Tag Archives: essays

Currently reading “Merce on the Page,” essay by Sarah Stromeyer

This week I’ve been reading essays written in the second person point of view, preparing to attempt to write one of my own. In doing so, I have fallen in love with this particular essay by Sarah Stromeyer from You: An Anthology of Essays Devoted to the Second Person.

41RBdlEWGKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“Merce on the Page” is a formal-textual tango of language and dance. The text is arranged in columns of different widths and text blocks spaced so they curve across the page. The essay plays with the limits of form in as much as the text moves about the page in nontraditional ways, but also because it plays with smaller formal elements like capitalization, punctuation, and even the space after periods. Stromeyer uses the layout of text on the page as well as the text itself to portray Merce Cunningham in a way that pushes the reader to feel the rhythm and grace of his choreography. Each element that is played with affects the reader’s understanding of the text—not only does the form visually add to the text, but the text is about the form. The second person point of view challenges the reader, telling them what is happening formally and how they are reacting to it as a reader. The text lyrically describes what the form is, what it does, how the reader feels about it and is approaching it (magical second person trick), and gives it the dance context necessary to understand the form. Here’s an example from the essay:

“and you find as you read without capitals, you tend to lean less hard on those first words, put less of your weight on each beginning. which makes you carry more of your weight onto the next word, and the next, and the next thing you know you’ve not plopped yourself down and heaved yourself into a sentence in the usual way, nor come to a crashing halt at the end. no. you have made of each sentence the kind of gesture launched by that lighter, more seamless, beginning. you have ‘held’ your weight even as you let it fly, and this, you will feel in your muscles, is like what a trained body feels when dancing” (Kupperman, Simons, and Chesbro, 173).

Stromeyer’s playful form and lyrical tone work together and ask the reader to feel the similarity between language and dance. They ask the reader to, through reading this essay, connect with Cunningham and feel his passions.

Stromeyer’s essay, in addition to being seamless and gratifying to read, proposes some intriguing things to consider with your own writing. How can you break formal conventions to further your writing’s impact? What power does the second person point of view have? When is writing in the second person point of view helpful?

 

Kupperman, Kim Dana, Heather G. Simons, and James M. Chesbro. You: An Anthology of Essays Devoted to the Second Person. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Welcome Table Press, 2013. 173-174. Print.

The Ins and Outs of Outlining

“First, write an outline.”

picture of book with outline numbers

Some people love outlines.  They find it helps organize their thoughts and guides their research and writing in a way that saves time and effort.  It prevents them from going down tangents that are unnecessary for the assignment.  The outline also breaks a large project down into small and achievable tasks. This method becomes the virtual trail down the mountain, preventing them from getting lost in the wilderness of ideas.

However, for other people outlines are the bane of writing. They dutifully try to write rows of ideas prefaced by little Roman letters and numbers with periods after them.  The dry process often only results in a paper that almost feels formulaic and forced. They prefer to write organically and just see where the writing goes.

For those doing creative writing, the thought of using an outline seems almost unheard of– that is something reserved for essays and research projects.  Outlining almost seems like putting a beautiful wild horse into a corral; making sad limitations on something that should run free.

Yet, outlines can be powerful tools in ALL types of writing.  It helps us step back and evaluate the content and pace of our message.  We can use them to judge our structure and check for gaps in our logic or narration.

Author and instructor, Aaron Hamburger writes in the New York Times about his method of reverse outlining when he is writing creatively.  He lets the story grow organically for the first draft and THEN writes an outline based on what he has already written.  This allows him to evaluate the pace and completeness of the story.

If you want to improve your writing and take it up to the next level, try outlining. At any step of the writing process an outline can help bring clarity and objectivity to what your writing conveys to others.