Law, Literature, and Loss: Take Home Writing

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11 Responses to Law, Literature, and Loss: Take Home Writing

  1. Stephanie Bolster says:

    I continue to be illuminated by these responses. Barbara’s is making me rethink some of the things I say when teaching, as I usually advise students to make their poems as particular as possible, suggesting that, contrary to what many writing handbooks advise, it is through grounded, specific detail and not more general descriptions that one can involve the reader in the poem. The conversation here is adding another layer to that belief, suggesting that in the case of some poems — if the framework is recognizable and accessible enough — the lack of specifics makes the poem larger and more inclusive. Who knew that India and London were in my poem? And yet here they are. Maybe those guides to writing are write, after all!

    I’m drawn to Allegory of the Cave’s reading of the poem as allegory. There’s something very convincing about the logical procession of motivations and actions toward not one but two dead ends. The response becomes a poem in itself.

    Steve’s remark about the earth as a “strong, fragile” place feels just right, and his observations about anthropomorphism, though not something I was thinking about when writing this poem, inform much of my writing in this book. One thing this conversation has shown me is the extent to which my preoccupations surface in the poems even when I’m not aware of them, and that a patient, engaged reader can make visible what for me was invisible. Thanks to you all.

  2. Steve Canty says:

    One word: earthen
    One sentenece: the world is a strong, fragile place.
    One paragraph in a kind of stream: Instruments of glass and iron make warm bellies here; life is manufactured, artificial, commidified. The human revenge on things is to anthropomorphise them. Voices are not attached to human forms, but rather to their destinations. Human and animal travellers in this world are devoured and resold, butchered and rise again to coin, edified and redeemed perhaps in particles of llight. The hostile pricks of ovoid reproduction brandish the shells with the grace of stars, whose slight demand on our focus points to our redemption through interior rearrangement.
    Final thought: Much thanks to the poet, Stephanie; I hope we all can do this again.

  3. Allegory of the Cave says:


    In a cave, we are always sheltered.

    A cave. Not seeing the light. A light never seen. A legend. Hope… So, let’s make the shelter true: particulate light, we move (!), i.e. we are not dead. Let’s make it reasonable: destinations, directions. Now, let’s make it social: travellers. Let’s make it exiting: market, shops. And again, let’s make it true: eggshell pricked with stars, and of course, abattoir… Cote-Vertu or Montmorency? Why bother, both ways dead end, not my direction.

    …To go out you need to be down. To be down, you need to dream light. This is our life here. Sheltered in a cave, moving inside, following the paths that others built. Rules, institutions, market… we forget, it’s just a metro, we–only passengers. Hesiod’s age of Iron is not the end, but the beginning.

    Title: Allegory of the Cave

  4. Barbara says:

    Now, I feel I could not give this poem a title of my own; perhaps before meeting and hearing Stephanie speak, but not now.

    My first thought when reading the words and feeling the movement was India 2004. I had travelled within Indian on several trains and in my head the clank of Iron, and the Hardness of outside, sometimes, some places. The contrast as well –the beauty and the light –the colors and smells, the people and the hospitality. Reading the poem urged me to movement again, this time, inside.

  5. Stephanie Bolster says:

    First, my deepest thanks to Dr. Cornett, to the above responders, and to everyone at today’s ‘dialogic’ session for your attentive engagement with my work. I’ve learned a great deal. Mezzaluna’s stream of consciousness response is a poem in itself, and Dresden’s image of the womb gets to the heart of this poem’s subject although I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time of the writing and revision.

    The poem to which the above participants responded, “Iron,” is arguably more accessible than those we talked about this afternoon in that it evokes a single setting. Although that setting isn’t made particular, elements of it are familiar enough that many of you, above, have read it as Montreal. In fact, I wrote the poem in response to Paris’ grand nineteenth-century train stations and shopping arcades — both of them spaces that, through their high glass ceilings, feel midway between inside and outside. The references to abattoirs and markets pertain to the history of some of these sites; particularly during the Haussmannization of Paris, many “places” vanished and were replaced with something else. And, indeed, Les Halles, Paris’ oldest market, is no longer a market but a massive complex of shops and metro lines. So the “underground” quality that many picked up on in the poem is there in that sense. I, like Dresden, am fascinated by Montreal’s “underground city,” in part due to the gap between the image that term creates in tourists — of kilometres of shopping areas entirely underground — and the reality, of largely above-ground malls linked by shop-lined tunnels.

    In any case, the tension between inside and outside, about which we spoke this afternoon in relation to “Glass,” very much informs this poem and the above responses. The final image of the eggshell pricked with stars was drawn from my understanding of early understandings of the universe, in which the earth was surrounded by a dark dome marked with holes through which light shone. That image has fascinated me since childhood as a means of understanding the human desire for shelter, for enclosure.

  6. Private says:

    1 word:

    1 sentence:
    We yearn to connect, and will leap any barrier – including time and space – to do so.

    1 paragraph:
    Throughout the generations, the sons of Mary work tirelessly to realize pathways that connect and sustain us. Pathways that serve us and constrain us; that become templates for even our most transcendent experiences.

    stream of consciousness:
    Transportation takes us form one place to another, from one time to another, from being one person to being another. I am transported physically, and I become someone else – a new manifestation the people and objects that surround and envelop me.
    Do these new circumstances determine how I act, who I am seen to be?
    or is how I act and how I appear to be an emergent property of these new circumstances?

    “Central Station”
    because the piece evokes for me arriving at a train station and stepping into the city via the requisite undeground shopping mall.

  7. CharlieBrown says:

    Reading #8
    1 word: intense
    1 sentence: I feel like I am looking down from a balcony onto a new city.
    1 paragraph: in each moment, there are so many centres of activity in some many places to be perceived by all of our senses. i feel that piece is highlighting many things, movement, voices, textures, light, distance, chaos going on outside of us yet bringing us back to the inside, reminding that we move at our own rhythm.
    stream of consciousness: things seem different, somewhat familiar too. Traveling heightens senses. We look more intently thus we see more. Light is different. Colours appear different. time is different. Is it breakfast time now? Is that ‘instrument’ a coffee pot?

    title & why: another frontier
    Because it reminds me of an oriental market. Also switching from one sense to the next.

  8. Pandora says:

    Reading #8
    ONE WORD- London

    ONE SENTENCE- The underbelly of a city holds a universe inside of it.

    ONE PARAGRAPHE- I imagine a foggy city (maybe London?), movement, metal, busy bustling business. There is something cold and damp in it’s temperment.

    STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS-Iits old London. The last line is where everything truly begins. A description of the set came before it. There are always other ways to move inside a city. Leading you to deeper, darker places. The first line is what got me started down a creepy road where strange experiments could happen, secret in the hidden parts of this city. Jekle and Hyde… My favourite moment was the description of the foggy night sky where stars where only “suggested”. Ahh, nature get’s me evey time.

  9. Dresden says:

    One word – Metro
    One sentence- The other world underground
    One paragraph- I keep thinking how curious it is to know there’s an entire world under my feet whenever I walk downtown. Cement and ashphalt separating us.
    Stream of consciousness- a mother’s womb. Glass belly that gives light o the life in it. So much must be happenning in a womb. Noises sounds swooshes warmth cold tsunamis earthquakes soinning and moving so quickly. Its a world of its own. Satisfied and taken care of. Even connected to the source – God. So i doesnt matter wether youre inside underneath or outside and above. Its really all the same. Just a different view and a different way to move around.

  10. Mezzaluna says:

    Reading 8
    1. One word – Place Ville-Marie

    2. One sentence – This refers to travel and shopping and it reminds me of the passageway between the Gare centrale in Montreal and Place Ville-Marie.
    3. One paragraph – There is a warren of shops, markets and restaurants between the Gare Centrale and the underground shopping area at the base of the Place Ville-Marie skyscraper. It could also describe the activity in the Métro in Montreal, at the McGill or Place des Arts stations, which lead to other labyrinthine shopping concourses. Now and then, someone jumps onto the electrified rails and dies. Or – jumps in front of a train and dies. Thus – the reference to the abattoir, maybe.

    4. Stream of consciousness –
    My second home is urban
    Scarlet plush seats in concert hall
    My view.
    Concrete and metal skylights
    Mark the way.
    Travelling underground, under the mighty St. Lawrence River
    The air is rancid
    Rust streaks on grey tiled walls
    Framing a wheelchaired man with can of pencils
    Head lolling, ovine
    As herds of down-filled coats parade by and
    Clink sporadically in a mad rush out of the nether gut to metal staircase to
    Reach the next track, and settle, waiting.
    Whoosh and chimes, whoosh and chimes
    To the pale light of winter, watered down sky
    Above human warren.
    To music. Exquisite
    And gripping. Gripping your gut and soul.
    Too painful to live to shop or drop,
    Another “way to move – inside.”
    5. Title – Soul Travel

  11. Grenada says:

    Reading No.8
    One word– Move.
    One sentence-Stars suggest other ways to move inside a glass sheltered train station.
    One paragraph-Stars suggest other ways to move inside a train station. Glass-covered roof echoes the announcements. Markets and shops vie for attention. Trains crawl through.
    Stream of Consciousness-Instrument, Glass curve, Trains crawl, an abattoir, market, shops, reverberation of announcements, people enter the gut, and egg shell pricked with holes are stars that suggest other ways to move.
    Title-Star Destinations. Trains have destinations and so do people in the train station, going to shops. We need to re-work how people travel in stations and if we think of the stars, we will find other ways to move.

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