Not Poetry….?

One thing that has me unhappy is that I have already taken two poetry workshops, and therefore need to take a workshop that isn’t poetry. Moving away from what makes me comfortable has always been something I try to do, but poetry is, and has always been, my solace. I know I can keep writing poetry while I’m taking the other course, whether it be fiction or CNF, but I am very nervous about submitting work to one of these factions, considering I don’t really know how or what to write about for them. 

I have written brief pieces of fiction in the past, usually genre fiction, so horror or sci-fi work. I recently tried to start a piece, but couldn’t extend the work past a few pages without getting angry with my work. I always write long poems, but apparently can only write short fiction. The most I have with a fiction piece is around 2 pages. I don’t know how to extend my work to 5-10. I wrote in third person omniscient, the only way I can think of to make it longer is to just keep adding weird little additives from obscure places like the point of view of crows and ants. But there’s a lot that I am unsure of when it comes to fiction. I love reading short stories, but I’m not entirely sure how to write one that fits into the genre of literary fiction. 

In terms of CNF, I am scared to really work on it. The only things that I can think to write on are deeply personal, traumatic events, including the near-death of my mother, time spent with a past abuser, and the suicide of a really close friend of mine in high school. I suppose there are a few ways to go about writing CNF, perhaps detailing in extreme detail past events, using archaeological evidence and historical documents to detail the purpose of those events, but wouldn’t that be considered historical fiction, and therefore not a viable way to write? If I write about my own personal life, I would feel as though I was dumping emotions onto the workshop, when really I should be sending those as letters to my therapist. There are a lot of questions I have and I don’t really know how to figure out what to do. 

I know that the skills I will learn from these workshops will be so helpful for me as a writer and for the future. It’s just difficult to switch gears when I have become so enthused by poetry, and so familiar within that form of creativity. It’ll be a change that I will most certainly need help with, though I definitely should have thought more about the application earlier in the semester, seeing as I now have about five days to pull 5-10 pages of an unfamiliar genre out of my ass. We’ll see how it goes, any advice is DEEPLY appreciated. 


It’s spring break, and it’s past my bedtime, but I had to write this. I think my blog posts are getting crazier by the second, but stick with me here. What could I do to make my poetry sound like it’s under water? If you think I’ve lost it, close your eyes and listen to La Cathédrale Engloutie also known as The Sunken Cathedral. I remember my chorus teacher playing this piece for us because she wanted us to have more intention behind our singing. She played this without telling us the name of it, but at then end she asked for our guesses. We all guessed things that were dark, foreboding, and (most importantly) having to do with water. I can feel my mind fill with water when I listen to this. It sounds like a church falling into the ocean and settling on the sandy floor. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing, but I can see the stained glass and the steeple. I wonder how I could do this, but with poetry. I’m not interested in a watery church, but I think it would be so cool if I could make a reader feel like they were underwater while reading my poem.

Now the reason I thought of this is Billie Eilish related. I’ve already revealed myself as a huge fan of her music, so I’ve got nothing to lose by obsessing over her a little more! I was listening to Lovely and I felt like I was back in choir hearing The Sunken Cathedral! Close your eyes and listen to that song, it’s absolutely underwater. I can feel the push and pull of the current dragging the water back and forth. The high parts? Feel like sitting at the bottom of a pool and opening your eyes, looking upward into the blurry sun. It’s an oxymoron of a feeling because it’s heavy but also floating. There are a couple other songs of hers that give this feeling too. Ocean Eyes and Everything I Wanted are the examples I’m thinking of right now.

I think this concept could go even further because listen to Clair de Lune and tell me you don’t feel moonlight on your skin! Not a Debussy fan? More of a Beethoven fan? Moonlight Sonata will also make you feel like you’re sitting on the roof of your childhood home at 1am, gazing up at the moon. I want to do that! Ever wanted to feel like you were sitting by a lake watching swans in the sun? Swan Lake Suite, Op 20: Scene: Enchanted Lake has you covered, but how can I do that without any sound, just words on paper?

If anyone has examples of poems that make you feel like you’re experiencing something ridiculously specific (being underwater, the moonlight on your skin, swan lake) please link them to me. I have nothing better to do than to procrastinate my real work by reading poems, being jealous, and trying new things in my poetry! In return, I will link you a song that I think will inspire you. Even if you don’t have a poem for me to read, I’ll give you a song to inspire you because my atlas of awesome songs needs to be put to use somehow. I hope you are all having relaxing spring breaks and sleeping more than I am!


If you’re leaving for spring break, write about going home. If you’re staying, write on the green about the silver wind. If you’re coming back for the rest of the semester, write to tell us about the haunting silence in the hallways of the ISC. If you’re staying home, like me, write about the haunting silence in the hallways of your home, lacking in the screams of people going to Crows and the smell of alcohol from pre-games. If I’ll see you next semester, write poems reminiscing on the green couches of the Harding Lounge. If you’re graduating, write about how you built your own stage you’ve been walking down for the past four-five years.

If anything, we will continue to write until we see our faces on the backs of books at Sundance, smiling towards future readers and writers like us. If anything, we will meet in Crickets for our own workshops, unmonitored by Registration, holding public secret meetings to help better each other. If anything, keep writing.

The Most Important Word: Hermeneutics

This past Saturday I delivered a TEDx talk here at SUNY Geneseo and I wanted to post the written transcript for those who couldn’t be there. I will only post the first third on here and then leave the rest as a comment on the blog post so that I don’t take up three feet of screen space. Reading time should be about fifteen minutes. The takeaway from the talk is that interpretation matters, but interpretation is not subjective.

“Good afternoon my name is Kyle Navratil and I am currently an undergraduate student here at SUNY Geneseo and let me just say, I love language. That’s what I study in the English Department, from writing poetry to analyzing the most influential literary texts in all of human history. I cant help but love words and believe that they have power. Not just as objects themselves but for the ideas that they convey. And I want to talk to you about what I believe to be the most important word, the word with which we understand all other words: Hermeneutics.

For those of you who do not know immediately what this word means, there is a bit of irony in this, because every single one of you that is able to interpret and understand the words that I am saying right now is actually engaging in hermeneutics, because hermeneutics is interpretation, specifically the interpretation of language. And as we talk about our visions for the future, I believe that at the very heart of this discussion is hermeneutics and the concept of interpretation.

Hermeneutics is typically associated with religious traditions as many of the world’s major religions are inextricably found in literary texts. The Bible, the Quran, the Vedas. Entire world-views are contained within these books, and the practice of rigorously analyzing and discerning the meaning of a text is called exegesis. Lawyers engage in a similar practice when interpreting legislature.

Yet the language is not the only thing that we interpret, it is merely the means we use to convey our interpretations of the world. Whether through scientific empiricism, divine inspiration, or simply asking a friend’s advice on a difficult situation, we are constantly forming interpretive frameworks that help us best understand the world and our experience within it. These are our personal hermeneutic models, and they exist beyond language. And it is through these interpretative frameworks that we vision cast into the future.

Let’s be honest, we don’t all have the same interpretation. Think of religious schisms and political controversy, both protestants and Catholics have the same Bible. Sunni and Shia have the same Quran, and Democrats and Republicans have the same constitution and you and your friend were looking at the same situation. It is not the texts, but our interpretations that vary.

And I want to say something that at first may seem a little controversial: some interpretations are better than others. Or, said inversely, some interpretations are just plain wrong.

In language, this is self evident. For instance if I say that you’re pulling my leg, are you actually pulling my leg? If I’m speaking in terms of an idiom, then no. And to interpret my words envisioning someone actually pulling on my leg would be wrong. Yet I think that misinterpretation goes beyond the semantics of language into our understanding of the future and the world as well.

Let me just tell you quick story. “

Poetic Obsessions

I write a lot more than ever gets shown to anyone. I think that’s how it should be, not everything needs to make it to a final draft, the act of writing itself is good to practice. However, I’ve noticed what my “poetic obsessions” are because I’ve been writing a lot lately. I’m wondering what I should do about it. Do I avoid “yellow walls” after writing ten poems with yellow walls in them? Or should I embrace the fact that I love alliteration with the letter “s” so much even when it’s obnoxious? I’m not sure how to approach this realization. I never set out to have an unnamed “he” be the villain of my poem or go on tangents about beautiful women, but I always end up there.

I’ve also been noticing obsessions in other poet’s work too. I’m currently reading Ilya Kaminsky’s Dancing in Odessa which has so many reoccurring things: foods/eating, the backs of knees, religion. Furthermore, we just met Erin Kae who told us about her poetic obsession with eggs. Both of those poets use their obsessions beautifully, and each time they mention a motif, the meaning just builds and builds. I’m starting to think I just have to write a collection just for myself!

What do you do with your poetic obsessions? What are your poetic obsessions? I’m interested!

Anyway, here are some of the obsessions that I’ve noticed I have so far.
– Yellow walls
– Unnamed “he” who is the villain
– Women that the poem’s speaker is in love with
– Colors especially red and pink
– Words that start with “s”
– Bodies
– Giving the reader instructions
– Sleep and sleeping
– The odd feeling of having been born in 1998 and not belonging to the millennial generation, but being distinctly different from people born 2000 and after


I’m surprised that in such a savvy course such as this, we’ve somehow totally circumvented the subject of zines. Zines are small, largely individually produced “magazines” (though many, if not most, tend to be smaller than that) that can address any topic under the sun. In fact, that’s the large appeal of zines: because they are so easy to send out and to physically produce (the actual creation process is, of course, a different story), fans of particular niche subjects can purchase zines regarding them relatively easily. And there’s also something to be said about interacting with zines that have nothing to do with something you’re interested in! I have a small collection of them, and one of my favorites is a small booklet of poetry all about how much the author hates John Green, putting the author in all of these distressing situations to explore misogyny and contempt. I don’t think I’ve touched a John Green book since I was thirteen; I certainly don’t have enough in me to hate the guy. But that doesn’t take away from the craft of the zine about him I own!

They look a little like this, if you’re wondering:

Looking up how to make them, physically speaking, will yield thousands of results, so I’m not going to go on much about printing and such. But I do want to bring up the fact that many zines, while made by a single (or handful) of people, can often take submissions from writers around the world. It’s a really low pressure, easy way to see some of your work in print; often when I am facing a writing block, I look up zines in search of submissions (I usually look on this independent publisher’s site for those; looks like the pickings are a bit slim this week!) and write according to what they are looking for. It’s a lot easier to submit to one than an actual literary magazine, and frankly, is more fun too. Many of them are looking for poetry or text submissions, and it’s fun to go out and find them!

Perspective Writing/Reading in Poetry

So recently I’ve been in the planning stages of my Great Day presentation and in doing so I’ve believe I have found another source for poetry; what I’m speaking of is perspective. Almost every human being has the innate ability to look at an object and/or idea and perceive it’s meaning or description as something else. For example, while writing, two people may look at an apple for inspiration; one person sees the apple as just an apple and writes their poem about an apple; however, the other person might see the apple as a symbol of knowledge and write their poem about knowledge. Without giving too much of my planning for great day away, I believe that perception of ideas/meaning of objects has to do with a plethora of different factors, which include: faith, education, and medical reasons to name a few. I say medical reasons because for instance, I am colorblind and therefore perceive colors differently than others. I perceive colors in my poetry by describing what color should look like, and not what actual color it is. Look out at Great Day for my presentation! 🙂

Source from Written Works

I like to think that I have a fairly full and diverse bookshelf, both at college and at home. Some of these titles can easily reflect in my work, some of them can’t. Each has a certain aspect that can be viewed as a form of “source” for poetry, and each can provide an infinite number of ideas. Here are some titles.

  • The House of the Spirits, Isabelle Allende (historical fiction, magical realism)
    • For when you need to escape, and if you like ghosts
  • What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Love?, Raymond Carver (literary fiction)
    • A subtle, yet real-world escape from common day pressures, an analysis of events
  • Where The Sidewalk Ends, Shell Silverstein (poetry)
    • Tell me you don’t love his work. We all have some inner child somewhere.
  • Brodeck, Philippe Claudel (historical fiction)
    • A look at Nazi occupation in France through an unreliable narrator. Deals with tragedy in a way that is poetic and well written. I wrote a huge essay on this one for IB English in high school.
  • Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton (fiction)
    • A study of a Massachusetts hillbilly according to 1911 standards. Pretty funny.
  • Handbook for William, Dhuoda (primary historical source)
    • A look at expectations for both men and women in the early middle ages. Was written by a common woman, so it is a very rare account of not only everyday life but also how common people were expected to act.
  • To Keep from Undressing, Aisha Shariff (poetry)
    • Met Shariff last year when she read at Geneseo. The collection deals in accepting race and religion, existing as a minority, and helping a battered sister. Beautiful poetry with innovative forms.
  • The Dobe Ju/’hoansi, Richard B. Lee (ethnography)
    • Takes a look at the lives of the Ju/’hoansi in Africa, and shows the differences between their culture and ours. Very thought provoking.

Poet Ex Machina

I don’t want to compare poets to machines: spewing out verses like the Lamron printer spews out newspapers. I just mean to express that our brains never stop creating. I have a notes app file dedicated to unfinished poems and bursts of line inspiration. The file is over a year old and I don’t know what to do with it. But it’s where I can word vomit without fear or commitment. It’s where my emotional can become mechanical, in that I don’t have to think or compose, I just have to write. I encourage all poets to explore their machine: don’t hesitate on poetic thoughts or words that just appear in your head, print them as soon as they’re processed. Turn them into your own personal bank for when your lacking funds in inspiration.

You may find at times that the savings go untouched. I’m currently struggling with that. The lines and words deserve a place in my poetry, but I don’t know where to put them. I’m constantly debating on putting them in verse or prose, too, not knowing the difference between my poetic and prosaic language anymore (as they’ve intertwined and become the same at this point). I don’t force myself to work with what I have, though. I feel it’s important to not spend all your funds at once. Always have some emergency money.

Poets as Cameras

My very first class here at Geneseo in fall of 2016 was ENGL 203 Reader & Text: Adaptation & Discipline with Professor Harrison. The class was all about works of literature that are adapted over and over by other people. In this class we read Goodbye to Berlin which was adapted into the play I Am a Camera which was then adapted into the musical Cabaret. The class was really interesting because I loved learning about the impact of adaptation, and we also read Trilby and watched its adaptations. However, for this post I want to focus on I Am a Camera. Ever since I read that play, I have been obsessed with the idea of a writer/artist as a human camera. I mentioned it in class about Erin Kae’s Grasp This Salt. I think that the concept of documenting someone else’s story (even if it’s your own story i.e. separating the poet from the speaker of the poem) is a great way to think about a narrative or vignette-style poem.

I think a really cool “camera” writing exercise would be to do some good old fashioned people watching! At home I like to sit in the mall and people watch, but that mall has had a string of violent crimes lately, so I’m starting to develop a fear of malls. Anyway! A great Geneseo substitute is the Union. I like to sit in Starbucks and eavesdrop on conversations. Being a camera is great because it gives you distance from the poem, and with the distance you have more room to lie or be fictitious in writing. I find it really difficult to lie in my writing when I’m too close to the piece. I recommend everyone try to people watch a little this weekend!