As a reminder, the Revolutionary Poets Society focuses on global opportunities to respond to the demands of the moment through poetry, music and art. We focus on the development of vocabulary and a set of critical, literacy, and performance approaches to help enable engagement with slam poems and spoken-word poems on aesthetic terms.
The current syllabus for this class is available here. I’m using this website to serve as my learning management system and share all materials. I hope you’ll join us over the coming weeks as we think, discuss, and write.
We’ll use the hashtag #RevolutionaryPoets to organize all materials across social media (mostly Twitter). I’ll encourage my students to share materials and follow along on the discussion there. Please join us.
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. — Muriel Rukeyser
Stories are generally considered to be a narrative of connecting events (either actual or imaginary) presented in a sequence of written or spoken words…in still or moving images.
Kurt Vonnegut believed that there is only one basic shape to a story, all else is a variation. Vonnegut posits that stories move from beginning to entropy, and contain movement between good and ill fortune.
Test this theory
Take a blank piece of paper and draw a vertical line on the far left of the page. Draw a second line horizontally in the middle of the page.
Create a diagram showing the shape of the story from the video below. If needed, annotate your diagram to identify plot points at key events in the narrative.
It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story. — Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
Let’s continue this examination of a shape of a story, but thinking about a story that is possibly even more meaningful to you…the shape of your story.
What challenges exist when the story is about you?
Part of the challenge in identifying the shape of my story is that many of us feel that we’re in the middle of the story. It is a challenge to separate out hopes and dreams from reality. Self-improvement may come into conflict with the items on the resume or Facebook profile.
Think of the events of your life and how you got to the present. What dreams and ambitions still remain?
How do you use language to define who you are and your place in your community/culture?
Write a poem that shares the shape of my story and include any reflections or contextual information you believe is important. There is no need to dig deep and include granular elements at this point as you share your story. Just as you diagrammed the shape of a story above, this retelling of the shape of your story should capture the series of connecting events.
An example of this comes from the story Mulan. The main character is based on the legend of Hua Mulan, a young woman that must take her father’s place in the army. After fighting with honor and skill, she decides to refuse rewards and returns to her homeland.
In the Disney film, she spends time in the middle of the action reflecting on her life and the shape of her story.
Use your voice and the sounds of your life to illustrate where you are in your life’s journey.