Classy Talk: Rachel Kessler | Summer 2014

Posted Mon, 5/26/2014 - 4:27pm by  |  Category:

2014 Photos RKessler MegaphoneWhat is the title of your class? 
Writing In the Field
Think With Words

People should take this class if… 
people want to generate words on the page!

Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?

Are any of your works online and available to the public?
Yes. Here are some:

City Arts
The Far Field
Poetry Northwest
The Stranger
The Monarch Review

Seattle Channel covers my Public Health poems

What’s your teaching philosophy?
“I must teach you that I have nothing to teach you,” wrote Jacques Ranciere in The Ignorant Schoolmaster. He wanted to abolish the hierarchical structure of teacher in front lecturing down from on high mashed up explanations into the student’s helpless baby bird mouth because it limits students—there is only so much a student can learn from an explicative system. I like Maria Montessori’s position of the teacher standing behind her students as they face the world together, engaging their intelligence with it, understanding through exploration.

​Faulkner said to “kill your darlings.” ​Can you remember a specific darling you’ve killed and why? (Refrain from admitting to actual homicide in your Classy Talk Survey.)
Recently, I had to cleave away this large swath—about half of my book—because the voice rang false. It was the oldest part of the manuscript, and I was so proud of it. There were so many words! So many wild words, and smart ideas I had been tinkering with like a Swiss watchmaker for years. As I raised my big editorial machete, I whispered to it, “you are another book,” and I cut it. Then I slunk off to my grouchy cave and ate an entire pizza. I emerged to kvetch and drink with fellow writers. After sitting shiva for this darling for a week, I took a shower and got back to work.

What’s your favorite implement to write with? Why?
My favorite writing tool is a Smith-Corona Selectric. It’s electric, loud and clackety, so as I write I’m accompanying my thoughts with my terrible touch-typing’s sloppy beat. I make many, many mistakes on this machine. Usually my unintended words turn out to be much better choices than the thing I thought I was trying to write.

Attach a photo of your writing desk.
Rachel desk










What are you working on right now? What’s the hardest thing about it? 
I’m writing a book of essays about puberty and religion and how those two intersect—in my life and in other lives. This intersection is like that classic science-fair experiment where you pour vinegar over some baking soda in an innocent and beautiful paper mache volcano then suddenly everyone’s screaming and crying and there’s a big mess to clean up and no one learned anything. The hardest thing about writing these essays is revisiting adolescence. It was hell for me, (I mean, really, who emerges unscathed?) and I’m reading through my seventh-grade diaries while currently witnessing my own kids soldier through middle school. There is a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth. Which, in turn, makes it hard for me to dial back the outrage in my essay-writing.

What’s your favorite word in the English vocabulary?
Shenanigans – it sounds as mischievous and tricky as it is. Plus, its origins are a mystery. It popped up in California around the Gold Rush. Michael Quinion suggests it may come from the Irish word sionnachuighm, (pronounced roughly as ‘shinnuckeem’), which means “I play tricks.” And battology, “a wearisome repetition of words,” which comes from the Greek word for “stammerer.” I wanted this to be the title of my poetry manuscript, even though I know it sounds pompous. I have a hard time resisting any ologies. See also, hooligan.

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