“RIP Nelson Mandela, you were a great actor, and Bruce Almighty is my favorite ever film…”

After reading some examples of found poetry, I’m reading empanada recipes and lengthy handwritten letters from my grandma as potential sources to pull from. Last class, we looked at a few ways in which found poems like “Blonde” form political statements about stereotypes and sexual violence. The article we covered investigated appropriation within McDaniel’s use of found poetry. I started to see found poetry in this somewhat negative light, thinking it can only materialize into something serious or harmful.

I remembered a series of videos I watched a few years back, titled “YouTube Comment Reconstruction”. It’s found poetry portrayed in such a comedic way. It’s hilariously brilliant. Film maker Adrian Bliss (side note: my last post was about musician Tom Rosenthal, who creates music for Adrian and other artists, check them both out!!) directed 10 videos in which 2 very posh old British gentlemen hold a conversation. Their script? A conversation from the YouTube comments section (oh, yes), riddled with the amount of rudeness, stupidity, ignorance, and trolling(?) that one would expect to find down there. The one I shared below is my favorite video, in which one user confuses Nelson Mandela with Morgan Freeman… Enjoy!

Ah, the Great Outdoors (indoors is also nice)

I wanted to talk about nature, for some reason. It might have something to do with the slew of foggy forest mountain range photos I’ve reblogged or the sight of mud and dead grass outside my window, but I felt like exploring some of the biggest connections I have with nature. So here’s a list:

1.) My mother and I used to roll down the hill beside the firehouse in my hometown, then rip up a bunch of clovers. More than caring about the elusive four-leafed gem, we would pick the ones we thought seemed the nicest. We even ate a few and I distinctly remember being surprised by how sour a few of them tasted when most of them were just sort of bland and grassy. I love sour candy, though, so it was a nice surprise.

2.) I “own” a tree in a public park. My family called it the Princess Tree. They would pick me up and place me in it’s awkward little cradle and I always felt really happy there. I had a collection of pinecones and acorns nearby, which was cool. On the topic of trees, Weeping willows were always my favorite, but now it’s tied with various trees that flower really nicely like cherry, dogwood, and wisteria.

3.) I used to keep earthworms as pets. They were all wriggly and slimy and I’m pretty sure that’s a solid third of the reason why I had more male friends than female.

4.) Behind a family friend’s house and near that Mom & Pop-type smoothie place that’s shut down now–they made great blueberry smoothies, let me solve puzzles for hours, and would let me get quesadillas with extra cheese–there was a crab apple tree. I ate a ton of them. Once, I ate enough in one sitting to get a terrible stomachache. I required many tummy pats and a nap.

5.) My grandmother had a garden in Maine where she grew tomatoes and squash and other hearty sort of veggies. I got to paw at the dirt and adjust vines with her. I liked being able to help. Sometimes, my Nana would select a few squash blossoms and we’d go inside to fry them. All she added was a bit of oil, some pepper, and a pinch of salt, but those things were the absolute best. Flowers! You could eat flowers! Clovers were one thing, but flowers? So cool!

6.) I want a garden or maybe a greenhouse or maybe both when I’m older. I’m definitely going to get houseplants, that’s for sure. I want to make my house feel half-Hobbit hole, half-Hufflepuff dorm. So natural light, books, and plants are key. Will there be a terrarium in the bathroom? Of course. Terrariums are adorable and I want to smile while I brush my teeth.

So…do you guys have any interesting/really memorable moments with nature? Do you have favorite plants or aspirations for gardens or something?

 

SUBMIT!

Submission sounds like a dirty word.

When I think of submission, I think of the Church and I think of writing. Either way, I have always been too stubborn to NOT cringe at the thought of submitting under someone else (even if that person is Jesus). I don’t like things being out of my hands and under someone else’s control (which has caused issues in both my faith and my writing).

When it comes to writing, I see SUBMIT! written all over the place. Working at the Union, I’m in charge of approving and hanging up posters. There was a day when I approved a poster about a literary magazine asking us to

SUBMIT! NOW! TODAY!

…I stared at it for a solid ten minutes.  It made me nauseous. I thought of the rejection that may await, of the glances at a work I’ve written that will deem it un-ready, of the shame and embarrassment. I thought, in a whir of self-condemnation, about how big my ego must be if it gets deflated so much by a simple “We can’t accept your work at this time.”

I desire to share my work by the off chance that some soul will read it and think, someone gets it. That it’ll make someone out there feel a little less alone, a little more understood. I want my work to be for others and not for myself, so why is it so difficult to risk hitting that SUBMIT! button? Am I afraid of rejection or am I afraid that my family will read the work and be offended by the personal things I expose about them (though most often it’s more embarrassing for myself)?

I have no answers, only questions: are you afraid of submission? What fears do you have in submitting your work? What joy do you have in submitting work?

 

Painting instead of Writing

Hello, all

I’ve been struggling to find something to write about in this post… mostly because I’ve been struggling to write anything this past week. I’ve been on an artistic binge, which is always great, but it’s been directed toward painting rather than poetry. Normally, I don’t mind. Hell, I doubt I really notice when I lean toward painting and visual art and away from writing and poetry. I’m just in a poetry workshop where writing poetry throughout the semester is sort of an obvious requirement.

I’ve been trying to connect the two by creating art based loosely on past poems I’ve written/ideas I plan to write. In doing so, I’ve noticed I’ve been adding elements of collage into my pieces, which I don’t typically do–not a very popular form of art. Rather underrated, unfortunately. Possible future rant about the school system: How it teaches art, emphasizing collage as some sort of “fun crafts project” rather than an actual medium.

In the spirit of collage as a medium (and for the sake of not missing another blog post), I wanted to share some pieces/artists I’ve been looking toward for inspiration. Enjoy.

 

George Grosz,

The last one isn’t collage. I just stumbled upon Nancy Spero’s work today and felt like adding it because I thought it was cool.

“What to Do When a Politician Tries to Fall into Your Vagina Feet First”

Hi all,

This weeks exercise encourages us to write about something political.  I just came across this slam performance by Theresa Davis.  The piece is protesting the governments hand in women’s rights.  I have listened to it at least 5 times now; it’s so powerful and important.

Some of my favorite lines:

“If I had wanted you down there, you would have been invited.”

“If your god really wanted you in my pants he’d have made you me.”

“The day another human being falls from your body like grace, that’s the day you get to walk in my shoes.”

Please watch and let me know what you think.

-Ari

 

grappling with mother earth as a source//questions on eco-poetry

One of my goals for this semester of workshop has been to unpack my connection to nature and to the Earth, (as a source for my writing) and try to be more mindful while doing so.  Something I have been struggling recently is the issue of agency and responsibility, and being hyperaware of many instances in nature that we are scared by, annoyed by, or simply do not notice. My thoughts always come back to this: the world was here first, so what are we doing?

I’ve been writing a lot in my journal lately little reminders to myself for dealing with the sometimes crippling effects of trauma and grief. Among the ones that keep popping up are telling/owning your story, using the creative arts, and letting go of isolation. I thought I had boiled down 12 years of therapeutic interventions. But just yesterday I had to revisit this.

I was listening to the radio more to drown out the sound inside my own head than to take in anything new from NPR. But there it was. An opening line that reminded me of the integral piece of recovery I had forgotten. The report started something like this: “World War II veteran Earl Shaffer is believed to be the first American to walk the Appalachian Trail in one season, and his diary details the 124-day south-to-north trek. Back in 1948, Shaffer said he wanted to, ‘Walk the Army out of his system.'”

Walking off the war. I understood that. The report went on to talk about Warrior Expeditions, which, in recognizing the therapeutic effects of long distance outdoor expeditions, followed in Earl Shaffer’s footsteps, creating the Warrior Hike, Warrior Bike and Warrior Paddle programs, all designed to help combat veterans transition from their military service. As I listened, a flood of connections came rushing to the forefront of my mind. I remembered reading how when Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother died only hours apart, he found emotional healing from his intense and crippling depression in the only way he could: by heading for the Dakota territories and living and working as a rancher. Roosevelt’s experiences out west during this difficult time catalyzed his work as a conservationist, in large part because he believed nature was a healing modality that should be available to everyone.

(This is another one of my main frustrations–how we have entirely changed the meaning of ‘necessary’ and ‘available’) But, I digress…

I have often talked about childhood trauma, sexual abuse and/or incest as microcosms of war. Thus, it makes complete sense to me that soldiers who leave the battlefield fatigued and traumatized find comfort in communion with nature because no single thing has healed the deepest fissures in me, left by years and years of physical and sexual abuse, as well or as quickly as hiking a National Park trail up a mountain, standing at the foot of a vast ocean, or wandering the red rocks of a desert canyon.

Nature doesn’t just heal emotional and psychological wounds. It heals physical ones.

I know that whenever my “living inside my head” has simply become too much, when the work of living seems to hurt and my soul feels bruised to the touch, I can always find solace and peace at the foot of the ocean, my bare feet sinking into sand, the sound of the waves in my ears and the smell of saltwater leaking into the pores of my skin. Nature makes no demands on me but that I slow down, breathe and live, as I am supposed to, in the transience of now.

Now, this semester, because I am taking an eco-criticism course with Professor Cooper, and exploring poetic sources in workshop, I have not been able to shake any of these sentiments from my head. I recognize the benefit and the connection that I feel with nature–I feel that I am re-cultivating that connection in a healthy, non-selfish way. But I want my relationship with the natural world to be symbiotic, and I do not think that simply using nature to unwind and then writing poetry about it is necessarily fair. I guess what I’m trying to get to is that I want to understand how my agency works here–how I can use the natural world to bring myself back into it naturally, and encourage others to bring themselves back as well–not simply because it is an easy way to clear your mind, but because I feel it is one of the only ways left to investigate our purpose in this life.

Does anyone else experience any similar frustrations? How do you guys use nature in your own work? Do you think it is selfish? What are the benefits from relating mental illness to the natural world?

there are so many questions…..

Hippos

I will always be glad of the way Ms. Steele, my sixth grade English teacher, introduced myself and other children to poetry. Sixth grade wasn’t the first introduction to poetry as a whole- it’s near impossible to get through childhood without poetry of any kind- but as an introduction to reading and understanding it as well as writing it. As a fantasy-driven kid, I loved when the assignment was to make up words like they were commonplace, while my very stoic friend liked the strict rhyme schemes. It was interesting to think of how many ways thoughts could be put to paper, how creativity could be expressed.

Poetry lost its free form as I grew older, becoming something somber and lyrical. Poems were written about the forest and love and wondering about which path to trod. While I understood and even enjoyed some of these poems, I never realized how much I missed the freedom of the children’s poems. They were written for simpler thinking, for the bounce of the sounds and the lightness of topics. Sure, they didn’t quite make sense and they bent rules just for the hell of it, but it was fun. Kids didn’t care how it was written, just as long as it was entertaining, and while poetry is some sort of game for adults, finding meaning in the nuances and listening to schemes, I love the simplicity of children’s poems.

One of the poems I remember reading and enjoying in sixth grade was Jack Prelutsky’s “The Average Hippopotamus”:

The average hippopotamus

is big from top to bottomus,

It travels at a trotamus,

And swims when days are hotamus.

 

Because it eats a lotamus,

It’s practically a yachtamus,

So it’s a cinch to spotamus

The average hippopotamus.

Sure, the poem makes words rhyme with hippopotamus forcefully, but it’s an enjoyable poem to read. Also, how many poems are written about hippos? Not many that I know of.

I guess I just felt like reflecting back on the poetry kids get to read, how poetry nowadays tackles objects a lot heavier than hippopotamuses (which is hard to do (sorry for the bad joke)), and I like the lightness of kids’ poetry. Makes it easier to forget about the doom and gloom that is reality.

Note: Hippopotamus is not fun to write, especially in plural.

 

I guess I’ll blog about love…*collective sigh*

I told the guy I’m seeing that I don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. He was relieved to hear this, of course, so he wouldn’t have to try and present a gift that represents love when “I love you” has been a taboo phrase in our relationship. I thought about writing him some sort of love poem, but I couldn’t…what would I call it, anyways? A “like” poem? Anywho, I think all of this talk about love had me thinking about poetry and source. Love poetry is a terrifying and unfamiliar territory for me. I can write about seemingly mundane and obsessively minute things, but big concepts like love leave me in a chokehold. I get angry reading some of the love poetry I see online…especially when poets equate their lovers to their UNIVERSE. I don’t like the idea of being in someone else’s orbit, and it drives me crazy to see love become “you. are. my. everything.” I don’t hate love whatsoever, I just have a hard time writing about it while balancing what I learned in church growing up, what I’ve observed around me, what I’ve experienced myself…it’s a confusing abstraction. How do you guys feel about love poems? Have you ever presented someone else with a poem directed at them? How do you encompass the wholeness of love in a single (no pun intended) poem?

To conclude, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite poems. In high school, in the library during 3rd period, I came across this love poem by John Frederick Nims and ended up scotch-taping it, handwritten on a torn page of my student planner, to my hot pink bedroom wall until graduation. “THIS IS IT!” I thought, realizing that this was the only love poem I had never scoffed at or winced while reading. I loved how messy this love was, and how ordinary and flawed it was as well. This poem felt real to me. I hope you all enjoy it as I did, and have a lovely Valentine’s Day (whether you’re a lover or a cynic or just plain confused).

Love Poem
(by John Frederick Nims)

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apopleptic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.

 

<3

“milk and honey”

Hi all,

I found myself struggling when deciding what to post on the blog this week.  I was looking through some of my books for inspiration, and I figured I would post some of my favorite pieces from Rupi Kaur’s “milk and honey.”   Her book is currently one of the best-selling contemporary collections of poetry.

Regarding Kaur’s sources, I believe she is writing (a) to help her readers through traumatic experiences similar to  her own, (b) about what it means to be a minority (regarding her gender and race), and (c) about relationships (familial and romantic).  These are the sources I notice the most, but I’m sure they don’t stop here.

My absolute favorite poem of hers  is on page 51:

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