July 18, 2008KR BlogUncategorized

The Po-Bama World

I write today from Gambier, where the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop is wrapping up another week. Seventy-eight imposingly intelligent (to wit: this morning I learned that nearly half of them have already read Paradise Lost), self-aware sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds spend their days writing. I’m here as a fellow, talking short stories and writing with them.

I’ve never been around so many teenagers (since I, you know, was one), and it turns out: they have a lot of really smart things to say. Late in the day yesterday, after hours of writing, we came to a point of giddiness. Rather than keep writing in such a state, we just talked about a metafiction we’d all read. It led one student to ask if writing metafiction is post-modern. Not po-mo, another corrected– po-po-mo. But that didn’t seem right either, so I lamely suggested we’re moving to the Post-Ots. Not much response there.

Then one young writer struck on something: Po-bama. We’re living in a post-Obama world. Another student suggested that it’s possible we’re more appropriately pre-bama (pre-Obama)- hopeful thinking, I’d guess, as it would mean that we’re waiting to see how the world shapes up after he wins this fall, rather than just feeling satisfied he’s changed the discourse enough to claim a moral victory. Regardless: when the philologists feel ready to update the lexicon, we’re ready. Po-bama, pre-bama. And years from now when the etymologists are looking for a source just remember: it was a teenager at the KR Young Writers Workshops who coined it.