“Inviting Surprise: Teaching Creative Writing in Prison” by Mike Puican (Poetry ’09)

Poetry alum Mike Puican’s craft essay, “Inviting Surprise: Teaching Creative Writing in Prison” was recently featured in TriQuarterly.

Read an excerpt from the essay below:

Inviting Surprise: Teaching Creative Writing in Prison

When I was preparing lessons for my remote class, I spoke to my good friend poet and educator Mark Turcotte, about wanting to encourage descriptive writing. He suggested an exercise he developed for his undergraduate students:

Begin with a simple sentence such as, “I grew up in a small two-flat on the south side.” Then write the sentence over again with more detail to it: “I grew up in a small red-brick two-flat on 87th Street on the south side.” Follow it up with at least two more sentences, each one adding more detail than the previous one, so that the final sentence is the richest description of your childhood home.

What I didn’t realize when I gave the assignment was that this was not only an effective learning tool, it was actually a framework for creating interesting and moving pieces. The work I received a week later seemed unexpectedly to have progressed from student assignments to poems…