Roots in Our Throats: Using Etymology to Deepen Writing

with visiting author Natasha Sajé   

Friday, May 15, 9:00 – 12:30


English has more words than any other language, so researching word origins enables us to choose wisely. “Language is fossil poetry,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, referring to images revealed by the history of words. Paul West, for example, began a novel about astronomy with the word “consider,” which comes from “cum” (with) and “sidus” (star). The word “malaria” came from the Italian “bad air” at a time when no one knew the disease was caused by mosquitos carrying a protozoa.

Using etymology to access history—and the process of change—makes writing more dynamic. In this workshop, we’ll read examples where etymology allows the writer to riff on or deepen her thinking. And we’ll practice using etymology to unblock us, move us from one idea to the next, and offer surprising turns to a piece of writing. Bring a piece (any genre) you want to strengthen, and bring a device through which you can access online etymological dictionaries. We’ll do exercises to hear the differences in tone between synonyms from Latinate-Greek and Anglo-Saxon-Germanic. We’ll consider the value of words from foreign languages. And we’ll access historical change that might give you a way into your ideas.  

Light refreshments will be served.

Details: 390nis if you register by May 5 and 420nis subsequently; non-refundable if you cancel within one week of the workshop and your place cannot be filled.

Natasha Sajé is the author of three books of poems, including Vivarium (Tupelo, 2014); a book of poetry criticism, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory (Michigan, 2014); and a memoir in essays, Terroir: Love, Out of Place (Trinity UP, 2020). She teaches at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program.

Register for Roots in our Throats with Natasha Sajé

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