Inspiration for Sources, Sources for Inspiration

Each time I sat down with this assignment in mind, I couldn’t get to writing about sources for poetry without using the word “inspiration.” I kept thinking about what inspires me, and the two concepts became muddled in my mind as one and the same.  That’s when I turned to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines “inspiration” as :

  • a :  a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation b :  the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c :  the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

  • 2 :  the act of drawing in; specifically :  the drawing of air into the lungs

  • 3a :  the quality or state of being inspired b :  something that is inspired <a scheme that was pure inspiration>

  • 4 :  an inspiring agent or influence

And here is their definition of “source”:

  • a :  a generative force :  cause b (1) :  a point of origin or procurement :  beginning (2) :  one that initiates :  author; also :  prototype, model (3) :  one that supplies information

  • 2a :  the point of origin of a stream of water :  fountainheadb archaic :  spring, fount

  • 3 :  a firsthand document or primary reference work

  • 4 :  an electrode in a field-effect transistor that supplies the charge carriers for current flow — compare drain, gate

I found it interesting how many more “movement” words were involved in the definitions of “source.” I think it’s important to try and differentiate these two terms, because they are equally important to the creative writer, but in different ways. A source is often described as a point of origin, before energy shifts and something or someone is initiated to move; inspiration is defined moreso as abstract movement, the movement of thoughts and emotions. Obviously, sources in poetry do that for us too, otherwise they wouldn’t be deemed sources that we turn to. But I think it’s important to think about what each of these words means to us individually as poets this semester.

I could tell you myriad events, objects, phenomena that inspire me…but I feel there is a line drawn between what inspires someone and what propels someone to actually create. A source isn’t necessarily an inspiration, is it? The source can be viewed as a tangible object: an old journal article, your favorite writer’s latest short story, or a purple sock in the corner of your room that you just never picked up. We are responsible for ascribing meaning or significance to these objects.

That being said, I will attempt to discuss where my head’s at right now in thinking about my poetic sources, and moving into this semester of workshop.

I recently attended a poetry reading in Holland, Michigan where one specific poet, unnamed, said

“If you want to write for yourself, you’ll reach all the people you want to write for.”

This quote has stuck with me since that reading. I’ve always struggled with knowing who my audience was, or even acknowledging if anyone was listening. Creative writing always felt like a very selfish act, and there didn’t seem a way for MY writing to not seem self-centered. In the past year, I have come to view this selfishness as an integral part of my creative process. If I am to think about the sources for my creative writing, it would be myself: everything that makes me unable to sleep, makes me sleep for a week, makes me think clearly, or that muddles my thoughts so much they are thick mud that cannot be sifted through. I am ok with these ‘selfish’ sources. As a painfully aware and sensitive writer and human being who has collected anxieties and vulnerabilities across a timeline of trauma and mental illness, I’ve found that my search for the exact sources of my poetry mirrors my own personal journey with validating my existence on several fronts: as a mentally ill individual, as a woman, and as part of a stereotyped ‘naïve’ generation.  So, in sum, the source of my poetry will always go back to my own consciousness, and efforts I have made to smooth the course of it or exorcise certain demons from it. This source is most often projected through a cultural lens, as my poetry discusses important social issues by pulling out the inherent ironies of severe issues and turning them into rightful causes to be scared, angry, or feel unsafe.

Thus, my creative energy derives from:

1. Consciousness; emotional capacity and hyper-awareness, progression of time, viewing things as timelines with everything affecting everything else, describing things in terms of psychological/biological occurrences within the mind.

I write as a way to sift through this progression, to make sense of what I haven’t already made sense of, and I write as a practice of listening. I find I don’t listen to myself as much as I do when I have the urge to write, or am in the process of writing. This is also when I feel most connected to humankind.  I write to dissipate the silence, because one of my biggest fears is being silent, and most of my anxiety is felt during times when I have been silenced by others, made myself silenced, or just didn’t have the words to say. I want to always have the words to say—and if not the ‘exact’ way I wish to say something, then at least have those words to fall back on as the only way I’m sure to arrive at truth. Again, this stems back to following my sources back to my own mind and existence.

2. Movement. I am mesmerized with movement and what we can learn from following it, from seeing where it comes from, and from viewing how some movements are more particular than others. This movement is often abstract: time passing on, small changes in the wetness of leaves on the ground from Monday to Thursday, or the way people move their hands.

At the end of the day, the original source for my writing is myself, and I find myself confident in my writing process enough to know that when I am inspired by other people, or by other people’s movements, it is always with my voice that I speak these truths. I believe that the things that interest us, that move us, and even horrify or disgust us, do so for a reason that is intricately embedded in our consciousness. I have always been prodding my consciousness, attempting to exorcise traumas and negative space by representing these in my poetry. It’s very much my strongest form of self-preservation.

3. Art. Another place where I draw inspiration is in art that I love, and art that I hate. Reading other creative writing, looking at other types of art, will always be a way for me to get inspired and get writing. I’ve found that being aware of why you use certain techniques in writing, why you like certain writers and why you hate certain writers, has really led me to finding my own creative voice.

 

 

I’m excited to explore in depth sources of poetry, because it seems to me that one always has myriad sources. And we aren’t always thinking of them consciously, or are aware of the reasons WHY we turn to specific sources. For me, the kinds of sources a writer is drawn to or fixates on says a lot about their creative process and also the kind of person they are. I look forward to learning more about source material this semester, and growing with all of you as writers 🙂

see you guys next week!

-Juliet

It’s All Good Poetry

I contemplated getting a tattoo of the phrase “It’s all good poetry”, not because I’m a huge fan of the technicalities or history of poetry, I’m not. I couldn’t name many famous poets, or properly dissect a poem, but I’ve written and read them for the majority of my life. I’m not fascinated by many things that those who study poetry must be fascinated by. Continue reading

Only With Coffee And Hope

I’d like to keep this brief, but at the same time I wouldn’t mind venting the morose mess of existence I admittedly feel.

Too often.

My skepticism of how school serves as a tool for betterment, or in my reality, believing it to be a crutch to keep me grounded and submitting to the flow of normalcy – succeed, work hard, accomplish your dreams. The melatonin hasn’t helped. The doses have been random, but I still enjoy passing out after a null day of classes. Dropping alone in my room, my quiet bed embracing me. It feels like a running gag of routine and an almost-desperate need for silence, and a stopper to the masses called college students. Even if I’m one of them, feeling comfortable anywhere, even at home feels…unlikely. So far, it feels unlikely.

Like a wound, refusing to let me go. Strength in the form of trembling hands.

So far, I’m still alive, even if wanting to occasionally end my young self. Some friends say I have greatness in me. Some say I don’t give myself enough credit. My father used to say that I had the world by the balls. I only want the world to let me sleep and not think so goddamn much but instead I’m always wanting to avoid sleep and avoid people and avoid giving a damn because I keep giving a damn because I care about others even if they care not for me and I just want to be okay, I just wan-

To mean okay.

Only with coffee and hope, lately. The lifeblood of an English major who feels not enough of himself to do any good, or to make any ounce of credible pain worthwhile like Bukowski – is my life crappy enough to be considered a blessing? Have I earned the right to say how I feel and let my words be stolen through the minds of others, their varied thinking from what I write? The beauty of my property becoming more than sweetly aged paper? The privilege of being remember?

Or am I just relevant because I haven’t chosen to leave yet. Or afraid to leave. Or just holding my breath as I type another sentence out with a fair amount of dignity. (Or not)

Or hope. Or resolve. Or because I’m still here. Still afraid.

Still tired.

(Still trying)

I can walk in other people’s shoes, but I think it’s wrong to write in them

I’ve always felt confident as a writer, but I would never call myself a poet. I’m creative, but my comfort zone lies within critical analysis and doesn’t dare cross over into artistic territory. In order to write freely or write about my feelings, I have to be fuming with happiness or anger. Oddly enough, the past two years of my life have been the most emotionally dynamic; and yet, I refrain from putting my personal thoughts to paper out of sheer embarrassment. I rarely physically document my sentiment, but I constantly express my stories through verbal words.

My whole life I’ve been simultaneously praised and criticized as a storyteller. I tell stories a lot, usually imprisoning my unsuspecting audience. By drawing out my tales in long, loquacious bouts as to communicate my tale in the most detailed, it’s-almost-as-if-you-were-there manner, I either win or lose audience approval. It’s usually too much for my readers or listeners, who urge me to “hurry up already,” but do they ever misunderstand or question the events I just presented to them? Never. I find that when I have to be poetic, I wince at the task of writing something that will be construed into different interpretations from others.

Thus, the small handful of poems that I’ve written come from real life events that I experience, witness or observe. Stories. I’ve never been able to gather inspiration from others’ experiences or feelings, be it from a book, play or from the point of view of my best friend or mother. When I encounter a moment that inspires me, I almost immediately scribble down a list of the event. What happened? Where was it? Who was it with? How did I feel then? How do I feel now? Two examples formed the heart of my last two poems:

1- During break I had a nurse butcher my arm while attempting to draw my blood. I fainted. I wrote a poem about my incident, which referenced my fear of, as a woman, being denied rights over my own body.

2- I’m stupidly in love right now. One time I was looking into my boy friend’s ear and I got very caught up in the cartilage and how it curves and pools like cake batter. I then wrote a poem about love and honey.

So, I know I can narrate stories and present ideas whether I’m compelled to write fiction or non-fiction. However, when it comes to poetry, I struggle to write abstractly. I can read the poetry of Plath and Dickinson and fixate over it, but I have not been able to recreate or embrace their lyrical, metaphorical darkness for the life of me. I think if I had to categorize my creative writing, I would clarify it as prose, not poetry. As a result, my inspiration has only stemmed from my own physical and mental interactions with people. I feel cut off from music, art, and the lives of everyone else.

“hermit crab form”

When Lytton told me this class would be focused on “sources” of poetry, I knew I would really enjoy being a part of this class. I often find myself writing about things I have come across in other readings, or stories I have come across through research. For example, I have a poem about Marilyn Monroe–one of my favorite original pieces. I also have written a piece about Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, both writers during the Second World War; they had a correspondence of love letters throughout the war. I have a poem about a woman who was became pregnant by a wealthy man on the Titanic, written in the voice of their child. From here I will write my list:

1. I love bringing old stories/historical moments (like those I have written about above) back to life.

2. Nature often grabs my attention and I find myself writing about things I see in nature all the time. A few months ago a deer jumped out in front of my car and I have yet to write a piece about it but I REALLY want to. I also am fascinated by fruit and love cutting it up and tossing it in my poetry.

Continue reading

Sparks

child cowering, fetal, open field, hurricane     hair snagged on fishhooks tied to kite tails

I draw inspiration from my rather unique childhood experience. Grew up poor at first, mental illness haunts my family like cholesterol. Didn’t know that long toes were a common physical trait on my mother’s side till I was eighteen.

My childhood had pain, and I suppose I draw from that pain in my poetry. A wish to express how relatable emotional and psychological pain is. That everyone is an island among islands.

I want to help people pull back veil of bones. To bare my own open heart pulsing to them. For them to see that pain and pulsing and blood and wounds are felt by everyone and that in that, they are not alone.

 

folks with mental illness, marginalized. Mental illness, ignored,   buried alive. muffled pain: lowers head – hair hanging…    I will thrust my fingers from the earth, splinter pleather-padded coffins.

I have ADHD and have suffered from depression. Every one of my family members suffers from some mental illness, be it bipolar, schizophrenia, ADHD. Torturous to live with. ignored. Often hard for those people to speak up for themselves through art, through anything.

I want to show support and solidarity. engage with the unique relationships, emotions, thought processes of these illnesses. They’re not alone. They’re not monsters. Also, sometimes there’s beauty there. I want to find the beautiful, the tragic, the painful, the relatable in the struggle. Raw emotions of depression, etc. are, to me, interesting and challenging to try to convey accurately. Would love to compile poetry from people struggling with different illnesses.

 

I’m fixated on the passage of time and the passage of people through it. “Ships that pass in the night…” I love old places, things, books. So many feet have graced this classroom, fingerprints, this book. So many lives, just passing through. I think Longfellow’s words are especially relevant and resonant with the current age. With social media, lightning-quick interactions between strangers strike. Then disappear into the conveyor belt sea. I often think about time as it relates to the human condition and human connection. Especially important to a generation enthralled with that soggy golden thread: nostalgia.

Transitions in Source Material

I joked a few times last semester that all of my poems were about rape and sexual abuse, which even I got sick of by the end of the semester—so this idea of exploring the sources of our poetry is so important and exciting for me, and something I’ve been trying to work on this past winter. However, I can obviously acknowledge that poetry can be used as a way to process emotions, especially those felt by children who don’t have the proper language to express emotions, and who also lack adequate adult support to help guide them, resulting in these childhood feelings clinging to the individual throughout their lives until adequately processed… But this is me becoming too clinical and off topic. Writing. That’s what this is. Right.

I find that when I try to simply jump into a new source, the poem or whatever writing feels forced. For this reason, I’ve been trying to ease away from my older topics by turning away from myself and thinking of moments I’ve had with other people that stand out, not because they were heavy or traumatic in some way, but because they’re simply mundane in a way that is somehow interesting. I’m still writing about people, but not necessary my life or even the life of the other person, but trying to capture the individual in the moment, which makes transitioning from one source to another easier for me. I’ve also been reading more about and listening to more podcasts about history, and pulling out people/experiences that pop out to me. For example, I would like to do something this semester with the idea of Princess Alexandra of Bavaria who believed she swallowed a glass piano as a child, and believed she had the piano inside of her throughout life. I don’t know what exactly I would want to do with the idea, but no one can say it’s not interesting and weird and all of the things poetry should be.

Pollen For Thought

Inspiration is a fickle little thing. Sometimes it unfurls like a blossoming flower, an idea taking root. Then there are the times that inspiration trickles in, like rainwater gathering, drip by drip, into a metal bucket. Other times, it’s a little knobby thing like a string just about to unravel, where you go to brush it or pull on it to see if it’s a little cotton ball or a string, and you find more under the little knob. Whatever way you first find it, inspiration can be found in expected and unexpected places.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate things like poetry and writing even more and find my sources of inspiration in things around me. Like a bumblebee bounces from flower to flower, I bounce from inspiration to inspiration as it suits me. Through this, I gather ideas for my collection.

I listen to a wide variety of music, from metal groups to pop groups; Bring Me the Horizon, Sia, Fall Out Boy, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Panic! at the Disco. Lyrics provide multiple creative ways to look at life, twists on ideas, and inspirations for works of my own.

Books are a never-ending barrage of promise, like Slaughterhouse Five, Dear Life, You Suck, Perks of Being a Wallflower. Even fantasy novels provide outlooks on major topics of life and death and the factors of living, and each book is packed with thoughts assuring more inspirations that could lead to personal revelations.

Mythology was also something I was infatuated with as a child, and the retelling of myths was a point of fascination. Daniella Michalleni wrote an untitled poem told from the point of view of Persephone, with a twist on her myth. The idea that myths could be spun like this, that multiple points of views could be explored, different scenarios explained, was interesting.

Film is another fascination, though I wouldn’t call myself a cinephile. Some of my favorite parts of movies are when there is an angled camera shot, and something seemingly insignificant is revealed, but the importance and relevance of what the single shot revealed, like a gun resting on the table, is left to the audience. The idea that so much could be said without saying anything, or by focusing on a seemingly insignificant detail.

Boredom is another source, seeing as you find the oddest things interesting when plagued with it. The smallest flowers or the dewdrops on a pine needle suddenly become pinpoints of words that could work into something.

Also, seeing as I am someone who has not experienced love- at least not the companionate kind I find emotions such as anger or sadness critical in writing, in finding ways to convey how I feel. The intensity of them, the way they buzz in the chest like bumblebees ready to burst out, is nearly overwhelming, until pen meets paper.

Whether looking for it or not, inspiration lies all around us, just waiting to be found.

My s*** is all over the place

I like categories. I like to split things into groups, split the groups into groups. I spent the last semester taking most of my notes on a computer. When I looked back at them, I noticed the amount of space on the page wasted to indentations, to margins before bullets, roman numerals, capitalized and lower-cased letters. Here, I should offer a disclaimer: Typically when we think of someone who likes this sort of systematizing, we think of a “type-a” human being—someone who, in at least an organizational sense, really has their shit together. This is not me, and this is certainly not my poetry. My shit, on the contrary, is all over the place, and I think my brain uses categorization as a sort of desperate, manic attempt at making sense of things that, actually, one might be better off not trying to make sense of. All this is to say, when I think about from where I source my writing, I think of three main things, each of which can be broken down into subcategories which don’t really have rhyme or reason and would likely make a true organizer cringe.

  1. Family [1] (usually associated with guilt)
    1. my little sister
      1. the freckles no one ever notices on her cheeks
      2. the way she continues to grow although I beg her not to
    2. my mother
      1. her hands and lavender veins that come up all too often
    3. everyone else
      1. their bodies, the parts of them that anyone can see but everyone sees differently
  2. Music (“the jar of gold glitter” effect [2])
    1. songs I can sing along to because they operate within my vocal range
    2. songs I can’t sing along to but try to anyway because they make my stomach drop into my butt (the best way I can describe that really good song feeling)
    3. scores to movies I haven’t ever seen
  3. What lacks (physical and intangible gaps)
    1. I can’t…
      1. communicate
      2. relate
      3. understand
    2. We can’t…
      1. communicate
      2. relate
      3. understand
    3. Sidewalks make us trip…
      1. because grass is growing through the cracks, filling the gaps and teaching us something about absence and/ or if there is always a something to occupy a nothing

[2] stare into a jar of gold glitter and tell me if there are words to explain the way that makes you feel. similarly, you know those fountain fireworks? the gold ones that explode and trickle liquid gold against the blackness of a summer sky for what also seems like way too short a time? that feeling, if applied to what we hear rather than what we see, is what I am looking for (or sometimes just finding without looking at all) when turning to music

[1] “family,” here meaning blood relatives, but also those closest to me, most influential in my life

Sources I turn to…

1) I turn to my mother sweating over the assembly line wondering if she’ll have enough money to make rent

–there’s some kind of vulnerability and ah ah ah strength to keep going or maybe an acceptance of who we are

2) I turn to my father showing me how to use the bathroom so I wouldn’t spray on the floor

–A boy becomes man a man becomes a name a name becomes a representation and so

3) I turn to the drawing I drew in third grade to impress a cartoonist that was visiting

–an impression? hahahaha? Do I even know how to impress myself?

4) I turn to Olivia Benson and Dr. George Huang on Law and Order: SVU

–They have helped me understand things about myself and I love BD WONG

5) I turn to old black and white movies because I enjoy how simply they were

–a like poetry to be simple without big words or big ideas a poem about an peeling an orange or opening the door of an apartment is OK with me

6) I turn to bootleg copies of Spiderman and Scooby-Doo: The Movie on the same VHS

–childhood leaves an impression on me. I wonder if adulthood will too?

7) I turn to my sister hiding the remote control from me and blasting Britney Spears

–fight, debate, conflict, war, tension, something that brings us closer to the earth and its inhabitants

8) I turn to the day I decided to stop going to TaeKwonDo and disappointed my dad

–I never made it past yellow belt my dad and my sister are both Nth degree black belts and maybe because I am the boy I disappointed my dad even more. That look.

9) I turn to El Chavo Del Ocho

–Significa Peligro! Chusma, Chusma! Mi tesoro! my dad’s apodo fue quico and my uncle’s was chesperito. NO ME SIMPATIZAS!

10) Che y Chela y Chepe y Chi Chi y -ito

–nicknames mean a lot where I come from