“Probably all of us, writers and readers alike, set out into exile, or at least into a certain kind of exile, when we leave childhood behind...The immigrant, the nomad, the traveler, the sleepwalker all exist, but not the exile, since every writer becomes an exile simply by venturing into literature, and every reader becomes an exile simply by opening a book.” - Roberto Bolaño, Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003
As exiles, together we will explore the state of the stateless, that shifting plate on which we compound our shared and inherited dislocation, through our social selves and our writing.
This is an advanced workshop, for writers with some previous workshop experience, for uncategorizable work, operating across temporal, spatial, and genre borders. If you are in exile yourself, this generative course will help you make some sense of those abstract feelings. If your work looks like prose with poetic flourishes, or if it sounds like poetry but moves like prose, this hybrid space is for you. If Covid-19 has ruptured your sense of stability, or if you find yourself estranged from Americanness (your own or others’), we will approach this class, and the writing we do here, from a place of alienation together.
We will study the work of just a handful of writers and artists: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Georges Perec, Etel Adnan, Gertrude Stein, Edward Said, and Jamaica Kincaid. After introducing ourselves to some of their work, we will experiment with syntax, structure, form, and more interdisciplinary approaches. Our modes will be discussion-based, exploratory, and rooted in de-territorializing. In transit and in translation, these texts will challenge the familiar to offer you some shelter in language itself:
- What can we learn from the displaced that can prepare us for a 21st century of climate and economic migration?
- How can we allow ourselves to be estranged from our everyday language, and what new fields can it open for us?
Bring your scraps, your notes, your crumpled doodles. You will leave class with feedback from your instructor and your classmates on one piece of 10-15 double-spaced pages of writing and one 30 minute individual conference.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Meet and explore a range of writers and texts that wrestle with exile and alienation in interesting ways
- Generate new writing and experiment with modes and forms that defamiliarize the familiar
- Hybridize existing work to create moments of dynamic meaning-making
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
- Weekly readings will be approximately 20 pages
- Writers should expect to workshop once, submitting 10-15 double-spaced pages of writing (length of submission will depend on form)
- Writers should be prepared to give thoughtful feedback to their peers’ work
Week 1: Inheritance: Writing the Sign with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Week 2: Spaces: Charting the Field with Georges Perec
Week 3: Time: Parallel Consciousness with Etel Adnan
Week 4: Things: Object Relations with Gertrude Stein
Week 5: Borders: Nationalism and Exile with Edward Said
Week 6: Bodies: The Second Person with Jamaica Kincaid
Born in the Soviet Union, Marina Blitshteyn and her family came to the US in 1991 as refugees. She is the author of Two Hunters, published by Argos Books in 2019 with a CLMP Face-Out grant. Prior chapbooks include Russian for Lovers , Nothing Personal, $kill$, and Sheet Music. Her writing can be found in Hyperallergic, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Sixth Finch, The Nervous Breakdown, Entropy, Apogee Journal, and elsewhere. She is a lecturer in composition and hybrid writing, and runs The Loose Literary Canons, a feminist reading group in NYC and over Zoom.
"Marina Blitshteyn offers us story and abandon, pain and power–what is claimed and reclaimed, learned and unlearned. Stark, sonic, these poems demand to be read in red."
"Marina Blitshteyn’s TWO HUNTERS skillfully mirrors, confirms and explains our disorienting moment in history by mining the poets’ own experience of patriarchy and America with such confidence and linguistic dexterity we almost believe we can survive it. Sonically inventive, formally surprising, energetic, and sometimes a bit surreal, these poems are at once exhilarating to read and deeply unsettling (though necessary) in their truth."
"Marina Blitshteyn, queen of the chapbook form, ... offers you a Hurtz Donut on the playground. (The fun game where you get bopped in the nose and asked: “Hurts, don’t it?”) But Blitshteyn’s work isn’t cruel; it hurts because the depth of its empathy plumbs, plumbs, plunges."
"Prof Blitshteyn gives everyone a chance to participate in her class and provides opportunities for discussions about topics that other professors would fear. She's straightforward and cool, and her class is thought-provoking."
"Professor Blitshteyn was my favorite teacher this semester. Her class is inspiring and thought-provoking."
"I loved this course. I would recommend it to anyone that asked me. It gave me the ability to question myself and look to learn more."