Poetry In Construction

The drops of rain pounded like bullets off the tin roof. Their clang echoed within the mudded walls of my room. I sat on my bed reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet. As Charles Wallace rode atop Guadior, the winged unicorn, the rain water seeped through the window sill, the drops congregating in puddles on my room’s floors.

Working with locals

I was in Siquatepeque, Honduras during the wet season. It had been raining for ten hours straight. My feet slipped through the flooded hall of the small, adobe house.

“Feels like I’m swimming in lake Yojoa,” I thought.

“Ben,” Kristina, the mom of the house, called, “Venga.”

Dinner was ready. I joined the family at the kitchen table. Water incased its legs. Lenincito, my eleven year-old roommate, flopped his feet against the tile rhythmically.

“No Lenin!” Sarah, his sister, yelled, angry that her legs were soaked.

Kristina handed me a plate. On it laid two fresh baleadas and some slices of avocado.

“Gracias mamá!” I licked my lips. Kristina was famous for her baleadas.


This summer I found myself in Honduras for six weeks. When I first arrived in Siquatepeque, I asked myself the simple

Working on a cabana at SEBCAH seminary

question: “What on Earth am I doing in Honduras?”

Construction. That was the answer. I was the Construction Intern for Camino Global, a Christian mission organization.

There was only one problem: I knew nothing about construction. As a Writing Center Consultant, my fingers were used to holding pens and pencils, not hammers and screw drivers. Nevertheless, many blisters later, I learned that book readers can also be homebuilders.

But, I also learned that construction is like poetry.

In another book by L’Engle, A Wrinkle In Time, Calvin O’Keefe describes the forms of sonnets. A Shakespearean sonnet is typically fourteen lines, following the rhyme scheme of:

a b a b

c d c d

e f e f

g g

Though these regulations seem to stint the creative process, they actually sustain it. Without form, a poem is like a painting deprived of a canvas. The paint starbursts everywhere, reaching the corners of the earth. Yet it spreads itself thin, revealing not a grand masterpiece, but a poor picture without centrality and reason.

In the same way, a house is comprised of necessary components. Without exact measurements and cuts, the walls collapse,

Spanish class in Siquatepeque, Honduras

the floors crack, and the home cannot function properly, which is to provide shelter for a living being.

In a great dance, disorder and order twirl hand in hand. The universe is a poem: from the hundreds of stipulations that hold the planets together in fragile gravitational pulls, to the millions of mysteries mankind doesn’t understand and may never understand, we find ourselves within the realms of black matter, where form and chaos battle, creating beauty.

Words: Not to be Used Lightly

words1

Fluff.

Every student has done it. Every student has written it. More often than not, college papers are stuffed to the brim with the unnecessary. Some people add extra ideas at the last minute to reach that five-page requirement. Others repeat the same idea over and over in different words so the conclusion takes up half a page. With deadlines approaching, we haphazardly stuff words onto the page, hoping the professor will think our ideas are semi-passable.
Writing is hard. We know. Even for famous authors, putting ideas down on paper is still a challenge. Ernest Hemingway said that “there is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” Even waking up for an 8am class is easier than writing. With this mindset, however, students often forget the purpose for writing. Words get crammed into paragraphs that students don’t really care about, and papers full of neglected words get turned it at the start of class. And this is a tragedy.
Words are not to be used lightly.
Writing is a transformation. Words, when strung together correctly, can alter the average, spur on the weary, and inspire the great. Words express the ideas within us, the ideas that should be shared. When we fluff our papers, not only are we misusing our education, we are also misusing the single most powerful tool given to humanity. Words have the power2013_speech_4_3-4_3_r541_c540 to tear down kingdoms, to unite divided peoples, and to birth whole countries. Even God Himself began the creation of the universe with four spoken words.
As students, we are trying to communicate our ideas. See writing as an opportunity to express yourself. Be bold. Take pride in your thinking. Share those thoughts for all to see. Refuse to settle. Don’t see a paper as another useless assignment, but see it as the need to build on what others have done before you. Contribute.
Make every word count.

“Wise men speak because they have something to day; fools because they have to say something.”
–Plato

Written by Jenna

“Man Speaking to Men:” The Writing Center as an Arm to the Liberal Arts.

personWilliam Wordsworth defines a poet as “a man speaking to men… a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him” (sic) (299). Every person, to Wordsworth, is a poet in his or her fashion; however, one becomes a better poet when he or she delves deeper in to the beauty of life. Thus, a poet takes a holistic mindset of life, praising both the mundane and glorious. This correlates to the ideal of a college which studies the liberal arts. As Arthur Holmes details, “the liberal arts are those which are appropriate to persons as persons, rather than to the specific function of a worker or a professional or even a scholar” (emphasis added) (27).

So, how does a Writing Center help establish people as people? How can it contribute to the development of the soul, and thereby become an arm to the liberal arts? I would like to make two quick points in accordance to these questions.

First, the liberal arts are the consummation of the individual and tradition. Conflicting with Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot postulates in “Tradition and the Individual Talent” that “no poet, no artist of any art, liberalarts_2865655-655x280has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the poets and artist” (2556). In the Writing Center, consultants guide students according to predating rules and distinctions made in the English language. However, a consultant fulfills this task while allowing the student to produce his or her original work. Thus, the individual exists, hence man to men, while within the realms of tradition.

Second, the liberal arts mature versatile persons. Indeed, the Writing Center, and education in general, can be seen as a mechanism to future success. Students often enter the Writing Center anticipating an assembly line service. They desire to hand in their essays and expect the employees of the Writing Center to correct sloppy grammar, refigure poor syntax, update formatting, and revamp un-academic diction. After this smoldering purification process, the students return and gleefully submit their essays to their respective professors.

Though this appears freeing, this mentality actually entraps and handicaps students. They become dependent on the Writing Center to craft an excellent paper. On the other hand, if consultants interact with students, then the consultant is able to explain why a certain linguistic rule exists and the logic behind Liberal-Arts-Educationit. The student then is able to utilize this knowledge in the future. Not only this, the Writing Center aids the student in thinking logically. Logical reasoning is beneficial towards all aspects of life, allowing the Writing Center’s influence to move past the walls of a room or building.

Let us then, as Writing Centers and employees of Writing Centers, learn how to be an arm of the liberal arts and promote a love in the liberal arts in all students we come in contact with.

Works Cited

Holmes, F. Arthur. The Idea of a Christian College. Revised ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987. Print.

Eliot, T.S. “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” The Norton Anthology English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. F. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. 2554- 2559. Print.

Wordsworth, William. “Preface o Lyrical Ballads.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012. 292-304. Print.

Building an Army

armyI hate to admit this, but I failed the first college level paper I ever wrote.

I’m not much of a crier. When my boyfriend broke up with me, I didn’t shed a tear. When precious little Rue died in the arena of the Hunger Games, my eyes were dry. And do you think I cried when my professor returned that ill-fated paper?

You better believe I bawled my eyes out.

I was not upset that I had missed a simple typo in the last paragraph, or that a couple of my points could have been rephrased for clarity. I was not even upset that I had a failing grade.

Along with the unpleasant score came an unexpected note, which can appropriately be called a hate letter. Among other things, the letter falsely accused me of intentional manipulation and racism. My professor’s point was very clear; he did not fail me because my mechanics were inferior or because my paper lacked the right information. He failed me because my opinions—my personal convictions—did not match his own. This blindsided attack on my ideas is what left me in tears, an187548-army-helmetd I believe it is the horror of such a crushing possibility that kills the spirit of most writers, long before they even start.

Writing demands intimacy. No matter what we write, whether it be a research paper, a marketing proposal, or an Amazon review, when words flow from our heads to our hands, a part of our hearts go with it. With intimacy comes vulnerability. In the secret place of our minds, our thoughts are safe. Nobody can judge, criticize, or belittle our ideas as long as we keep them to ourselves. With vulnerably comes fear. Fear is the thing that keeps us from writing what we feel we ought to see. Fear convinces us that we should second-guess our judgments and leave writing to the “experts.”

For obvious reasons, I refuse to support the lie that writing your ideas will never result in rejection. People are going to give hurtful, negative feedback. That is an inevitable part of being human. The good news is, the voices of haters may be loud in decibel, but they are surprisingly few in number. No matter what kind of harsh criticism you’ve faced, you must refuse to let fear control your writing.

The best way to combat fear is with an army. For every person who attacks your ideas, dozens more are willing to defend your work and help you to better form your craft. One professor may have rejected what I had to say, but his or her voice is soldiersonly one of many. Soldiers who fight for my writing range from my mom to a multi-millionaire businessman whom I have yet to meet. These supporters are the voices I chose to listen to.

You, too, must have an army. If you are unsure where to find recruits, start with the University Writing Center. At the UWC, we aren’t paid to rip apart your ideas. No one is going to respond to your writing with a careless hate letter. A good army of advocates won’t tell you your writing is worthless, but they won’t say it’s perfect either. We will point out grammatical errors, ask you to clarify paragraphs, and change your paper to fit formatting standards, but we do this because your writing is worthy of reconstruction, not condemned to demolition. We value the quality of your writing, because whether you realize it or not, your writing reflects who you are. And you, my friend, are more valuable than you may ever know.

Written by Savanna

For more on writing, check out this website: http://www3.dbu.edu/uwc/

The UWC Golden Rule and Tough Tuesdays

out-of-orderWhen students walk into the Writing Center, I am one of the first things people see, and sometimes, I hate that.

Tuesdays are the worst for me. I have four classes, the first one beginning at eight o’clock that morning, and then I work my longest shift that afternoon and evening. For someone who requires at least seven hours of sleep to function above the level of “brain-dead zombie,” it can be ridiculously difficult to be the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed greeter for nervous students.

I’ve been scared of phones since toddlerhood. Asking strangers questions is one of my greatest fears. Why in the world am I a receptionist?

Because I can think of no other job that allows me to help and love on people quite so much.Golden-Rule-1

If I can assist a student in getting ready for his or her consultation and make him or her laugh in the process, I have accomplished something I feel is important. If the student is at ease, he or she thinks more clearly and is more willing to listen to what his or her consultant suggests. The consultant’s job is made easier, and the student’s paper is improved.

There’s a reason this works so well, one that guides me every day, even when I’m not at work. It can be phrased something like this: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (James 2:8).

Pretty straightforward, no? Loving others is right. Note that James doesn’t really specify what “loving your neighbor” is 4.-Follow-the-Golden-Rulesupposed to look like. I take this to mean that we show different kinds of love in different situations. To love on students, I show them that I am their friend, that we do everything we can to help them. To love on consultants, I help keep their workspace clean and keep records organized.

Cheesy? Yes. Have you heard this before? Probably. But if this weren’t true, my job would be completely pointless.

Tough Tuesdays are a little easier when I get to pour love into others. It sounds like a paradox, and perhaps it is, but I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.

~ Catherine

Why Write?

Why should you write?

I mean, other than the fact that you are required to write in order to complete a college degree.  But really.  What’s the point?  Let’s say you’re not an English major, you do not enjoy writing, and you don’t ever plan on writing essays after college.

Well, think again! 

One of the most important benefits of English classes is learning how to communicate efficiently and intelligently, either through writing or through speaking.  Sure, you may not plan on analyzing literature later on in your life, but it is possible that you might have to write business proposals, create a resume, contact other professionals through email, or draft letters and plans for a company.  Essentially, proper communication skills are vital in any profession.  Whether you’re a secretary, teacher, CEO, musician, or waitress, your communication skills will either enhance your career or diminish your career.   Oral communication is of great importance, and learning to structure arguments, compare and contrast, explain, and define information within the context of an essay is great practice for becoming a better rhetorician or communicator.  Or for convincing your friends that Taco Bueno is better than Taco Bell.  So, next time you’re tempted to blow off an assignment because you don’t want to do it, give it a whack anyway.  You never know how something you learn whilst analyzing literature and argument structure will assist you, whether personally or professionally.

From Isolation to Community

Isolation is a word that might raise similar images in many minds.

Fund Raising Ideas

Fund Raising Ideas at the Sigma Tau Delta Conference

Someone might think about a prisoner alone in a cell.Others might consider being placed in time out, facing a blank wall. Sometimes the word conjures images of driving along lonely stretches of road in a vehicle. Isolation can also apply to work, and the folks who inhabit Writing Centers often feel a distinct separation from other campus activities. That is why attending a conference can be amazingly invigorating, refreshing, and energizing for those who assist students in one-on-one sessions, which are often located in remote corners or out-of-the-way rooms. Conferences give these dedicated people new ideas, a sense of belonging to a larger community, and increase both productivity and effectiveness in their centers.

Writing Centers have as many distinctly different personalities as do the directors who manage them. Centers may be set up like businesses or doctors’ offices, living rooms with work spaces, or even like break rooms, and directors put their personalities into the room(s) in various ways. At conferences, directors and consultants (tutors) share their research and innovative ideas with each other in both formal and informal settings. Attendees then take the ideas they like and infuse their own centers with them, adding a sense of newness to those home locations. The entire organization benefits from the renewal that occurs when these changes are put in place.

MeetingsAndSuch

Meetings and Such

Likewise, the friendships forged at conferences arouse a sense of community: shared work, vision, challenges, and even a sort of shared dialect. There’s the perception of being in the work together. All face students with too little time, motivation, and interest in improving. However, we also all have those special moments of seeing students who plan ahead, care deeply, and truly want to improve. Exchanging narratives about those moments is somehow inspiring. Just knowing that there are others who participate in and encounter comparable situations simply comforts the listener. Imparting others’ stories to consultants who stayed behind to man the center increases the morale and understanding and helps them to feel included. (So does bringing home little souvenirs!)

As changes are made and stories shared, entire workforces become more productive and effective. Implementing new concepts or philosophies and rekindling excitement reaps benefits of new knowledge and skills. Deeper commitments develop because something innovative and delightful is sparked by variation in the work. A shift occurs when part of the team leaves and returns, impacting old attitudes. Leaders giving small gifts demonstrate appreciation and increase overall morale.

Directors and consultants need to attend conferences to rejuvenate writing centers.

Presenters Preparing to Present

Presenters Preparing to Present

Every attempt should be made to include as many people possible in the trip to maximize profit for the center. However, those who stay behind keeping the doors open and the sessions going will benefit, too, from both the enthusiasm and revelations disclosed by the attendees. Attend and come home refreshed. Then talk, talk, talk to the ones who did not go. Share everything you can recall. Bring that energy home and invigorate the center. Make it new again, to you and to all within.

Written By Kā