I have a fear of public spaces and get anxious at the thought of having my writing or voice floating around. This public forum is no exception. But I figured I could use my fear in a productive way because I do have to post.
The Language of Cosmo…
Today in class, the exercise of writing in a ‘language’ was so interesting. The jargon that we use in specific tasks was mesmerizing to think about, and brainstorm. Immediately, fashion came to my mind. When I speak about specific fabrics, or styles, my family often thinks I’m crazy because they don’t know my ‘language’. I am often inspired by pinterest boards and ‘90s movies in relation to style… this tongue is second hand to me. I read Cosmo like the bible, and I translate it naturally… I would like to share my ‘trot’ with you all… AKA what I wrote in our four minutes of reflective writing:
The Language of Cosmo
Vogue cannot compare–even the Paris issue where I swear it was a half-loop stitch on China silk–puckering in on itself. The Devil wears Prada, I hear, but I always preferred Louis… Do these people know the difference between Louis Vuitton and Louboutin? Two different countries, sweetie. Social suicide is high these days–just like my brow. Threaded. By hand–like a Birkin bag. A black Birkin bag–black is always the new black, Darling.
I am excited to look into revisions soon! My writing goal with this task was to look into the double (or triple..?) meanings that the words cosmo/ cosmopolitan has–and to base a poem off of that word play. That’s the goal!
While on vacation I enjoyed reading The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. Although the book is considered fiction, there were moments that I was tempted to grab a pen and underline a few lines that I think would have been great lines of poetry. A few of these very lyrical moments made me think of some other fiction authors whose work I admire, such as Jodi Picoult and Barbara Kingsolver. When asked why I like these authors I always state that their characters are incredibly realistic and their style is very lyrical. Perhaps, I am drawn to their writing because of this lyrical quality and my poetic history. I eventually realized that some of my favorite fiction authors can almost be considered poets; in order to stay interested in a novel, I have to find beauty in the lines/sentences, rather than just the characters and plots.
Eventually, I realized that there is a rift between the different genres.We are always driven to proclaim which category we fall under and which we despise. Scan through the class listings for upper level creative writing classes and you’ll catch fiction, nonfiction and poetry workshops. Imagine if there was not as large a divide as we originally imagined. Although, there are exceptions, such as prose poetry, I still would like to see fiction and nonfiction writers acknowledging poetic techniques and elements. I love when certain sentences stand out, just as lines do.
Does anyone else have any other fiction or nonfiction authors who seem to weave poetry into their work?
What I like to call “the literary rush” is sometimes the sensation I base my existence around. I kind of use this phrase in a half joking, hyperbolic manner, because I’m sure when I say it to friends it brings to mind an image of someone snorting lines of poetry (I feel a little clever for writing that, but I’m near positive it’s been written before) or something of the sort. But I don’t know, I really do feel great after reading something unique and interesting. The last poem to elicit such a feeling for me was the “The Second Coming” by W.B Yeats. After reading it I felt momentarily overcome by some sort of exotic energy. A little bit of dread and a little bit of excitement. In an earlier post I complained about a lack of the sublime in my life, but sometimes such a feeling comes close.
On occasions I’ll write something that I really like and get a bit giddy. Later I may look it over and not feel as great about it, but for those few seconds I’m in a really upbeat mood. Maybe I just get over-caffeinated before reading and writing poetry, but all the same it’s important to me.
I’m generally an upbeat person, but on the rare occasions where I feel as if I’ve chased my usual pleasures into a state of extinction, I set my aim solely on achieving this sensation. Until I’m myself again I use the “literary rush” as a buoy to keep me afloat. I know one shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, but I feel as if poetry is made of sturdy enough weave to justify doing so. I’ll never run out of good poetry to read, I’ll hopefully never run out of inspiration for my own material, so when things get dour I can depend upon the feeling achieved from flipping through a collection of good sonnets to keep me going until my mood improves.
I’m sure I’ve said this more than once before, but I’ll say it again: I love music. So much that I wonder why I’m not interested in being a musician. My oldest memories of music involve family movie nights and my dad trying to teach himself “Linus and Lucy” on the piano. Now I get absorbed in music while stocking shelves at work; while my sister (who is also very self-taught) sings Lukas Graham’s “7 Years”, bringing our family’s piano back to life. It’s always played a major role in my life, and stirs up old feelings and memories unlike anything else.
The excitement I get from listening to music is what I’ve longed to experience in my writing again. This past week’s writing exercise helped me find it. Writing to a song was perfect, since music is a huge inspiration to me. I remember reading something years ago about how an author (I think it was Gail Carson Levine) loves struggling to find just the right words for her books. That’s something I’ve always wanted. And this exercise gave me a chance to see what it’s like. It felt like a puzzle that had to be solved with creativity.
Like music, there’s something in writing poetry that I haven’t found elsewhere. There’s a kind of curiosity I get. It’s this realization that there are still things my mind is capable of doing that I don’t know yet. I’ve noticed before how I can learn something about a person through their writing, but I never knew the things I could learn about myself as I write. Poetry has a special way of showing me what I don’t know.
I’ve never really considered myself a poet. Fiction has always been what I want to work with most, and the title “poet” sounds to me like something I can’t possibly earn. There’s a weight to it I can’t quite explain. I still plan on publishing novels someday, but I’ve realized I can’t push poetry aside. I love it. I just keep forgetting it. I need to remind myself every so often. This would be my answer to the question of what would make me feel more like a poet: acknowledging it myself. Believing others when they tell me I’m a poet. Hearing people call me that gives me a little confidence boost. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. So whenever I doubt myself (which happens frequently), I think I should also be one to remind myself that I am a poet.
The question of writerly labels recently surfaced in a Poetry Workshop: Do those of us who feel passionately enough about poetry feel that we can label ourselves as poets?
The reactions were mostly negative. When asked what made us feel like poets, the responses were mixed, and filled with hopeful talk about what would make the label “poet” stick. I didn’t speak in class about what would make me feel like a poet, because I don’t feel as though anything will. I’m also not a fictionalist, although it’s the genre that I prefer. Nonfiction is a genre so far away from my interests, I consider it alien in nature. I hate being called an author, even though some of my work has been picked up by small magazines. That title is too hefty for me to bear.
The one thing that I will allow people to call me is writer, because it’s what I do: I write. I tell stories. I fabricate lies, lives, worlds, scenarios, drama. “Writer” is an androgenous word that doesn’t put any pressure on me to produce one type of genre. The word is actually freeing. Being a writer means that I have the right to produce any work I wish, show it to whomever I want, and abandon a story or poem, to start on a new one. The word has no bounds, and that is what I love about it. Writing is something that can be done at any time of the day, at any place, no matter the outstanding circumstances. And therefore, the person who produces the writing also deserves a multi-purpose word. Writer is about the only label I’ve ever put on myself, and will continue to.
During last class’ writing exercises I generated “self-sufficiency” and “appearing strong both physically and emotionally” as some of my obsessions, and “being vulnerable or weak” as one of my fears. From there I came up with an idea for a writing prompt, which went as follows: imagine that I am always flexing (now realize that that’s what I do emotionally).
An aspect of my personality which I think is very distinctive is my refusal to show weakness, and therefore my constant bottling up of emotions. Poetry is essentially the only outlet I allow myself to indulge in, and even then, I set strict parameters for myself in doing so and continually try to maintain a toughness in my voice.
I’m beginning to realize that, because of this, my poetry has a tendency to be rather guarded. I’m obsessed with being impenetrable, and that part of me carries over into my poems. With regard to both my well-being and the quality of my writing, though, I’d reckon this is likely unhealthy. As such, I’ve been making a more defined effort to open myself up to my poetry and learn to be vulnerable, at least with myself. Of course, this is never easy, especially for somebody who so deeply values fronting as strong.
But yeah, I’m making a pact with myself to be more vulnerable in my work, even if that’s the work I never share. Feel free to let me know if you have any advice on how you all have learned to surrender yourselves more fully in your poems.
Also, I’m going to link a really fascinating article relevant to poetry below, check it out if you get the chance! It’s an interesting consideration of truthfulness, both in life and in writing.
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed that my friends are often very surprised when they first meet my dad and hear his very thick Colombian accent and realize that this man is my father. My dad came to this country when he was 25 and had to learn English from scratch. While my dad did learn the language he was never concerned with perfecting it, he was satisfied just to understand and it comes out a lot in daily conversation. My father pronounces his hellos like HAlo and in my house all spiders are girls. If you were to see a spider instead of saying let’s kill it, its let’s kill her because in Spanish words have gender. Stairs are pronounced estairs and if you want some fruit you could have some estrawberries. (in Spanish there is no “sss” sound just “es”) After dropping me off at school one day after receiving bad news he said very profoundly “When it pours it rains” It’s almost like his mind knows what the correct phrase is and then flips it just for fun.Yet this is the same voice that read to me Shel Silverstein growing up and without knowing that I would enjoy writing, gave me the nickname, Papelita (little paper) that he created because he liked how Danielle and Papel sounded together. He fed into my imagination and luckily I inherited his storyteller voice (without the accent) from years of listening to all of the stories he would tell me about his life in Colombia.
Due to my dad being such a big influence in my life, I immediately know what he is trying to say, even if it’s off. I remember over winter break, we were going somewhere and when we got out of the car my dad said: “Make sure you shut the window” at that moment I knew he meant car door even if he didn’t say it. So I shut the door without hesitation and we went on our way neither one of us acknowledging the correct term. My mind works quick to forge a connection, anything to grab onto so that we can be on the same page (so that we can both function as normal people). The only consequences are that when your brain prioritizes being on the same page, grammar gets thrown out the window. I don’t ever get tripped up by bad grammar and to me pretty much everything sounds right. Which is terrifying as an English major where intelligence is expressed through the sentence structure.
The other day my friends and I were joking about long distance relationships and I used the phrase “out of mind out of sight” to which my friend said, “what are you talking about Danielle?” It’s not the first time I’ve said something backward. My relationship with the English language is a very loose one, and I tend to disregard the rules as I go. It doesn’t help that growing up my dad would use the incorrect term for something that I thought was actually the word for it. For instance, I didn’t realize that a tablecloth could never be called a cover- even if its used to cover a table. When I write I fear my words are convoluted and what I say sounds stupid. My mom once read the first draft of something I’ve written and said “this is why you check off the Latina box for applications” and whenever I missay phrases my first thought is “how could I make that mistake, I’m an idiot.”
Despite my grammatical errors, when it comes to creative writing I realized that I have an advantage in writing in the first person. If I write the way my character speaks I can convey a much stronger voice in the story than people who have trouble connecting to a character’s speaking tone. I think that over the years my struggle with grammar has humbled me, that I have to accept that I don’t have the same ability to write grammatically flawless work which can come effortlessly to others. It has been ingrained in my mind that to write is to rewrite and I can never afford to turn in something I wrote the day before. I’ve learned to endure the editing process (after I’m done staring in horror at all of the red and green lines across the word document) knowing that my work can be made better if I choose to work at it. Something that I may not have realized if my minimum effort allowed me to coast in my writing.
Sometimes, writing poetry frustrates me. I’ve mentioned (and probably made it clear in workshop at this point) that sound is oftentimes more important to me than actual content. I’ve always found that music expresses more emotion than words on a page ever can for me, and so I want to express myself in that way (musically) too. Problem is, even though I sing, I don’t play any instruments. Today I was reflecting on this, and considering writing some a cappella solo stuff and recording it, as a small start. My boyfriend and I sometimes talk about writing music together (he plays guitar, among other things) but it’s difficult to do because we’re long distance. We could be the next Postal Service but it’s much harder than it sounds. Besides, as much as I would like to, I don’t have time to be in a band. And I’ve never written music before.
When I’m staring at a blank page, I just want to bleed the sound in my headphones onto it until it forms the lines of the letters that would be right to make someone’s heart detach the way mine did. To open my emotions, figure out their pattern, and translate it to language. That’s a daunting task, and no science or technology can do it. It’s up to me. And sometimes I honestly just want to punch a hole in the wall because I can’t figure it out. Emotions are important to me, but I can’t seem to convey them through the cold monochromatic letters on a page.
I enjoy other ways of expressing myself besides music. I’ve danced since childhood, and I enjoy visual art a lot (though I know little about it, and am not good at it). I desire to use movement, lines, and color to express myself rather than simply the words on a page. I’m starting to think through ways that I could use multiple forms of media to express emotion rather than just poetry by itself. I want to branch out as I create rather than stick to one thing at a time. I think that different forms of art compliment and inform one another.
I apologize for the angsty nature of this post and I want to open it up for discussion: Do any of you feel a similar emotional frustration when writing poetry? What other modes do you prefer to express emotion? Have you created any multimedia works, or collaborations?
My roommates are psych majors. Not to demean this major in any way, but they often cannot comprehend what I do as an English major.
They sometimes ask to read my poetry, and almost always I say no because they won’t appreciate it, or understand the tools used and hard work put it–it is simply not worth showing them. They are proud in everything that I do, but they just don’t understand this ‘poetry thing’ that I do.
My most recent encounter with this was when I showed my friend my Marlboro Orange poem, because she asked to see it. And immediately, looking at the page, she laughed at the line “my enamel screams,” because it didn’t make sense and just sounded funny… this hurt my feelings because I was vulnerable enough to show her my hard work, and yet she couldn’t comprehend what it meant. As a poet, I seek approval, but from her, I didn’t receive that. I know she didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, she just couldn’t understand. That then questioned my motif of who I am writing for … and why?
In addition, after having my notebook open, she looked at my workshopped pieces and saw all of the scribbles and notes encompassing my poem that you all gave to me after class and she said “OMG, who did this to your poem?!”… she was shocked by the criticism and feedback, thinking it was ‘mean.’
Overall, I do seek approval, and it is hard to tell my friends I am poet, just as it hard to explain to them where I am every Monday night.