It has been a couple weeks since writing a reflective blog but have no fear we've been writing plenty of blogs. Anyway, in the meantime we have focused a lot on Tragedy, learning what it is, how it is written, and how it relates to our own lives. We have started a tragedy blog as well, to begin writing about and discussing tragedy. We have watched a couple TED talks that were both very helpful in giving a new view on how tragedy relates to us, the first one discussed the impossibility of meritocracy and the second discussed cognitive illusions. Personally I liked the second one better because it went a little bit deeper into why we make the decisions we make and what influences those choices, it was quite interesting. The speaker really knew how to hold an audience.
In tragedy we have learned that most times there are several tragedies within one tragedy, such as Oedipus, which we read a week ago. In Oedipus, "fate" brings him to the places he had been trying to avoid his whole life. There is the tragedy of parents giving up their child in hopes that he will die rather than fulfill the prophecy, next the tragedy of him leaving his life in the city he grew up in to "avoid the prophecy", then he kills his father unbeknownst to him, beginning to start the prophecy, he saves the city and becomes the new king...marrying his mother. He has kids with his mother, and then when they figure all of this out his mother/wife hangs herself, he stabs his eyes out and his daughters are left alone when he is exiled. We spent a lot of time figuring out how tragedies work and preparing to read the next book.
This week we focused on writing two essays as part of our project, ours were on structure and symbolism. I not going to lie, these essays were not fun or easy to write. I really highly dislike writing comparative essays so that one was much harder to me. I believe I have mentioned before that I enjoy writing, when it is on a topic I actually want to write about, this was certainly not that. It was nicer to do in partners because I think I would've been lost without Aliyah and vise versa. However, the chart more confused us than helped, and it took us a while to really get into a groove. Also she was gone our last say and so was Ben, that kind of sucked. I think more time would've been helpful. Ultimately I think we did pretty well, I'm happy with both of our essays so far. I'm even more happy that it is almost over. We also continued with creative writing which I was excited about but I was really struggling to find something interesting to write about. I am hoping there are more fun and interesting prompts like the “They shoot the white girl first” one that I used last marking period. I couldn't think of anything so I ended up attempting to write a poem because as I discussed in a previous blog, poem writing is a weak point for me and I am trying to improve on that. I tried but honestly I don't like it and I think it could be a thousand times better. I didn't expect it to be perfect because I know it is not what I am good at but I don't like doing work I think is mediocre so it was a challenge to come out of my creative writing anti-poem shell. I am happy that I challenged myself but I’m kind of counting on Ben to give me some really good short story prompts.
This week James Jackson came in to speak to us about his writing, how he got started and his writing process. I thought this was very helpful because he talked about how he was very unsure of this, about how people told him he sucked at it, and about how hard it was for him to build up the courage to realize he was going to be criticized. He talked about how only a small percentage is even going to like the kind of book you're writing anyway, and then everyone is a little different and everyone likes different things. He said that you should never let one person's bad comment or review discourage you from doing what you love. There are always going to be people who hate you or hate your writing or hate themselves so they feel the need to be mean without reason. Those people don't go away but remember that there are also going to be those who really like your work, those who really care about you, and those who believe you can do whatever you set your mind to. This sounded a bit cheesy at first but he is right, there are so many people in this world that several are bound to hate you or your work no matter what, you need to get past that in order to succeed. It was nice to hear him talk about how sad his first bad review made him and how he got over it. Also I know this doesn't relate to my point but he had a very fun accent.
This week we spent a lot of time this week revising and editing our work, starting with the poem analysis and then moving to our personal creative writing. It was difficult at first to figure out how to critique my own writing unless I just completely hated the whole thing (my poem analysis) in which case I just wanted to write that I didn't like the whole thing. It was hard to pinpoint certain things I liked about my poem analysis because I certainly am my biggest critic and could list off things I hated but struggled to think of things I thought I did well. Ben helped me pull some things out that weren't the worst, but it took me a while to search for and find things I felt good about. With my own creative writing I still found it quite hard to critique because other than spelling errors and minor grammar mistakes, it wasn't something I threw together it was a story I had written, I almost felt like I needed someone elses input because I didn't know what to say about my own story. This week was a challenge because I am not the best at critiquing myself without just telling myself it sucks, it was helpful to work on and learn a way to critique myself in a way that can actually improve my writing. I can certainly still improve but it was a great start to bettering my writing skills, and being able to edit and critique my own work.
This week our poem of the week was from Elegy in X Parts by Matt Rasmussen taken from "The Black Aperture" I believe it was called. I thought this poem was much easier to understand in general than the first POW but especially the metaphors and imagery. I think about two blog posts ago I said that I never really like poetry but Ben let me read this book and honestly it was really sad but it was really good. The poetry was still metaphorical and used a lot of imagery but a lot of times it was vague and then really straight forward. It was quite the transition but ultimately really helpful in understanding the more vague parts scattered in the rest of the poem. My favorite poems from the book were "Tom Black", "Outgoing", "Elegy in X Parts", and "After Suicide". These stood out to me because they all conveyed the author's feelings really well and had great uses of imagery. I am a very visual person so imagery really helps when I read things in general, including poems. Maybe even especially poems because I think poems are harder to understand than a novel so having more imagery in a poem can make more of a story in my head, making it easier to understand. We also got to discuss this poem a lot which I liked because as I stated, I sometimes struggle with poems so discussing and seeing what other people noticed really helped in writing the final analysis essay. I liked this week a lot, and I hope we have more poems like this one for our POW.
Yes, I did make one of my notes that I learned "How to draw a horse". Of course in further detail what truly I mean is that we used illustration to create a visual metaphor this week. We were told to connect a "How to Read Literature like a Professor' chapter to our own summer reading books using a drawing. This was interesting and I think at first it took me a second to wrap my head around but once my group had picked out a chapter the ideas came more easily. We connected our chapter which was "Every Trip is a Quest" to a horse pulling a carriage because you need the chapter to carry the reader and the books into a deeper meaning. I actually really liked this activity in the end, because it let us use our brains to come up with a visual way to see it that makes sense to us, and then we explained why it made sense to us to other people. This was much better and more involved than if e hd just written them down or just talked about them. We also spent some time towards the end of the week on what separates a story from literature. I actually found out that it is more about what they do for you together that you don't get with just one on its own, and how they benefit and compliment each other in terms of reading. I had never thought of it in terms of them being a pair but I understand now that they very much go together.
This week we spent a lot of time reading and analyzing The Eagle. For me, it helped me learn and improve my analytical skills especially in poem reading. I have always been a person who could see and understand metaphors, similes, personification and other literary elements but struggled to talk about or explain them. I feel as though they are kind of a challenge to talk about because everyone interprets them a little bit differently. I am not typically a huge fan of poetry at all, I find it even more of a challenge for me to write about because the easiest things for me to write personally are things I could almost ramble about, things I could go on about for hours, and poems are not that. I still struggle to write a paper longer than a couple paragraphs about a six line poem, let alone a couple pages. There was a time restraint but I stopped typing before the time was up because I genuinely just felt like I had typed everything I had to say about it like there was nothing more to discuss. It helped this week to practice this and be able to discuss with my group and the class about what we interpreted from this poem. Every group did kind of come up with something different but in this case that is not necessarily a bad thing. For me, this is something I really need to improve on, even though I believe English/language arts are my strong suit, within that, poetry is sort of my weak spot.
I was told to discuss what I have learned this week in class. In our little warm up we did on the sticky note, I wrote down four things that I believe I learned this week. The first one was that reading should never be a race but rather you reading at your own pace, just within a reasonable amount of time. In previous classes if you finished the book faster you were ahead, essentially it was considered better. I've realized that comprehension and understanding matter more than the speed in this classroom, which I quite like. I am not a slow reader but I do like to fully understand what I read. The second thing I learned which ties into the first was how to calculate my reading pace, which I honestly didn't know you could do. I like the aspect of me trying to reach my own 120 page goal in a week, which I should be able to do, rather than reading a certain amount of chapters in two days or something of that sort. The third thing I learned(which seemed pretty universal in the class after talking to everyone) is that it is hard and a bit weird to write in third person. After having it explained to me why we did it I understood even though, I didn't particularly like it but I can conclude why we did our "biographies" in that manner. The last and maybe over arching theme of the week was that we are each our own reader and writer. We each read and write differently, with different motivation and inspiration, pace, experience and knowledge. This week was really about learning about myself as a reader and writer.