Teaching literature is teaching how to read. How to notice things in a text that a speed-reading culture is trained to disregard, overcome, edit out, or explain away; how to read what the language is doing, not guess what the reader was thinking; how to take evidence from a page, not seek a reality to substitute for it.
—Barbara Johnson, Teaching Deconstructively
Often in workshops, we are unable to see one another because we can’t step into the shoes of other students. When this happens, we don’t allow ourselves to fully enter the work we are reading and are thus unable to truly see and read one another. In this workshop we will practice writing about everything in our lives that needs being said—regardless of how complicated this might be. At the same time, we will practice reading as Barbara Johnson encourages: to read the text and stay with the text—pushing against the grain.
Though these practices are not necessarily political, the result of performing these practices is. If we truly practice writing from our own lives and resisting the impulse to conform by simplifying so that others have an easier time understanding, and if we stay with a text, pushing through complications and our inability to understand—the result is political in that we will have the opportunity to be our true selves while at the same time being seen. In the safe space of this workshop, we will practice resisting our own erasure and the erasure of others by complicating rather than editing or simplifying or otherwise “erasing” what we fear to write.
Cynthia Cruz’s first collection, Ruin, was published by Alice James Books in 2006. Her second collection, The Glimmering Room, was published in 2012 and her third collection, Wunderkammer, in 2014 by Four Way Books. Her poems have been published in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Boston Review and many other journals, and her essays, art and book reviews have been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rumpus and Hyperallergic. She has taught at many colleges and universities, including the New School, Julliard, Queens College and the Rutgers-Newark MFA Program, as well as with Teachers & Writers Collaborative. She is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony and a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. She currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and is an art editor at Guernica magazine.