Visiting writer: Cathy Wagner

As part of our Visiting Writers program, local poet and Miami University creative writing professor Cathy Wagner taught a workshop last week with our Primary Unit. (She’ll be back on October 22 to work with Intermediate and Upper Unit students.)

Cathy started out by reading a poem by American Richard Wilbur, who won several Pulitzer prizes for his work. Wilbur wrote several volumes of poetry on “opposites.”

Here’s a sample of Wilbur’s work:

What’s the opposite of nuts?
It’s soup! Let’s have no ifs or buts.
In any suitable repast
The soup comes first, the nuts come last.
Or that is what sane folks advise;
You’re nuts if you think otherwise.

Next Cathy whispered a noun into every child’s ear and asked him or her to think about what might be the opposite of that noun. She told the kids that when you combine things that are really different from each other, it catches your attention.

Here are some of the opposites that the kids thought of:

The opposite of cinnamon is white sugar
The opposite if bowling is toilet paper
The opposite of seashell is crab
The opposite of Kroger is the Dollar Store
The opposite of sunglasses is regular glasses
The opposite of egg is chicken
The opposite of giggle is sulk
The opposite of Lego is a toilet (Everyone laughed and Cathy pointed out it’s funny both because the word toilet is automatically funny but also because it’s what you would expect so it pops in your brain).
The opposite of tooth is bust your tooth out in the shower.
The opposite of ring is house.
The opposite of ice cream is Texas (Cathy pointed out the cool thing about this opposite is that Texas is hot and ice cream is not).
The opposite of trashcan is litter box.
The opposite of cannonball is feather.
The opposite of Pac Man is Dig Dug.

Next Cathy had the kids list one thing they really like and one thing they really don’t like.

Likes: strawberry, friends, nature, hamsters, cats, horses, Clementine, cinnamon, red blazer girls, arcades, laptops, hot chocolate

Dislikes: yell, shoes, writing, toilets, guns, spanking hamsters, Margaret, socks, calendars, urinals, beer, swiss cheese

After that the kids combined their likes and dislikes into funny phrases:

The hamster is spanking the horse with a tennis racquet.
My friend shoe says I like you.
I met a cat gun and it said grr.
The arcade urinals said play an arcade game.
The socks run into a tree and say, “Ouch it hurts!”

Finally, Cathy recited a poem by poet Gertrude Stein called Susie Asado, which is full of phrases that are interesting to listen to.

Susie Asado
by Gertrude Stein
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.
A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.
When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller.
This is a please this is a please there are the saids to jelly. These are the wets these say the sets to leave a crown to Incy.
Incy is short for incubus.
A pot. A pot is a beginning of a rare bit of trees. Trees tremble, the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles which shade and shove and render clean, render clean must.
Drink pups.
Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine and a bobolink has pins. It shows a nail.
What is a nail. A nail is unison.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

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