This workshop will be on quintessential Japanese genre, the zuihitsu. There is nothing equivalent in Western literature because this is not a form, but an actual genre, distinct from poetry and prose. One cannot categorize it at a glance the way one recognizes a sonnet or prose poem or hybrid text. Or even a text message.
One cannot just write spontaneously and call it a zuihitsu, as many have. I have spent decades attempting to define this “formless form” and today I will give away a great many of those secrets. This will be a supremely generative workshop!
As “the last word,” closure is a concern for writers of all genres. It is the close of the writer’s relationship with writing and revising; for the reader, it is parting with the immediate experience of both the text and the writer.
This parting can be (or should be) an emotional and physical experience. So why is it that texts often end with an easy or obvious—i.e., disappointing—ending? Many feel cliched, as if we’ve read this “poignant” end or punch line before. Or the end feels slapped on as if the writer was in a hurry to get it over.
In Poetic Closure, Barbara Herrnstein Smith’s presents this theory: “The conclusion of a [text] has a special status in the process, for it is only at that point that the total pattern—the structural principles which we have been testing—is revealed.” Speaking personally, Smith’s theory of Poetic Closure has influenced the way I read, write, and revise.
In this craft talk I will explore how various texts achieve closure and why; we will also look into what are our own options may be.
Kimiko Hahn‘s new work plays with given forms while creating new ones, and, in doing so, honors past writers. Across her ten books of poetry, she casts a wide net for subject matter. In her latest collection Foreign Bodies (W.W. Norton), she revisits the personal as political while exploring the immigrant body, the endangered animal’s body, objects removed from children’s bodies, and hoarded things.
Previous books Toxic Flora and Brain Fever were prompted by fields of science; The Narrow Road to the Interior takes title and forms from Basho’s famous journals. Reflecting her interest in Japanese forms, her essay on the zuihitsu was published in the American Poetry Review.
Honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, PEN/Voelcker Award, Shelley Memorial Prize, and NEA Fellowships. In her service to the field, she enjoys advocating for the chapbook and has created a chapbook archive the Queens College Library. Hahn is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College, The City University of New York.