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Learning with the Teachers, too

Posted by JEAN TOYAMA
Monday, June 27, 2011 1:52 AM


Christy is right. The workshop at Punahou was very effective. I thought that the word-release-exercise that Eric offered was an excellent way to relieve students from the heavy burden to be “creative” and “original.” It reminded me of the surrealist game of “exquisite corpse” where participants would put random words together. This parlor game produced the line: “The exquisite corpse will drink new wine.” Hence, the name.

Released from this burden, because words are chosen at random, the imagination is freed. The participants in my group produced these lines.

1. Branches release me from my heavy thoughts

We discussed how putting together words with little intentionality jostled the imagination as with “branches that release...”

2. The smoke reached down the child’s lungs

In this example the scientific bent of the writer led to the smoke reaching down into the lungs... an image made very physical and concrete; there was also the desire to “make sense.”

3. Closets unravel
because her hands
force only memories

The wood aches
with each subtle
jolt that reminds
him of what
he never knew

The mixing of concrete images of a closet and hands with intangible memories is very suggestive. For the writer it helped put together a story of an incident recounted to him by his wife. He was told that the wife of a man had died. This man started to notice that all the drawers in his home were pulled out and things left in a mess. Then he realized that it was his wife who closed the drawers after him, returned things to their proper place.

The exercise was successful because it jostled the imagination of the participants to write things they otherwise wouldn’t have written.

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