The Plateaued Poet

Hello, me again, I want to talk about plateaus and my fear of them.

So over the course of this semester, I was (yet again) incredibly amazed by how much I was able to grow as a poet. I remember thinking the same thing upon reflection back when I completed the workshop the first time around. That doesn’t stop me, however, from being afraid that I may have reached a point where I’m not going to grow much more as a writer. Graduation is a very real and terrifying thing that’s going to be inflicted upon me pretty soon, and my continued education in an official setting is very uncertain. As such, I’m wondering what this will mean for my writing.

I think the best solution to my own question is to just keep on producing poetry and looking for communities for support and feedback. I’m still worried, though, that I’ve reached a certain point where I’m unlikely to get much better. Do any of you ever get struck with that fear in your creative endeavors? Maybe it’s natural to go through stages of high amounts of productivity and stretches of time that feel like writing plateaus. It probably is, but maybe you have a suggestion that I may not have considered on how to go about continuing to grow as a writer outside of workshop class?

Just a Thought

So I began writing this way back in September and never posted it. Now seems like a good time to finish the thought…

We addressed the question last class (or more like, twelve classes ago) about the importance of bringing the poet into the poetry, and thereby be influenced in our reading  of the poem by the poet’s life and background. I know it’s an age-old question about whether who the artist is and what their history is should or should not be accounted for in the art itself, but I want to ask how this can be applied to us, specifically. When I began writing this post a few months ago, I had in mind that despite Ezra Pound’s fascism, his work is still highly respected and studied, but on the other hand, we called into question his authority on poetry based on his political beliefs.

For me, context is key to understanding the background of a poem, where it came from, and how it fits in to the wider narrative consciously or unconsciously created by the poet. However, if anyone were to make some stupid “roses are red, violets are blue” pun for the billionth time, it shouldn’t matter if that person is Shakespeare risen from the grave, the cliched bad poetry should probably be taken for what it is (read: trash).

Anyway, I think the takeaway from this post, or tl;dr is this: sometimes poets or other artists say things in other contexts that get us angry and upset. Sometimes, if we read into the poetry, we can find hints of these lines of thinking. So what about you? Do you try to shape your poetry into something unbiased, something free of opinions that might make others angry? Do you/might you ever embrace writing in such a way so as to make people angry (hopefully not for supporting fascist dictators, though)?

On Sadness, Poetry as Activism, and Where We Go From Here

I think we can all agree that this has been a rough semester.

No matter what side you’re looking from, no matter who you supported in the election, no matter what your core beliefs are telling you to do at this very moment in time, we’re at a turning point in our country’s history, and that of world politics.

This whole semester I’ve felt powerless. This country would rather see a man who hates me (and millions of others) lead them, than see a competent woman take that same job.  It’s insulting, it’s demoralizing, and overall it made me incredibly sad. People I’ve known for years have been arguing on Facebook about my rights to reproductive health, marriage, disability services, even my own religion.

If it hadn’t been for the writing community I’ve found here, I think I might have crawled into bed and stayed in a blanket cocoon for the next four years. One of the ways I found support was with my friends in Guerrilla. I’m sure you’ve all heard me talk about Guerrilla enough this semester, but after the election we got together and talked about where we go next, as well as some other questions we have as writers.

Continue reading “On Sadness, Poetry as Activism, and Where We Go From Here”

On Feeling

I first want to talk about what Audre Lorde might think of an image and want to relate it back to Ezra Pound’s idea of an image as an emotional complex. In the essay, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury*,” Lorde follows this thread by stating that “it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are – until the poem – nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.” This thought is predicated on the fact that women poets need poetry as a means to survive, “it is vital to our existence,” she states.

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Love Poem by Susan Wheeler

I wanted to share this haunting poem by Susan Wheeler. It reminded me of the negative capability we talked about in class – listening to the unspoken parts of the poem. The broken, haunting past of the narrator and the joy s/he experiences in the present is put together like two puzzle pieces, showing us a larger and much deeper picture that does not only link the two together, but transform our perception of both pieces. For me, this is a poem about redemption of the past by the present.

Love Poem

My mother wouldn’t stand up
to wave. My father made certain
the door locked behind me.

But when I went for your door
you came too. Your mouth
made a flute of my arm,

its music a glass on the past.
My love, my love, went its song.
Now there is no need to leave.


I’m not sure if this has been discussed on this blog, or if this is even a conversation that deserves a post on this blog, but we’ve had several conversations, both in and out of class, on the role of the poet during political uproar, which is why I feel compelled to ask the question here.

How do people feel about the use of hashtags in protests? I don’t mean simply online articles/posts related to something happening outside of the internet. I mean people holding signs with some sort of hashtag written on it.

I ask because I’m starting to notice my veiws slowly shift on the topic. When I first began attending political protests and noticng people holding signs that had only the hashtag, I became annoyed because I didn’t see the validity of social medial protest (even now I wouldn’t call social media protesters helpful if they do not leave their computer, but obviously spreading articles and information is never something to be frowned upon). But I’m starting to wonder if time is slowly turning this into something on par with a chant one may hear in protests… But I’m really not sure. Part of me still feelings the idea of a hashtag outside of a search engine belittles the concept of the protest.

I’m actually trying to think of a literary equal of hashtags that began valid in the past, and nothing is coming to mind… Nonetheless, I wanted to hear what others had to say.

Images That Blew Me Away

So I recently read F(X), a poem by Annalise Lozier, published in The Kenyon Review, which works to create images so fluidly that I was moved. Lines like “I have a sore spot / on each side of my head where our eyes used to be / when we were fish,” had me melting on the page. Along creating these vivid images, the poem also works with white space in ways that I think our current workshop works to emulate.

It’s also a beautiful read.  Grab onto your seat for the last lines:
” I know terminal velocity when      I feel it,
the      color    of salmon eggs—      Do you?”


Writing Exercise: A News Article to Structure a Poem

So since my most recent blog post about narrative poetry, I thought about the different kinds of narratives that we each day. Now I know that many of us read and indulge stories all around us, but I want to call attention to some recent stories that have been percolating our nation’s media. There’s so much going on around us. We’re all sensitive to it. It’s affecting us in ways we can’t even identify right now.

Continue reading “Writing Exercise: A News Article to Structure a Poem”

Reflection on my Creative Writing Major

Have you seen any progress in your work compared to your freshman year?

I’ve definitely seen a lot of progress in my own work since freshman year. I think back then I was really invested in seeming cool and seeming like my work was at its best. So I would usually submit poems that I thought were really good and didn’t need any work. Of course, they were really bad (in my opinion). I feel like part of becoming a good writer is tearing down the ego to make space for progress. My work then was mostly about voice—about creating an image and about educating my audience on a perspective I thought was most accurate. But what my work is now, is an admittance that I don’t know much, that I’m still learning the best way to communicate my message, and that my message may or may not be discarded by my readers—and that is their choice…whether they want to try and understand me or not…my work will continue to grow.

What are some things you still need to work on?

Well, there’s a lot of things I need to work on. There’s for one the ‘soft’ voice I seem to have in my poems which resembles the way I move about my life. I like to move about life softly—I almost wish I was invisible sometimes. But this softness doesn’t always resemble what I feel inside. And I think it’s important to do justice to the dark part of ourselves that goes continuously ignored. I try to do this often by incorporating philosophy and ideas about humanity, but they are still not resonating well enough because the ideas are overshadowed by syntax and other techniques. I think this focus on dark language is something I need to work on to be able to disturb my readers the way I hope to someday.

That, along with longer poems that tell a story—all the while developing a very casual kind of voice that is both indifferent, wise, and “cool” are some of my goals.

What are some things you have learned in workshops?

Workshops have instilled in me a lifelong tolerance of criticism. I am definitely a very sensitive person. But workshops created a safe space for me to understand where criticism comes from—a lot of the time it comes from a place of love rather than judgment. Whenever I criticize someone’s poem in workshop heavily, I feel it is only because I love the poem so much that I want it to grow into what it wants to be. My critiques demonstrate more investment. When I only give compliments, or don’t comment at all, it means I didn’t spend as much time thinking about a poem on real terms. Of course, workshops also taught me that some criticisms come from a place of discomfort as opposed to understanding—but that we have to learn to differentiate between the critiques that matter and those that don’t. No matter what is said in a workshop, the poet is the only one who has authority over their poem and only they know what they are trying to accomplish.

Are you different than when you came in to Geneseo?

I want to say that I am different. I came into Geneseo with many goals. And I have to say that I’ve accomplished most of those goals. The journey from then to now has been full of obstacles and lessons. I feel I can function on higher levels now, what seemed stressful to freshman me, is welcomed by senior me as hard work and a productive day. Staying in and doing nothing feels wrong—and I appreciate that Geneseo has created that feeling in me, because I trust now that when I go out into the world, I will be doing things every day and working towards a goal. I had a lot of independence and freedom as a Creative Writing major and it is because of that freedom that I know I will be alright in the ‘real’ world. I don’t feel intimidated by the future, because I know it will be as unpredictable as my college career has been. And I definitely feel ready to start life outside of college. I think we all reach a point where we just know that we’ve done everything we’re going to do in an undergraduate program.

What does writing look like for you in the future?

To me, writing looks no different than it does today. I will write when an idea comes to me, I will keep an archive of those writings, and I will send off poems and stories I love to be published. I will always continue to write—no matter where I am or what I’m doing, and it’s not necessarily to make an impact or to be read but just for myself and my own growth. I hope to publish a book of poems someday and I will always be involved in the writing community closest to me. Maybe I’ll pursue an MFA, maybe I won’t. Either way, writing will continue to open doors for me, as it has already, for the rest of my life. I owe the act of writing a lot of my success. I will always love to write, I don’t think that will change. And just as I have been a writer and a student at once, I will be a writer and (insert profession here). Hopefully a mentor of sorts and an advocate of the craft for everyone I meet as well.

A Poem Kallie Showed Me

A thank you to Kallie for introducing me to the light, pillowy poetry that Mary Oliver makes room for in our chaotic world. I read it about three times a day, at least. It gives me a minute to breath and realize that although my world is tainted, I am still living. I am still here.

Here’s a reminder to take a deep breath and sink:

“Wild Geese”

Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.