If you ever work with me in the workshop, you will have to process my critical responses to your writing. Some students feel overwhelmed by my responses, find them incredibly negative, but please understand that I live for the moments when I may unabashedly praise my students! However, I shall never praise you unless praise is truly warranted; more importantly, I’ll never level negative criticism unless it, too, is truly warranted.Read More
Consider the following spectrum:
Allegory_______________________________________Police reportRead More
There is a kind of story in which a narrator’s regard for another character is the focus, the primary reason for the narrative to exist. Some of you read The Great Gatsby in high school. Remember how mysterious, how intriguing Gatsby seemed to the narrator, the young guy who happened to rent a small house next door to Gatsby’s gaudy mansion? Can you see the parallel to the narrator/boss’s regard for Bartleby? There are many stories that take such a basic form. Many love stories have a similar dynamic; a mysterious “other” is often the focus of stories across the genres and sub-genres (even “superhero” stories). My point here is that if you (consciously or unconsciously) begin to conceive of a story in which such a dynamic is at play, “Bartleby the Scrivener” should echo through the dark chambers of your noggin! Read More
Sometimes, to create a sense of verisimilitude we over-describe, and usually do so regarding the most mundane activities, like getting a character from her car to the door of her house, through the door and into her house.
I mean, if a character (in either a fiction or nonfiction narrative) approaches her or his apartment door and pulls a keychain from her or his pocket, do we (your readers) need to know that that character then chose the appropriate key, pushed that key into the lock, turned the key, then turned the doorknob and pushed open the door? Well, consider the following:Read More
From Richard Katrovas: My rants are off-the-cuff mini-lectures on topics relevant to students of both fiction and nonfiction writing. When I teach “hybrid” writing workshops–classes that meet only six times in the classroom over the course of a semester–I send these ephemeral ditties to my students as follow-ups to our spirited, if infrequent, class discussions. The ones included here are general enough to make sense, I hope, to folks who were not privy to the conversations that spawned them.Read More
Why the Prague Summer Program for Writers Has Existed for Twenty-five Years, and Why It May Endure Another Twenty-five
As we come upon our 25th anniversary session, Richard Katrovas (PSP founder and director) and Ema Katrovas (PSP coordinator) reflect on the historical context of these past 25 years of the Prague Summer Program for Writers. Read More
The Word Made Mud: Interview with the Golem During Which Katrovas Attempts to Hire Him for the 25th Anniversary of the Prague Summer Program
The Golem, through his agent, agreed to meet me on the bank of the Vltava, below Vyšehrad, at 6 a.m. on a Friday. It was late fall; the sky was turning from black to gray, the moon was pale and almost full, and the air was crisp. The Golem climbed lugubriously from the river, stood dripping on the cement dock before the green bench, overlooking the water, on which I waited. The Golem, eight-feet tall and svelte (for a monster), dropped gently to his knees, sat back on his haunches, dipped his chin in silent salutation. He smelled of mellow rot.
The following essay is from a book the PSP program director Richard Katrovas is working on: Chained to a Tree: A Memoir in Essays about Poets and the Fools Who Love Them. About the essay he says: “The project is still fluid; that is, I’m still fiddling, fixing, still moving words, phrases, paragraphs around. My concern in the book is not so much American Poetry as American poets, people I’ve known through the years, some famous (in a poetry kind of way), some not. My larger concern is creative writing as a cottage industry within high education, though my deeper concern is the mysterious world of poets and writers, how they constitute an often ignoble tribe pursuing noble, if quixotic, ends. I’m discovering, in the twilight of my odd life and modest career, that the run of luck that has gotten me to this point has been nothing short of miraculous, and my consequent blessings manifold.” We share this recently-written piece in the spirit of the Prague Summer Program as an organization centered on the honesty and vulnerability of sharing work in progress.
7 pm, Thursday April 28
Kalamazoo Public Library, Kalamazoo, MI
The dithyrambs event has been postponed until fall due to scheduling conflicts. Check back for more information as it becomes available!
In 1998, Carnegie Mellon University Press published my Dithyrambs. In my newest collection, Swastika into Lotus (Carnegie Mellon, Feb. 2016) there are two newer choral lyrics. I’ve long wished to organize a relatively large, public presentation of my dithyrambs, and am taking the publication of this new (and probably my final) collection of poems as the occasion for acting upon my seventeen-year wish.
I envision a performance exactly like any other choral performance. The “singers” will cluster, dressed alike or wearing choral robes, and holding choral “books.” For each dithyramb, two people will step out of the choir to speak the two leads. In most cases, the leads will be one male and one female, though there are two or three exceptions. Rather than being organized into voice types (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), the choir will be organized into “male” and “female,” and transgendered folks are of course included in this binary.
Each dithyramb tells a story; that is, each has a narrative arc, a sense of setting, characterization.
All that’s required is a voice strong enough to be heard in a large room, and the ability to declaim pentameter lines. All English-department students, graduate and undergraduate, are invited to participate, as are folks from the community. Back in the late 90s, when Dithyrambs was published, I gave quite a few performances at colleges and universities. I’d find three volunteers, a male and two females. I would perform the male chorus leader part, the male volunteer would read the male chorus part, and the female volunteers would read the female chorus and female chorus leader parts. We’d practice for an hour or so, and then perform. I have to say that those impromptu performances were well received and a load of fun. After we’ve formed our troupe, we’ll practice two or three times.
What’s a dithyramb?
From the introduction to Dithyrambs (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1998):
Perhaps for all the wrong reasons, I am enchanted by the choral ejaculations of Attic tragedy, and am fascinated by the question of how tragic drama, the likes of which developed nowhere else on earth, issued from a particular moment in ancient history, the product of satyr plays, dithyrambs, and epics. As far as I can tell, what fragments of dithyrambs we have are not necessarily representative of those immediate precursors of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, and I imagine that one must look directly into Aeschylian drama to see the vestiges of dithyrambs in their latest development, a period when they were original compositions and not simply received, folkish forms. My dithyrambs are highly stylized blank verse monologues framed by choral outbursts. In all of these poems, several dialectics are at play, not the least of which is a simultaneous yearning for, and parody of, a “high” lyric style.