The magazine After the Art asks essayists to blend writing about art – with writing about a text – with writing about personal experience.
In answer to this tri-part prompt, I link a painting by Yukon artist Jane Isakson – to an essay by William Least Heat-Moon – to fragments from childhood in Alaska.
The mountain doesn’t know you’re an expert.
This is how my family reminds each other that life alongside mountains must by necessity be humble. By necessity alert. The tear-shaped island in Alaska on which I grew up has steep, rainforested mountainsides. It has dark, rocky shores. And it has a two-lane bridge to the mainland, where the rest of town is a capital city busy with state politics but rimmed by an icefield so that no road links our community to any other community. Because of this, we have a special responsibility to take care of each other.
Continue reading “Points of Reference: I Am Here – After the Art“
Research and teaching often cross-pollinate. A favorite example comes from the semester I taught lessons in ekphrasis in a creative writing workshop.
Rarely does a visiting writer sit down for the Friday morning craft talk and introduce a concept that I go on to use every day – every day – after. But this is exactly what happened when José Orduña, essayist, professor of English at the University of Nevada, and author of The Weight of Shadows visited.
The concept Orduña shared was this: one must have an occasion to write.
He showed us a photograph of the U.S.-Mexico wall and pointed out that while certain prominent political voices are calling to “build the wall,” the wall already exists. Indicating the wall in the photograph, Orduña said: “this is my occasion to write.”
“The occasion to write” helps me link two different course goals in my Introduction to the Nonfiction Essay: one goal is to expose students to contemporary trends in nonfiction. Another goal is to coax students into writing beyond themselves. I recently created an ekphrastic writing assignment to combine these, relying on art, history, and conversation to multiply students’ own occasions to write.
Full piece here.