Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Letter Guidelines

Please read through all these Letter Guidelines for an overview of the exchange. Address your messages to each other as informal letters with an appropriate greeting and closing — whatever feels comfortable to you. We suggest you compose and save your letter in your word processor. When you are ready to submit your letter, return to this blog site. To preserve the structure of the discussion, submit your letters as "comments" to your group in the blog. You do not need to Sign In. Instead, scroll to the section for your designated group, and click on the comments link below the list of names of your group members or click on the list of members. At the next screen, you will copy your letter to the Leave a Comment box.

When asked to identify yourself: select “Name/URL” and provide your first name with last initial plus your university (for example, “Maria L., Chalmers” or "Chris W., Clemson"). You should not include your last name anywhere in your messages; you do not need to include a URL/Webpage. This blogsite is public, and all your posts are visible to every group and to any reader who finds the site online.

Letter 1, approximately 300 words, addressed to everybody in the group ("Dear Folks," Hello Group," etc.) and submitted by Wednesday, March 24, 11:30 pm (U.S. EST) and 23:30 (Sweden CET). Read the three poems by the Swedish poet, Tomas Tranströmer, linked here at left under the heading "Pages." Two poems, "Spår" ("Track" or "Tracks") and "I Det Fria" ("In the Clear" or "Out in the Open"), have English translations by American poets Robert Bly and May Swenson. For the third poem, "Andrum: Juli" ("Breathing Room, July" or "Breathing Space: July") we have four English versions by four different translators.

Respond to one, two, or all three poems. Reflect in particular on how changes of particular words or phrases among two or more translations of the same poem affect the meaning of the poem for you. If you understand Swedish, you may suggest to your group other possible translations, or suggest translating decisions these writers made to create these poems in English.

  • As a way of grasping meanings or understanding your reading experience, write down three words or short phrases that seem to be central or at least quite important to the poem(s) or versions you wish to discuss. Such keywords can be positive, negative, puzzled, or maybe questioning. You might even want to look them up in a good dictionary to further your understanding of how poetic language works.
  • For each word or phrase you selected, write a few sentences of your own referring back to the poem in order to explain why you think they are important.
  • The third component of the letter is to suggest a theme or topic that you believe could generate useful discussion and understanding of the poetry you want to discuss.
Include within your letter one or two sentences to introduce yourself to the group, for example, your name, which class you are taking, which university, and your academic interest or emphasis. You can say something about your previous experience with poetry as well, if you like.

Letter 2, approximately 300 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted by Friday, March 26, 11:30 pm (U.S. EST) and 23:30 (Sweden CET). To preserve the structure of the discussion, please submit your letters as comments in your group's list of comments but add the heading 'Letter 2'. 

  • Before you compose your Letter 2, read all the Letter 1 submissions and any second letters already posted by members of your group.
  • Write a personal response about some of the reflections presented there by members of your group. In your Letter 2, addressed to your entire group, refer specifically to at least two members of the group by name, attempting to cite at least two groupmates whose Letter 1 submissions have not already been cited by others if possible.
  • In your Letter 2, identify and explain how a keyword and reflective sentence of theirs or a theme that was suggested contributed to your understanding of a poem. Comment on ways in which their interpretations are similar to and/or different from your own.

Letter 3, approximately 400 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted no later than Monday, April 12, 11:30 pm (U.S. EST) and 23:30 (Sweden CET). To preserve the structure of the discussion, please submit your letters as comments in your group's list of comments but add the heading ‘Letter 3’.

  • First, read the second letters and any additional letters already posted by members of your group and write a personal response about two or more of their reflections, citing them by name. At least one of these should be a person from a university other than your own.
  • Second, reflect on this cross-cultural discussion and some ways this conversation and composition have contributed to your understanding of Tranströmer's poems, your knowledge of how poetic language works, and your thinking about poetry as a literary, artistic, and cultural experience. In particular, you may want to include some thinking about how different cultural backgrounds contributed (for example, Swedish poem interpreted by Swedish students for both Swedish and American students as well as by American students for both American and Swedish students). Please describe what interested you the most about this discussion, or surprised you, challenged you, or troubled you.
  • Third, either find or create an illustration or some music or other alternative expression that captures the theme or mood of one of these poems,  one version of one of the poems, or your reflections and sense of how your interpretations has evolved during the exchange. You will need to locate the artwork online or post it online so your partners in the group can access it. This site at blogger will not allow you to embed media or attach files with your comment. If you create your own art or music, you can upload it at your own blog or Website (picasa, for example, or YouTube) and give us the link or if you have located something online, you can refer us to that Website. Include http:// in the Web address so the link will be active. Please explain briefly but specifically the relationship between the artwork you have selected or created and a single poem or Tranströmer’s poetry or the translation/interpretation of poetry.

If you have questions at any time about these guidelines, please email your professor.