Monday, July 9, 2012

College Essay AIMS: The I stands for...

The I stands for Image over Idea.

 I didn't say it.

The great American poet William Carlos Williams did.

Williams aptly illustrated this artistic credo in his 1923 poem entitled, "The Red Wheelbarrow."

My 2nd grade teacher, Miss Jackson, made me memorize this poem.

So much depends 

A red wheel

Glazed with rain 

Beside the white

It's been 30 plus years, and yet, I can still recall this poem verbatim.

Why is that?

Williams understood something mysterious about human beings.

Our minds are picture galleries.

We make images that shape our world.  And we are made by images that shape us.

That's why you will find a vivid, unforgettable image at the center of every great story.

Take titles alone.  In literature and film.

The Scarlet LetterThe RavenThe Grapes of Wrath.

Schindler's ListThe Hurt LockerBlack Swan.

Or look within the story.  You will always find a central, organizing metaphor that pulls the narrative's meaning together. 

The Mississippi River.  The "green light".  Route 66.

So knowing this then, it's important to infuse your prose with that one, Velcro-like image that sticks with the reader long after they have moved beyond your essay and application.

Let's return to the short "activities" essay drafted by a rising senior from the last blog post.

Note the usage of imagery peppered all the way through the narrative.   

When I first walked in to the Lopez Foods meat plant, my 15 year old mind didn't know what to expect. I was thinking I could maybe sample a famous McDouble off the conveyor belt or maybe pitch a Happy Meal idea to an employee. However, this wasn't the case. My first assignment involved working 8 hours in an isolated, metallic room apart from the main meat grinders and conveyers, where every labored, chilled breath produced an icy cobweb. In 40 degree temperatures, decked out in hair net, hard hat, and frock, my co- worker and I sorted through raw beef chunks for any "foreign objects". With my heavily gloved hands and a large metal pitchfork, I discovered all sorts of delicious goodies: from strands of hair and chips of bone, to my lottery winning favorite object - a cow lung. Three years later, I still love to ask new employees if they have discovered a jewel more dazzling than a respiratory body part in their messy excavation of the raw beef.

If the reader forgets 99% of this essay, they will not forget cow lung.

That 1% of the essay they will retain in their mind has the power to make a positive impression upon the reader.

It's true then if you really think about it.

So much depends

A red wheel barrow.