The Art of Description

Option #1—

Read this poem by Brian Turner

The Baghdad Zoo

Is the world safer? No. It’s not safer in Iraq.
—Hans Blix

An Iraqi northern brown bear mauled a man
on a street corner, dragging him down an alley
as shocked onlookers shouted and threw stones.

Tanks rolled their heavy tracks
past the museum and up to the Ministry of Oil.
One gunner watched a lion chase down a horse.

Eaten down to their skeletons, the giraffes
looked prehistoric, unreal, their necks
too fragile, too graceful for the 21st Century.

Dalmatian pelicans and marbled teals
flew over, frightened by the rotorwash
of Blackhawk helicopters touching down.

One baboon escaped the city limits.
It was found wandering in the desert, confused
by the wind, the blowing sand of the barchan dunes.

Brian Turner served for seven years in the US Army and was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.  Before that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division.  In short, he clearly has the authority to write about the horrors of war.  But as we see in this poem, Brian Turner does not stray from an objective view; rather, he is a witness to the details of Baghdad in a time of war.

Please write 50-100 words about (1) how this poem and these descriptions make an argument about war, without him directly saying it.  (2) What do you think the argument is?  And finally, (3) what is the most compelling image of this poem to you and why?

Option #2—

Read this poem by James Wright:

Lying In A Hammock At William
Duffy’s Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Write a poem in the style of this poem.  You should use specific details to describe your location, as he does, and end with a declaration or THESIS.  Your title should be in the same style as this poem.  For example:

Sitting on My Balcony in Athens, Georgia

The poem needs not be longer than 8-15 lines.  But remember– be as detail specific as possible.  Make sure your reader can SEE what you are seeing.


If you take your poem home, work on it over the weekend, bring it back next week (Monday or Tuesday) and read it to the class, I will give you 5 points extra credit.


Global Warming


Photograph of Lake Lanier by Neva Spell

Nearly one year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which consists of the world’s leading climate scientists, concluded for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main cause for the rise in air and sea temperatures and shifting weather patterns.

I want you to write several sentences conveying your opinion on Global Warming. While it should pertain to your specific or personal experiences, remember to not generalize. For example, you could spend an entire career trying to prove that “global warming is the greatest crisis the world has ever faced.” Alternatively, you may be able show (in one essay) the validity of the argument that “global warming has contributed to the drought crisis in Georgia.”

After you write a few sentences about your opinions on Global Warming, I want you to then find one piece of evidence from the following two articles that supports the validity of your opinion. Please tell me the author and title of the article you are using, followed by a direct quotation from the article. And finally, tell me why you think it supports your opinion of global warming.

Please avoid using a quote that is more than a few sentences long.

Your entire comment should be between 150 and 300 words.

Article #1: In The Age of Noah by Thomas Friedman

Article #2: Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts by Andrew Revkin

If you need more information on issues related to Global Warming, please refer to the Science section of the New York Times, which has various articles, charts, and photographs that may aid in a better understanding of the issues.

Here is a 215 word example:

I’ve been pretty concerned about Global Warming ever since I took a class my freshman year in college called “Physical Systems of the Earth.”  It was a geography class, but I learned first and foremost that our planet is a closed system; therefore, if something is lost on one part of the planet, it has to be made up somewhere else to maintain equilibrium.  Unfortunately, we’re in a time now where Earth is really having a hard time maintaining equilibrium, which has a lot of negative consequences for the planet and for the species residing here.

In Thomas Friedmans’s article, “In the Age of Noah,” he cites a finding from another New York Times writer, Jim Yardley, who reported that in China “the world’s last known female Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle was living in one Chinese zoo, while the planet’s only undisputed, known giant soft-shell male turtle was living in another — and together this aging pair were the last hope of saving a species believed to be the largest freshwater turtles in the world.”

This quote points out exactly the kind of fears that I’m having about the less discussed impacts of Global Warming.  It seems like we’re living in an age where there are no longer course corrections, but instead an age where things are simply dying out.

Hello and Welcome

Dear 1101 Students—

Welcome to your class blog. The purpose of this site is to give you an opportunity to practice writing as a craft and writing as public discourse.

At least once a week I will pose questions or comments for you, which I will derive from our readings, our class discussions, or other relevant sources (such as current events). During our in-class writing time, you will comment on the post (which should be between 200 and 400 words).

I suggest that you first write your comment in Microsoft Word, thereby giving you the chance to make editing changes, and also the opportunity to save your comment for the inevitable event of a computer lab crash.

At the end of your comment, you should write your first and last name, and the course number for your specific 1101 class.

Though you have more freedom in this setting than, say, an essay for an academic audience, I strongly urge you to remember that this is a public forum. Nearly 90 students will be participating in this blog, therefore, pay close attention to making your language accurate and eloquent, and above all, write with conviction and care.

Finally, the rules covered in the course syllabus regarding collegiality and respectfulness for your peers also apply to this forum. If you are concerned that your comment may blur an acceptable boundary, please see me before posting your comment to the site.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Happy blogging!


Jessica Jewell