I started my grad class on Linked Stories by giving them poems…the first 21 poems of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology all mixed up. They re-assembled the poems in whatever order made sense to them.
They laid the poems out on the tables and grouped the linked poems together: Benjamin and Mrs. Paintier. Minerva Jones, Butch Weldy, Doc Meyers, etc.
They couldn’t remember the order Masters had chosen, and this was a good thing, because it forced them to think about assembling a collection of pieces into a whole, something they will all need to do when they assemble their theses of poems, stories, and essays–not to mention the books they’ll write someday.
I read Spoon River when I was a graduate student at Alabama, and I fell in love–not with the poems so much as the form, the linkages, the structure. I think more people should read this book for that reason alone. Most of the titles of the stories in The Circus in Winter are the names of characters, just like Spoon River.
It was a great opening exercise to what I hope will be a great class. Check back for more, and follow us on Twitter by searching for #amlinking.