An update from the thirty-fifth Writing Workshop with Conner Bassett
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday April 30th, plus some of the output published below
Lightness is a “lightening of language whereby meaning is conveyed through a verbal texture that seems weightless, until the meaning itself takes on the same rarefied consistency.”
“My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language”
"If I had to choose an auspicious sign for the new millennium, I would choose this: the sudden tumble leap of the poet who lifts herself against the weight of the world..." — Italo Calvino, "Six Memos for the Next Millennium"
For this week's workshop, and to set up more to follow, we talked about on Italo Calvino's "Six Memos for the New Millennium," which are lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and consistency. This week, we revisited "lightness," which was one of Conner's first workshops with Stone Soup. First, we discussed lightness and characters, defining “light” characters as agile, quick, cunning, witty, lighthearted, whimsical, emotionally open, and characterized by action. Italo Calvino characterized Perseus of Greek myth as the figure most emblematic of lightness, noting that Perseus “moves according to the pattern of the wind. Peter Pan and Robin Hood were also discussed as iterations of Perseus. Next, using Milton’s funny and charismatic figure of Satan in Paradise Lost, we discussed how a quote on quote “evil” character could embody lightness, too. Following our discussion of lightness in characters, we moved into a discussion of lightness in painting, music and literature, beginning with three paintings: Magritte’s The Castle of Pyrenees, Malevich’s White on White, and Turner’s Norham Castle, Sunrise. Finally, we discussed the lightness evident in the haikus of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa, William Carlos Williams’ poem “This is Just to Say,” Gertrude Stein’s poem, “A Dog,” and Franz Wright's "Auto Lullaby." To set the tone for our writing period, we also listened to five minutes of Mozart's “Piano Concerto No. 21."
The Challenge: Write a poem or story that uses the characteristics of lightness (speed, humor, lightheartedness, emotional openness, and action). Like Calvino, try and "remove weight" from your writing.
The Participants: Emma, Zar, Alice, Ellie, Samantha, Anna, Shiva, Nova, Chelsea, Fatehbir
To watch the readings from this workshop, click here.
About Your Cliff
Emma Hoff, 10
You check your map. This is where you are supposed to be, following directions from unreadable words. Instead you run along the cliffside, careful not to fall in but imagining it, imagining yourself tumbling down onto the sharp rocks. You do not have to be happy to die, you do not have to be colorful or gray, you can just be. To imagine without being sad, you do not have to be happy either, you can imagine the worst things but tune them out at the same time. If you die, you will float upwards, you will become white and blue, your limbs will be immovable but at the same time will move on their own, you will have no soul or will and be better off without one, you will travel the same rocks and pick up shells and crush the living beings inside of them. You walk along the cliffside with insect legs, with crab legs, sometimes a fish tail, sometimes a clam shell, you break off limbs from the starfish and the anemones, and you steal the sea slug’s slime. It’s a good life, walking in another thing’s body, which is far superior to your own. You drift in places that are funny and you smile, your eyes crinkling sadly. You swipe your hand. You can be anyone, you can have anything. So you fall down onto the rocks, eyes closed, unfeeling. If you do not feel, you can be without any problems. And so you do not feel, above everyone else, shushed by the colors of the sky and the sunrise, the shadows on the water, the light on your face. You would not be crowned an angel if people knew what you did, so don’t tell anyone. Be the quiet, perfect person, and when it is night take other people, full of wrong-doing and become them, be everything, feel everything, everything is a blur of beauty as you tumble down the cliffside, but you do not believe in beauty. Maybe you are beautiful. But no one is beautiful afterwards, so why should anything be beautiful before? The people who enjoy things will not enjoy ever again, so they should not have jumped for a chance that would never be granted. Things are frantic, people shout, shallow minds reach for you. You do not want to be reached for. You wait for afterwards, when things are quiet. You do not have to be happy to be light. You do not have to be trodding on green grass. You are stuck on the sharpest rock and you are flying. You are a bird, but you do not appreciate birds. They appreciate you, and you become them and everything else. Your bones rattle in your melting skin, soon, you will be all over the place, waving to some, smiling at others. Empty sockets staring peacefully into another’s lively face. Finally, you will be free. Things will be easy. Things will be beautiful with the beauty of no beauty, the beauty of fog, of ground, of treasure, of space, of a safe haven, of a place to hide, of nothing, nowhere.