“Exquisite Writing” at the Bakehouse:
A Writing Queer Workshop for Reading Queer
February 1, 2014, 2-5 PM
I Exquisite Corpse
This surrealist “game” is “played” with any number of people, from 2 to ∞. (Yes, ∞.)
1. Divide into groups according to elements: Air signs (Libra, Gemini, Aquarius), Water signs (Scorpio, Pisces, Cancer), Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), Fire (Leo, Aries, Sagittarius). Note: Groups may also combine into Air/Fire and Earth/Water.
2. Each writer starts with a piece of paper, writes two lines, folds the paper to hide the first line, then passes the paper left or right. Everyone is always writing. There will be as many pieces of writing at the end as there are “players.”
3. Everyone slaps a title on the writing in front of them and reads out loud if they so desire.
II Exquisite Ekphrastics (Art-inspired writing)
Spread out into the Bakehouse solo or in pairs. Find art that calls to you in any way (“Hey, Gorgeous,” “Dude, I need you!) and write something (a story, a poem, anything) inspired by it.
If you’d like to try collaborating, here’s an idea for a poem that worked for Neil and Maureen:
Exquisite Ekphrastic “Sonnet” (for two)
1. Pick your collaborator. (Be choosey, but open.)
2. Pick a work of art you can both talk to. (This poem is in second person. The “you” of the painting/sculpture/photo may be animal/vegetable/mineral. Just make sure you’re compelled to address it, whatever it is: “If ever a building deserved a friend, it’s you.”)
3. Write seven lines each quickly, trust first thoughts, do not show your partner yet. (Sit by the painting with your paper and pen. Write to the curly dog running wild through sheep: “Your rear end is missing, but you are strong.”)
a. Collaborator 1: Number your seven lines with odd numbers.
b. Collaborator 2: Number your seven lines with even numbers.
4. When finished, read lines back and forth in order. (Laugh with merriment, embarrassment, wonder.)
III Exquisite Finale
Inspired loosely by “Introduction” by Neil de la Flor and interpreted any way you like, introduce yourself. Include places, names, any details that bubble up as you write. Fictionalize, if you like. Write with or without linebreaks. Trust the process. Have fun. Read out loud or not, it’s up to you.
after the painting by Rodney Hatfield
1. You wear chicken legs like a contortionist wears tights.
2. Surrounded by blood, you look like a spaceman.
3. How many times will you steal a human’s head?
4. Your own head is a square that cuts you off at the neck.
5. Your arms are barely there.
6. Your pigtails are chopped and fading.
7. Where is your crown?
8. Where are your hands?
9. You lost your right breast to a collector.
10. You’re divided into 3 parts.
11. You’re shaped like a rectangle.
12. In the mirror you look like a girl in the mirror.
13. Your mouth is a perpetual hole, your eyes dumb.
14. Where is your mother?
Neil de la Flor & Maureen Seaton
Landscape with Girl and Flowers
After an untitled painting by Hannah Crawford
I was in danger
but not that kind.
There was a cougar
in my dream, but a dog
to keep the cougar at bay.
There was the world
in danger as always
There were mockingbirds
and stonecrop, violets
and spring. No,
the danger was being
here in this painting,
a girl nearly mistaken
for a flower—Sweet Betsy,
Sweet Cicely, Blue-eyed Mary.
As if the world were
only a basket of sweet girls—
But I will not be Rose
or Lily, Iris or Myrtle, not
Daisy, Daisy, Daisy.
Behind my closed eyes
there is a cougar.
Behind my red closed lips
there is Wild Pansy
and its unheard of singing.
Keith Ratzlaff has published four books of poetry: Then, a Thousand Crows, Dubious Angels: Poems after Paul Klee, Man Under a Pear Tree, and Across the Known World. His poems and reviews have appeared in Poetry Northwest, which gave him its Theodore Roethke Award, and in many other journals, including The Georgia Review, McSweeney’s, New England Review, and North American Review. His poems and essays have also been included in such anthologies as The Best American Poetry 2009; The Pushcart Prize XXXI; A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry.