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Archive for February 14th, 2009

composition and instructions

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i wrote out th first draft of a prose composition, a short story intended as background piece to a poem. then separately drafted detailed instructions on how i planned to convert that background piece to th poem after several further drafts

but then was informed that for tomorrow’s first day of class, our professor was expecting each student to hand in an original composition. i’d not been aware of that assignment, so had not meant my piece for that purpose, yet it did feel like it would do

but when i sat down at my desk, i realized i’d left my composition back home. too late to return home for it, i noticed another student printing out his paper at a university computer at th front of th classroom, so went there to download my paper. as i waited my turn at th computer, i thought through my composition and realized that th final concluding paragraph of my story could be made more concrete, brought more clearly to a resolution. but realized i would not have time to revise my draft. and as i realized that, i also realized that even in any final draft, i would not need to make th revision, that th perfect conclusion was already implicit in what i had drafted, that th story was in fact better with that left unexpressed explicitly

i also realized that th separate instructions i’d written up had a formatting error that would place a zero followed by a slash mark at th end of each instruction statement, but again realized i would have no time to correct th paper before printing

th computer had three separate screens arranged vertically, but all three were unintelligible blurs. if i put my hand to any of th screens, th characters became slightly more focused, but still remained impossible to decipher. even so, i knew th routines well enough to navigate th commands necessary to locate my paper from an online document archive and send it to a network printer

i took what i thought to be my paper from th printer and returned to my desk, only to discover i’d accidentally picked up another student’s paper, so still did not yet have my own. i saw someone else walk off with mine, but was unable to get his attention

[at this point th dream itself went into an et-cetera mode that flipped through several dozen successive scenarios in a single instant, all of increasing frustration, all presumed to be included in th dream in th same manner as an “extension of remarks” might be to a legislator]

i sat before th professor, still without my paper in my hand, but confident, without any signs of th long frustration i had just endured. he had my paper in his hand, it turned out, and was already reading it. he looked up and me with a curiously critical scowl and stated that as excellent as he found my work to be, it was merely a set of instructions, not th story he expected each student to submit. i told him th two papers must have gotten reversed in th printout, that those instructions were a second piece meant only to be attached to th main piece, which should be in th same set of papers he held. he turned to th next page, which indeed did turn out to be th beginning of my composition

which was a story about a russian professor who led his students through a literature journey, and of th special relationship formed during that journey between the professor and one of th students, and how th growth of that relationship reflected th manner in which th professor was in fact leading his students through th exploration of th act of writing. his jaw literally dropped, for although he had not yet told any of us of his plans for why he had wanted a composition from th very first day or how he meant to be building on those compositions, my fictional tale was exactly what he had been planning to lead us through. and quickly looking back through my instructions on how to convert my story to a poem – th form, th meter, th way i would use sounds and colors, where th turning points would be, and very detailed pointers at every turn – all matched his own plans for th larger scheme he had in mind for th class as a whole

i myself had not had any clue as to his plans, had not in fact even known i had a class coming up at th time i had originally drafted my composition, so all of this was as strange a revelation to me as it was to him

he started to say that he found only one shortcoming, that he would have ended my story differently. but halfway through his sentence he stopped cold, realizing even as he spoke that th correct ending was implicit in th story. that as in any good poem, th critic’s explanation of why th poem works or how it means what it does is never included as an explicit footnote to th poem itself, that likewise it would mar my piece to add or change anything to an ending that already was clear to anyone who understood th story itself

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Written by macheide

14 February 2009 at 4:04 am

Posted in oneirra