wilfrid laurier university
The Laurier student writers are all from EN209n:The Creative Process, taught by Tanis MacDonald in Winter 2016.
In her words: “I introduced the Litter I See project as one that puts pressure on the idea of ‘original’ material, and on high-minded ideas about ‘proper’ literary material, while also making an implicit comment of a disposable (or consumable) culture.
“The students chose to write a Litter I See piece as part of the course’s investigation into creative processes and forms of ‘borrowing’ (a visual image of someone else’s discarded property in the case of Litter I See; adapting text in the case of the cento and the erasure poem, which were the other two options). I asked the students to read around the site, but to be sure to read the four examples that I had chosen:
“rash talk” by Penn Kemp (July 20, 2015)
“Nicole and the Ancient Greeks” by Karen Connelly (August 13, 2015)
“xtra care” by Kristen den Hartog (September 2, 2015)
“go fly a kite” by Ariel Gordon (Oct. 15, 2015)
“Our class discussion grew out of these study questions: After reading these pieces, consider the trajectory of our inquiry into the ethics and the poetics of borrowing as a literary tradition. What does it imply to “borrow” these found items and make them over into literary pieces? What is implied in the pieces about the conditions of something being used up or discarded?”
Each Thursday in May, 2016, the featured writer is one of the students from the above program. They all chose to write to the same image, so it’s even more interesting to see the variations on one theme.
Many thanks to Wilfrid Laurier University, to each of the following writers and, especially, a huge thanks to Tanis MacDonald for being first in the pool.
A resounding crash – powerful enough to drown the raging gale – followed by the cold rattling of steel on steel; the unknown tick with each connection – the tick to tear her thoughts, to penetrate her conscious effort. That fucking tick. It itches.
She’s startled ‘round as her mind wanders with adrenaline – father? Who’s there? She’s lost in memory – a void so devoid – but something won’t begin. Not without the means to scratch.
She creeps forward. Can you see her now? Underneath the moon outside? She presses herself hard against the wall to avoid being seen by what she can’t know. The authoritative winds of the Anemoi so mighty – razor-edged blasts of invisible blades – push her, force her, claim her, judge her, command her forward.
She’s under the stained window – dust to dust undisturbed by violence. She reaches up to grab the latch.
Crack! Lightning. She falls hard and scrambles as an epileptic; she is in the ruthless land of gods, unforgiving gods – immortal mages from that dogmatic text – you know the one. Can’t you see it? She is abandoned. Irrelevant.
She cannot strike. She is a frozen fossil, staring, not blinking, she cannot blink. Tick.
She cannot breathe as if she cannot remember – a devoiden void. There’s panic in the steps – the new sounds of steps and stepping. Father? Who’s there?
Her voice is a shake and she thinks it isn’t hers. More steel but then a melancholic chuckle with thumping steps. Unknown steps. That tick. Tick.
The window does nothing to break the winds but they shatter the glass the winds – it is a window, after all, it owes the wind hence its name – shards can only pay the gods in turn to be redeemed of sins long forgotten; together they are only one pane but one is not enough. These gods want billions.
She sees that now, but can you?
And so she offers all she has – she has no choice. The tempests of a thousand fathoms grab her hold and take her – she’s naked and freezing. No cloth to cover – the gods have taken it. She’s cold and crying and wants to scratch. She’s itching but can’t scratch. Monsters, demons, hell’s wrath its fury, rain down upon her ripping her to shreds like stabs and claws and teeth and foul putrid death is coming it must be coming. Tick. Tick tick.
But all is well in an instant – the lights come on and daddy’s returned. So many tears. Cries and sins so long forgotten. Da! Da!
He says and asks these things to her: My angel! My love! Did you fall from bed? The storm outside is horrible, isn’t it? The wind forced open your window, huh? But where’s your blanket gone? Taken by the winds, I’d wager. You must’ve been so confused and cold and scared, huh? Don’t worry, baby. Daddy’s here.
He shuts the window tight, lifts up his two year old and tickles her. Tickle. Tickle tickle.
A.J. Acey is a self-proclaimed poet first and foremost, and is employed as a grad student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. Currently, he labours toward completion of his genre-defining fantasy novel, Necrophobia: Echoes of Infinity.
My girl took me away one day, out of the sputtering February air, and into a forest. Frosty faces peeked from hidden nooks, appearing only to flit away half a breath later as we navigated a maze of gnarled branches.
I had forgotten my gloves. Her hands, all the while, were cocooned in tacky pink yarn—Christmas gloves gifted by her eight-year-old niece. One of her fingers was curled loosely around mine as she led me through this labyrinthine place she seemed to know well.
“It’s here somewhere.” She glanced back at me, almost reassuringly. “We’re almost there.”
The snow was freshly fallen and undisturbed. I was so preoccupied with watching her footsteps that I didn’t notice it until she uncurled her finger and started running.
“This is where my Ma is buried,” she said when I caught up, gesturing to a tree with tattered white cloth clinging to the peeling bark.
A ways from the tree, a farmhouse sat in modest disrepair.
“Gran told me if a grave is dug under a tree, the tree retains the consciousness of whoever is buried there. And the cloth, well, it used to be Ma’s favourite dress,” she explained with a soft smile.
In that moment it was easy to picture her as she had been some twenty odd years ago, with lush foliage cushioning the property, the wood of the house slick in summer sunlight, and the freshness of death weighing the air with unspoken heaviness. Then there was her—harbouring a fragile innocence that lingered past youth—with her mother’s dress in hand, mustering the delicate love of a daughter to fit the garment to the tree. So absurd, yet so beautiful.
“It’s all childhood superstition, of course, the bit about the consciousness,” she dismissed the idea with a wave of her hand. “Or fantasy, I guess, because I half hoped it was true.”
I wanted to reach for her then, but she turned away and made for the farmhouse. As she wandered farther and farther, the tree trembled ever so slightly. My hands balled to make loose fists, and I noted with detachment the cold had turned my fingers numb. I stuck them deep into my pockets and followed after her.
Lena Yang is a graduating student at Wilfrid Laurier University who has recently completely her studies in English literature. In her spare time, she likes to draw and pet dogs.
The piece of cloth dangled from the tree in plain sight. He could see that his opponents hadn’t taken much care in defending their flag. Just ten feet in front of the prize stood the weakest link in their team. He began to sneak forward moving around to the right flank of the tree, when he stepped on a twig. The tubby boy in front of the tree shifted his weight uncomfortably and looked around; he squealed when he saw his opponent before him and ran away as fast as his waddling legs would allow. With the boy out of the way he ran forward and snatched the rag from the tree’s grasp.
Smooth oily hands wrapped around the rough worn fabric. The cloth rippled in the wind as the body carrying it dashed through the woods. After years of being washed and folded the white blanket had lost its comfort. It could no longer protect its owner from the late night chill; its ends were frayed and tiny holes riddled its surface. The hands crumpled and creased the material, forcing it into a spherical shape. The white ball sailed through the air, the wind tearing apart its new form. It slowly glided into the rough, callused hands of another body, who wildly clawed at the frail fabric.
A perfect toss. The boy bolted towards his teammates on the other side of the forest. Dodging both trees and opponents, he made his way quickly towards allied territory. His team cheered him on as his enemies clambered after him doing everything they could to tag him. He then reached his teammates and a loud victorious cry sounded across the field. The boy raised the captured flag in one hand and swung it in a circle above his head.
The white flag was lifted high and brandished like a trophy. For a moment this small tattered piece of fabric was everything to the surrounding bodies. It was their triumph, their power, their pride. Despite its rough texture and faded colour, every hand reached out to take hold of the cloth. In celebration, the flag was once again thrown into the air, but this time there were no greedy hands ready to claim the prize.
The school bell rang, cutting short the celebration. One of the boys grabbed the flag and threw it in the air as everyone ran back toward the building.
It floated down towards the snowy ground, once again, only a tattered white cloth discarded and forgotten.
Beniah Lanoue is a second-year Arts student at Wilfrid Laurier University and is an Honours English Major. He is an aspiring editor/publisher who enjoys reading and would like to one day write his own novel.
He stumbles down the ravine path, his scotch-stained breath billowing in front of his face. Music streams through his headphones, putting him in the front row at a personal Queens of the Stone Age concert. They’re playing Avon. It’s fitting.
A bench. He’s been walking for a while, and even in his state he knows he should rest a moment. Maybe he’ll even sober up a little. The bench is a little ways off the path, but still facing it, next to a small twisted tree. As he clears the snow off the bench, he notices some cloth stuck in its low branches. It’s white, a bedsheet maybe, but still stained by mud and salt and tattered on one end.
The song ends. He pulls out his headphones and listens instead to the sound of the ravine. Even on a January afternoon, the creek runs and the crows hold their territorial debates in the treetops—past that, the sounds of city life filter through to remind him where he is. It’s almost like he got written in to a pastiche of Kew Gardens. He scoffs at the comparison; he’s not interesting enough to have the likes of Woolf spare him a single thought. Only drunk on a January afternoon.
The wind picks up and rattles the naked trees. Some of the crows take flight. The bedsheet flutters in the wind and it calls his eyes over, to bear witness to its struggle. The melodramatic in him might compare it to a fallen flag of a great nation, or perhaps a piece of a dress torn from a damsel as she fled some unjust marriage. Or maybe it’s a banner, marking the path for lost souls.
He knows it’s just a bedsheet stuck in a tree, something discarded without a thought and left to float through the world from one snare to the next.
“Knowing is not enough.” The words are for no-one in particular. They just hang in the air, stuck like that bedsheet. He checks the time – time to go – and stands up. He untangles the sheet from the branches and lets it go in the next gust of wind. He knows it’ll just get stuck again on another tree, but it’s the least he could do – to help it move on to the next snare. The music starts again and he turns to carry on down his own path once more.
Spencer Wiggins writes like an amateur and edits like a pro. He is currently studying at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, but originally hails from Toronto, which is the source of much inspiration in his writing. Though he prefers working in prose, he often finds himself being talked into performing at poetry readings.