The Writing University's Eleventh Hour podcast features recordings of illuminating craft talks from the renown writers, novelists, poets, essayists who present at the Eleventh Hour Lecture Series during the University of Iowa's Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
We periodically release a tailored craft talk from the series, focusing on a wide range of topics such as Transforming Life into Writing, Humor Writing, The Music of Language and many more.
Episode #127: Writing the Elegy: Challenges and Approaches
In this episode, Writing the Elegy: Challenges and Approaches, Susan Aizenberg discusses how to approach the elegy in a complex manner. Most of us who write feel the need to remember our dead in elegies, memoir, or fiction, a task that can be more difficult than we at first expect. Often our first challenge is to speak at all, to find language adequate to our grief. Then come other questions: given the injunction not to “speak ill of the dead,” and our own love for those we’ve lost, how do we avoid unrealistically idealizing them and thus stripping them of their complex humanity? How do we convey, in the short space of a poem or an essay, how our mother or grandmother or child or spouse was different from anyone else’s? How do we make the work about the person we remember and not primarily about us and our pain—should we even be trying to do so?—etc. In this Eleventh Hour we will consider these and other questions, looking at samples of successful elegies, considering how they succeed, and doing a bit of free-writing towards work of our own. Although the samples we will consider will consist primarily of narrative poems, lessons we can take from them will apply regardless of genre.
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This talk was originally given on Thursday, July 24, 2019 in the Phillips Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.