A Final Reflection….

Today when I was going over my final draft of my portfolio it made me realize that a lot of the poems that I expected to write for the class felt in a way completed. I’ve never really had this sense in poetry before. Prior to this semester, I was always unsure of my work and whenever it was time to edit my work I always felt like I was grasping at straws and just hoping that it overall made sense. This was coming from a place where I wasn’t sure exactly what poetry was, or how certain people are so comfortable writing it. I think that a lot of my prior work was based off of emotions which I had tried to turn into concepts or themes. While this wasn’t necessarily bad I felt this pressure to create something rather than unveil it and that what I had to say wasn’t “poetic enough”. While I don’t think I will ever have a clear answer as to what poetry is, I think that I have grown as a poet by embracing what poetry means to me. Right now I think I use poetry as discovery or unveiling about thoughts and patterns in my life that I hadn’t realized needed to be unearthed. There is something I find much more natural about this process, even if the tone of the poems isn’t necessarily cheerful ones. I believe that something resonated with me last year when T. C. Tolbert spoke to us and said that sometimes they would have to go off and write and deal with being in a less than positive mood in the process. I think in this way their poetry was not necessarily coping but visiting their pasts. While I connect to what Tolbert said about these emotions, I don’t think my reactions to spending time to write aren’t nearly as draining and I think that in part its because my process is questioning and reviewing my thoughts so that I write what comes to mind even if I am not completely sure how what I’m writing resonates with me. Often in a workshop, someone will make a comment about the tone or content and it will make me pause for a moment and think, is that what I meant by that? That being said, I think with the content I write now, I’ve become surer because I am more at home (no pun intended!) with what my poetry’s about. Before this semester started I remember being nervous about my second poetry workshop, and I felt that I had nothing left to write about and I had no real thing to say. Now that this semester is over, I feel as though I have scratched the surface of what I can write about as a poet and am hopeful that I continue exploring where my poetry goes in the future.

I would love to know how everyone else felt about this semester of writing. Please feel free to share!

 

First Song to Break My Heart

Ah, my friends…and I am back to writing about songs.

Aren’t songs the wellspring of poetry?

Or is poetry the origin of song?

In any case, the lyrical has always had the striking ability to create and sustain emotion by tonal shifts and dialogues. In particular lately, I’ve been thinking of Jack Johnson’s song “All At Once,” which is strikingly lovely, melancholy, openly afraid and hopeful all at the same time. As the lyrics are fairly straightforward, I won’t offer heavy commentary, but I will say that a song about climate change that is this generous and warm is what we need in our current politico-cultural climate, especially considering that the UN has just given us the world 12 years to collectively get our shit together.

Continue reading “First Song to Break My Heart”

Poetry to Fiction

Although I am upset that this semester is coming to an end, I am anxious and excited for the Spring. Next semester will be my first semester where I am not taking a poetry class or workshop of some sort. Next semester I am taking my first fiction workshop and to say that I am nervous is an understatement. I am used to being stuck in my comfort zone, writing things I felt most comfortable with, but now I am placing myself far out of my comfort zone. I believe that in doing so, this will push me to become an even better writer. I also think that writing fiction can push my creativity in poetry and help me strengthen my quality of writing. Although I am scared, I know this will be a positive and beneficial opportunity for me.

Reading through Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen”

For my WGST-310: Race, Class, and Gender class, we have been reading Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen”. It’s a book of lyric poetry that examines issues of(you guessed it) race, class, and gender in the United States. I think part of the reason why I’ve been enjoying this book so much is because of its use of the second person perspective. I really enjoy the second person as a writer and as a reader because I think it does multiple things at once. I think for the writer it can distance themselves from their subject matter in a way that highlights the ways humans distance themselves from their problems on a daily basis. For readers, it can help you locate yourself amidst the text.

For Rankine, I think the second person highlights her anger. She speaks on Serena Williams, and the unfair treatment she’s received from referees and sports media because of her skin color. Rankine notes that Williams is stereotyped as an angry black woman—angry because she’s black, rather than angry at the unfair treatment she’s received. The second person makes the many rhetorical questions asked in this book feel like punches being thrown at the reader. As a reader those punches feel like they deserve to be thrown. There’s a palpable, justified anger on the page that the second person does a great job of directing towards the reader.

When discussing issues of race, the historical disenfranchisement of blacks in America, and the violent racism that’s been so rampant in the U.S., it’s hard to not feel angry. It’s hard to not want to smash tennis rackets through the white faces found smiling on a photograph on page 91 entitled “Public Lynching.” Rankine fights against the stereotype of the “angry black exterior” though, because she’s able to justify her anger, an anger shared by so many others.

Cento

I really enjoyed the assignment of writing a cento. I decided to make my cento a collection of some of my favorite lines from some Sylvia Plath poems. Every line is from a different poem. After selecting about 8 lines from 8 different poems, I moved them around in different ways until they made the most sense. It was a lot of fun because it felt like I just had to read things I already enjoyed and put them together in a collage of sorts which is really cool. I also felt a lot less pressure on myself for how it would come out. None of the words were my own so I felt free to use them and not feel nervous about sharing it. But on the other hand, because none of them were my words I felt very hesitant to edit them. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to keep the poem as a collection of lines from Plath’s poems or edit some of the lines to have a little bit more of Mya in it. In the end, I decided to stick to the true meaning of a cento and just kept it as a collage of Plath’s words. I feel like later on  would want to play around with editing it more to have more of my voice intertwined with Plath’s voice.

What I Want For My Birthday

For my birthday, every year, I usually get some great gifts from my friends (consisting of clothes, make-up, alcohol) — you know, the usual. We go to a nice dinner, take some photos and call it a day. But, with my family, the day is very different. My birthday is on November 17th, and I look forward to spending it with my family every year. Specifically, we have a GRAND breakfast — the works — and then my parents head to work, and we reconvene for dinner. But my favorite part (besides, you know, celebrating life and time with my family) is my present. And no, it’s not because I get a card of cash — I always ask for books.

Normally, I ask for big books, such as history, feminist books. Last year, I got a book on the history of Marie Antoinette, and Mary Queen of Scots. Just recently, have I begun asking for poetry books, and mostly because I have no idea which to ask for, or what author I would like without physically seeing the book before hand.

Whenever Lytton mentions a book, I usually trust his recommendation and write it down. I then look it up, and add it to my cart on amazon. I have a bookshelf in my room, and I love watching it grow — specifically around this time of year (birthday, Christmas, etc). It is also very interesting to see the evolution of the books that I buy, and read.

Besides the regular children’s books (like Dr. Seuss) that everyone has and reads, the first set of poetry books that I remember buying and reading for myself was Shel Silverstein. Those poems made me laugh, and I think got me very interested in poetry, and what it can do. The play on words, and the feelings evoked kept me interested in poetry. And I eventually graduated to other books and poetry such as Emily Dickinson.

Ultimately, reading is what makes me a writer. And continually reading is what makes me grow as a writer. Not only do I ask for books for my birthday, I always GIVE books to people for their birthdays and other events. I think EVERYONE can use a good book. My one friend loves movies, so I got him a book called “The Movie Geek” where it talks all about movie facts, and production. My friend’s boyfriend cheated on her, and I got her a book about strong, powerful female quotes. My mom’s birthday, every year, I get her a John Grisham novel — and so on, and so on. Not to quote Hallmark or Kay or some other weird mushy company, but books really are the gifts that keep giving.

 

In case you’re curious, the books in my cart right now are pictured here: 

 

Best,

Julia xox

My blog post this week feels a little bit like a cop-out, but also kind of relevant given Lytton recently brought up “Instagram poetry” in class.

As I’ve talked about before, I recently switched to a flip phone as a sort of reclamation of the time that was being lost to mindlessly scrolling on my smartphone, and also as a general initiative to be more present. Pre-flip phone, most of my mindless scrolling was spent on Instagram, a space which is, perhaps more than any other online, dependent on a fabricated image of the self. Despite this, I liked the sensory stimulation that was looking at dumb shit on my explore page, and so I spent a lot of time there. Consequentially, soon after abandoning my smartphone, I realized I kind of missed social media and, specifically, Instagram. So I got back on. I still use a flip phone but, on occasion, I throw up a post on Instagram (either via an old tablet I have or via a friend’s borrowed phone). The thing is, I wanted to reengage with Instagram in a more meaningful way than I had previously; it would feel disingenuous, I think, to use a flip phone while simultaneously succumbing fully to the self-centeredness of social media. How could I possibly make myself more present if I’m so caught up in what’s not real?

So, I decided to dedicate the space of captions to poetry. This makes the act of posting, for me at least, really meaningful and thoughtful; I feel a lot less like I’m wasting my time if I have to sit down and really think about what I’m going to write. As I said in a past blog post regarding my flip phone, this action has got me paying much more attention to the weight of words, down to each individual letter. But yeah, now all of my Instagram posts are either photographs taken by friends of photographs that I’ve taken on my flip phone, all captioned with little poems or snippets of poems. The biggest downside of all of this, although it is really fun, is the fact that Instagram’s interface is not at all compatible with lineation. Either way, my profile is private, so I’m going to attach a few screenshots below, but also I guess follow me if you want!

Working as an Editor

This semester I am taking English 426 which is the editing course that puts together the literary magazine, Gandy Dancer. Coming into this course I was not sure what to expect. I knew we were going to be doing some heavy course load readings and editing, but I never expected it to make me a stronger writer.

This course does not require you to submit or talk about your own writing which is something I am not used to. We are in charge of reading all poetry submissions and deciding if they are publishable or not. It was not until after I read the submissions and made the final deliberations with my group that I noticed my writing make a shift. While reading the submissions we picked them apart for cliches, word choice, and use of form. I carried the comments we made and discussed in our group and began applying them to my own writing.  My writing shifted to using more concrete language, and although it is almost impossible, I try my hardest to avoid cliches. I also started experimenting with new forms. This course has helped me in ways I never expected, and I am excited to see what else I will learn and how it can help me grow.

Guidance

When writing about nature and agriculture, I feel that talking about spirituality is necessary. It feels too connected not to talk about them in the same breath. When we were given exercise 10, which was to write a poem about locating our pastoral in an unfamiliar place, I had to relate it to finding peace in a spiritual sense. I feel that unfamiliar places can give off a calming energy. I don’t believe the familiarity a person has with a place determines how peaceful it is. Especially when a place is very rooted in the natural and spiritual, it can be easy to get very religious and calming energy from it. This feeling is what I wanted to recreate in my poem but I’m not sure if I succeeded because it is such a broad feeling to encapsulate. By picking a specific natural place, it made it easier to hone in on the feelings that these types of places give me.

A Culture of Exception

Ever since David Herd’s reading of Through nearly a month ago, I have found it difficult to get out of my head the idea of “a culture of exception.” This phrase summarizes as an American what I’ve observed both in brief interactions and in historical developments over decades, even centuries. The idea of a culture of exception is so stark and bleak that it’s been behind my obsession with political thought. Now that the midterms are over, an event which has been accompanied by a lot of high stakes, I’m wondering what my imagination will be occupied by next.

Florida today voted to grant over a million formerly incarcerated people (excluding murderers and sexual offenders) the right to vote after serving their time. This proposition was known as Amendment 4, and that is something that I am still in awe of. I spent a lot of tonight checking my phone for the midterm results, concerned about various candidates, but this is a development that has momentarily held the culture of exception at bay.

Let me know what occupies your imagination lately!