The Collectivism of Magnet Poetry

When I was younger, I always wanted a set of magnet poetry so I could write something cute (but most likely just silly) on the fridge. For some reason or another, I never thought about asking for it. No one in my family writes poetry and none of them read it. The fridge is a shared space and although my report cards and little kid artwork went up on the fridge, asking for magnet poetry was unfathomable. Then I went to college and my roommate had a fun set of “college-themed” ones. We used it on our white board outside of our rooms and we would always come back to something new.

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Childhood Poetry

From a young age I dabbled in various creative tasks. I drew, wrote songs in my head, and eventually started writing things down. I loved the effect of rhyme. Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein were the Greats of my time. Though I, regrettably, don’t draw as much as I used to I still write songs, sing and play, and, of course, write frequently.

Geneseo is only about forty-five minutes from where I live, in West Irondequoit, and I go home most weekends for band practice. Yesterday I dug up a portfolio behind my couch containing a hefty pile of artwork I made between the ages of ten and sixteen. Underneath was a thin folder containing poetry I wrote as a kid, most of them written at the age of eleven/twelve. Reading these rhyme-heavy, basic poems invoked feelings of nostalgia and embarrassment, and I loved every minute of it.

Here’s a poem entitled, “Circles,” which I apparently wrote April 28th, 2005 (I was eleven):


Circles are amazing shapes,

With no beginning and no end.

The shape of an orange or a grape,

Ovals always like to pretend.


As big as the colorful planets,

The size of an analog clock,

As small as a piece of granite,

And a perfect smooth silver rock.


The sun that shines with burning desire,

A freshly picked cherry from a tree,

The sparks that hurl from the fire,

And a golf ball that’s resting on a tree.


A circle can be big or small,

The shape of a china dish,

A circle is the coolest of all,

A circle is an endless wish.


I hope you laughed and cringed as much as I did reading that (especially at the ever-descriptive, “coolest of all”). Perhaps what I love most about finding these relics is their purpose as time-markers. I vaguely remember sitting down and writing this poem, thinking it was profound–maybe it was for an eleven-year-old (I do like “A circle is an endless wish,” as lofty as it is). I did the best with the vocabulary and knowledge I had at the time, and now I can appreciate these early attempts that serve as the foundation for my love of writing.

I want to read any childhood poems/other writing you guys have dug up, if you have any. Don’t let me suffer alone.

Workshop Community

One of my favorite parts of workshop is the community that gets built around that particular class. It’s an opportunity to see what other people are doing/trying out/thieving from other people. And because trust is so vital in a workshop (because offering up your baby to be critiqued is often painful), I find my peers in  upper-level workshops to be much closer than other classes. I think it’s important to be constantly in conversation with not only your texts, but those of your peers, and more established writers. I found our discussion on meter last class incredibly interesting and something I hadn’t really considered before. It’s also just great to see people get excited about poetry and see all the variety brought to the table–long-lined poems, short-lined poems, form poems, sectioned, white space, funky punctuation, etc.

After the poetic whirlwind, I noticed a lot of double colons and semi-colons in recent workshop poems and some poems shifting away from the left margin. I love that we’re constantly absorbing and taking things away from each other. It got me thinking about what I want to work on myself. For example, Romy’s short lined, compact poem makes me want to try and write one of those, Erin’s dirge made me start thinking about the form of elegies/dirges/etc., and Savannah’s resonant & lovely images have me thinking about the richness of my own images and how to better those.

How do you feel about the idea of workshop community? What things do you want to try after seeing what other people are doing?

Blackouts, Cabbages & Kings

My uncle works for a printing company in Rochester and contacted me one day, asking if I’d like some copies of literary and art magazines from Monroe Community College. I gladly accepted, curious as to what nearby colleges are up to with their poetry.

Cabbages & Kings displays a collection of visual art, interviews and poems, but they also included blackout poetry in the 2012 issue. However, in the 2013 and 2014 issues I have, no blackout poetry had been published. I wanted to know what you guys, poetry blog perusers, thought about blackout poetry as a craft, as a challenging prompt, as a useful tool, or just in general.

Is destruction just another form of creation—Would Donnie Darko support blackout poetry? Or is it not usually done well enough to be worth the time and effort of scribbling out a page in a book? Maybe this is to say something about black space as opposed to white space. Perhaps we can try it ourselves. For now, let’s take a look at some of Cabbages & Kings‘s stuff:

There is no title here, but I think the burned edges of the page add an exciting visual element. There are very minimal words but the poem has a fantasy-feel, especially since it ends in dialogue.


Again, no title here. This seems like a pattern in blackout poetry. What do we think of the words connected in pen? Sometimes, blackout poetry allows us to connect words in any order we may read them, but this one’s different in that respect.

If I Had An Orchard

I came across the Indie-Rock Folk band Fleet Foxes not too long ago. In 2011 the band released, Helplessness Blues, a song that I fell deeply in love with the first time it blasted from my TV speakers. It received critical acclaim and was considered one of the best songs of the year. The meaning behind its lyrics are still debated to this day. Some people believe that the song is about the American person’s need to become something greater; to find self-worth in the work that they do. Some believe that the song is about a man growing up and realizing that he is not as special and significant, in the grand scheme of things, as he once thought. And others believe that the song is about Capitalism and the dominance of the government on the average person’s life.

Despite what many think, it is obvious that the song is at its strongest at the very end. The rhythm slows and the bass deepens followed by the band members consistently singing: “If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore.” I feel as if the orchard in this statement stands for many things. Like literature itself, interpretations are varied and numerous. I’d love to know what you lovely folks think of the song and its lyrics. What emotions are emitted in the sounds of the combined instruments? What do you see as you listen to the lyrics? What do you think “Orchard” means in the song? Or, better yet, what does it mean to you? Cheers.

The lyrics can be found here:

Punctuation or the Addition of Sneaky Expletives

This week’s poetry exercise pushed us to take someone else’s poem, and keep ONLY the punctuation as we tried to fashion an original poem. Initially, I found this task to be a little off-putting. As I flipped through the course reader to find a poem with enough skeletal-punctuation to flesh my own poem onto, I became frustrated by the apparent lack of punctuation in all of the poems we’ve read so far. Some poems used only periods, and others had more commas than I could ever find a use for. After deciding that this exercise was probably not designed to be a form of torture, I chose a poem I thought would challenge me the most, in a sort of comfortable way. Andrew Zawacki’s “Credo” used enough punctuation to satisfy my poetic style, yet used all the types of punctuation that I find lackluster and hard to work around. I’ll admit to choosing Credo because it had a plethora of ampersands–a punctuation I realized I am a little too reliant on. As I struggled to squeeze my poem into the close commas and short lines presented by Credo, I realized that one of my poetic ticks is a reliance on punctuation as suggestion. In the same way that we might cluster punctuation as expletives in cartoons, I’ve been using punctuation to glaze over places where I felt stuck or underwhelmed within my own poems. I cover up thoughts and hints of much better ideas with m-dashes and colons. This exercise forced me to think about where I should use punctuation, and where I’ve been using it to suggest the things I should really just say. From this exercise, I think I’ll attempt to pull out what’s actually underneath my punctuation (and hopefully it’s not just curse-words).

Slam Poetry

As I stood on the patio eating my ice cream the only thought that kept racing through my head was, “Dammit! Why can’t I do that?” Watching the Geneseo’s Slam Poets perform live captivated me so much that I unknowingly didn’t even recognize my roommate pass me by. I was simply astounded by what they could accomplish. The guy next to me at one point (who reminded me of a mix between a hockey player and someone who liked to steal my goldfish crackers as a kid) turned to me and said, “Whoa. Like. What is this? This is just too cool dude.”

Despite his lack of eloquence, he was 100% right. Slam poetry, to me, is almost a different type of art form all together. It’s an interesting blend of rap and poetry. While the poems we create are usually written down (and hopefully said aloud at one point in our careers from our award winning books), slam poetry is always meant to be heard from the get go. The words might never meet paper for the masses to read. It is written with the intent of what vowels, consonants, and rhyme schemes will flow together when spoken. Also, what vowels, consonants, and rhyme schemes (etc.) can be said quickly. I’ve noticed that when slam poets recite their work they barely breathe! They go through it so rapidly, so beautifully, that my mind almost struggles to keep up. This swiftness makes it even more fun though. Just the idea that these people can memorize and say their poems at such speed astounds me.

The first time I ever really heard slam poetry was when this video below went viral.


I remember sitting on my tiny twin sized bed and watching this over and over again on my laptop. The infliction, the imagery, and just the way the emotion poured out of every line made me want to see and hear more.

Another great one is Patrick Roche’s 21. This is a very haunting poem that made me cry on my roommate’s shoulder longer than I care to admit.

Can we do this with our poetry as well? Absolutely. Yet, not all poems can be turned into a slam poem. I think that one has to cater a poem to fit this type of style (which definitely isn’t an easy thing to do). Watching these videos, and listening to our campus’ slam poets, makes me so eager to at least try to create something just beautiful.

Local Literary Loving

So this past Saturday I was able to go the VSW Pub Fair in Rochester and, as it tends to happen at events like this, my affection and need for literary communities was reinvigorated (even despite the pointed lack of poutine). First of all, for once I crossed over to The Other Side, behind the foldable tables, pushing journals on unsuspecting literature art lovers. Many people were genuinely curious about our journal (BTW, y’all should stop reading and submit to it right now) and it was awesome explaining what Gandy is all about to someone other than my mom (who still doesn’t quite “get it”).

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