Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pushing the Definitions

           I’ve been contemplating what constitutes as creative nonfiction and what can constitute as creative nonfiction. 

It’s already been established that creative nonfiction (writing?) 

  • Must be written
The fact that it must be written I think can be pushed…probably because of my learning about multimodal forms of communication and alternative forms of the “traditional written essay” via DR Brown. If audio books can count because they were written first, then audio essays that were not written first might as well count too, right? And that’s as far as I’m going to get into that.

  •  The work represents an accurate account of actual people and places that really exist (can also be pushed slightly if you want to get finicky. But for the most part this seems like a must to me)

  • The work is art (has an awareness of language, sensibility, and complexity)

So how far can we push art? We can take out dialogue and it’s still art. We can take out setting and it’s still art. We can take out characters and it’s still art. Can we take out climax? Can we take out plot? Can we take out the series of events that makes it a story in the first place and still call it a work of creative nonfiction?

                Can it be one sentence? Chekhov's father would say yes.

                Can it be one word?

                Can we reduce an entire work of creative nonfiction to a single word and call it art the way that an artist can reduce an entire painting to a red dot in the middle of a canvas and call it art.

If a urinal can be placed in a museum among “readymades” and be called art, then why can’t a single-word creative nonfiction shake the world in the same way?

And if one word can capture the sensibility, complexity, and the awareness of language that constitutes art, then what word would that be?

I’ll have to get back to you on that.  

            In other news, while contemplating pushing the edges of definitions for creative nonfiction, I’ve written what I think constitutes creative nonfiction in the form of a poem. This is an “I am from” poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or have any specific form; the only rule in creating one of these is that each line is supposed to start with the words ‘I am from’ but I suppose these things can be pushed too. I encourage others to try it out. Here's what I have:

I am from The Institutions

I am from a town full of family, recently vacated;
I am the only one left
I am from culture passed through generations where, in mine, I'm the oldest
I am from five schools and four mascots that I wear on my clothes
I am from classes of fiction, academia, and theory
I am from church services and values I uphold whether I consent to them or not

I am from Youth

I am from the chase of giggling children into piles of leaves before boo boos are kissed and naps begin
I am from basement bars and pool table games and a dusty keyboard I never learned to play
I am from old couches and the smell and lights of real Christmas trees
I am from where we stopped our games in the woods to catch the breeze
I am from pizza shared and from drinks I’m not allowed to pour or they will end up in my lap
I am from failed attempts of the cliché concept of love,
and from fear and the hope that we got it right this time
I am from pixilized text that replaced the pen where words are heard

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