is this cheating?

One of the techniques I use when I write poetry is finding random lines that I’ve written scattered in various notebooks, napkins, receipts, etc. and put them all in a hodge-podge on one page and then work with that. Often times the random bits are too disjointed to have them flow, but sometimes I can smush things together and create one jumbo super poem. (Occasionally I’ll put in filler transition lines that helps to bridge from one idea to another) I was wondering if this is somehow cheating. If all these ideas are written in separate headspaces, is it wrong/facetious of me to put them all together as one work? Sometimes it’s even for the aesthetic value, if something sonically is interesting, as opposed to the original meaning I was trying to get at. I’m not sure if this is maybe “lazy” or “untrue”. Thoughts?


Hey guys I just wanted to share a little bit from my poetic statement and I was wondering if what you guys thought:

“Poetry exists outside the bounds of time. Prose’s linearity hinders it from existing as the thought truly presents itself. Our mind does not work in straight lines—we do not think according to the man-made constructs of time. For instance, when you see a man on a red bike crossing the road, the thought exists as an image. You do not think “a man on a red bike crossing the road”; instead it’s something that could be more like “across the road//me&man//bike//red”. Our thoughts are much more imagized than literature allows for it to be.

In this way, I use poetry as a direct imprint of my thoughts. Because it is much more visceral, the poem allows us to present something that is much truer to what appears in our brains.”


I went on further to talk about beat poetry. Beat poets seem to be the most into getting exactly what’s in their mind on paper—even if it doesn’t sound intelligent or poetic, persay. Much of my poetry is influenced by the “first thought best thought” ideology.

What Now?

So after submitting my portfolio, I became a little afraid for the summer, as I usually taper down with the writing as I start sleeping later and later and let the heat take me, etc. I really want to try to keep a different kind of journal this summer, more poetry than “I did this today,” so hopefully I’ll better remember the details of the experiences I have, even if it’s just the way the guy at my deli (Will) cuts bagels. A while ago, I picked up this book of Kerouac’s poetry from Goodwill (believe it or not, a better poetry selection than some Barnes & Nobles), called “Book of Sketches,” and I just wanted to share an exercise from the book that I think might help y’all carry on writing into the summer.

Essentially, once a day, when you think you should, stop and make a sketch! Kerouac carried a little notebook around with him and he filled it with scribbled down scenes or feelings, proving, as he scribbled on the cover, “that sketches ain’t verse But Only What Is.” So once a day during the summer, find something worthy of sketching, and sketch what is, no matter how small or large. Don’t stop writing!


Final Class

Hey guys!

As everyone knows, today was the last class for this semester. I just want to say it’s been a pleasure working with you all. I wrote a lot in my poetic statement about how grateful I am to have had these opportunities. I’m just wondering what everyone is doing over the summer regarding writing? Are you guys writing on your own? Going on writing retreats? Sending work out anywhere? I’m really interested what you all do to pursue writing when you aren’t at school.

Over the summer I try to read as much as possible. Normally I would read as much fiction as possible, but now that I have a new found love for reading poetry I will be reading some of the books people did presentations on.

I always try to write over the summer–one year I wrote 112 pages of a “novel” that was never finished or polished or became anything more than a document on my computer. That being said, do you guys have larger projects you’re working on? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks! See you all for poetic convos on Friday!!


Music + Poetry

For me, poetry has always beens very closely linked with music. I know it may be limiting myself, but I very rarely can write without listening to music simultaneously. This is true for practically all writing (I’m listening to Fleet Foxes right now), however, it is especially true for poetry writing. When I write poetry, I always feel like I need some extra creative stimulation and music provides that extra buzz in my brain that is needed to produce anything creative. I need to be a *little* distracted in order to focus. Meaning, a minuscule part of my brain needs to be engaged in the music I’m listening to, but then in turn using that to feed into the creative energy I need to generate to write a poem. Often times I’ll even use the mood/rhythm of whatever I’m listening to affect the mood/rhythm/tone/sometimes even content of my poetry. This really works well for me.

Furthermore, when I read other’s poetry I am usually reminded of a particular song or artist, or at least genre. Maybe this is just because I grew up around music, in a family of musicians, went to music high school….that my brain is too immersed in music to disconnect it with everything else. Does this happen to other people?? Or maybe if it’s not music, a sport? What is something outside of poetry that truly affects your poetry??

Are we “poets” yet?

So even through creative writing class last semester, this semester’s poetry workshop, and officially becoming a creative writing major, I still have trouble calling myself a “poet”–even a “writer” sometimes. I guess there’s something about the art that feels like I’m always working towards becoming that, and it seems so far away all the time. I know professors in creative writing classes often address us as “writers” or “poets”, but to me–and maybe it really is just me–it still feels weird to accept that. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never been published or because I know I’m young… But when did/do we become “poets”? Is it once we’re published? Or was it all the way back when we wrote our first poems? Anyone else have any thoughts on this or am I just rambling and not making any sense?

Workshop Methods & Experience

I don’t want to cold call anyone out here, but this is specifically a question for people who have been in other (poetry or otherwise) workshops before, especially those run by another professor. As a person taking their first workshop (and probably my last due to the amount of classes I still need to take to graduate on time D’: ), I’m just curious as to what you may do differently when looking at other students’ work in other workshops. People who took poetry with Prof. Winrock– how did her style differ from Lytton’s? I just want to know what other ways you all have looked at poetry in academic settings, because arguably the more points of view we have of editing our work, the better.

Who are your favorite poets? From the past or the present

I know this is a hard question to answer, but I think it would be interesting to see everyone’s different opinions.

Do you want to know my favorite poets? I’m not sure–you kind of put me on the spot–but I’ll try to answer your question. I guess I like Langston Hughes for his rhythm. I like Raymond Carver because of his simple language.

Anyway, who are your favorite poets?



King Kendrick

So, as a few of you may know, I’ve been listening to an up-and-coming rapper named Kendrick Lamar. If you haven’t heard of him or listened to his music, I beg of you please check him out–he’s doing things that I’ve never seen done in the Hip Hop genre before (which is what I’m going to talk about in this post). Lamar hails from a pretty rough area in Compton, California and considers himself a person who has triumphed over the poverty in his neighborhood and the gang life that seems to pull in and kill many of the inhabitants of his community. His music is living proof that he has championed a life devoted to optimism and worship. However, what I’ve been meaning to tell you this whole time is that Kendrick has somehow made Hip Hop more poetic than it’s ever been. We’ve been talking about form can mirror context in poetry. For example, if one writes about Niagara Falls they may utilize form to create an image of cascading water. What Kendrick Lamar does is no different. In his two songs “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst” and “u,” Lamar uses background noises to mirror his lyrics. I’d explain more about it here, but I don’t want to give any spoilers. It’s definitely a much more profound experience when listened to without any specific introduction. So check these two songs out; I’ll post the lyrics here as well. Tell me what you think, and I hope all of you fall in love with his music as I have.

P.S. “u” may be a little difficult to like unless it is experienced with the entire album

When will poetry die?

Last night I had a discussion with some fellow poets about whether poetry is capable of dying. Poetry has been around us since we, as humans, have been able to speak, so we know that poetry has survived. But is Poetry capable of dying? I thought up a scenario where humans evolve to become sea animals and because we are sea animals we do not have hands, but fins. We lose what is the most important tool to a writer; opposable thumbs. Will poetry be dead then, if we can’t write it? “No,” as one of the fellow poets said, “because we will come up with a way to use our fins and we will write with whatever material we can get.” So then I came up with another scenario where all humans die of a sudden natural disaster. In this scenario we all die but all works of literature ever written is kept in an indestructible box that can only be opened by putting in the code “0000.” What if the giraffe evolves to create its on language–a language that is not at all similar to ours–and it finds our literature, but isn’t able to understand it? Is poetry dead then? There are two ways one can see this scenario. Either poetry is dead, or it is alive in a different species. For example, we are dead, but maybe because of our deaths the giraffes will create their own poetry based on how we died–the same way that we write about dinosaurs or any other extinct species. And maybe the giraffes have their own kind of poetry, so poetry is alive in their species.

So, my question is, will poetry ever die? I’ve been having an existential crisis, if you can’t tell.


db pena