The Writhing Society meets to practice and discuss the techniques of constrained writing. We practice the methods invented by ourselves and by other writers, artists, musicians, and mathematicians. This week's exercises: Anaphora and variations:
Anaphora is a rhetorical technique in which the same phrase begins each line or sentence of a text. Artist and writer Joe Brainard wrote a memoir made up of a litany of sentences that begin "I remember." After Harry Mathews gave a copy to Georges Perec, Perec wrote his own I Remember, and after Perec's death, Mathews one of his own (called "The Orchard") about Perec. We can take a cue from those three by making remembering lists, or we can begin our lists with "I've forgotten," "I'd like to remember," "I hate it when." Our anaphora can be fictional or nonfiction.
Our second exercise is inspired by another work by Harry Mathews: 35 Variations On A Theme From Shakespeare, in which he changes the statement, "To be or not to be, that is the question," in 35 constrained ways. We probably won't have time for 35, but please come with a short quotation that you want to vary/translate/deform/collaborate with. We can collectively discuss variation methods, for example: lipograms, n+7, antonymic translation...
The Writhing Society combines a class with a salon. In a two-hour session, you can expect a few minutes of introductions and explanations, an hour plus of silent writing, and a half-hour or so in which we will read our work aloud. Then, if there's a little time left for questions and discussion, we'll do that. If you know nothing about writing with constraints, if you do not think of yourself as knowing much about writing, come anyway. No prior knowledge required. This is nothing like your ordinary writing workshop. We work in a relaxed, supportive, playful atmosphere, and we welcome new members.
What are constraints? Constraints are rules, specific and arbitrary, that drive you to say what you hadn’t expected to say in ways you never would have chosen to say it. Constrained writing always involves a collaboration of languages: yours and someone else’s. It allows you to take directions from something outside yourself. In a world where forms of expression thought to be “free” in fact come ready-made from the discourses of powerful groups, composing with constraints becomes a disciplined practice for escape, from these or from oneself, and a source of fresh ideas.