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Field Notes/ Reflections from RCF

sara.gladwin's picture


sara.gladwin's picture

*Coming back to shame as it impacts the pursuit of realness

*having a more nuanced conversation about gender 

*highlighting the presense of trauma (t/w?)

*Remember that their opinions/voices/thoughts/feelings matter... and are just as important as our criticism and understanding of classtime --- keeping this in mind when reflecting/constructing "what happened here"

sara.gladwin's picture

I feel like I’m hitting a wall right now and I don’t know what to do with that.

Sasha and I had written a lesson plan for today that we felt good about. It seemed thematically cohesive, both as an individual class and within the context of our other classes. We had focused the bulk of our attention on metaphors and similes and imagery, hoping to have a more skill-based class. However, the class itself seemed lacking in energy. I felt like so much weight was placed on the names of these literary terms that the class became more about labeling the figures of speech than understanding the implications of those labels on the text as a whole. It felt difficult to dig much deeper into particular metaphors beyond simply pointing out their existence. I watched one of the students work methodically throughout the poem, placing a little “m” next to every metaphor and a little “s” next to every simile. She wondered aloud why the first half of the poem was largely written in simile, and why the second half of the poem mostly featured metaphors. She felt that this indicated a lack of structure or forethought on the part of the author. I responded that maybe it was intentional, and then asked her, if that was so, why might the author choose to structure the piece this way. She said she wasn’t sure, and I didn’t really know where to go after that. She asked me if I thought it was intentional, and I said yes- explaining (in not exactly these words) that the shifting emphasis in the structure from simile to metaphor created a sense of increasing strength and power in the tone of the author. She is no longer a person who is simply “like dust” by the end; she is an entire ocean, magnanimous, she is the sun and the moon, inevitable and always rising in some form… She is unavoidable, intertwined with the very environment that sustains our lives; she is powerful and we need her power for our survival. It is the switch from simile, the suggestion of power through comparison, to metaphor, becoming the source of power herself, that conveys this message.

I’ve come up against the wall again, so I’m going to sit with this small excerpt from class today a bit longer before I write more.

sara.gladwin's picture

*Anne's suggestion to make the metaphor real.... if the classroom is a garden, who is the gardener? What are the flowers, the soil, the tools?

sara.gladwin's picture

I have to say this first: I loved the writing workshop. I loved how it opened people up into writing, I loved how even the discussion seemed to have a rhythm and a poetry of its own. This being said, when we first started class, I could feel a certain amount of resistance bubbling up from my gut, from the same place where all my writing begins and ends. I could feel it in my answer to our introductory question: what if I don’t want to put my heart in the sky today? What If I want to keep it close, enclosed? What if I don’t want to see the color of my heart exposed so openly, far away from under the safety of my skin…?

 After the introductions I challenged myself to open up a little more, to cling less tightly to my own process as a writer. I didn’t necessarily have to put my heart in the sky but I could be open to change. As we were doing the exercise in changing our perspectives, a word caught my eye on the wall: “RAGE.” I opened my lens a little wider to see “STORAGE.” Though I’m not sure why yet, something about that felt important, and I made this note in my journal:




 Momentarily, toward the end of this activity, I could feel the resistance returning and I shut my eyes. I forced myself again to interrogate this resistance, and to dissolve it by thinking about how this was a change in perspective too. Sight is not the only mode of receptivity; I have ears to listen.

 When we began to talk about where wisdom occurs my immediate association was to think of the various benches around Bryn Mawr, which have served as alternative learning spaces, constructed through conversation and cigarettes. I thought about what will happen when I graduate, and have to leave this place of learning.


A wooden bench

Wisdom passed through a

shared cigarette

It’s my last one, and you’re

All out

We have to walk to the store

Soon, each buy ourselves a new

Pack of wisdom, hope

It can last us longer than



It’s fine, we tell each other, because

We’ll quit when we graduate,

Find new ways to feed

Our hungry hearts,

Greedy lungs.