Are Poets Allowed to Hit the Like Button?

I have a bookmarked folder on my computer titled “Poetry.” It’s a sampling of different online literary journals and poems that I have acquired during my time at college.

What made me want to tag these for future inspiration?

I liked them.

While I would love to give an in-depth analysis of the technique and craft intrinsic to each work, I cannot, nor do I have the motivation to.

Are we, as self-proclaimed readers and writers, obligated to analyze and dissect each poem that we stumble across? Do we owe every poem/poet that piqued our interest a lengthy session mulling over meaning and meter?

The student in me says “Yes, why practice poetry if you’re not going to commit to it?”

The I-started-writing-poetry-before-I-even-knew-what-a-good-poem-looked-like poet naively says no, of course not, poetry is an art form meant to be enjoyed.

As you can see, I’m on the fence. I feel as if I am doing poems a disservice if I read them and slap on a gold star without giving an ounce of thought to poetic voice or alliteration. Perhaps, after spending a significant amount of time workshopping my peers’ pieces I have developed an intrinsic capability of analysis, as a result, during my reading of a new piece I do not have to actively think about technique in order to acknowledge the work’s merit. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this is the case. Some poems I simply like.

Does anyone else feel as if they cannot give a good ol’ thumbs up to a poem without providing some sort of academic reason?

Lacking Confidence?

For the first time ever I submitted some of my poetry to (hopefully) be published online for the ~world~ to see. I submitted my work to Gandy Dancer. By now I would believe that everyone in the SUNY English world is familiar with Gandy Dancer but if you’re not, here’s how they explain themselves, “We are a literary magazine, available online and in print, that publishes fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual art. We invite student writers and artists from all SUNY campuses to submit. Edited by a rotating staff of students at SUNY Geneseo, Gandy Dancer is published twice yearly.”

Now this is something I have never done before, I rarely let my close friends and family read my work let alone a bunch of strangers. But, I made a promise to myself the beginning of this semester that I would push myself, specifically in my writing career, out of my comfort zone. In order to achieve this, I figured I would attempt to make my work public. There’s no promise that my work would be published but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

If you are also feeling insecure about your work, don’t! I know that it’s easier said than done but start by feeling more confident by submitting your work somewhere, or even letting someone read it who you’d normally not want to read it. These little steps can help you in becoming a more confident and successful writer.

illustrated poetry (no, not like rupi kaur’s)

Since/because of our last class, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that makes a poem good, but also fundamentally what it is that makes a poem a poem. In my mind, the visual arts and poetry exist in the same spaces, and are therefore sometimes indistinguishable in my work. In the past, this has manifested primarily as either:

  1. Traditional illustrations wherein the poem and the art exist independently from one another on the page but are, in their content, related.
  2. Small illustrations which take the place of the title of the poem.

In both instances, the poem and the art coexist, but the former always takes up at least the same amount of space as the latter, usually more; in other words, the poem has always been the focus of my work, and the art is complimentary.

Recently, though, my work has been a little more art-heavy. I’ve attached two (low quality) images of my most recent pieces to give you a better idea of what I mean. For me, these are poems. My process in making them is nearly identical to the process I go through when writing a poem of just words, and these are concentrated and concise and imagery-dependent in the same way my poems are.

I’ve been having difficulty finding work like this, work wherein the art and the poem blend together in the extreme. As such, this post is just as much a publication of my information as it is an invitation for you to share yours with me. If you are familiar with any visual artists who incorporate poetry in their work, or any poets who incorporate visual art in their work, I’d love to hear about them. I’d very much appreciate some guidance and inspiration in reconciling these two passions of mine.

Joseph North on the Monetization of Writing

This is only tangentially related to poetry, but I have nothing else interesting to say this week, so here we go. Joseph North has predicted the death of the liberal arts  (including poetry)  as we know it unless it becomes commercially viable. Let me elaborate.

In Literary Criticism; a Concise Political History, Joseph North opens with a startling truth. In the past forty years, literary studies have shifted entirely from critical to scholarly analysis. He says this is because of our slow shift to a free-market economy, and because base informs superstructure, (because our economy affects our culture,) we have fundamentally changed as a people to better suit the economic machine. This is why there’s been a massive pressure in recent years to shift to STEM careers instead of the humanities and the arts. Why our own arts program here at Geneseo was slashed only a few years ago. The arts and humanities as we know them aren’t easily profitable, so they’re not widely praised as important. (Remember the starving artist trope.) Literary studies has shifted from didactic revelation to more historical analysis; not a force to change culture, but one to churn out information and facts that can be more easily monetized in textbooks. I fear poetry may follow suit unless it finds a niche in consumer content. It may have already: Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey has found incredible commercial success in the past couple years, even landing a spot on the New York Times #1 Best-Selling list. If the base decides that, like Kaur’s work, poetry is commercially viable, then it will be kept around in future generations. If not, it may follow the path of our own art department. Non-existent.

Brevity

People are scared of brevity. It’s a limit: the amount of time we are allowed to walk on this Earth, kiss the people we love, watch the sunset. Everything centers around time. Length.

As a poet, I am scared of brevity. I am afraid that my poems will be lacking if they do not filtrate at least half the page. While I have written poems that are shorter, even upon completion, I felt as if they were missing complexity and depth in their truncated state.

This is not to say that I do not admire short poems; there is a tremendous amount of craft in poems that can create feeling and beauty in a smattering of lines. As poets we fall in love with individual lines in a poem before we profess our love for the entire poem. Yet, I still feel as if I must prove something in each poem- instill it with meaning- which often requires a substantial amount of space.

I find it difficult to forge a poem out of a few lines, a few words, though I know it is entirely possible. Look at haikus. People have been writing three-line poems for centuries. Haikus do not seem to be lacking; however, I am still unable to pinpoint what my personal poems seem to be missing when they are condensed.

Does anyone have other thoughts on short poems? Any experience writing short poems?

As Long As You Got Something Out Of It…

I wish we could “thumbs up ” each other’s blog posts, so even if a blog post doesn’t get comments, the author can still know people are reading it.

At some point between sophomore and junior year, I embraced “individual reader response criticism” (IRRC, for short) as the primary measure of my own poetry’s quality.  If you didn’t read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (perhaps you read something more scholarly), RRC represents the idea that how a reader experiences and interprets a written work is paramount.  The “independent” part indicates that there is no objective interpretation of a written work.  Now, deciding to view all literary interpretations of my poetry as valid (within reason) was an odd move for me.  Why would I, the person who insists on a single, objective answer for the meaning of life (to take care of one’s mitochondria) and the inherent nature of humans (we’re inherently selfish) allow for anything I write to be interpreted differently from my own interpretation?

Because I’d rather have more people get something decent out of my poetry than a few people get the right thing from it.

Maybe it’s selling out, but I’ve accepted positive reception quantity over interpretational accuracy.  Because I can’t control what people think, it would be highly difficult to write a poem that is understood by all readers the way I intend and also keep the poem’s poetic qualities (i.e. flow, form…).  What can I tell ya?  I like when people like my writing.  And if they get something out of it that I didn’t intend and liked it, I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and accept the praise.

How I Know That The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword: First Hand Experience

I always wrote for myself. I had some things published in small, local literary magazines, but I always wondered where my writing would actually take me. What was the point of all of these metaphors and pretty language? I knew I wasn’t going to make a career out of my poems, but I did want to reap something more out of the skills I have grown. Over this past summer, that very thing took flight.

After an abusive relationship, mentally and physically, during second semester of last year, I was able to be free during my summer months. I happily drowned myself within the love of my family, beaches, reading, and of course–writing. I spent MONTHS editing a piece for The Odyssey. The Odyssey is a great, and simple way to get your thoughts published for all to see. But I wouldn’t know the effect that my words would have on people… it was absolutely life changing, and that is why I continue writing today. I wrote all of my feelings into one comprehensive piece about my relationship and how I felt during, and after, it. Putting all of those thoughts on paper, and compiled into one simple document literally took the thoughts out of my mind and my overthinking complexity, while diminishing my anxiety and overall, making me happy. It was my own therapy. But little did I know how many people I would help in the process, and who ultimately my piece would reach. I titled my piece “To The Girl With The Broken Heart”, because when I had my heart broken, I didn’t have that ‘big sister’ figure to give me wisdom and help me out. I wanted to be that person to the girl who needed it at any given moment–no matter who they were or where they lived. I wanted to get to her. Because I was once, her.

I published my piece, and I got SO much feedback, so quickly it was unreal. Girls who I didn’t even know, from Ohio, and Texas, personally messaged me telling me their stories and how they resulted in eating disorders and suicidal thoughts due to a boy, but my article aided them into believing more in who they were and how he should not have that power over her. My friends texted me the most encouraging things, and saying that they were tearing up from my words and that my piece meant so much. The texts, and messages, and overwhelming support blew my mind, and made me realize how much my words can help and affect people. Even just yesterday, my cousin called me and told me she recently re-read my article because she needed to. And my roommate has it bookmarked on her homepage so it’s at her disposal. When I returned to school in the fall, girls would come up to me at frat parties asking me if I was “the girl with the broken heart” and if I wrote the article. I told them yes, and one young lady literally started hugging me and crying, telling me how I helped her so much and she felt like she knew me. All of these compliments in person, shares on Facebook, and love and support, really encouraged my confidence in my writing, and in myself.

But, nothing will compare to when he read my piece. He read it, and told one of his friends, who then told me his ‘thoughts’ on it. He stated that it was far too ‘over the top’, and that it ‘doesn’t bother him’. But, my goal wasn’t for it to bother him. It wasn’t even for him–it was for me, and for the girl who needed it. But the fact that he read it proves A LOT. And that he claims to have brushed it off proves even more.

I often refer to women as ‘queens’. I think that is the ultimate word to describe people, and I especially use it for myself. Not in an arrogant or gloating way, but in a perfectly proud, and confident sense. I always wear a bracelet with a small crown on it, to remind myself that I know what I am worth. After my break up, that defined me in the best possible way. I knew what I deserved, and I became much more comfortable and confident after finding myself. So, I wear this bracelet as a reminder that I am important, and I am beautiful, and I am smart–and I know that. And I wish more people had this realization overall, that everyone is worth it. I wrote my Odyssey piece specifically for this purpose, and I will continue to write, with this end goal in mind, always.

 

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/girl-and-her-broken-heart

“Horses to be Broken”

I’ve recently been thinking about the poem from Carey McHugh’s American Gramophone that my group observed in class this week. The poem was “Death (as a Woman) Comes for the Draughtsman” on page 54. I remember we pointed out the idea of “stopping,” particularly in the first couple lines: “But there are horses / to be broken”. Then I realized something. The term “breaking a horse” means to train it. A broke horse is one that’s safe to ride. Here’s a description I found online:

“A well broke horse is one that is well trained and understands more than just the basics of go and whoa. A horse that is said to be broke to saddle or harness indicates what the horse has been trained for. Saddle breaking is training a horse to carry a rider, and harness breaking is training the horse to pull a vehicle.” Continue reading ““Horses to be Broken””

Exiting Existentialism

I don’t know if anyone else has been encountering this, but as of late there seems to be some kind of influx of teen nihilists and kid Camus’s. It feels like the wannabe Nietzsche convention just let out across the block and all the new converts to existentialism are eager to give me their spiel. I’ve had plenty of people telling me something along the lines of “It doesn’t matter anyway” or “Nothing matters”. There are many variations on this but the sentiment stays the same throughout. Maybe it has something to do with a certain cartoon? Who can say?

All I know is that I’m getting pretty sick of it. It’d be a different story if these people caught me in my sophomore year of highschool. Back when I’d successfully convinced myself that no one beyond myself could be proven to exist. That I was an island of consciousness in a sea of pre-programmed encounters and interactions. Yeah I’ll admit it, I was something of a solipsist.

Me and all these new wave nihilists would have had a lot to talk about back then. But I’m over that now, being the only special individual with free will in a world of predestination got boring. I wanted my mother and father and friends back. I wanted light and warmth in my life again.

I pretty much subscribe to the whole “meaning is where you put it” philosophy on life. It’s a lot more fun that way. Sure I still have “What’s the point?” moments, seconds where the vast absurdity of everything comes at me like a tidal wave, but I’ve gotten fairly adept at shrugging them off. If I just keeping doing the things I love, the strangers from my subconscious will stay in their cellars, and abstain from holding that cold cloth between me and the world. However, this is a little more difficult with people yapping at me to abandon the futile torch I hold up to the darkness of the universe. “It’ll just burn out eventually”, sure it will, but for now can’t there be a little light?

Can’t I write some poetry, good and bad (I’ve always thought that the bad sort, in fact, is sometimes the most seeped in the human soul), read some great books, relish my morning coffee, converse with people I care about. I don’t have to be constantly reminded of my mortality. I’ve listened to Kansas’s “Dust in the Wind” enough times to know that I’ve got an expiration date and all I say and do will one day be forgotten. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade raining, but please leave me out of it. I’m sick of having to compare the tenuous fibers of my happiness to the awaiting empty expanse of eternity.

 

memory©

There’s a lot of scary things that happen when you want to become a writer, for example:

People ask “what do you hope to do with your degree?” and you say “write” and they say “okay, but how will you make a living?” and thus you are propelled into a brief existential crisis wherein your heart yells “WRITE!” and your brain momentarily devolves into a static of golden arches and cash register cha-ching noises and Big Macs and concludes “probably McDonald’s.”

After that conversation, you recall that the last McDonald’s you were at had no more than three employees working, as the cashiers had been replaced with big touch-screens, and you wonder if maybe another fast food chain, a Burger King or Wendy’s (or if you’re really desperate, a Taco Bell) will hold off on replacing all human intelligence with robots in time for you to secure a job post-graduation.

But you push all of that to the back of your head, right? And you just keep writing, you keep writing until you have something, something worth sharing. And you take that thing worth sharing and you try to share it, you copy and paste it into a Google Doc and download the Google Doc as a .pdf or .txt file so that it’s in one of the accepted submission file types and you look over the piece one more time when you realize you can’t. It’s about somebody. The poem is about somebody, the type of somebody who will make sure that they see the poem.

Yeah, the looming prospect of unemployment is certainly scary, as is the inevitable take-over of artificial intelligence. The scariest part of writing, though, for me at least, is trying to figure out how to reckon with writing what you want to write about (or, rather, who you want to write about) responsibly. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, perhaps because the poems which I feel most strongly about are the poems which tackle the things that are closest to me, and oftentimes those things are people. I find myself most proud of the poems which are confined to a private existance for one reason or another.

I’ll leave you with a quote that’s been bouncing around my head for a good couple of days now. Moshe Kasher, while reflecting on the time he was sued over a line in his memoir, said on Episode #943 of the Joe Rogan Experience, “You can’t just grab memories thinking that all of your memories belong to you because other people are in them, ya know?”