The Poetry Project

3 Writing Exercises from the Archive

Laura Henriksen

From: Laura Henriksen
Date: Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 2:39 PM
Subject: 1981 Feminist Reading Group // Week Four // “These personal feelings are important enough to be made public.”

I want to address you somewhere beyond whether or not you 'buy it,' I want to decline the magicianship in order for you to be present, right here" -- Alice Notley, "Waltzing Matilda

Hey everybody!

I'm so excited, here we are, 🌹Alice Notley🌹week! And another week, I fear, with maybe too much to read. As I was scanning the entirety of Waltzing Matilda, I thought, "should I go ahead and include all 30 pages of this interview with George Schneeman that for some reason is in this book?" and then I thought, "yes, do it for the 1981 Feminist Reading Group," and I happily scanned away, thinking of you all, listening to someone snore softly in the Grad Center library. You're welcome.

For extra context this week, or maybe context is the wrong word in this case, maybe I mean more as a possible place to start, I'm sharing Wayne Koestenbaum's "My 1980s" and an interview between Tammy Rae Carland and Ann Cvetkovich called "Sharing an Archive of Feelings". (An Archive of Feelings is the name of a book by Cvetkovich that Carland later "stole" for an art project). Just read as much as you feel like/are able to, whatever you can do is enough.

This week, I'm thinking again about "private life" and "public life," I'm thinking about something we've already talked about but can always talk more about, how "the personal is political," I'm thinking about the description for Simone White's master class, I'm thinking about feeling(s). I can't wait to hear what you are thinking!

BONUS WRITING EXERCISES: I also thought to come to this week as poets, whether or not we are all poets, whether or not it is possible to come to anything in any other way. So I wanted to propose some optional writing exercises!

  1. Follow "Waltzing Matilda" and write a journal poem. Maybe try what Notley does and include multiple voices, styles of writing, line lengths, questions, dreams, jokes, relationships, conversations, mistakes.

  2. Write "My 1980s" or "My 2000s" or "My 2014" or "My 2020s" or maybe even "My 1780s" Something temporally located but extensive or expansive in experience. Use specificity in a way that can be felt.

  3. Maybe the same thing as the first two -- make an archive of feelings! Or an inventory of feelings? Or a list of feelings? This could be with words or with objects of personal significance, or any kind of significance. It could be from your own private era (i.e. "the era I was in love with X," "the era I only listened to X"), or an era that included others (i.e. "the 80s").

To be considered for publication in an upcoming issue of HOUSE PARTY, submit your responses, polyvocal poetic experiments and ruptures to PARTY LINE #4.

House Party #4