About carolbach

Poet, writing coach, editor married to Bill Bachofner 30+ years 6 children, all grown; 14 grandchildren live in Maine

An Open Letter to Governor Walker

pay attention to this and find out how one excellent teacher sees what’s happening to education

The Marquette Educator

Dear Governor Walker:

I was both surprised and bewildered last week when I saw a news clip of you stumping in Iowa about Megan Sampson, whom you called “The [2010] Outstanding Teacher of the Year in my State.” This was baffling to me since in 2010, I was named Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year (Maureen Look-Ainsworth, Middle School Teacher of the Year; Peggy Wuenstel, Special Services Teacher of the Year; and Michael Brinnen, Elementary Teacher of the Year). In a most humbling ceremony, we were each surprised at our respective schools by State Superintendent Tony Evers and later honored at the State Capital as the Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

And so, as one of the bonafide 2010-2011 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year, I feel the need to engage in one of the most valuable skills we teach our students, critical analysis.

Verified by multiple news sources, it…

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Lentini: Why Do We Have Public Schools?

agree wholeheartedly

Diane Ravitch's blog

David Lentini of Maine writes in response to another reader on the purpose of schooling in a democratic society:

I like your idea. But I suspect that most states will have language similar to MO and ME. In fact, I would argue, that’s one of the major problems we have today—that we’ve forgotten the basic role of schools in maintaining our democracy, and we’ve become distracted with ideas of using the schools to prepare a “workforce” or create a social utopia (or both). The shift from the former to the latter was a hallmark of the Progressive Era.

Returning to the view that schools serve first to educate our children for their future roles as citizens, and not workers and consumers or “role players” in some social model, would greatly focus the curriculum on developing the intellectual faculties of the students and the attention of the parents.

Democracies require a…

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Welcome to Customs… and Bullying, Intimidation, and False Accusation

this is outrageous!

Donna Miscolta

Some might consider a young woman traveling alone independent and adventurous. Some might consider her bilingualism an asset. Apparently, though, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers consider both of these suspicious. And if the young woman fits the physical profile of a Latina, then that’s a problem, too.

My older daughter has her Caucasian father’s fair skin. Her dark eyes and dark hair are my Filipino and Mexican contributions. She’s been assumed to be Italian, Russian, Greek, Persian, and Arab. But most often and especially where she lives in Los Angeles, people speak to her in Spanish assuming that it is her native language. It’s a language she’s acquired, having studied it in secondary school and gained fluency in during a college study abroad program in Spain.

When her sister bought her a round-trip plane ticket to Costa Rica as a birthday gift, Natalie decided to devote most of…

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Fairtest: Leaders Begin to Hear and React to Anti-Testing Movement

Please folks, read this and decide if YOUR district ought to opt out and resist

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bob Schaeffer of FAIRTEST summarizes the fast-moving events of the past week in the burgeoning movement to stop high-stakes testing:

An explosive week for the testing resistance and reform movement. Nationally, pressure is mounting on President Obama, Secretary Duncan and members of Congress to cut back on federal mandates which help drive standardized exam insanity. At the same time, grassroots campaigns are forcing local officials to overhaul the testing policies they control — today’s summary includes stories from 19 states as well as several excellent commentaries.

Revolt Against Common Core Testing Goes National
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/common-core-112144.html

Eleven National Civil Rights Groups Urge Obama Administration to Drop Test-Based “Accountability”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/28/eleven-civil-rights-groups-urge-obama-to-drop-test-based-k-12-accountability-system/

Arne Duncan Blows Standardized Smoke
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-greene/arne-duncan-standardized-tests_b_6049774.html

Does Arne Duncan Think “Suburban Moms” Are Really That Gullible?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/26/does-arne-duncan-think-suburban-moms-are-a-gullible-bunch/

California Moving Rapidly Toward Post-NCLB Accountability
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_california/2014/10/california_moving_rapidly_toward_post-nclb_accountability.html

What Are Delaware Schools Teaching? Test Prep
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/10/23/schools-teaching-us/17791861/

Florida State House Candidates Agree: Too Much Testing
http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2014/10/22/south-florida-state-house-candidates-agree-theres-too-much-testing/

Florida Should…

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Joseph A. Ricciotti: Politics, Profits, and the Common Core

Worthy reading; we are sinking into the soup with Common Core and its insidious move to corporate takeover of our kids’ educations.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Joseph A. Ricciotti, a former professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, wrote the following post:

One of the most alarming reports concerning the corporate education reform movement and the growth of Common Core in the country was published by Lee Fang in the Nation magazine. Fang’s report highlights how public education is now considered as the last “honeypot” for venture capitalists and Wall Street investors. Investors’ interest in public education as a money making venture was made crystal clear by attendance at the recent annual investment conference in Scottsdale, Arizona which skyrocketed from 370 people the previous year to over 2000 this year. Likewise, the number of companies presenting at the conference increased from 70 to 390, mostly technology companies. It is also no surprise that Jeb Bush, one of the leading advocates of Common Core in the country, was the keynote speaker at the conference. According to Fang, venture…

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The Prose Sonnet; see step-by-step how I constructed my first one

Of late, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about prose poetry. The jury is not in completely on whether there is such a beast, but I now lean toward a yes on that.  I have gained a bit of insight via an online open source course I took this summer from University of Iowa, but there is more to be done for me in terms of figuring out how this “thing” can exist in my own work on a somewhat regular basis. To that end, I have been reading prose poems and essays on prose poems.

While reading a collection of poems by Sherman Alexie (What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned), simultaneously with The Rose Metal Press’ Field Guide to Prose Poetry, I hit upon the idea of melding prose with traditional form. In particular, I thought I might be able to do a sonnet in prose, keeping some of the elements of traditional sonnet while formatting and thinking out loud in prose. Alexie does this in his collection by “prosing” a few sonnets. I admit this lit a fire in me. I did notice, however, that the sonnet part had mostly to do with the numbers (14 numbered sections in paragraph form), not with the utility of traditional sonnet style. In one sonnet, he breaks apart the prose too in order to create 14 separated sections. I will have to think on that one a bit more and come up with how I might adapt that to perhaps some kind of Kimiko Hahn style poem. Maybe the numbers are not ordered, for example. At any rate, I may have had a breakthrough of sorts vis a vis actually coming up with an adaptation (thinks to Alexie) that gives me new territory to explore.

So, what to do with this idea of a prose sonnet? (Of course the WHAT is always connected to the DO.) So onward.

First I had to decide (poem construction is a series of decisions) which elements of sonnet I might keep/use. Then I had to come up with a way to access my prose-thinking mind to get to a kind of “place” where a narrative might begin. On its face, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. It seems like the way any narrative or narrative poem might logically begin. Hmmm. Not so fast there lady! (I said aloud to myself) Maybe the whole thing has to begin with images, with nouns. Should they be random nouns that appealed to me at that moment? Then again, maybe I needed to have more structure than that. Yes! Part of the sonnet is structure, certainty of structure. Even though I do love to explode sonnet form, to open it up on the page, I am a formalist at heart (and soul), and need some kind of solidity of framework on which to hang the art I make. So, in this venue of invention, I chose to have as part of my basic framework a comprehensive list of nouns that are “loosely rigid” in terms of theme.  One should remember that the list you make is going to at least PARTIALLY set theme or tone. Choose wisely, feel free to scrap the list and start over if the poem seems thuddy or boring or too convoluted —OR reject the list if the poem seems to resist its own creation. Here is the list I created for my very first prose sonnet. I chose 14 words, thinking that 14 of something, in this case 14 words, would be one nod to the sonnet.

barrier, blockade, closure, road block, checkpoint, sterile area, security zone, border, seam-line, killing ground, separation fence, elastic geography, ditch(es), sovereign state.

Below you will find the “handout” I made for my poetry group, outlining the process.

Writing the Prose Sonnet

Over time, the sonnet form has bent and twisted into something we can adapt for our own usage in a contemporary setting. We can open it up and break it into parts, shapes, and any manner of contemporary poetic gestures. Why not combine prose and the sonnet, one of poetry’s most lasting forms?

For our purposes here, we will look at a melding of prose and the sonnet form and see how the quirky nature of free association can serve both. Remember as you wade out into the deeper waters of form deconstruction, that you are the inventor. You can adapt this exercise to fit your topic, your impulse of diction, and your need to tell a story. The suggested process is but a guideline for your own adaptation.

  1. Select 14 words (NOUNS!!!) that are somewhat thematically connected. Jot them down so you have them as you construct the poem. The words I chose are all words of restriction and stoppage and alienation. My theme (loose) is that of being held back or cordoned off from love. You will see my words in bold in the example below.
  1. Set off in a direction. (head toward your theme or idea)
  1. Begin formation of your prose piece with the number 1 and include your “best” word from your list of words. Create your first line or series of sentence fragments.
  1. At the place in that first bit of thought where your mind feels a bit like jumping, put a period or other end-stoppy punctuation and write the number 2. Go onward by letting yourself leap (free association is the thing here!) and use another word from your list. I found it helpful to cross off each word used to make sure I used all fourteen.
  1. Repeat this process, paying no attention at all to WHERE your numbers land. Just write the whole poem as a paragraph with numbered parts. Remember that any numbered portion may contain more than one sentence or fragment. It may be a bit self-contained with one major leap or it may slide into a transition as you near its end, making the next leap smoother. Each numbered section will have only ONE of your listed words however.

~~~~~~~~~ OR ~~~~~~~~~

figure out another way to decide how to use your 14 words (a negative then a positive then another negative, for example)

~~~~~~~~~ OR ~~~~~~~~~

keep going after number 14 and run the poem onward a bit, i.e. the American Sonnet.

You might decide to end with a rhymed couplet, giving another nod to the traditional sonnet form.

MY EXAMPLE:

Love is Monstrous(ly) Wonderful(ly) Bordered, a prose sonnet

1. Natural barriers could be the colors of love, red lips shine, bruise-blue or some psychedelic bursts of argument hues at the edge of love’s known world. 2. Sterile areas pop up like rabbits. You want to go there to be safe, to be gravid with love. 3. Ditches burrow themselves into sidewalks where lovers pace, submerge to begin their travel along wrist-like veins recently scissored open in desperation. 4. You can achieve closure that way. Real closure. The slamming of the garden gate on too-rusted hinges made furious by rain. The door-bang of a car, locking itself with the keys still in the ignition. You learn how to leave and how to stay. 5. Love opens and closes on everyone eventually, even if no one hears it happening. Love maintains its elastic geography this way. 6. You cannot escape into a security zone to avoid it. 7. Even though you don’t recognize it, your heart is a sovereign state. 8. It has a seam-line of tissue paper tears. Rain will open up in it, open you eventually. 9. You’ll soon be seen at the checkpoint, tourist visa in your breast pocket, flashlight between your teeth. 10. You will head back to the colors of love and sketches you made of it at the blockade. It’s a secret. It is invincible ink. 11. Cruelty is the killing ground. 12. Vault over its borders. Ping between love and its doppelganger. 13. Roadblock ahead! Drive. Run. 14. Decide to burn down the separation fence. 15. This is what to know about love and disaster, about a heart full of tacks. 16. Once you fill your suitcase, you get the monster off your back.

Let’s review what has happened here that makes this a sonnet (indeed, an American sonnet)

1. 14 lines

2. volta at or near line 9/10:  key words/phrases include checkpoint, head back

3. rhymed couplet at the end (though not metrical, it is musical)

4. a total of 16 lines with the rhymed couplet

You ask “What makes this prose?”  Well, it’s all too obvious to mention, isn’t it? The result of this experiment is (for me) a comfort with prose adaptations of form. Seems to be a place where I can work on narrative and form can uphold the prose. I will write more of these and think now that I might try a repeating form like the pantoum or villanelle. And what would happen if my list of words were all verbs? Now I’ve gone and done it — more to think about and try. It’s great to be a poet!

Why branching out is a good idea

I’m participating in the University of Iowa’s online class in poetry. the current lesson is on using the words of others. I don’t mean how and why not to plagiarize (though don’t get me started on that!). Rather the focus is on enriching one’s own wiring by becoming part of a larger “intertextualization” of literature (see Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor for a better explanation that I might give on “intertextualization.”

The “found” poem is not new. But Mary Reuffle and others are bringing new life to doing something with others’ words. I am in favor of this practice and have been doing so with language (insertion) and also with erasure (redaction). I have also been mucking about with variations on the glosa form which uses whole lines/quatrains to riff off in totally new poems. The rhyming part of glosa writing is interesting and I like to vary WHERE the rhymes occur in the poem (not necessarily at the terminus of lines.

Now comes this idea of removal and repurposing words to form (perhaps) an opposing POV in an original work you are doing, on some idea that has been looking for a way to be expressed in a poem.

The class assignment from Iowa was this:

Find a 2010 BP oil press release and choose words from it to express something new. I was intrigued by this and came up with the following draft (every word is taken IN ORDER from the press release of 20 April 2010):

BP that

Following
Fire
Rig
semi
submersible

Rig: Deep

water horizon occurred

(NYSE:
RIG)
rig the incident

approximately rig 41 miles

Block 252 Emergency
Exploration
and search
rig personnel

126
unaccounted hometowns withheld

Please visit.

What came about is an attitude that belies the propaganda in the press release, and what appears at the end is a sardonic (almost creepy) tone. Although NONE of the words came from me directly, the ideas and tone and message most certainly are. In just this short piece, “rig” comes up 5 times. Seems to me that the varied meanings implied are very much in control of the hidden message in the message of the release once they are isolated with other terms. I LOVE this serendipity.