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Introduction to the Lyric Essay with Ploi Pirapokin

$330.00 · April 18

In this course, we’ll combine elements of poetry and prose to look at how form, structure, and poetic devices can allude to, move through, and bind disparate-seeming threads and facts in our essays to create genre-bending work that is highly associative, and linked by our own rhetorical experimentations.

Start Date

April 18

Day(s) of the Week

Thursday

Class Times

6:30pm – 9:00pm CT

Sessions

5

Location

Zoom (online)

Instructor

Price

$330

In stock

Description

Have an essay that doesn’t seem to make a point? It’s not you, you simply haven’t discovered the form you’re searching for! In this course, we’ll combine elements of poetry and prose to look at how form, structure, and poetic devices can allude to, move through, and bind disparate-seeming threads and facts in our essays to create genre-bending work that is highly associative, and linked by our own rhetorical experimentations. We’ll read examples from published authors like Eula Biss, Alexander Chee, and Aisha Sabatini Sloan and more, along with first drafts to see how authors have integrated research and language in short and long form lyric essay writing. This course will consist of lectures, weekly generative writing exercises, and tips on how to create, continue, and revise a lyric essay.

Lectures will be prevented live, with time for 1-2 writing prompts and Q&A; they will also be recorded so you can catch up on a class you missed or review the material again. There will be some workshopping, reading, and prompts to answer. This class is relevant for first time essayists, beginner writers, and writers interested in writing within an encouraging and supportive environment.


Week 1: Why the lyric? Style and Voice

Let’s nourish our essayistic impulse to put our questions, thoughts, and ideas by trying to make sense and connect elements of poetry, essay, and memoir on the page. We’ll talk subject matter, themes, and events (what, when, where) and how to begin drawing connective tissue between ideas and anecdotes with more meditative moments through brainstorming together. We’ll draw on examples of polyvocality and code-switching from Danez Smith, Souvankham Thammavongsa, and Alexander Chee, to find our most authentic voice when embodying our modes of inquiry.

Reading:

  • “Crying at the George Floyd Protests in Minneapolis,” Danez Smith
  • “Notes on Craft,” by Souvankham Thammavongsa
  • “On Becoming an American Writer,” by Alexander Chee

Week 2: Research as Generative

In order to uphold the agreement we’ve made with our readers that they’re reading nonfiction, we’ll study ways of researching checkable facts and verifiable truths to supplement our leaps of association, while simultaneously allowing these breaks in the rules of expository prose to form deeper insights and parallels. We’ll examine works by Gabe Montesanti, Eliot Weinberger, and Eula Biss, alongside your instructor’s draft of a published lyric essay from start to finish, to follow the types of research conducted, and witness how editorial feedback was implemented to incorporate other voices and findings properly and respectfully in an essay.

Reading:

  • “On Piss,” Gabe Montesanti
  • “The Stars,” Eliot Weinberger
  • “Time and Distance Overcome,” Eula Biss

Week 3: Poetic Devices

By studying the approaches of Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Jennifer S. Cheng, and Richard Siken, we’ll practice how to also borrow elements of poetry such as figurative language, sound, juxtaposition, and various other rhetorical devices in our prose. Considering language as a form of exploration to provoke and contradict even ourselves, we’ll look at ways to invite dialogue between our ideas and others.

Reading:

  • “D Is the for the Dance of the Hours: A Portrait of Pre-Bankruptcy Detroit,” Aisha Sabatini Sloan
  • “Dear Blank Space: A Literacy Narrative,” by Jennifer S. Cheng
  • “On Perplexity: Chrysanthemum,” by Richard Siken

Week 4: Form

We’ll find fun and freedom in breaking formal essay conventions and traditional modes of expression by looking at works by LaTanya McQueen, Carmen Maria Machado, and Tanais to welcome the possibilities of movement in our writing. We’ll check out how the hermit crab essay, fragments, and patterns of our own making can provide metered containers for our writing, and common pitfalls and cliches to avoid.

Reading:

  • “We Were Never Free,” LaTanya McQueen
  • “Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure,” by Carmen Maria Machado, excerpt from In The Dream House
  • “Mojave,” “Invisible Indians,” and “Orientals,” by Tanais, excerpt from In Sensorium

Week 5: Structure

Leave your five paragraph essays behind! What is the new arc of your essay? What are the paths of your meanderings? Reading pieces by Jo Ann Beard, Tommy Orange, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we’ll see how ruminative work that isn’t engaged in argumentation can still make its mark by drawing on structures from different poetic traditions. Combining all of the tips and tricks from the past five weeks, you’ll be provided with avenues to submit your lyric essays to, as well as publishing advice for more aesthetic pieces.

Reading:

  • “The Fourth State of Matter,” by Jo Ann Beard
  • “Indian Head,” by Tommy Orange, excerpt of There, There
  • “Notes on Grief,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

About Ploi Pirapokin

Ploi Pirapokin's work is featured in Tor.com, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, Sycamore Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, The Art and Craft of Stories from Asia: A Writer's Guide and Anthology from Bloomsbury Academic, and more. She has received grants and fellowships from the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Creative Capacity Fund, Headlands Center for the Arts, Djerassi, Kundiman and others. A graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop and the MFA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, she currently teaches at the Writers Program at UCLA Extension, WritingWorkshops.com, and the University of Hong Kong. She sits on the board for Khōréō magazine, Hivemind: Global Speculative Fiction Magazine, Kearny Street Workshop, the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, and the Ragdale Foundation.