I took six semesters with John Hahn: four creative writing classes, Masterpieces of World Lit, The Short Story and an creative writing independent study in which I wrote a novella. It was called Cassidy Dante and his advice was, put it away for five years, and then see what you have. I did and didn't much care what I had by that point.
All his classes followed a basic formula. He had us all arrange the chairs in a circle: we had to face one another. (All facing one way, toward the front, helped isolate ourselves and forget we're around human beings---exactly why going to the movies is an absurd idea for a date).
He would sit on a table at the front of the class. He always wore t-shirts and jeans and always had a mug of tea. My father said he would sit in the yoga position, or have everyone sit on the floor. He would start his lectures, sometimes it would be about the material we were to cover, sometimes he'd just start professing.
I knew people who adored him, worshipped him and hated him. He had devoted students and students who complained about him. I believe that Rio brought in a second instructor to teach Creative Writing for people who wanted an alternative to Hahn. I had that instructor for a class---I gave her rebellious shit like a sixteen year old.
I never knew him outside class. I never talked to him in his office about anything other than classwork. It was partly from fear and partly from a desire to make him into a colossus. I suppose if I had been closer, I would've stayed in contact all this time and had known more of the particulars about his death. I could've told him about all the professors I had and how they didn't know how to teach creativity, but were good at teaching formulas. About how many writers I knew were terrified of themselves and fell into cliches because they couldn't look at themselves.
As Hahn would say, All we can write about is ourselves. If we write about serial killers or child molesters, we are writing about the killers and molesters within ourselves. All we know is ourselves, and since none of us really know anything about ourselves, most of what we know is wrong.
Oddly, I prefer not knowing the personal details. I needed, and still need, the Colossus at Rio Hondo.
Statement of Intention
This blog is about all I can remember about John Hahn, who taught creative writing at Rio Hondo. He died in 2006 and this is my way of remembering him. If anyone else remembers him, please comment or contact me.