Failed Audiences

In a few of my classes yesterday the discussion of the importanceof art and writing has come up. Mostly from the article “Can Poetry Matter?” by Dana Gioia which was the reading assignment. My students argued that poetry is not important to them and in my composition class we are reading creative non-fiction–specifically Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem and as I read their reader responses I am finding the same ideas–writing is an irrelevant act to them. Reading seems to be an irrelevant act. Something that confuses them. Not about theme or meaning or even structure of the writing. But mostly, they write, why would someone write this or read this? I have a handful of responses in front of me that add up to, who cares about this.

In poetry class they admit to only taking the intro to lit course that is required and only in the poetry section because it fit their schedule. And I feel that they might also believe the writing of poetry to be a irrelevant act.

And as the energy gets sucked out of the room after a long hour of classtime I feel the same–can my teaching or writing matter?

Now, I know these thoughts are just thoughts that come with teaching. Who is listening and who is reading? Am I doing some good here? Now I have a paycheck and a nod from the department with tenure at a teaching school which is confounding to me that I have these bad thoughts. And I am hopeful the problem is just one of motivation and I have work on that. Can I sit at my computer or at my desk and will myself to be hopeful enough to write despite the fact I really think no one reads much or wants to understand much–only course credits and degrees that serve status instead of identity or expression.

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

2 thoughts on “Failed Audiences”

  1. I am going into a class tomorrow to teach nursing students about ‘creative’ writing. Most of them are older, non-traditional students and they do not get why they are being asked to write in a matter that does not have a specific purpose. The beginning of the workshop is always frustrating, but it’s fun to watch them open up to the simple notion that words have power, regardless of what they are meant to convey.

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