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An update from our nineteenth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday October 30, plus some of the output published below

Continuing our run of workshops focused on concrete concepts instead of standardized elements of writing, this week we focused on objects because, simply, objects are weird! In order to illustrate this point, we began by looking at a shovel—yes, a shovel, because as it turns out Marcel Duchamp considered the shovel odd enough that he put one up in a museum. Next, we looked at some of the artworks from an exhibit by Katarina Kamprani, wherein she slightly transformed ordinary household objects—a hammer, a knife, for example—into unusable things, the idea being that the exhibit invites us to consider how strange objects are. We then discussed a few paintings—Still Life with Skull by Cezanne, Violin and Candlestick by Georges Braque, and Sunflowers by Van Gogh, to name a few, all of which presented objects in a distorted, alienating light. From our discussion of paintings we moved into a discussion of poetry, beginning with Wallace Stevens' strange poem "Anecdote of the Jar," in which the central object, a jar, seemed to transform itself and its surroundings with its strangeness. We also read "Perception of an Object Costs" by Emily Dickinson, which suggested that by perceiving an object, the object somehow eludes us and escapes our perception, two poems by Gertrude Stein—"A Box" and "Mildred's Umbrella"—and "The Crystal" by Clark Coolidge.

The Challenge: Three short exercises done in ten minutes each. First, choose an object either near you or imagined. Then, one: write a funny poem/story about your object, two: write a scary poem/story about your object, and three: write a sad poem/story about your object.

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


Svitra Rajkumar, 13
(Fremont, CA)

The Deadly Jasmine

Svitra Rajkumar, 13

It was getting late and Xyian still hadn’t found the last ingredient for the crabapple concoction she was making. She had picked the juiciest blood colored crabapples, some wild hibiscus nectar, yellow poppy seeds, and indigo sugarcane sugar. All she had left were deadly jasmine petals. Unlike the frightening name, the petals of the flower had an exotic flavor that couldn’t be found elsewhere. The deadly parts were the stems. If you were to come in physical contact with a deadly jasmine stem, they would drag you underground with them. However, Xyian was prepared. Her mother, having specialized in potion making, knew a lot about dealing with dangerous ingredients, and gave her special gloves to deal with them. Xyian walked into the dark cave that stood in front of her, pushing aside the long vines that creeped along it’s opening. She shuddered as the chilly air hit her face, and tugged on her coat’s hood.

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