Teaching Writing Is Bullshit...But

Teaching Writing Is Bullshit...But

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It’s like “teaching” fucking

I used to teach English at a community college.

Basic English, mostly: Eng. 99 (bonehead) and 101 and 201, and once in a while I’d get to do an Intro to Lit. Class.

And few times, I was handed the supposedly plum job of teaching Creative Writing. I thought I’d LOVE teaching Creative Writing.

But then the first poems from 18 and 19 year old’s started coming in:

Sometimes the “i’s” were dotted by little hearts.

Sometimes the works were presented in handwritten printing or swirling cursive in purple or pink or lavender colored ink.

Sometimes there was the tiniest kernel of something original or smart or memorable, but not VERY fuckin’ often.

Rarely were any of the students’ writings even remotely close to as good as their authors’ believed their work to be. Or as their beleaguered high school English teachers and mothers and grandmas must have told them it was.

Twenty-plus years have passed since I taught.

But a few weeks back, one of these Creative Writing students from decades ago reached out to me, via an unexpected email and asked if I would help her expand/develop her poetic voice and work.

A little nervous I agreed to take a look at what she was writing now. In truth, I didn’t remember her. But I’m in my 70’s and still writing and figured I could spare a little time to at least see what she’d become.

We met for coffee and she’s in her 40s: a serious (as in practicing) Jew, a nurse and acupuncturist, a single mom of four kids and a lesbian with a nose ring and lots of other piercings and some prominently displayed and colorful tats. Oh, yeah, and blue hair . . .so there was that...

Thankfully, much of her poetry, now, is very good; sharply observed, deeply felt, raging with that magic mix of honesty, clarity, passion and an apparent love of language. Some of it is not just good but great or damn close to it.

She’d reached out to me after so many years, when remembering something I’d said or done that reminded her that maybe I could be useful.

It feels great and I bet Rumi and Paul McCartney and Buk, maybe many other writers and poets and artists of all types who have glimpsed this kind of cool thing would agree how nice it is, someone reaching out and asking you for help and you are blessed/lucky enough to feel that you can still provide it.

And that, right there/here, is the best thing I’ve ever experienced as a teacher of writing. At least the best thing that I’m willing to disclose and that won’t threaten my happy marriage.

*For Rebekah

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