Thinking About Words

Last Wednesday staff from Sport Studies at the University of Canberra met the poet Harry Laing at the Old Cheese Factory at Reidsdale to develop our writing skills as part of the Faculty of Health‘s 2010 Writing Week. I have been thinking about the workshop a good deal since then.

On one of my journeys into the University of Canberra I caught a Book Show discussion of Paul Celan.The program note included the quote “There is nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German.” Ramona Koval discussed with Charlotte Ryland the limits and possibilities of language in relation to Celan’s poetic project.

The interview was prompted by the publication of Charlotte’s book Paul Celan’s Encounters with Surrealism: Trauma, Translation and Shared Poetic Space. The Legenda summary of the book is:

Paul Celan (1920-1970), one of the most important and challenging poets in post-war Europe, was also a prolific and highly idiosyncratic translator. His post-Holocaust writing is inextricably linked to the specific experiences that have shaped contemporary European and American identity, and at the same time has its roots in literary, philosophical and scientific traditions that range across continents and centuries – surrealism being a key example. Celan’s early works emerge from a fruitful period for surrealism, and they bear the marks of that style, not least because of the deep affinity he felt with the need to extend the boundaries of expression. In this comparative and intertextual study, Charlotte Ryland shows that this interaction continued throughout Celan’s lifetime, largely through translation of French surrealist poems, and that Celan’s great oeuvre can thus be understood fully only in the light of its interaction with surrealist texts and artworks, which finally gives rise to a wholly new poetics of translation.

I like the idea of a ‘poetics of translation’ and its resonance with developing ideas. I ought to track down the book to learn more about Paul Celan and Charlotte’s account of poetics. This may take me to Jacques Derrida too!

It is surprising where a misty day in Reidsdale can lead you.

Writing Week Outputs

This year’s Faculty of Health‘s 2010 Writing Week at the University of Canberra has produced a number of outputs.

I have posted about two workshops held to support the week:

Three colleagues have edited and submitted (eight) papers to journals this week, one colleague has completed two chapters for an international handbook, one colleague has delivered three reports, five colleagues have taken the opportunity to work on drafts of PhD chapters, one colleague has written a new course and a team of colleagues has submitted a large grant application.

I have written up a paper from 1993 and posted it on this blog. My aim was to share some ideas from the early years of notational analysis in sport. I hope I raise some important epistemological and ontological issues in the paper and see it as a contribution to the sociology of knowledge about notational and performance analysis. I have developed a wiki for a UNHCR project.

At the end of the week a colleague shared with me a link to the video of J K Rowling’s Commencement Address at Harvard:

Her 2008 talk was titled The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination. In it she shares some insights about her exoerience. I thought this was a great way to end our week:

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

Here’s to big ideas!

 

Photo Credits

Writing a Composition

Untitled

Write till you drop

Writing Day at Reidsdale on the First Day of Summer

Today staff from Sport Studies at the University of Canberra met the poet Harry Laing at the Old Cheese Factory at Reidsdale to develop our writing skills as part of the Faculty of Health‘s 2010 Writing Week. We visited Reidsdale on one of the wettest days of the year in the wettest week of the year so that the glories of the Monga National Park were obscured by cloud and mist.

Harry was a delightful facilitator and manged to guide us through a great day of writing and voice exercises.

Our day included:

  • Two free flow writing exercises (writing without taking the pen off the paper as a stream of expression).
  • Writing about an object (two truths, four lies).
  • Completing a fifty-word piece that followed from the starting line I stroked the tiger one last time then …
  • Writing about a person we know well.
  • Completing a fifty-word piece that followed from the starting line The stadium went quiet then …
  • Writing about My Left Hand.
  • Writing about an object (description then an imagination piece about the object).
  • Two voice exercises: one to Charles Causley‘s I Am The Song and one as a Chant.
  • Writing a Tanka on the theme of a Hero or Fallen Idol.
  • Exquisite corpse exercise (partners take it in turn to write words: adjective, noun, verb, adjective, noun without seeing what each other has written) to develop unimagined sentences.


Harry interspersed these activities with readings from his own collections, Philip Larkin and Simon Armitage.

There was lots of opportunity to discuss writing and narrative whilst having the most wonderful food and drinks from the Old Cheese Factory kitchen (provided by Gary, Gina, Margaret and Robert).