2016 Workshop Description

Afternoon Session —Instructor: Jessica Piazza

The View Through: Clarity and Obscurity in Poetry and Prose

If you haven't heard the term "show, don't tell," chances are you haven't been writing for very long. Few would argue with that tenet—we should put our readers in a sensory world instead of explaining too much! But another question involving "showing and telling" is still on the table. Should our writing always be accessible? How clear do we want (or need) to be in our poems and stories for them to be successful? How narrative, how direct, how easy? Should our writing never require or leave readers hoping for explanations? One oft-heard critique of modern poetry is that it's hard to understand, especially for new readers. The same is true for much experimental and post-modern fiction, and even creative nonfiction. As authors, we want readers. We want people to relate to what we write, so perhaps clarity is crucial. Or, is it? When is it useful for the writer to pull back, moving a bit toward obscurity? Is there a point where letting readers do more work is actually more engaging? In this lecture/discussion we'll examine a variety of creative writing, look at work that uses craft techniques to clarify and/or obscure concrete meaning, and figure out how manipulating the level of clarity might better fulfill the creative intentions of our work