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.

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.

RUNNNN!

I listen to slam poetry because I like being irrevocably moved by a particularly good line or a delivery that leaves me awestruck. So, in layman’s terms, I listen to a lot of sad and/or hopeful-for-the-future mental health things and sappy romantic things (many of which are also sad). In the past year or so, however, I’ve been gradually widening my narrow scope to include material dealing with social conflict. One of the first pieces I actively enjoyed was this one.

This work not only addresses race in film and the American society as a whole, but it does so in a humorous fashion using two speakers. That’s something that really interested me as well. I don’t come across a lot of poetry shared between multiple people (outside of the obvious poet-audience relationship are the sort of one-sided relationship of found poetry). It can be argued that editing each other’s poetry is a way of sharing work, but there’s clearly a difference. I think it’s really awesome that these two men crafted something like this together. Delivering this poem with two people not only magnifies the volume of the poem, but the message as well. One voice isn’t experiencing this, it’s two…it’s many…it’s an entire race of people in this nation.

Would you consider writing a poem with another person/multiple people? What kind of message do you think is sent when poetry is created like this?

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?

 

Because I Am This Person

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Goodwill with my best friend about an hour before they closed, then we drove across the street to watch “A Dog’s Purpose” together and teared up several times. That last part is less important…That’s a lie; that film was so cute and I love puppies and it had so many happy moments and I wanted all of the dogs to be my pals!

What is important are the three books I got from Goodwill. An art book on sea monsters (I am a child, I know, fight me), a guidebook on how to survive unnatural disasters like a arachnoquake or a boaricane, and a book of translated Japanese love poems.

This is who I am. This is how I spend my spare time.

Now, seeing as this is about poetry, I could give a review on the poetry book. But I shan’t! I mean, it is really great, but I need to address how fantastic the word “beeclipse” is. Like come on, that’s so cute and punny.

Aside from the glorious puns, “How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters” is a book based on cheesy SyFy movies. This book actually exists and I can enjoy it whenever I want and it was a steal at only $2. Noice.

It’s really funny, especially because I now have the word “pirahnaconda” in my head and it will likely pop into my mind again tonight when I’m really sleepy and I’ll laugh out loud like an idiot and tell my roommate/best friend and then we’ll both laugh like idiots. Good times, good times.

There isn’t really a point to this other than to say I enjoy and admire this book’s silly humor and wanted an excuse to share these dumb words with everyone. I’m hoping that this year, I’ll come up with at least one funny, lighthearted poem to make someone smile, though. Fingers crossed!

Faith

Thanks to a subscription to Rattle: Poetry, I get some great poems sent to my email. Recently, on the 25th of this month, I had the pleasure of reading the poem below by Leila Chatti. In a brief blurb after the poem, Chatti mentioned how entwined her faith is with her identity as a person and a poet. While I myself am not religious, the concept of faith (placing one’s trust and belief in something or someone, the pledge of loyalty) is a universal message that I find both interesting and admirable. In this poem, Chatti speaks of her mother’s faith in a flexible sort of religion and her own faith in her mother. Similarly, it made me think about the connections I have with faith. I feel like it opened my eyes a bit more to the how much faith I place in my mom, how much faith she places in God, and how these things affect our dynamic (both positively and negatively). Which is a cool source to ruminate over, I think.

MY MOTHER MAKES A RELIGION

to replace the old gods. Scripture
gleaned from the backs
of magazines, stars—she follows
horoscopes like commandments,
tells me Leila, you’ll be lucky
in love this month, but watch out
for the eyes of strangers, whatever that means,
a cigarette waved like a censer
through the air, calligraphy of smoke.
My mother rubs oil for wishes
on her wrists in the dark
aisles of the wiccan shop she loves
so much (except for the tarot cards and candles
shaped like dicks, she has limits), and won’t pass
any open water without first sinking
in a coin. She insists on fortune
cookies, but only believes
the ones she likes. My mother stays wary
of magic, forbade me late night
Ouija conversations, but once
paid thirty dollars for a psychic
to summon her sister, then cried.
A child, I heard the trinity wrong—
thought God was a ghost, her faith
a haunting. But now I know God is just
like any man: shifty and often late.
God’s like a bad dog that doesn’t come
when He’s called, and my mother waits
for no one. Summers, her holy
months, she lies by the pool
and anoints her own good self
with her own good sweat. Her wet palms
turn tabloids to birds, the pages ruffled,
as she tilts her face, defiant, towards an empty sky.
In these moments, I’ll believe anything
she tells me, still and radiant
as a painting of a saint, halos
in her sunglasses and the future
sleek and spread in her hands—
my mother, Seer of the week ahead,
my mother the miracle that will save herself.

Expression and Understanding

Poetry has always felt intimate to me as I mainly use it to express and explain my inner thoughts and feelings. My work tends to be driven by my emotions and the way I analyze (or overanalyze) them. In that sense, I’d say the main source for my writing is really just my interest in balancing and understanding myself in relation to essentially everything else; I write to make my thoughts and feelings more tangible to myself and and I write to see how the world around me effects my behavior and vice versa. I’m also decently confident in my writing abilities, so there is a sense of pride and comfort attached to writing that motivates me to continue working.

I believe that as modes of expression go, voices heavily impact the way people are perceived and understood. My own speaking voice has always felt a bit lackluster to me. Moving around a lot during my youth never let me latch on to any dialect in particular and my speech patterns tend to be fairly awkward. Poetry and creative writing in general, however, let me express myself more succinctly and even allows me to create new personas for myself. I write to have a voice for when it’s difficult to verbalize.

People whom I admire also influence me. With poetry, I enjoy listening to slam poets (Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay are two favorites). Attempting to duplicate their styles using my own experiences or create something that I find equally compelling to hear are fun challenges for me. With stories, I enjoy being given prompts by people whose work and/or knowledge impress me—professors, fellow writers—or attempting to create interesting worlds or characters reminiscent of those from my favorite books1. I love watching standup comedians, especially sarcastic ones, so any humor in my work is in part because of people like Maria Bamford and Mitch Hedberg.

The final and arguably strongest source would be musical influences. I’m interested in the way that sounds and phrases can produce something lovely. Many of my poems are lyrical and rhythmic. It’s very inspiring when I hear a song that tells a story poetically2 or alters my mood with a particular beat; it makes me want to do something similar. That’s why I enjoy listening to alternative and indie music (Glass Animals, Passenger, Tora, Nothing but Thieves, Damien Rice). There aren’t any many limitations in either art form, which feels freeing from a creative standpoint (as much as I like setting goals and achieving them, I don’t appreciate being boxed in).

 

1 I love Tolkien’s intricate descriptions of Middle Earth, young characters that discover themselves like in “Ask the Passengers” by A.S. King, and the complex relationships from stories such as Lisa Jensen’s “Alias Hook.”

2 By poetically, I mean both having beautiful qualities and utilizing the techniques often associated with poetry like rhyming and figurative language. I personally enjoy using these techniques in prose too, as I feel it adds depth.