Click and Off Goes She: A Craft Essay on Emulation

June 12, 2020 § 3 Comments

sorchaBy Sorcha Trant

I had misgivings about the concept at first. To me, it seemed a kind of scavenging, a form of literary eavesdropping in which I was embedding myself  like an email-worm into the intimate correspondence between another writer and the blank page. But as soon as I began, I realised that Martin Dyar was teaching me to write in the same way that Sr. Kathleen had taught me to knit.

Sr. Kathleen plucked a ball of yarn from the new, cushion-padded bag my mother had bought me and bridged about an inch of the pink wool to her wooden needle before looping it around in a slip-knot. After several more minutes of bridging and looping, Sr. Kathleen had aligned a series of twenty of the same knots in a neat row. I gripped my grey-plastic needle like a pencil in my right hand as she took it in hers and guided it through the first slip-knot with the rhyme: In the bunny-hole. Stretch. Round the bunny-tree. Catch. Through the bunny hole – and off goes she. I repeated the pattern, reciting the rhyme until all of the knots had been transferred from Sr. Kathleen’s needle to mine.

Martin was doing the same thing when he instructed us to emulate Ted Hughes’ “The Thought-Fox.” First, he pointed out the narrative spine he had bridged and looped to his own stylus while studying the poem. He then set us burrowing through the bunny-holes within each vertebra: the sense of immediacy of the present tense; the attesting to a perceptual power with ‘I imagine’; the use of colons to give pace and rhythm; the short, succinct nouns that made an extraordinary experience ordinary. Several rounds of draft-emulations later, I had absorbed Hughes’ technique into my fingers just as I had done at seven years old with Sr. Kathleen.

I have been emulating since Jack-and-Jill-went-up-the-hill. It is not an invasion of other writers’ work but rather a thread-exchange from their hands to mine, a nod to the wisdom and craft of those who have gone before and the thirst to stake a claim over it.

After weeks with Sr. Kathleen, I knew her bunny-rhyme by heart and, getting a particular thrill out of the clinking sound the needles made when transferring a knot from one to the other, I made my own contribution to the poem: In the bunny-hole. Stretch. Round the bunny-tree. Catch. Through the bunny-hole. CLICK, and off goes she.

And just like that, the page is printed. The scarf is knitted.
___

Sorcha Trant completed an MA in Creative Writing in the University of Limerick in 2019. She operates under many guises. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, you may meet her as a dentist, a harpist or a writer.

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§ 3 Responses to Click and Off Goes She: A Craft Essay on Emulation

  • bearcee says:

    Well done! Thank you for this finely-crafted essay. We learn by imitation and emulation.

  • Michael Lewis says:

    Wonderful essay. Emulation and imitation are such powerful ways to learn. I love the way you tied the two experiences together. Thanks for sharing!

  • annebrooke says:

    “an engagement ring and a toaster” What a great line! lol
    Joe sounds awful & why does he have such an effect on women? Is this novel set in the modern day? Because it sounds like one from the 1950’s, with all those bubble-headed women. Why did women put up with that for so long?

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