As poets, we confront our fears quite often. Poetry can be a very vulnerable art form.
Lately, however, I have been struggling with a more superficial fear. There are certain subjects that I have been putting off because I feel as if I will not do them justice. At this point in my creative writing journey, I can tell from the moment I pick up the pen, whether or not a poem will elicit the “literary rush” that Henry has blogged about or if it will fall flat on its face and be deemed mediocre. It is this second outcome that scares me.
I love poetry because it can capture seemingly indescribable feelings and put them into words; however, I fear that I will be unable to capture these indescribable feelings. For example, I am an avid equestrian. Needless to say I love poetry with horse-related imagery and themes; however, I have yet to write a poem in college that references horses. I am nervous that I will not do the sport nor the animal justice. Similarly, I would love to dedicate more poems to my grandfather, yet I am afraid that I will not be able to find words that suffice.
Of course, I want to write these poems, I just do not know how. I have written more than my fair share of mediocre poems, but writing a mediocre poem about topics other than myself or an ambiguous figure makes me uneasy. What if I am not doing this external subject justice?
Does anyone else ever feel this way? What are you afraid of writing about?
When thinking of poets I tend to think of rather anxious, wallflower prone people. For the most part this is probably based around my own experiences and those represented on TV. Before I actually wrote poetry I would wax-poetic in my head at school events I felt I did not fit in at. I’m sure all that stuff is better off not having been introduced to the page, it was probably pretty cringe inducing, but all the same it was a good coping device. I felt like an outsider with a purpose which is better than just being an outsider.
I’m more confident and happy these days, and I’ve tried to make my writings follow me down this same path, but have found that a little more difficult. I feel that a slightly estranged feeling powers a lot of my writings. I’ve successfully banned myself from using the word “lonely” or “loneliness” in my poetry, as I used it far too much anyways, but still feel that a lot of my writing has a lonely tone. When I try and write happy poetry it all together fails, or comes out as happy with a morbid edge.
I’ve been sort of annoyed by this lately, I think some of my more cheerful thoughts are as interesting, if not more so, than my melancholic fifteen year old one’s, but I have far more trouble getting them down on paper. One way in which I aim to remedy this is in perhaps seeking out some happier poets. I’ve read a bit of Walt Whitman and he certainly seems to have things figured out, but overall it’s a little tough finding the elusive happy poet.
It’s got me curious as to what the poetry of a really confident and stable writer would look like. The poetry of popular high school football or soccer players for instance. The stanzas of well adjusted people enjoying their day to day existence. The poetry of someone who, wouldn’t generally be seen as someone in need of poetry. If anyone has any recommendations I’d love to check them out and hopefully draw some inspiration from them.
Truthfully, I debated whether or not I should submit the piece I handed out to you all last class up until the moment I physically handed off the stack to be circulated around the room. This isn’t because the poem, or I guess poems, were tremendously vulnerable with regard to their content, but rather because I decided to play around with form in such a way that is far more experimental than I am used to. Although I’m certainly proud of the piece, I’m still so reluctant to share it for fear that people just won’t “get it”, a fear I’m sure you’ve all confronted at some point or another in your writing. Generally, though, I’m more or less willing to accept some amount of misunderstanding when I release my poems into the world, because a lot of the time I don’t fully understand them myself, or they are more about their imagery or sound than they are about their meaning.
This poem was different, though. I wanted so badly to type up a little disclaimer at the top (which I’m trying my best to avoid doing in this blog post, given we haven’t workshopped the piece yet) but that doesn’t seem like a very poetic thing to do. I settled on providing a little key of sorts at the top of the page wherein I connect each of the fonts used in the body of the poem to a title: “for you”, “for us”, and “for me”. Do with that what you will.
Regardless, in submitting this piece I’m trying to get away from feeling the need to explain myself as a poet. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about learning to be more vulnerable in my work, and I think that this was a step (maybe a small one, but a step just the same) in the right direction.
This week in class, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and shared a piece that I have been debating on submitting for workshop for a while. This piece contained content that is not often shared with classmates nor discussed comfortably out loud.
I noticed that when my piece was being work-shopped, there was a bit of awkwardness between the conversation. I understand that the topic of the piece may have made people uncomfortable, because if I am being honest, it made me uncomfortable as well.
I believe as writers it is critical that we continue pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. We may not enjoy it, and its definitely something that may leave both the writer and the reader unsettled, but it helps us to improve our creative writing skills.
If we constantly wrote about the same topics and things that made us ~comfortable~ there would be a huge lack of diversity and creativity in our work. Although certain topics may make us nervous to write or read about, I believe as writers we should strive to be bold and daring.
I am a man with a heart that offends
With its lonely and greedy demands
There’s only a shadow of me, in a manner of speaking I’m dead
Jesus I need you, be near me, come shield me
From fossils that fall on my head
There’s only a shadow of me, in a matter of speaking I’m dead
–Sufjan Stevens, “John My Beloved”
It’s honesty time, friends.
I decided to write the language exercise we discussed in class on Monday. I started with the language of ballet, which is primarily in French, and ended up uncovering something much deeper about myself that I don’t like to think about very much.
Continue reading “On the fear of being obscure”
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.
Continue reading “why i have trouble blogging”
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.