In Rare Forms

David Bartone
December 17, 2009
Comments 2

Hey friends. Wanna help? I’m putting together the final syllabus for an experimental writing class I’ll teach this spring with fellow poet Jeff Downey. It’s called “In Rare Forms: Collaborative Writing for the Eventful.” Each week we’re going to play around with a different form of writing that is so occasional you may not really find it fit to practice. Eulogy, wedding vow, manifesto. (But aren’t these three the same form?) Our primary goal is to consider the collaborative potential of all writing and play catch indoors with the excitement of rarity. Our list is long, but far from exhaustive. What form would you like to teach? Literary or not. And hell, if you swing by Amherst, MA this spring, I bet we can come up with a guest speaker/teacher role for you“do you want in?

What I like about this: one function of placing hyper-acute awareness on all writing as collaborative is to integrate thinking like a writer into all aspects of our lives. What happens to your outlook if you consider an errand to buy milk as a series of collaborations? There are good questions here: how can we describe the different ways each form is collaborative? Venn diagrams might be good for showing certain aspects of how two writers may relate to each other. Or maybe, one writer might be seen as a nut, the other a shell. What are other ways to articulate writer relationships?

To take for example, here are some from the list of some serious contenders.

Vows, Toasts, Eulogies: breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Back of Book Blurbs: Tell me ehow doesn’t have the worst advice.

Letters-to-the-Editor: I want to get behind the editor; I want him/her to have to publish my letter; and I don’t want to look like a jerk here. Okay, ehow, you have good advice for this one.

Manifestos: 1913, come on back!

Mixtapes: God, don’t you miss making those tapes from radio jams, with the first eight seconds of the song cut off.

Epistles to Emails: a quick two-thousand years.

Expedition Narratives: Lewis and Clark, Basho and Sora, Marco Polo and Rusticello.

Rivalry-writing: What do you think? Thoreau and Emerson, right?

Wu-Tang Clan: it’s a form.

Mark Leidner pitched us a good two-part form: The Dear John letter/Letter of Jeremiah and the Gonna Get You Back Letter.

This morning my girlfriend was telling me about Whitney on Oprah “doing a tell-all.” (A form?–I heard “doing a towel-off”–a better name for the form?) A tell-all, as far as I guess, is a regrouping of everything everyone’s already said about you, but you know, maybe less crazy. Well, I guess that’s the difference between Oprah and writing: we on the good side want more crazy.

2 thoughts on “In Rare Forms

  1. When can I come to Amherst?

    A pink slip: The nicest letter containing the saddest news.

    Tattoo: Put your poem where your arm is. To be used when you really, really mean it. It takes surgery to undo it.

    Noises made to a small child to distract or placate: Every poem?

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