a poet is not unmanly! There are lot's of very manly poets."

"Name one."

I ill advisedly tossed out the first name that came to mind. "Percy Bysshe Shelley."


"I rest my case."

"Ralph Waldo Emerson, then."

"Why do they all have three names? Trying to compensate?"

I desperately tried to think of a manly poet. "Bruce Springsteen."

"The Boss? I don't think so", sputtered Nelson.

"Or maybe I should say 'Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen'. If I count right that's four names".


"...Frederick Joseph...", I added.

"... is no poet."

"Seems to me they are always calling Bruce 'The Poet Of His Generation."

"How would you like to get poetic with a knuckle sandwich, buddy?"

It degenerated from there, with neither of us being creative or doing much thinking. I believe they will be separating the classes in the future, though.

As for my poem,

on IT i'll WORK both DAY and NIGHT til DONE.

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