b y Leigh Nash

I’m a sucker for punishment; no matter how many things I have on the go, when something else amazing turns up, I can’t say no. This is how, for the last couple of Sundays, I’ve found myself in the lovely seminar room above new bookstore Of Swallows, Their Deeds, & the Winter Below, taking notes as Tony Burgess offers examples of photographic studium and punctum and wondering if he’s just making up words.

This is my first five-week course with the Toronto New School of Writing, and it likely won’t be my last. I’ve been writing poetry exclusively for over six months, and now that I’m tying up the loose ends of my manuscript I’m getting impatient to return to fiction. So this course seemed like a good fit for my headspace:

“This fiction course is composed largely of original exercises designed to encourage writers to access new ways of recording in the form of written words. These exercises are built out of German Art Historian Erwin Panofsky’s strategies for reading visual art (specifically his three strata of meaning), reconfigured as practical exercises for generating text. The course will more generally explore building a relationship between visual art practices and writing (automatic writing as life drawing, etc.). The focus of this course is to produce new writing by developing text that can record.”

The result? I’ve spent the last five weeks describing the wood-panelled walls in a commercial. And it’s really exciting. I’m no stranger to creative writing workshops —don’t hold that against me — but rarely have I encountered exercises designed to push me outside my comfort zone, to focus more on process and craft than a polished final product. It’s refreshing, and most of all it’s made my writing feel new. It’s super fun to be able to play with voice and tone, and even though I’ve only written about ten pages of babble and pre-iconographic minutiae, it’s been enough to get me excited about digging out my shelved thesis.

Leigh Nash is the author of the chapbook Landforms (Apt. 9 Press); her first full-length poetry collection, Goodbye, Ukulele, is coming next fall from Mansfield Press.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply