My very first class here at Geneseo in fall of 2016 was ENGL 203 Reader & Text: Adaptation & Discipline with Professor Harrison. The class was all about works of literature that are adapted over and over by other people. In this class we read Goodbye to Berlin which was adapted into the play I Am a Camera which was then adapted into the musical Cabaret. The class was really interesting because I loved learning about the impact of adaptation, and we also read Trilby and watched its adaptations. However, for this post I want to focus on I Am a Camera. Ever since I read that play, I have been obsessed with the idea of a writer/artist as a human camera. I mentioned it in class about Erin Kae’s Grasp This Salt. I think that the concept of documenting someone else’s story (even if it’s your own story i.e. separating the poet from the speaker of the poem) is a great way to think about a narrative or vignette-style poem.
I think a really cool “camera” writing exercise would be to do some good old fashioned people watching! At home I like to sit in the mall and people watch, but that mall has had a string of violent crimes lately, so I’m starting to develop a fear of malls. Anyway! A great Geneseo substitute is the Union. I like to sit in Starbucks and eavesdrop on conversations. Being a camera is great because it gives you distance from the poem, and with the distance you have more room to lie or be fictitious in writing. I find it really difficult to lie in my writing when I’m too close to the piece. I recommend everyone try to people watch a little this weekend!