Love Poem by Susan Wheeler

I wanted to share this haunting poem by Susan Wheeler. It reminded me of the negative capability we talked about in class – listening to the unspoken parts of the poem. The broken, haunting past of the narrator and the joy s/he experiences in the present is put together like two puzzle pieces, showing us a larger and much deeper picture that does not only link the two together, but transform our perception of both pieces. For me, this is a poem about redemption of the past by the present.

Love Poem

My mother wouldn’t stand up
to wave. My father made certain
the door locked behind me.

But when I went for your door
you came too. Your mouth
made a flute of my arm,

its music a glass on the past.
My love, my love, went its song.
Now there is no need to leave.


I’m not sure if this has been discussed on this blog, or if this is even a conversation that deserves a post on this blog, but we’ve had several conversations, both in and out of class, on the role of the poet during political uproar, which is why I feel compelled to ask the question here.

How do people feel about the use of hashtags in protests? I don’t mean simply online articles/posts related to something happening outside of the internet. I mean people holding signs with some sort of hashtag written on it.

I ask because I’m starting to notice my veiws slowly shift on the topic. When I first began attending political protests and noticng people holding signs that had only the hashtag, I became annoyed because I didn’t see the validity of social medial protest (even now I wouldn’t call social media protesters helpful if they do not leave their computer, but obviously spreading articles and information is never something to be frowned upon). But I’m starting to wonder if time is slowly turning this into something on par with a chant one may hear in protests… But I’m really not sure. Part of me still feelings the idea of a hashtag outside of a search engine belittles the concept of the protest.

I’m actually trying to think of a literary equal of hashtags that began valid in the past, and nothing is coming to mind… Nonetheless, I wanted to hear what others had to say.

Images That Blew Me Away

So I recently read F(X), a poem by Annalise Lozier, published in The Kenyon Review, which works to create images so fluidly that I was moved. Lines like “I have a sore spot / on each side of my head where our eyes used to be / when we were fish,” had me melting on the page. Along creating these vivid images, the poem also works with white space in ways that I think our current workshop works to emulate.

It’s also a beautiful read.  Grab onto your seat for the last lines:
” I know terminal velocity when      I feel it,
the      color    of salmon eggs—      Do you?”


Writing Exercise: A News Article to Structure a Poem

So since my most recent blog post about narrative poetry, I thought about the different kinds of narratives that we each day. Now I know that many of us read and indulge stories all around us, but I want to call attention to some recent stories that have been percolating our nation’s media. There’s so much going on around us. We’re all sensitive to it. It’s affecting us in ways we can’t even identify right now.

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Reflection on my Creative Writing Major

Have you seen any progress in your work compared to your freshman year?

I’ve definitely seen a lot of progress in my own work since freshman year. I think back then I was really invested in seeming cool and seeming like my work was at its best. So I would usually submit poems that I thought were really good and didn’t need any work. Of course, they were really bad (in my opinion). I feel like part of becoming a good writer is tearing down the ego to make space for progress. My work then was mostly about voice—about creating an image and about educating my audience on a perspective I thought was most accurate. But what my work is now, is an admittance that I don’t know much, that I’m still learning the best way to communicate my message, and that my message may or may not be discarded by my readers—and that is their choice…whether they want to try and understand me or not…my work will continue to grow.

What are some things you still need to work on?

Well, there’s a lot of things I need to work on. There’s for one the ‘soft’ voice I seem to have in my poems which resembles the way I move about my life. I like to move about life softly—I almost wish I was invisible sometimes. But this softness doesn’t always resemble what I feel inside. And I think it’s important to do justice to the dark part of ourselves that goes continuously ignored. I try to do this often by incorporating philosophy and ideas about humanity, but they are still not resonating well enough because the ideas are overshadowed by syntax and other techniques. I think this focus on dark language is something I need to work on to be able to disturb my readers the way I hope to someday.

That, along with longer poems that tell a story—all the while developing a very casual kind of voice that is both indifferent, wise, and “cool” are some of my goals.

What are some things you have learned in workshops?

Workshops have instilled in me a lifelong tolerance of criticism. I am definitely a very sensitive person. But workshops created a safe space for me to understand where criticism comes from—a lot of the time it comes from a place of love rather than judgment. Whenever I criticize someone’s poem in workshop heavily, I feel it is only because I love the poem so much that I want it to grow into what it wants to be. My critiques demonstrate more investment. When I only give compliments, or don’t comment at all, it means I didn’t spend as much time thinking about a poem on real terms. Of course, workshops also taught me that some criticisms come from a place of discomfort as opposed to understanding—but that we have to learn to differentiate between the critiques that matter and those that don’t. No matter what is said in a workshop, the poet is the only one who has authority over their poem and only they know what they are trying to accomplish.

Are you different than when you came in to Geneseo?

I want to say that I am different. I came into Geneseo with many goals. And I have to say that I’ve accomplished most of those goals. The journey from then to now has been full of obstacles and lessons. I feel I can function on higher levels now, what seemed stressful to freshman me, is welcomed by senior me as hard work and a productive day. Staying in and doing nothing feels wrong—and I appreciate that Geneseo has created that feeling in me, because I trust now that when I go out into the world, I will be doing things every day and working towards a goal. I had a lot of independence and freedom as a Creative Writing major and it is because of that freedom that I know I will be alright in the ‘real’ world. I don’t feel intimidated by the future, because I know it will be as unpredictable as my college career has been. And I definitely feel ready to start life outside of college. I think we all reach a point where we just know that we’ve done everything we’re going to do in an undergraduate program.

What does writing look like for you in the future?

To me, writing looks no different than it does today. I will write when an idea comes to me, I will keep an archive of those writings, and I will send off poems and stories I love to be published. I will always continue to write—no matter where I am or what I’m doing, and it’s not necessarily to make an impact or to be read but just for myself and my own growth. I hope to publish a book of poems someday and I will always be involved in the writing community closest to me. Maybe I’ll pursue an MFA, maybe I won’t. Either way, writing will continue to open doors for me, as it has already, for the rest of my life. I owe the act of writing a lot of my success. I will always love to write, I don’t think that will change. And just as I have been a writer and a student at once, I will be a writer and (insert profession here). Hopefully a mentor of sorts and an advocate of the craft for everyone I meet as well.

A Poem Kallie Showed Me

A thank you to Kallie for introducing me to the light, pillowy poetry that Mary Oliver makes room for in our chaotic world. I read it about three times a day, at least. It gives me a minute to breath and realize that although my world is tainted, I am still living. I am still here.

Here’s a reminder to take a deep breath and sink:

“Wild Geese”

Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The Narrative Poem

Recently, I’ve been questioning my role as a writer. The work that I thrive doing, what I define as prose, usually consists of me telling a story or deliberating on an argument. I wondered how the form that I love so much could translate into poetry, or rather, writing that pays much more attention to sound and shape on the page. Since narratives are my thing, I looked up what a narrative poem was.

According to Power Poetry, narrative poems simply tell stories. Most of the ones we know today, like Homer’s The Illiad and Dante’s Inferno, are super long! At times these texts seem dense. But it is through their poetics that they have retained standing in our society today. Perhaps for one of the poems I write in my final portfolio, I will practice this technique. I know that our class focuses on what makes up an image in a poem. But I argue that images can be created in the context of a narrative poem. Maybe it’s in the moment that shocks you the most? Maybe the image is resonant of the character that the poem wants to focus on the most.

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A Calling, (could be a response to Emily and Noah below)

“I’m sometimes asked why I chose poetry, and not some other genre. This is a good question. Some poets feel that they do not choose poetry, it chooses them…Poetry, I would argue, is a calling. It is not a job, not a task, not even a career, though some have described it this way—it’s a calling.”

When I read this quote by Kurt Brown, in his essay “A Small, Quiet Voice,” I couldn’t help but feel like someone had read my mind. There have been conversations in class about how poetry serves us poets, or how us poets fit into the world. The quote above is a key to understanding both of those questions. I mean, isn’t it a calling of sorts? What kind of person decided they want to be a poet for life, unless they feel it is absolutely their duty to do so? It’s a trap of course, one goes into a poetry workshop as a “test trial” and then one never exits the workshop because they fall in love with the genre, or because they find a missing piece of themselves or of the world, within poetry. Maybe poets spend a significant amount of time cursing the day they decided to take that step towards a workshop. But, I don’t really. I think taking a workshop was mostly an intentional decision—like my mind and body were pulling me towards it even though I wasn’t conscious that it was exactly what I needed. I mean, the universe seemed to be saying “here’s a poem. Here’s another poem! Oh. Look. A poem! Is that a poem your writing? A (poetry?) reading?” but I didn’t really get those hints. I was just like I’m gonna write non-fiction! And everyone kept saying my non-fiction was too dreamy and flowery. If that wasn’t a hint, then I don’t know what was. Another hint was that I was and continue to be a highly-sensitive person, who enjoys using the senses as a way of moving about the world. I prefer sensing the world as opposed to understanding it.

But this idea that poetry is not a career is troublesome to me. It is again, diminishing the role of poetry in our society. Where emotions are dying, poetry is in demand. It is very much an important job to document the here and now of humanity—the direct internal thoughts that can be deciphered through analysis. The poetry of today captures the essence of the society we live in, and in a few decades, it will be of extreme importance for people who want to understand what the past was or how humans have evolved emotionally throughout time. The definition of calling is : “an inner urge or a strong impulse, especially one believed to be divinely inspired.” And while it is that, that seems too dreamy and too surreal—it reminds me of when people tell me “I know you’re into writing,” as opposed to “I know you are a writer,” because the first sounds like writing is a thing I do not take seriously, or I do as a hobby—and the second sounds like something serious, professional, and something I am passionate about. So as much as I feel I have been “called” to poetry, I feel that poetry is a job, and like any job, it is my duty to develop skills, hone them, apply them, and progress.

What do you guys think? Does poetry feel like a calling or a job to you?

My pen got velocity

After listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s most recent album, We The People, I began thinking of my role as a poet in today’s world. It’s not the first time I thought about the position we all have as artists — where do we fit? — but I have placed myself within the binaries of what I’m allowed.

I feel that my little planet is pronounced by the hood I grew up in and the things I witnessed as a kid. What has intimidated me is how I shape this voice as a poet/writer. But I realized that this voice began taking its form when I was growing up. My brother would come up with bars to spit on a beat. I followed rap battles vicariously through him, my favorite being when Nas murdered Jay-Z in “Ether.” It was a Brooklyn-Queens thang.

As a shy, book-worm, growing up I stayed away from practicing this. But I thrived through these lyrics, Pac reminded me to “Keep Your Head Up” and Biggie taught me that “Sky’s the Limit.” Everyday, I was a witness to how the system failed my community. The melodies I found in their lyrics kept me going because they looked at the world I was seeing everyday and told me that I could push pass that bullshit. Much of what I’ve struggled with this semester is creating my own sound, something that I still don’t think I’ve managed to create.

In a talk last night with Carolina, I began to conceive the idea that this “sound”/voice is created over time. She told me that since I’ve written narratives, I need to write these kinds of poems (I’ll write a blog post on narrative poetry in a bit.) I’ve just started writing poetry. It’s difficult for me to identify as a poet for this reason, but it’s exactly what I am and what I have been for most of my life.

LL Cool J says that we are “metaphorical freaks” in a song and says that he’s creates a movie. I began questioning what this meant in terms of accessibility. How could I make sense of the world I was brought up in and transfer this so that people from my community could understand me? Maybe what we call Geneseo poetry has stunted me from getting there, but what I’ve learned is that I need to keep going. I need to go back home, back to my roots. Back to authenticity. Geneseo is like a reprieve. It took me away from this for a while, for many reasons. But the music that booms through my earphones reminds me who I am and what I grew up with.

Lend me your thoughts, PAAAA-LEASEEE.

Role of the Poet

It’s been hard to think about poetry since our pre- and post-election discussions without considering it in terms of the role of poets in the face of injustice, like we talked about, and since then I’ve been thinking about exactly what those things are, as we didn’t come to many solid conclusions besides the usual thoughts on a poet’s responsibilities to speak out. I don’t really have an answer of what it is that a poet should do, but I wanted to take a minute to ramble and try and sort out some of my thoughts from the past few weeks.
At first, I wanted to look at how poets responded to particularly awful moments in history through their work, so I looked at a lot of poetry from the First and Second World Wars. I got off of that because most of what I was looking at were poems that were written after the fact, or were written to recount the experience of fighting or being in the position of a refugee, and while these are valuable what I was looking for were poems that were written with the purpose of effecting change, and maybe some that had a measurable impact. As you can imagine, those were hard to find, and I don’t know that I found any. I started thinking that it’s maybe asking too much of poetry to expect it to have an immediate or even noticeable effect on the world, and that it might be unfair to judge art based on political intent. Should we all be trying to write poetry that’s explicitly political, with set goals? That’s probably the ethical thing to do, but I’m sure it’s not something that everyone is interested in doing. I started to think about what it means that we’ve started to talk in this class about poetry as a political tool now that the election went the way that it did, even as terrible things were happening around the world all semester — is it hypocritical of us to only be concerned with the political effects of poetry now that we’re personally impacted by a bad situation? What should the poet take it upon themselves to address? Is it still okay to write poetry that doesn’t talk about any of this? After all, it must take some kind of courage to produce work that’s apolitical — that itself, though, is at odds with the idea (which I believe) that art is inherently political, and apolitical art is essentially decoration. I don’t have answers for any of the questions I’ve been thinking about, and the only thing that I can definitively say that a poet has to do is write poetry. Let me know if you have thoughts about anything I’ve brought up.