Spitting our Painter’s Palette into the Smog

When Trump won the presidency so many people took to Facebook to bear witness to the end of democracy, the end of America, the end of the world as we know it.

Whether the world ended or not in November, we’re still here. We people, poets, painters, photographers are still here to raise a fist the apparently falling sky. Okay you Doomsday cultists, the end is nigh, the titan Lucifer is laying waste to the Parisian skyline; we’ll be stay planted to document his fiery footfalls.

The fact is that we artists will be here to ward off “the end” until we aren’t. To ward off the end when there’s no reason to live and no life left. We’ll fucking be here to spit our painter’s palette into the smog.

Art doesn’t die. It does not die. Cut all the funding you want, Cheeto boy. Try to snuff the spirit of art. But you’ll find that artists will do their best to snuff you right back.

Artists will swallow every fucking seventh seal you try to shove down their throats, chew it up, and spit it back in your face.

Every dystopia has its graffiti artists.

Happy Thoughts!!!

Two weeks ago, Lytton tried to guide the class, through a prompt, towards writing something happy. Lytton mentioned that it seemed like the class tended to write a lot of sad, depressing,  tragic, etc. poetry. I agree. There hasn’t been much poetry that we’ve workshopped that has been focused on a positive aspect of life. I think it’s imperative, as a poet, to bring the reader’s attention to positive, uplifting things. Because they’re out there. I feel that I must bring attention to the positive, unseen aspects of life in much the same way a poet writes about the unjust or the surreptitiously insidious, otherwise, I’m presenting a worldview that is pessimistic and therefore unrealistic. Happiness is part of the human experience. Goodness permeates the world too. To people I meet who say this: “The world is doomed. Just look at the hellhole this world has come to. The world is doomed,” I always say, “A gunshot is much louder than a hug.” The evil resounds across the world, but the goodness and beauty, that goes on just as often, we tend to keep to ourselves, or at least, we don’t think needs to be written or talked about. Okay, I’ll stop pontificating. Heres a happy poem:

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I wrote that first part about two weeks ago and I’ve been trying to write a happy poem ever since but I’ve been unsuccessful. I sat for a while trying to force myself to focus on the good but all that I could dredge up from my insides were intense, depressing, melancholic, and existentially perplexing subjects.

This has made me question my previous assertion that a poet should try to write about all aspects of life, good and bad.  I think maybe I was wrong about that. I’m unsure now. Romantic poets wanted to express the beauty and spiritual tranquility of nature. What are we trying to express in the modern day? Is there a trend? Is there a general goal that poets should have when they write? Who am I to say poets should write about the good things too. Maybe poets should write what feels true to them. Maybe poets should tackle whatever subjects they feel like. Maybe poets should write about social justice.

I’m thinking now that poetry can be anything a poet wants it to be. Any goal. Any subject. Maybe we don’t write about the good stuff so much because that stuff is not what preoccupies us. Maybe good doesn’t need to be addressed so much.

 

 

Poems I want to Share because Sharing Poems is Cool

Hello, my lovely poetry lovers,

I stumbled across several poems while going through the “poems of the day” in my email that I let pile to embarrassing numbers, and I just wanted to share my favorites with you! Many of these have aspects that I would like to steal and use in my own poetry–the content for some, comparisons that I seem less able to make in my own work.

Poem of the Day: Constructive
BY HEATHER MCHUGH

You take a rock, your hand is hard.
You raise your eyes, and there’s a pair
of small beloveds, caught in pails.
The monocle and eyepatch correspond.

You take a glove, your hand is soft.
The ocean floor was done
in lizardskin. Around a log or snag
the surface currents run

like lumber about a knot. A boat
is bent to sea—we favor the medium
we’re in, our shape’s
around us. It takes time.

At night, the bed alive, what
teller of truth could tell
the two apart? Lover, beloved,
hope is command. Your hand

is given, when you take a hand.

“You take a glove, your hand is soft.
The ocean floor was done
in lizardskin”     Great, as I’ve been trying to write about my lover in which I focus on on his hands… Although, now it seems I’d only be able to half-ass the focus seen in this poem.

The Widow’s Lament in Springtime
by William Carlos Williams
Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before, but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirty-five years
I lived with my husband.
The plum tree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red,
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they,
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.
To be honest, I’m not sure what stands out to me in this poem. But the poem itself did stand out to me and stick, so I figured I’d add it to this list.
The Catatonic Speaks – Poem by Pamela Spiro Wagner
At first it seemed a good idea not to
move a muscle, to resist without
resistance. I stood still and stiller. Soon
I was the stillest object in that room.
I neither moved nor ate nor spoke.
But I was in there all the time,
I heard every word said,
saw what was done and not done.
Indifferent to making the first move,
I let them arrange my limbs, infuse
IVs, even toilet me like a doll.
Oh, their concern was so touching!
And so unnecessary. As if I needed anything
but the viscosity of air that held me up.
I was sorry when they cured
me, when I had to depart that warm box,
the thick closed-in place of not-caring,
and return to the world. I would
never go back, not now. But
the Butterfly Effect says sometimes
the smallest step leads nowhere,
sometimes to global disaster. I tell you
it is enough to scare a person stiff.
This one I’m not sure if I like because the craft itself is ienticing, or if I simply love the poet herself. Nonetheless, I love the way she uses sound to slow the reader into the static state she herself is in until the end.

Generalizations & Gendered Language

I had several reactions to the US dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Among my concerns is one frustration that addresses how we use language, namely, the name. MOAB is an acronym for Massive Ordinance Air Blast, but the weapon has been colloquially known as the Mother Of All Bombs. Mother?? This sent my mind spinning into one of my controversial beliefs in that we should have a trial run wherein women switch places with male leaders and have a go at running things. I foresee that there would be a lot less killing, considering women’s capabilities to be more nurturing- more motherly- than men who aren’t as biologically and often culturally inclined to take care of others. But that’s my binary gendered generalization, and I understand that’s an extreme speculation to make. Nonetheless, I believe it, so when I see weapons that are created by male-dominated agencies (CIA) and approved by individual US generals (John Nicholson) I’m curious as to why makers of this bomb decided to correlate destruction with motherhood? Actually, I’m not as curious as I am insulted?

I think this is just a recent example of how we utilize femininity to describe objects that can be explosive or tumultuous, in any sense of the word. I know for a long time hurricanes were solely named after women and still today female-named hurricanes are on record more deadly than male-named hurricanes. It took until the 1980’s for enough women to say, “I am not a storm that sweeps in and destroys communities,” in order for male names to start being used. Whether it’s Siri, boats, cars, storms or bombs, it’s offensive to feminize in an effort to soften them, subjugate them, or insinuate that these things are volatile just like women.

To make matters worse I’m reading Bukowski. I just re-read Ada Limón’s How to Triumph like a Girl and it’s reassuring to see womanhood paralleled with constructive, rather than destructive power.

Exhibit A: how to triumph like a girl

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39607213

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Director_of_the_Central_Intelligence_Agency

http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/08/31/hurricane-names-a-brief-and-sexist-history/

the energy of happiness & writing away strife

One of my biggest role models and continued writing inspiration, Andrea Gibson, recently was interviewed about her poetry and asked about her lack of love poems. She said “If the world wasn’t such a mess, I’d spend my lifetime writing only love poems.”  I’ve been thinking about this quote all week long. And it fits into our conversations in class here and there about ‘happy poetry’ and Lytton pushing us to write more about happy moments.

There is merit to this– the poet who crafts poems about their biggest (and smallest) tragedies, loss, grief, sadness, etc. Where is the poet who focuses on solely the small pleasures in life, whose main wellspring of inspiration is the emotions of joy, happiness, and youth? I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with Lytton, in which he was highlighting the importance & necessity of ‘writing away strife.’ He said “we need the energy of happiness to not just worry.” And so, here I am today, trying desperately to find and maintain a healthy balance of worrying & having the energy of happiness to fuel my writing.

However, int he vein of Andrea Gibson’s quote, the reason I haven’t been writing ‘happy’ poetry is that there is just too much going on around me that makes me angry, disappointed, sad, sick to my stomach, etc. I write mainly about the things that keep me up at night, or make me want to sleep for weeks. I write about what makes me sick to my stomach, what makes my head hurt, what makes my heart frown. I’ve been trying to apply this same energy to the ‘happy’ occurrences, like what makes my heart smile, what colors my cheekbones on gloomy days, etc. I think it’s just that we experience the bad and the negative as all the more heavy and weighing and pressing. The happy feelings are lighter. They are easier to shrug off.

I’m making it a goal to wed this energy of happy with the energy of despondency & try to compose more happy poems. That is not to say, I think it is more important to ‘write happy’–it depends on the person and what emotional sources you follow the most. But it is important to be mindful that what we are doing is not just “worrying” but taking something awful, stomach-quivering, and making it into a call for change, highlighting the ironies and injustices within them. We need the energy of happiness to sustain motions such as this.

Living Sources, Dead Sources

Hi all!

I’ve been thinking about the deceased as a source for my poetry lately. Grace’s source showcase last week made me think about how we use living people as sources in very specific ways: their movements, behavioral quirks, noises, the way the walk or move their hands, etc; versus how lost ones would inspire poetry: more distilled, more in memories, etc.

Living sources are easy to write about because their behaviors and physical qualities are right in front of us. However, it’s obvious that we have all lost people in our lifetime, and I don’t think any agency is given to the way in which the dead can inspire a living poem; specifically, how the distance that death grants us from people (literally) is healthy for forging a new poetic space in which that person is reassessed.

Writing from the dead is important because it allows us to practice writing about people who aren’t physically present: which is especially useful when your ‘living’ sources are not in your immediate space or when you have been distanced from them long enough that their behavioral quirks aren’t fresh in your memory, your poetic mind’s eye. For me, personally, I’ve found that there are certain people I haven’t been able to ‘write in’ to my poetry until they were dead. Yes, I realize this sounds aggressive, or maybe that I was waiting for these people to die my whole life. Of course that isn’t the case. I’ve just never written them into my poetry while they were alive, because the feelings I had toward them were so complicated. I never wanted to dwell on it. Of course, death doesn’t just eradicate complicated feelings for people. But it does make you question the way you are going to store someone in your memory. And for me, the problematic figures in my life that have passed away are essential to my upbringing and roots, and so I am aware that as a poet I must fossilize them in my work in some way, so i can acknowledge more closely how I became the person i am today. This awareness of the other person grants me a higher awareness of myself.

The people that I haven’t been able to write about until after they died have been problematic people in my life. But of course, problematic people are also worth writing about, perhaps moreso than ones that aren’t.

Grief recharges our memory, brings to the foreground of our brains events or images we thought we had forgotten. It’s painful to relive the experiences you had with a person when they were alive. Having lost a very problematic figure in my life recently, I’m realizing that I am writing about him more. Or at least I am sparked to write about him, I feel like I have to, and I’ve been wrestling with this impulse for the past few weeks and trying to satiate it. But then I thought–My brain is telling me to write about this person. It might have the right idea.  In a way, grief is a good way to break writer’s block. Ironically.

Any thoughts on living vs dead sources? Are any of you guys specifically motivated or inspired by grief or deceased persons in your life? Maybe a deceased celebrity?

 

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

Page Poetry vs Slam Poetry

Hello friends!

So lately I feel like I have been straddling the line between page poetry and slam poetry.  Oftentimes I find myself wanting to write page poetry but I end up writing slam instead.  I am trying to marry these two forms together because I really love them both and want them to work together.  My biggest concern is that slam poetry isn’t “complex” enough–that there often isn’t something that needs to be figured out.  But that is what I like about slam!  It is raw and real and doesn’t require more than the listeners open ears.  Sometimes I don’t want my audience to do work–I want them to know exactly what I’m feeling…

I recently wrote this piece and while I want it to be a page piece, it truly reads like slam:  Continue reading

Dear Jake

While I applying to study here at SUNY Geneseo, I had a close friend applying to be a foreign exchange student in Spain. Luckily, we both got accepted. It was odd, our final goodbye, sitting across from one another in the booth of a mostly-empty Friendly’s. I will admit that I was a bit irritated around that time because as someone who values personal space, Jake was too… clingy, I guess… and I was ready for some space. Still, it was sad to say goodbye.

A few weeks passed as I grew accustomed to the new collegiate setting. I soon found myself seated in front of my lap, typing out an email. Time passed and I received a response, and this continued on.

As I wrote letters to Jake detailing my life here at Geneseo and he regaled stories of Spain and rowdy foreign exchange students, I began to think about the excitement of getting a new email in my inbox. Then I started thinking of poetry in the form of letters.

I think it’s interesting, seeing what people put to paper as opposed to what they are really thinking, and the format of letting someone close to them know what’s new in their life. I just thought this was an interesting source for writing, especially as a form that is more uncommon in today’s day and age.

D!$$

How come there is no diss culture in poetry? Or is there one and I just spend too much time listening to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below?  Anyway, I wonder if there are poems out there were poets are specifically called out. Not like in a letter, or an op ed, but like a genuine poem that uses figurative language. Here is a diss to poets I’ve been working on:

Continue reading

“Honest Confessions on Letting Go.”

Hi all!

I just realized I haven’t been on the blog in a while–oops!  Seems like the end of the semester is creeping up on me!

These past two semesters have been crazy whirlwinds for me and I’ve found myself letting go of a lot of things that I am reluctant to depart from.  Today I was thinking about how badly I miss writing slam poetry, and found myself listening to it.

Kevin Kantor’s “Honest Confessions on Letting Go” has been one of my favorite slam pieces in the Button Poetry collection.  I always find myself going back to his stuff–along with Neil Hilborn’s, of course.

Lytton–I apologize if I’ve posted this piece on the blog during a previous workshop, but I do want to say something about this piece (and poetry in general) that I didn’t recognize before.  I think that as time passes our perception of poetry changes based on our perception of the world.  If I go back and read an old piece I wrote freshman or sophomore year, I find that that poem was created from an  old version of me.  I am only starting to recognize that I am constantly changing.  While this is not the most pleasant thing to admit, I think that it’s important to recognize the importance of letting go; Kevin Kantor does so beautifully.