Library Hours

Over the “spring” break, while trapped in my lovely boyfriend’s small hometown for three extra days due to the blizzard (can’t complain), I got some much needed library time. He and I, both advocates of “Woah There, I Need Space” tend to do this thing where we frequent bookstores and libraries, but the moment we walk through the doors we fully acknowledge that we won’t see each other for a good two hours, besides occasionally hearing a snicker or a gasp from a few shelves over (side note- wondering how I could bring in a physical representation of these cherished moments for the source showcase). That is my idea of love. Braving the bitter wind and whiteout conditions, arm-in-arm, glove-in-glove, the walk to the local public library felt like a mission or maybe the trek to Disney World. It also felt like frozen eyelashes and potential frostbite.

After perusing the local history section, trying to persuade myself into caring about the forefathers of Albany and Schenectady, I struck gold in finding a massive dusty anthology about wildflowers of New York from the early 1900s. Laying on the carpeted floor in the botany and nature section, I was overwhelmed with the amount of language I had found in this book. I then pulled Jorie Graham’s “The Dream of the Unified Field” and read these two vastly different collections side by side. I felt like an alchemist, scribbling and discovering the intersections between Graham and Mr. Wildflower (I couldn’t remember the author) in my trusty journal. I felt a little sheepish in trying to craft a poem that stole lines from Jorie Graham, as if my poems should be bowing down to her in reverence, but for some reason this combination of sources just worked. I don’t think I’m insightful enough to describe why, but somehow these channels of source and language gave me what I needed to write a poem I’ve been meaning to write for awhile (but wanted to do justice). It was a sort of magic.

I want more library moments in my life, in my writing. I am continually wondering how many faded shag carpets and bookshelves I’ll have to loiter until I have some sort of divine intuition about what can combine, what I can mash my experiences and ideas with to create something new. I wonder how to come across source not just by accident but by knowing that the sources will work well together. I love the idea of having a poem in my head, in my Grace-voice, and being able to employ multiple sources that use language and images that attack my head-poem and contribute to it from wildly different angles.

When it comes to multiple sources, how do you know what the poem in your head needs? How do you know what it dreams of? How do you peruse the shelves of the library with intention rather than stumbling across books and other sources that happen to work? Or is this just another case of the “happy accident?”

P.S. I was so excited I lost track of time, but boyfriend managed to find me and pull me away from the library with “we should probably eat dinner at some point.”

Identity as Writers

National Geographic posted a short video about the late Yvonne Dowlen. In it, she details the interesting life she led. The path of her skating career is a very sweet one and the video talks at length about what skating offered her and why she continued to skate for so long. I think it was a nice video and recommend it if you have some free time.

Dowlen’s lifelong dedication to and affection for the sport is quite beautiful, as are the clips of her performances. I’m curious to know if all of you believe that writing, whether its poetry or something else, is intrinsic to who you are and who you always will be. Personally, I’ve always sort of defined myself as a writer but not so much as a poet, despite the fact that I’ve amassed more poems in my lifetime than any other creative writing. I believe this is because poetry tends to be more of a pastime or outlet for my thoughts and emotions, whereas my fiction (and more recently nonfiction) is more about how I want to define my life/career I want to lead. If that makes sense? Poetry is something I can always turn to but my other writing is both a desire and a necessity.

Just thought I’d ask that and show you all this cool video. Pun kinda intended.

Art as Source

Does anyone have forms of art that they do that they feel less attached to?

For me, it’s painting, which I do when I’m less into what my brain seems to view as forms of art I’m more attached to (e.g. writing). It lets me continue to be creative so that part of me doesn’t shrivel and die, but it feels lighter, if that makes much sense. Although, part of me feels bad that I feel less attached to it, and as though I’m not doing that form of art the justice it deserves because I care less.

That aside, painting feels like something of a source, because ideas of poetry seem to come up, or I find myself translating the art pieces into poetry pieces.

I’m curious to know if anyone else has other forms of art that they fall to when they aren’t writing poetry and if the ideas that spark these other forms bleed into poetry (or, rather, find themselves eventually translated into poetry or vice versa).

Love/Hate Relationship with Poetry

And then Amanda realizes she hasn’t contributed to this blog in, like, a month…

I’ve had a weird love/hate relationship with poetry—and with most forms of art—the past few weeks. I love them, but creating them feels overwhelming. I feel that I can put the words together, but I can’t attach meaning.

Part of this comes from not wanting to write about the same topics I have been writing about (mostly trauma), but when I try to write about other things, the poem takes life of its own and then trauma and whatever I’m working on in therapy forces its way in… which, yes, has made my shrink overwhelmingly happy. Me, less so. For me, it feels repetitive, and I start to wonder if I’m simply ruminating on the same ideas rather than processing them, which in turn, takes away my need to write less. In compensation, I’ve been trying to read more poetry, but it seems in shutting down the part of me that wants to write, I’ve also shut down the part of me that wants to read, and I find less meaning in the words written by others (or, rather, concentration feels harder). So in compensation to that, I’ve been trying to do more art and listen to more music, which often results in similar manners (but I do want to write another post relating to art, so I won’t go into detail on that).

Anyone else ever feel this way? This post turned into a bit of a rant, rather than a comment on source in poetry. But, you know.

Mapping Consciousness & Using People as Sources

Hey all!

So, as some of you may know by now, a lot of my poetry is heavily influenced by mental spaces and human consciousness. I’ve been exploring what I’ve been referring to as a “three-dimensional consciousness” which is, the closest holistic view of yours or another’s mind works. I’ve been unpacking this idea lately with a lot more fervor, as my desire to paint a holistic image of certain people has been at a great height. When I say ‘certain people’ I mean that, I’ve come to realize as a writer that the people or events that are hardest for me to write about are lacking substance or gaps of time due to my own mental illness, and memory’s general lapses and unreliability. I’ve been focusing more on SPECIFIC details about these people, which, for family members can be easy (when I am around them and can record specific body movements, engage in conversations with them). However, for me, I’ve been more focused on forging this three-dimensional consciousness for those that we don’t have the luxury of being in the presence of. My motivation in doing this is twofold. 1) I recognize the power of poetry to be a self-preserving act, that I have full control & agency over, and recognize the power of this in healing from traumatic events. Part of this may be painting a holistic image of someone no longer in my life, or deceased, in order to come to terms with losing them, and fossilize their presence in my art. and 2) my passion for psychology & gender issues has led me to be very angry over the years at the portrayal of mentally ill female writers. one of my favorite writers, Virginia Woolf, was victim of a false or not wholesome picture of her character, and more famous example of this would be Sylvia Plath. I want to achieve this three-dimensional consciousness for figures like these to prove the irony of how we used to view women, and to hopefully alter the way biographies are written and recorded in the future. & raise appreciation for writers such as Virginia.

That being said, the purpose of this post is to explore a specific person, Virginia Woolf, as a source for my poetic writing and also a key inspiration to developing consciousness as a source as well. As some of you may know, I’ve got quite the passion for Virginia Woolf & her life. She is, for lack of a more conventional phrase, my trans-generational soulmate.

Lately I’ve been really into biographies, and interviews, and other kind of secondary source material. There’s a more wholesome and raw quality to transcribed interviews, and biographies are very comforting because they give agency to the whole of someone’s life, rather than focusing on their big period of success at the end of the life, or, in the case of female writers, focusing on their mental illness & suicide.

I am not going to be using this post to list off reasons for my kinship with Woolf, and I will refrain from ranting and raving about her work. But I will try to sum up, to some degree, that Woolf represents to me the penultimate model of the benefits of creative expression as self-preservation, and the resiliency of someone trying to balance the light with the dark, and is only remembered for the dark thereafter.

Of course, simply because I admire her, and she is my favorite author, does not make Virginia Woolf a source to my poetic writing. And, as much as I may want her to be, she doesn’t have to be a source to my writing. But she is. In more ways than one.

I’ve found myself enamored with the fact that mentally ill female writers are written off for being hysterical and not capable enough to take in life in all its multitudes. What is most ridiculous about this, to me, is that the mentally ill definitely have a sixth sense, and I would argue that women have that too. The fact that these women lived as long as they did, while also producing an immense amount of work, is admirable. I think this frustration is what propelled me to dig deeper to uncover the characteristics or stories of these people that are not popularized.  I’ve  been obsessively reading biographies about her, reading her personal volumes of letters, diaries, and essays. I’ve begun coming across very minute details that offer an entirely new perspective on Virginia Woolf. For example, I just finished a book that is entirely recollections & interviews from Woolf’s closest friends, family members, and coworkers. It is divided into sections, such as Woolf at Hogarth Press, her with friends, Traveling with Woolf, and the letters of condolence that were passed between these people when they heard about her death. It gives you a feel for the kind of person she was in various settings.

While reading these recollections, I kept coming across specific phrases that were used to describe Woolf, that struck me as entirely different from the phrases I was used to encountering while reading scholarly essays about her novels, and even in a majority of biographies about her. You can guess that the latter were phrases such as “madwoman,” “hysterical,” “loss of sanity” etc. The phrases that I collected from these recollections (ha pun unintended) were SO diverse and really calculated to what each individual thought of her. It made me realize that the way in which people are portrayed, across any medium of writing, can really lead to biases in the way we reflect on famous writers. I will copy down my list of phrases describing Adeline Virginia Woolf by her close friends, family, and contemporaries, and leave it here:



“Masterly intellect”

“Like a great bird”

“Like a frozen falcon”

“Beauty of bone”


“Very enchanting, faithful friend”

“A great storyteller”

“Tough, uncouth, out-of-Bellows Bohemian”

“A lunar remoteness”

“A beauty that increased with age”

“Possessed an ability to weave magic into life”

I will continue to give agency back to those who have inspired me in my writing pursuit, and in my living philosophies. I can definitely count Woolf as a source for my poetic writing, and hope to explore this more on these blog posts and in workshop. I’m curious if you guys have any specific people, dead/alive, famous/non-famous, whom you consider a source for your writing, or are not yet sure if they are a source?

Hope everyone is staying warm!

🙂 Juliet

Poetic Source with Richard Simmons: Podcasts as Poetic Source

Lately I’ve been trying to control my anxiety with podcasts and it’s been very helpful. It’s like this friend buzzing in your ear but you control the buzz, whenever you need it, you can turn it back on. Apart from them helping me feel less lonely at times, I started thinking about how podcasts are also really helpful poetic sources. The podcast I’ve been addicted to has been Missing Richard Simmons because it is this careful excavation of a character and who he has been to his close friends and people who don’t even know him. To give you context without spoilers, I will say the podcast is about Richard Simmon’s decision to withdraw from society as a weight loss icon. It’s interesting because the podcast has really moved me to check in on my own emotional health and put myself first in a complicated time in my life.

Looking at the above pictures, I don’t know how anyone couldn’t automatically love Richard (or at least intrigued at his life story), a boisterous and colorful personality which has been known for being an extremely complicated and empathetic person. I love it. I can’t express to you guys how much I love him. But this is why he’s a good source for me. I’ve been listening to interview clips with him and people he knows, intently learning about a character sketch that has been put together through multimedia, letters, videos, personal accounts, hearsay, his own words and many more. This is wonderful because there are all these different kinds of rhetoric and opinions and it’s almost overwhelming what kinds of poems I could write about Richard. I could write a found poem from all the interviews with people he’s helped aiming it to help a reader understand how he most likely over exerted himself, or I could write a personal poem about the impact his story has had on me or many other kinds of poems. It’s endless. So here I am recommending that you go and find a podcast you love or share your favorites  with us! It’s “share a podcast month” anyway. Podcasts are wonderful because they usually have an aesthetic which can be parallel to yours or something new, they have a defined voice with very open opinions and intent, they have a focused subject matter oftentimes opening you up to things you thought you would have never cared about (I never thought I would be thinking endlessly about Richard Simmons, but here I am writing a letter to him and writing this blog post), and podcasts aren’t hard to access, you don’t even have to read them. I think they are also incredible for stimulating an obsession when we feel like we have over exerted our ability to obsess over something enough to write about it. Feel free to talk about your fave podcasts in the comments and how they help you write! <3

At the very least, know that wherever Richard is, he most likely believes in you and your ability to succeed. <3

In Relation to my “Show Me Your List” Post…

Hi all!

I know we talked about this a little in class, but I’ll repeat myself so everyone knows what I’m blogging about.  A couple of weeks ago our writing exercise was to write a piece after making a list of words we find central to us as poets.  I requested, in my personal blog post, that you guys comment the lists you came up with so everyone could see them.  In class this week I mentioned how the poem that came from my list was one of my favorites so far.  Here it is: Continue reading “In Relation to my “Show Me Your List” Post…”

Taking Apart- “Haunt Me” by Hieu Minh Nguyen & some thoughts on performance poetry

I have a complicated relationship with performance poetry. I used to be a lot more of an active member of our slam team here in Geneseo, and I definitely think that learning more about performance poetry and the technique behind it has helped ground my writing process and also helped me to be experimental with the sonic qualities of my words. Performing poetry has connected me more to my voice. In every sense of that meaning.

My favorite thing about performance poetry is how important body language is to the piece just as much as tone and cadence and speed of speech. In some ways, there is a lot more that can be expressed through performance poetry and the visual & audible aspect of it definitely enhances the experience of the poem.

That being said, I have been missing performance poetry this semester. I have not been able to be as active with the slam team, and as I enter my final semesters here in Geneseo I am all the more enveloped in my page poetry. I’m upset with myself for making it so that I can only be engaged with one or the other. And so, recognizing the importance of both to me, I have decided that my blog post this week will explore a performance piece. I am also going to task myself with finishing a slam poetry piece while I am still working on page poems for this class, and maybe exploring a way to incorporate my physical voice into my source showcase.

Here is the video of Nguyen’s performance of the poem, and I have pasted a text version at the bottom of this post.

This is a great poem. It gives me goosebumps. The personification of memory in this piece is so eerie and real, and there is so much visceral imagery in this piece–from the little boy floating dead in a cement pool, to the heat that “dragged its endless skin across our bones.” What most floored me about this poem was how blatant some of the lines were– “The first memory I had of being molested did not come until 9 years later” what I love about this is that the language for speaking of trauma or sexual assault IS available, but it is nearly impossible to detail or talk about. Further, the shock in the aftermath leaves the victim more prone to discuss what happened in matter-of-fact language.

This poem does a fantastic job detailing the shortcomings of memory, especially in the wake of a traumatic event. “When I think of that year/ no one has a face” captures the difficulty of the memories of childhood sexual abuse not being recalled quickly, or at all–and the torturous process of piecing together these bits of painful memory. Between 1:29 and 1:42, Nguyen speeds up his voice and his tone becomes a lot more urgent, which instills a sense of panic in the audience that the speaker is himself also feeling, trying to understand where these painful memories are coming from: “at first I thought it was a dream/ thought it was a movie/ thought it was my mind filing empty spaces with noise” culminating in the very loud questions, “how how how could you not know, not remember” of other people ignorant to the experience of trauma wanting the victim to just heal and tell them what happened: “give us her name and we will give back your childhood” as if it were this simple. As if this person’s childhood is entirely different now.

The last few lines of this piece push forward an important message about trauma and the experience of healing from sexual trauma–this act of healing is a permanent journey. Trauma is a handprint that we cannot erase. It is a part of our body and our mind until we die. But we can come to understand what happened, and come to reconnect with ourselves and move past childhood experiences.

Text of “Haunt Me” by Hieu Minh Nguyen

For the longest time, the only memories I had of that year

were of little bily from the eighth floor floating dead in the pool

and how angry the rest of the tenants were

when they drained and filled the pool with cement.

or how, that summer the heat dragged its endless skina cross our bones

memory is the funniest character in the story

when i think of that year, no one has a face.

memory is an asshole. it locked my keys in my car, it stole my wallet, its fluent in english  and fucks up everyones name

it stoped watering the plants and took my grandmothers whole body

i wake up every morning grateful my apartment did not burn down

that the kettle whistling into the night was just my mind filling the silence

the first memory I had of being molested did not come until nine years later

at first I thought it a dram/ thought it a movie/ thought it was my mind filling empty spaces with noise

I was just sitting on a bus staring at a stranger’s hands

my memory has failed me

i look for her name and only see hands

i look for her face and only see hands

they say who

they say how

how how how

how could you not know?

how could you not remember?

how could you sleep with her hair in your throat?

how could you how could you how could you

give us her name and we will give you back your childhood

show us where and we will tell you how to heal

if it’s true what they say about memory being a series of rooms

then behind some locked door a wicked apothecary

her hands trapped in jars her hair growing like wild vines along the wall

somewhere in that story i am still a boy

i am 9 years old filing my body with cement to drown out the ghosts

im a statue of a boy

im 23 and all i do is sink

all i do is look for a haunting

my memory an exorcism

my memory a hallway of locked doors

my memory the sun bleaching away the shadows

They say give us proof so i give them my body

They say give us details so I give them my body

which is to say

if you cut me open

if you dissect this trauma

you wil find a pair of handprints

a 9 year old boy

fossilized in cement

Good Reviewing

We acknowledged in class that reviewing is in-depth, balanced, and encourages people to look further into a work. While I probably didn’t achieve that with my own writing, I do know of a great example of a review of Hayao Miyazaki and his incredible work (I’m already biased; I love the work that he and Studio Ghibli produce). Naturally, there is also great insight into character creation and the relationship between the audience and the work.

Side notes: This guy has a nice voice. A collection of songs from the various films is played underneath, which is beautiful and really nostalgic.

The Comfort of Habit

This past week I’ve been religiously listening to a new artist. After getting hooked on a few of her songs, I turned to YouTube to find acoustic sessions featuring this artist (because e.v.e.r.y. song sounds better acoustically, in my opinion). The video I clicked on was one of “NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert,” in which musicians play a few songs behind a tiny desk for a teeny tiny audience. It’s quaint and acoustic most of the times, which is all that matters. After playing two of her popular songs, the artist figured she would play  new one. She prefaced the song with it’s working title, “sad song 11,” since she already has 10 sad songs. The audience chuckled and she thanked them for their “courteous laughter”.

Even though this side conversation had nothing to do with me enjoying acoustic music, it struck a cord with me. As incredible and talented as this artist is, she openly acknowledged her weakness: her tendency to write sad songs repeatedly. She was self deprecating about it. Not ashamed of her work, because she loves her music. She performs her songs and markets her art for a living. Nonetheless, she judged herself for sticking to habit. I won’t read further into her, but the feelings she was displaying are so common among writers. Yes, we write what we know, which isn’t always easy to reinvent, but it’s even more true that we retreat to our established niche and write how we write best- however that may be.

This week I submitted a poem that scares the shit out of me. I honestly think I spat the poem on the page because I was so overwhelmed. I had spent all of my time consumed in the design of the poem, which involved minor photoshop skills that I severely lack. Not only was the creation of this poem complicated, it was foreign territory for me. I wanted to write sad song 11. I wanted to write down the left hand side of the page about my grandma. I was no where near my safe house, my niche. I’m weirdly embarrassed of putting something out there that felt so bad and so not me. But, this is the first step in changing my writing style and embracing all those insane (and admirable) formats I read in workshop from you all.

Tell me about your niche. Where is your comfort zone? How do you want to expand?