The Only Fact We Have: Writing About Death*** (with Carolyn Zaikowski) - ONLINE
James Baldwin wrote, "Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have." But how in the world to address this one fact, death? In this class, we'll do so through creative writing, with the guidance of a trained death doula. Prompts will be adaptable to poetry, hybrid, short fiction, and creative nonfiction, allowing students to explore types of writing which speak to them. Rather than engaging with intensive academic study and workshopping, the invitation is to gently contemplate and get curious about death; we'll aim to foster the vulnerability and bravery it takes to do this, and likely we'll find humor, too. Thus, this course is focused on anyone with this goal, and is not connected to one's level of writing experience.
Themes will include death of self and other, death and oppression, and hope and renewal. We'll read poetry, hybrid, short fiction, and short essays from writers including Walt Whitman, Thich Nhat Hanh, Claudia Rankine, Lydia Davis, Jericho Brown, Kenneth Patchen, Ursula LeGuin, and Rumi. Each week in class, we'll generate writing with prompts, and there will be opportunities to informally, and optionally, share our work. Between classes, writing will be encouraged but not required. There will be an invitation to do at-home prompts and writing, but no requirements for this. Students will be encouraged to get to know their own comfort zones around how and when to engage with their writing practice around this topic. There will occasionally be short at-home readings
***IMPORTANT NOTE: Though the topic of grief will naturally arise, it is very important that students know this is not a grief support group and is not run by a therapist/grief counselor. If you are experiencing acute grief or trauma, or might otherwise be in need of intensive psychological support around death, you are advised to consider whether a clinical support group is more appropriate at this time.
About Group Sharing: Sharing will be informal and optional, though encouraged. Every class, we will have the opportunity to share short pieces or reflections in small groups and/or the whole group, as some students are more comfortable in one or the other. Given the topic and the need to maintain a safe space, combined with the fact that this is potentially vulnerable generation-stage writing, Carolyn (the instructor) will be guiding the sharing more closely than usual.
WHEN: 4 Weeks: Tuesdays, September 28 - October 19 (6 - 8pm EST)
WHERE: Online, via live Zoom video conference
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
CAROLYN ZAIKOWSKI is the author of the novels In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) and A Child Is Being Killed (Aqueous Books, 2013.) Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared widely, in such publications as The Washington Post, Denver Quarterly, The Rumpus, West Branch, PANK, Dusie, Huffington Post, and Everyday Feminism. She holds an MFA from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and is currently an English professor. Find her online at www.carolynzaikowski.com.
GOALS OF THIS WORKSHOP
• To experience a gentle, curious, and tender--and maybe even, sometimes, humorous--contemplation of death and related issues
• To read thought-provoking, inspiring work about death and life in all genres from master writers
• To generate imperfect, short drafts of writing in one's preferred genre--poetry, fiction, and/or essays--in the spirit of all these explorations
• To be with these contemplations and prompts with a community of supportive, like-minded people
• To optionally share and discuss our writing with the group
Each week will involve segments of class where we'll read and discuss writing from the masters, plus have guided in-class writing time, as a way in to contemplation death and related topics. Weekly topics will loosely break down as follows, though these holistically overlap:
WEEK ONE: LIFE AND DEATH AND ALL THE REST
We'll get to know each other and why we've come, and ground rules for the space will be set. We'll read, discuss, and write about what the very nature of what death--and by extension, life--might be.
WEEK TWO: WHO IS THE "WHO" WHO DIES?
What/who is the self? What/who is the other? Who is the "who" who dies? We'll read, discuss, and write around these questions.
WEEK THREE: DEATH AND SOCIETY
We'll go larger now: We'll read, discuss, and write about big-picture issues around death, society, and systems of oppression.
WEEK FOUR: DEATH, HOPE, AND RENEWAL
In the spirit of hope, we'll read, discuss, and write about possibilities for what can grow from, or be renewed by, death.
RECEIVING THE ZOOM LINK: For one-day workshops, we send out the link to attend the Zoom session 1 - 2 days before the event, via email. For multi-week workshops, you should receive info and the link about a week before the first meeting. Please mark your calendars and look for our emails. If you don't see the email in your inbox on the day before the event (or a few days before, in the case of multi-week workshops), please check your spam and junk mail folders (and search all folders) for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. We have found that very often our emails end up in those folders. This is based on your own email settings, and you can prevent this by adding our email as a contact.
ONLINE SESSIONS happen remotely, via Zoom video conference. All you need is a laptop, computer, or phone with functioning audio and a webcam. Those who RSVP receive directions and a link to "join" the session via email (please see above note about receiving the Zoom link). All online instructors will log on to the video conference 10 minutes before the start of the session, to help anyone with technical issues, so please plan to log on early if you'd like assistance! We'll do everything in our power to help you get comfortable with this new format, though when the session begins, we will not be able to assist with technical difficulties.
REFUND & CREDIT POLICIES AT PVWW
If you withdraw from a workshop ten days or more before the start of the class: You'll receive full credit toward another workshop OR a full refund. If you withdraw from a workshop nine days before the start of the class up until 48 hours before: You'll receive a refund minus 20%. If you withdraw from a workshop less than 48 hours before the start of a class or after the class has begun: We are not able to offer you credit toward another class or any refund, unless in the case of a medical emergency, or if we are able to fill your spot. If you are absent on the day of your workshop or miss it for any reason, we are unable to offer any kind of refund. If we have to cancel a class for any reason, you will receive a full refund, or if you choose, credit in the amount of your payment, to be used for any future PVWW class. Anyone who does not specify whether they would like a refund or a credit for a cancelled class will automatically be refunded. Please contact Joy (email@example.com) for all matters concerning credit and refunds.