Flash Seminar

Michael Ann Courtney, poet and adjunct professor, began the Flash Seminar last Thursday with an assignment. The coffee maker was well on its way, and the white board held about 20 unconnected words in orange marker.

“Write a poem that uses at least ten of these words,” Courtney instructed. “It has to be ten lines long, the first sentence has to have an end stop, and there has to be one question mark somewhere in the poem. Ready?”

Courtney credited 2012 graduate Emily Harnish for the theme of seminar, “The Muse Is Form,” which dealt with the paradox of writing creatively within a set form. “Form often surprises us,” Courtney said, “forcing us to ditch our ideas and pet language, and making our writing exciting and original. It’s the best antidote to boring writing, and to being bored while writing.”

Courtney maintained that it is likewise with academic papers and the forms posed by them, in which all students must work within. Courtney, in her description of the flash seminar, said, “form also banishes writer’s block, cures unsightly rashes, and is the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything, but we probably won’t have time to get into all that.”

The 12 students present spent 15 minutes writing creatively in silence. Once finished, Courtney began to discuss the ways in which the process of beginning a poem is applicable to beginning an academic essay or thesis paper. “Steal from great writers,” Courtney advised. “How can you not accept the gift of great language?”

She encouraged students to hold on to words from their favorite texts, and to allow writing they admired to influence their work. Courtney referred to this as “nodding to the past,” and one strategy of persisting through writer’s block. “I went against my original formed idea for the seminar,” Courtney said of the student influence over the discussion. “I wanted it to feed off of us.”

“I had heard a lot of great things about Michael Ann Courtney before,” said Senior Hannah Patterson. “I was really excited that it was my first flash seminar. MAC really made a great case for form being our muse.”

“I have written a lot more this week, be it that I was inspired or just in the mood,” said Patterson. “I have noticed that even if I veer from the form I had intended, it’s been a great place to start. It’s helped conquer at least this bout of writer’s block, and that in itself should be enough to speak for how the flash seminar went.”

-Lani Prunés, Managing Editor


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