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An update from the twenty-sixth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett

A summary of the workshop held on Saturday February 5, plus some of the output published below

"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it." -Anais Nin

“The purpose of literature is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects 'unfamiliar.'" -Viktor Shklovsky

This week, Conner was unable to attend due to the birth of his second child, Sawyer Cruz Bassett-Wood (congratulations, Conner!), so his assistant, Caleb Berg, led Conner's lecture on defamiliarization. To begin, Caleb familiarized—ha ha—the class with the concept of defamiliarization as it pertains to art: the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way so they could gain new perspectives and see the world differently. We focused on the art of Leonora Carrington and Pablo Picasso in painting, noting their unique ability to portray the ordinary in spectacular, often dream-like ways. Finally, we looked at the poetry of Paul Celan and Velimir Khlebnikov, paying particular attention to Celan's "An Eye, Open" and Khlebnikov's "When Horse's Die." 

The Challenge: Write a story or poem in which one or more objects/scenes are defamiliarized. That is, transform one or more objects/scenes so that they represent the feeling they produce. Create, as Anais Nin says, “new meaning.”

The Participants: Lina, Emma, Josh, Amelia, Penelope, Zar, Samantha, Alice, Ellie, Nova, Quinn

To watch more of the readings from this workshop, like Emma's below, click here

Emma Hoff, 9
(Bronx, NY)

The Lamp

Emma Hoff, 9

The light shines innocently,
but it blinds me,
and my eyes become red.

Did it glare at you?

It glared at me.

I shied from it
and still it followed me
with its intent gaze,
boring into me as I walk around the room.

I can feel the hot bulb,
feel the lamp melting
and morphing under its own heat,
its own light.

The business is done,
I think,
but my dreams that night are of
hot light
burning me,
and the next day, I find the lamp,
standing again.

The lamp glared at me once again,
and whispered in my ear,
burning it red-hot,
telling me that the sun’s light will not be
enough for me.

I ask it, what does it know,
but the sun dies
and the lamp is still glowing
and I am grateful for it.

I make my way through the darknes
with this lamp,
until it parts with me,
saying it must go,
saying that its lightbulb can not take
the strain anymore
and that it will lie peacefully,
saying that the darkness isn’t as bad
as people think.

We both give in to the shadows,
my lamp is happy,
not glowing,
but I am dragged away by figures cloaked
in black,
and I am crying.


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