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An update from our seventeenth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday October 16, plus some of the output published below

This week we pivoted to discussing more concrete individual themes—in this case "the body" in four distinct forms: the monstrous body, the transformed body, the body in pain, and the body in motion. We began with the monstrous body, looking at various depictions—Paul Rubens' Medusa, Joos Van Crassbeack's The Temptation of Saint Anthony, and Domenico Ghirlandaio's Prometheus—of its form in art. We found that depictions of the monstrous body were often exaggerated as in the main subject of The Temptation of Saint Anthony, a giant's head. Next, we discussed the transformed body, as depicted in artistic portrayals of the myths of Apollo and Daphne, as well as that of Narcissus and Echo. Then, we discussed the body in pain, as brilliantly shown in Picasso's anti-war painting, Guernica, which in turn inspired Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. From additional examples ranging from Tumor a la Muerte by Goya to Frida Kahlo's Without Hope, we discerned that the body in pain is often distorted, twisted. Finally, we discussed the body in motion, with Magritte's The Blank Signature and Gertrude Stein's prose poems—"A Long Dress" and "A Blue Coat"—serving as the primary examples.

The Challenge: Write a story/poem about the body. Focus more on what happens to/inside the body than what happens around the body.

The Participants: Simran, Alice, Sinan, Emma, Lina, Olivia, Audrey, Ellie, Ethan, Josh, Shilla, Svitra,

Emma Hoff, 9
(Bronx, NY)


Emma Hoff, 9

The dark,
we are celebrating everything,
we are stretching and writhing
and becoming.

People dot their i’s with hearts
but we do not work this way.
We are standing tall and speaking,
“we walk the Earth right with you,
and if you do not appreciate colors,
appreciate us.”

We can make your life hell.

We tell you hello,
but what we really want to say is goodbye,
we would like to fly away,
we could own bat wings
but we have no allowance.

We scratch ourselves,
and you scratch yourself,
we have forgotten to reach out of your mouth,
your ear,
and sprayed mosquito repellent on us.

This is how you began to believe that mosquito repellent doesn’t work.

We tell you stories
and we dance to our voices.

We tell ourselves stories,
we touched the world,
and the world touched us back.

The rest of the story goes onIt needs courage to build a school !
to explain how we will dominate,
take over.

I tell this story with such rich description.

I am vivid
in my movements,
just like you.

Svitra Rajkumar, 13
(Fremont, CA)

Window Cleaning

Svitra Rajkumar, 13

Where is the building?
It’s so tall, it shouldn’t be that hard to find
I looked up to see a tall apartment looking down at me.
They can’t be serious
I wanted a job quickly, but they wouldn’t give a new cleaner something this tough, right?
A grumpy looking man sat inside the building. He had an untended beard, and looked as if he hadn’t had his morning coffee.
Or maybe he had too many.
“Here, start immediately, you can have a break in an hour-thirty,” he commanded in a gruff voice.
He turned his eyes back to the glowing screen, which was making strange sounds. I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see he was playing a video game.
Ugh. He expects me to clean a fifty foot tall apartment while he plays games?
“Well what are you waiting for?” He grumbled.
I walked outside to find a tiny spray bottle and a cleaning rag. This is all they give me to clean all these windows?
If I wasn’t getting paid I wouldn’t have come. The spray reeked of a lemony clean scent, and the rag wouldn’t last five minutes in the sweltering heat.
I could die out here from dehydration.
People working on the great wall of China died due to the heat.
No one would come looking at the top of the building to find me.
Much less the grumpy, video game guy.
I started to climb the metal ladder, which felt slippery against my sweaty hands. I reached the first window. And started spraying the lemon cleaner. I wiped the rag furiously, trying to complete the job quicker.
It didn’t matter anyways; there were around thirty more windows left.
For such a big building, why didn't they hire someone more experienced?
They’re probably cheapskates.

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