River Water and Observation

Cate Kennedy has a new collection of poems.

I heard Cate talk with Ramona Koval about The Taste of River Water.

She read two of her poems during the interview on The Book Show.

Both seemed to me to be wonderful guides for those who observe and analyse performance.

The first was Thinking the room empty and the second was 8 x 10 colour enlargements S16.50.

I read Cate’s poems after finishing Stanley Fish’s How to Write A Sentence And How To Read One and delighted in Cate’s craft.

I liked too the introductory quote she used from Kristin Henry:

Here, there is no edge for cutting, and no garde for avanting, there is only the same old story, fresh as resurrection.

Photo Credit

Morning Mist

Open Language

UCNISS submitted an open tender to the Australian Paralympic Committee this week.

We submitted a proposal to produce A History of the Paralympic Movement in Australia, and to establish a repository of media and digitised primary resources to compliment the text.

The tender was written as a Wikiversity page.

The process of becoming open has been a great personal learning experience. I am fortunate to have had Leigh Blackall and James Neill as my guides and to access Stephen Downes’ OLDaily to extend my horizons.

Stephen has presented his ideas on The Role of Open Educational Resources in Personal Learning this week. I liked his discussion of a language of open learning:

  • We have to stop treating online resources as though they were ‘content’
  • The people who actually use them have moved far beyond that
  • These artifacts constitute a new language; they are a large, complex, post-linguistic vocabulary
  • That’s why they need to be open

Our open tender has received a great deal of interest and comment. The objections to the project we are proposing to the Australian Paralympic Committee underscore for me how important it is to revisit and develop the forms an open language may take.

I am still waiting for the arrival of Stanley Fish’s book in my local bookshop and hope the issues raised there will help me develop my open language and practice.

Advocacy of openness requires many literacies. I am keen to explore how the form of our writing contributes to the flourishing of a sustainable, collaborative approach to the produsing of open educational resources.

Sentence and Form

Stanley Fish was a guest on Radio National’s Book Show this week.

The subject of the interview was his book How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One (Harper Collins, 2011).

The podcast of his interview can be found here.

Amongst many fascinating points I was moved by the discussion of a sentence from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

I am looking forward to reading the book, more so after reading Daniel Wallace’s review.

Fish argues that sentences, not words, are the building blocks of prose, because it is the connections, the “inexorable logic of syntactic structures,” that give words meaning. He believes that the best way to improve your sentence-making is to study the syntactic form of good sentences and then imitate those forms with practice exercises, the way musicians do scales. Place whatever content you like into a preset syntactic framework, and allow the syntax to settle in your head. Form, and only form, is the key to better writing; worry about content later.

I have been writing about writing in this blog so Stanley Fish’s discussion of sentences resonates with me. I like the idea of composition and its use of grammar and syntax.I like the idea of exploring forms of sentences too. The discussion of Martin Luther King’s sentence was the hook for me.

I think I will need to look at Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller too as part of my engagement with the theory and practice of writing.

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Writing