Cody Walker was one of the poets I studied from in my years at the UW. I took two, or maybe three, of his classes, and I remember reading Walt Whitman and Lewis Carroll and Emily Dickinson in all of them. I wrote New Yorker caption contest entries in none of them.
One of my former classmates posted a link to a New Yorker article last week, with a mention of writing caption contest entries in Cody’s class. She didn’t say his last name in her post, but I knew which Cody she was talking about.
The article introduces him as “Cody Walker, caption contest winner” – after years of sending in submissions, he finally won in 2010 (that’s the one he won, above). What follows is his essay about using the caption contest as a teaching tool for students of creative writing.
My favorite part is the two lines:
“Inexperienced writers sometimes imagine that good writing comes from good ideas. But that’s not right: good writing comes from good sentences.” –Cody Walker
A week later, I read the NPR article “A History of the World – In One-Liners.” The article points out that with Sarah Palin’s return to commentator on Fox News, we can look forward to more of her one-liners, and lists ten notable one-liners throughout history, from Plato to Palin.
But the thing that jumps out at me is that they’re sure to define the era we’re in as “the Twitter age.” Like, ‘it was all going fine and we were writing good sentences until this Twitter thing came along!! Darn that Twitter!’
Something else I read this week argues otherwise – “The Pace Of Modern Life,” Wednesday’s installment from webcomic xkcd. The comic starts in 1871 and quotes famous quotes spanning about 40 years, all of which lament poor language skills and speculate on the role of language in the decline of civilization.
Who knows, maybe 50 years in the future, literature students will study famous tweets from 2013. Just Tuesday, the Biebs tweeted “im all about the music” which has been retweeted nearly 90,000 times and favorited over 55,000 times.
And we know that Kanye West is the voice of this generation of this decade. His new album dropped this week. It’s called Yeezus. It is, unsurprisingly, the most downloaded album on iTunes right now. Here’s a lyrical sample from the first single, “New Slaves:”
“You see there’s leaders and there’s followers
But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower”
So maybe language is further gone than we think.