Drawing Inspiration from Art

This was an unintended pun. But, as we’ve touched on how art can be a source for our poetry, I wanted to share some of the art that I continue to return to.

Htmlflowers is an artist whose colors can always pull some good out of me. They post their art on Instagram and also sell it on independent sites.  The colors in their art can always pull good out of me.  Here’s one of my current favorites, called “disapproving sun” along with another one that is untitled.

Another artist I return to is unnamed because I found a book of their art a while back at a yard sale, and the book was pretty tattered up. I have yet to discover their name but will continue to return to their images, such as:

I wanted to include both of these artists, because it’s important to note that our sources do not have to have concrete particulars about them. Maybe they aren’t named. Maybe we turn to sources that could be a feeling, something intangible. In this case, there’s a named and unnamed artist. Both inspire me.

What artists/ types of art inspire you guys?



Thanks to a subscription to Rattle: Poetry, I get some great poems sent to my email. Recently, on the 25th of this month, I had the pleasure of reading the poem below by Leila Chatti. In a brief blurb after the poem, Chatti mentioned how entwined her faith is with her identity as a person and a poet. While I myself am not religious, the concept of faith (placing one’s trust and belief in something or someone, the pledge of loyalty) is a universal message that I find both interesting and admirable. In this poem, Chatti speaks of her mother’s faith in a flexible sort of religion and her own faith in her mother. Similarly, it made me think about the connections I have with faith. I feel like it opened my eyes a bit more to the how much faith I place in my mom, how much faith she places in God, and how these things affect our dynamic (both positively and negatively). Which is a cool source to ruminate over, I think.


to replace the old gods. Scripture
gleaned from the backs
of magazines, stars—she follows
horoscopes like commandments,
tells me Leila, you’ll be lucky
in love this month, but watch out
for the eyes of strangers, whatever that means,
a cigarette waved like a censer
through the air, calligraphy of smoke.
My mother rubs oil for wishes
on her wrists in the dark
aisles of the wiccan shop she loves
so much (except for the tarot cards and candles
shaped like dicks, she has limits), and won’t pass
any open water without first sinking
in a coin. She insists on fortune
cookies, but only believes
the ones she likes. My mother stays wary
of magic, forbade me late night
Ouija conversations, but once
paid thirty dollars for a psychic
to summon her sister, then cried.
A child, I heard the trinity wrong—
thought God was a ghost, her faith
a haunting. But now I know God is just
like any man: shifty and often late.
God’s like a bad dog that doesn’t come
when He’s called, and my mother waits
for no one. Summers, her holy
months, she lies by the pool
and anoints her own good self
with her own good sweat. Her wet palms
turn tabloids to birds, the pages ruffled,
as she tilts her face, defiant, towards an empty sky.
In these moments, I’ll believe anything
she tells me, still and radiant
as a painting of a saint, halos
in her sunglasses and the future
sleek and spread in her hands—
my mother, Seer of the week ahead,
my mother the miracle that will save herself.

“Touched by An Angel” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s “Touched by An Angel”:

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

I was struck by how beautifully written this poem is. Granted, Maya Angelou is known for her skill as a poet, but I loved the grace and elegance in which love is described. Rather than be some everyday event, love is depicted as some holy thing, one that brings about pleasure and pain, something that pushes us to be beyond what we are.

One interesting thing about the poem is the choice of structure. Stanza 1 has six lines, while Stanza 2 has seven, and Stanza 3, eight. Through this, there is a progression that matches the change in content. The first stanza describes humanity, how while alone we are lonely and don’t know what it means to be brave, until first introduced to love, then it moves on to discuss the effects of love and how to liberate ourselves using it, and the third stanza shows the purity of love and how it ultimately frees us. While the first stanza is more constricted, like the topic of people without love, the second stanza mirrors a looseness mirroring the introduction of love; restricted by memories of pain and pleasure, which could potentially hold us back, until the third stanza reveals the ultimate freedom of love and how we are stronger with it.

Another interesting choice Angelou makes is to repeat sounds throughout the poem. While there is no rhyming, which would create almost a singsong sound to the poem, and through that, possibly make the poem sound less mature, adding to the high-pedestaled Love.Through the repetition of sounds, there is a soothing, peaceful feel, which only adds to the idea of loving being a freeing concept.

As far as possible shortcomings, I can’t really think of anything.

Amichai and my (less than) Half-Sized Religious Fervor

This time last year I was in ENGL 201, and it was the first time I shared any of my poetry with other people. One poem that my professor shared with us was “Half-Sized Violin” by Yehuda Amichai. It’s easily one of my favorite poems, and I’ll explain why. The meaning I gather from it, along with the time lapse from childhood to adulthood are the two main characteristics that draw me to this piece. However, the mystery behind this piece I think is the reason why it stays so fresh in my mind.

If you go online, you can find dozens of poems by Yehuda Amichai, a revered Israeli poet. Yet, “Half-Sized Violin” is hidden within the abyss of the Google, which I thought was supposed to give me 86,300 USEFUL results in 1.02 seconds. I managed to uncover three leads. “Half-Sized Violin” was printed here, in an August 1996 issue of The New Yorker. Funny, because a few months ago I seized a student discount offer and now I receive issues of The New Yorker at my front door. Honestly, I still prioritize online news and social media to stay informed, but the cartoons only require a spare 30 seconds to enjoy. Anyway, once I located the poem online, I could barely make out the words. I’ve transcribed it below, but as a caveat, the poem I’ve included may vary from Amichai’s actual one.

I read up on Amichai. His background in Judaism fuels his poetry’s commentary on God. To quote one of his lines from a JSTOR article, “God remains like the fragrance of a beautiful woman who once passed them by and whose face they never saw.” Scholars comment on Amichai’s “impudent” relationship with God. He interests me. (That’s Amichai, I mean.)

I think the most brazen thing about this poem is Amichai’s portrayal of God as a child, “pat-patting” the sand, as if carelessly toying with the fate of mankind. The speaker also introduces his own childhood experience, in which his elders threw a half-sized violin at him, along with feelings and emotions that are too complicated to bear, so they lesson the burden  by placing their faith in the hands of a boy on the playground.

I’m curious to know what you may know about Yehuda Amichai. Are you familiar with him, his work, or this very poem? I’d also like to hear some thoughts about the second stanza. When I return to this poem, there’s always something new to unpack. But, I always sense the same gratification of learning to rely on my individuality “dress and undress all by myself,” as well as the crippling uncertainty of larger forces at play.

Half-Sized Violin

I sat in the playground where I played as a child,

The child went on playing in the sand His hands went on

making pat-pat then dig then destroy

then pat-pat again.


Between the trees that little house is standing

where the high-voltage hums and threatens

On the iron door a skull and crossbones: mother

old childhood acquaintance.


When I was nine they gave me

a half-sized violin and half-sized feelings.


Sometimes I’m still overcome by pride

and a great joy; I already know

how to dress and undress

all by myself.


Yehuda Amichai


“Good Bones” by Maggie Smith

Hi all,

Last semester I took Fiction II with Rachel Hall.  The class after Trump was elected, Hall gave us this poem which continues to resonate with me:

Good Bones

by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Continue reading ““Good Bones” by Maggie Smith”

Inspiration for Sources, Sources for Inspiration

Each time I sat down with this assignment in mind, I couldn’t get to writing about sources for poetry without using the word “inspiration.” I kept thinking about what inspires me, and the two concepts became muddled in my mind as one and the same.  That’s when I turned to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines “inspiration” as :

  • a :  a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation b :  the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c :  the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

  • 2 :  the act of drawing in; specifically :  the drawing of air into the lungs

  • 3a :  the quality or state of being inspired b :  something that is inspired <a scheme that was pure inspiration>

  • 4 :  an inspiring agent or influence

And here is their definition of “source”:

  • a :  a generative force :  cause b (1) :  a point of origin or procurement :  beginning (2) :  one that initiates :  author; also :  prototype, model (3) :  one that supplies information

  • 2a :  the point of origin of a stream of water :  fountainheadb archaic :  spring, fount

  • 3 :  a firsthand document or primary reference work

  • 4 :  an electrode in a field-effect transistor that supplies the charge carriers for current flow — compare drain, gate

I found it interesting how many more “movement” words were involved in the definitions of “source.” I think it’s important to try and differentiate these two terms, because they are equally important to the creative writer, but in different ways. A source is often described as a point of origin, before energy shifts and something or someone is initiated to move; inspiration is defined moreso as abstract movement, the movement of thoughts and emotions. Obviously, sources in poetry do that for us too, otherwise they wouldn’t be deemed sources that we turn to. But I think it’s important to think about what each of these words means to us individually as poets this semester.

I could tell you myriad events, objects, phenomena that inspire me…but I feel there is a line drawn between what inspires someone and what propels someone to actually create. A source isn’t necessarily an inspiration, is it? The source can be viewed as a tangible object: an old journal article, your favorite writer’s latest short story, or a purple sock in the corner of your room that you just never picked up. We are responsible for ascribing meaning or significance to these objects.

That being said, I will attempt to discuss where my head’s at right now in thinking about my poetic sources, and moving into this semester of workshop.

I recently attended a poetry reading in Holland, Michigan where one specific poet, unnamed, said

“If you want to write for yourself, you’ll reach all the people you want to write for.”

This quote has stuck with me since that reading. I’ve always struggled with knowing who my audience was, or even acknowledging if anyone was listening. Creative writing always felt like a very selfish act, and there didn’t seem a way for MY writing to not seem self-centered. In the past year, I have come to view this selfishness as an integral part of my creative process. If I am to think about the sources for my creative writing, it would be myself: everything that makes me unable to sleep, makes me sleep for a week, makes me think clearly, or that muddles my thoughts so much they are thick mud that cannot be sifted through. I am ok with these ‘selfish’ sources. As a painfully aware and sensitive writer and human being who has collected anxieties and vulnerabilities across a timeline of trauma and mental illness, I’ve found that my search for the exact sources of my poetry mirrors my own personal journey with validating my existence on several fronts: as a mentally ill individual, as a woman, and as part of a stereotyped ‘naïve’ generation.  So, in sum, the source of my poetry will always go back to my own consciousness, and efforts I have made to smooth the course of it or exorcise certain demons from it. This source is most often projected through a cultural lens, as my poetry discusses important social issues by pulling out the inherent ironies of severe issues and turning them into rightful causes to be scared, angry, or feel unsafe.

Thus, my creative energy derives from:

1. Consciousness; emotional capacity and hyper-awareness, progression of time, viewing things as timelines with everything affecting everything else, describing things in terms of psychological/biological occurrences within the mind.

I write as a way to sift through this progression, to make sense of what I haven’t already made sense of, and I write as a practice of listening. I find I don’t listen to myself as much as I do when I have the urge to write, or am in the process of writing. This is also when I feel most connected to humankind.  I write to dissipate the silence, because one of my biggest fears is being silent, and most of my anxiety is felt during times when I have been silenced by others, made myself silenced, or just didn’t have the words to say. I want to always have the words to say—and if not the ‘exact’ way I wish to say something, then at least have those words to fall back on as the only way I’m sure to arrive at truth. Again, this stems back to following my sources back to my own mind and existence.

2. Movement. I am mesmerized with movement and what we can learn from following it, from seeing where it comes from, and from viewing how some movements are more particular than others. This movement is often abstract: time passing on, small changes in the wetness of leaves on the ground from Monday to Thursday, or the way people move their hands.

At the end of the day, the original source for my writing is myself, and I find myself confident in my writing process enough to know that when I am inspired by other people, or by other people’s movements, it is always with my voice that I speak these truths. I believe that the things that interest us, that move us, and even horrify or disgust us, do so for a reason that is intricately embedded in our consciousness. I have always been prodding my consciousness, attempting to exorcise traumas and negative space by representing these in my poetry. It’s very much my strongest form of self-preservation.

3. Art. Another place where I draw inspiration is in art that I love, and art that I hate. Reading other creative writing, looking at other types of art, will always be a way for me to get inspired and get writing. I’ve found that being aware of why you use certain techniques in writing, why you like certain writers and why you hate certain writers, has really led me to finding my own creative voice.



I’m excited to explore in depth sources of poetry, because it seems to me that one always has myriad sources. And we aren’t always thinking of them consciously, or are aware of the reasons WHY we turn to specific sources. For me, the kinds of sources a writer is drawn to or fixates on says a lot about their creative process and also the kind of person they are. I look forward to learning more about source material this semester, and growing with all of you as writers 🙂

see you guys next week!


It’s All Good Poetry

I contemplated getting a tattoo of the phrase “It’s all good poetry”, not because I’m a huge fan of the technicalities or history of poetry, I’m not. I couldn’t name many famous poets, or properly dissect a poem, but I’ve written and read them for the majority of my life. I’m not fascinated by many things that those who study poetry must be fascinated by. Continue reading “It’s All Good Poetry”

Only With Coffee And Hope

I’d like to keep this brief, but at the same time I wouldn’t mind venting the morose mess of existence I admittedly feel.

Too often.

My skepticism of how school serves as a tool for betterment, or in my reality, believing it to be a crutch to keep me grounded and submitting to the flow of normalcy – succeed, work hard, accomplish your dreams. The melatonin hasn’t helped. The doses have been random, but I still enjoy passing out after a null day of classes. Dropping alone in my room, my quiet bed embracing me. It feels like a running gag of routine and an almost-desperate need for silence, and a stopper to the masses called college students. Even if I’m one of them, feeling comfortable anywhere, even at home feels…unlikely. So far, it feels unlikely.

Like a wound, refusing to let me go. Strength in the form of trembling hands.

So far, I’m still alive, even if wanting to occasionally end my young self. Some friends say I have greatness in me. Some say I don’t give myself enough credit. My father used to say that I had the world by the balls. I only want the world to let me sleep and not think so goddamn much but instead I’m always wanting to avoid sleep and avoid people and avoid giving a damn because I keep giving a damn because I care about others even if they care not for me and I just want to be okay, I just wan-

To mean okay.

Only with coffee and hope, lately. The lifeblood of an English major who feels not enough of himself to do any good, or to make any ounce of credible pain worthwhile like Bukowski – is my life crappy enough to be considered a blessing? Have I earned the right to say how I feel and let my words be stolen through the minds of others, their varied thinking from what I write? The beauty of my property becoming more than sweetly aged paper? The privilege of being remember?

Or am I just relevant because I haven’t chosen to leave yet. Or afraid to leave. Or just holding my breath as I type another sentence out with a fair amount of dignity. (Or not)

Or hope. Or resolve. Or because I’m still here. Still afraid.

Still tired.

(Still trying)

I can walk in other people’s shoes, but I think it’s wrong to write in them

I’ve always felt confident as a writer, but I would never call myself a poet. I’m creative, but my comfort zone lies within critical analysis and doesn’t dare cross over into artistic territory. In order to write freely or write about my feelings, I have to be fuming with happiness or anger. Oddly enough, the past two years of my life have been the most emotionally dynamic; and yet, I refrain from putting my personal thoughts to paper out of sheer embarrassment. I rarely physically document my sentiment, but I constantly express my stories through verbal words.

My whole life I’ve been simultaneously praised and criticized as a storyteller. I tell stories a lot, usually imprisoning my unsuspecting audience. By drawing out my tales in long, loquacious bouts as to communicate my tale in the most detailed, it’s-almost-as-if-you-were-there manner, I either win or lose audience approval. It’s usually too much for my readers or listeners, who urge me to “hurry up already,” but do they ever misunderstand or question the events I just presented to them? Never. I find that when I have to be poetic, I wince at the task of writing something that will be construed into different interpretations from others.

Thus, the small handful of poems that I’ve written come from real life events that I experience, witness or observe. Stories. I’ve never been able to gather inspiration from others’ experiences or feelings, be it from a book, play or from the point of view of my best friend or mother. When I encounter a moment that inspires me, I almost immediately scribble down a list of the event. What happened? Where was it? Who was it with? How did I feel then? How do I feel now? Two examples formed the heart of my last two poems:

1- During break I had a nurse butcher my arm while attempting to draw my blood. I fainted. I wrote a poem about my incident, which referenced my fear of, as a woman, being denied rights over my own body.

2- I’m stupidly in love right now. One time I was looking into my boy friend’s ear and I got very caught up in the cartilage and how it curves and pools like cake batter. I then wrote a poem about love and honey.

So, I know I can narrate stories and present ideas whether I’m compelled to write fiction or non-fiction. However, when it comes to poetry, I struggle to write abstractly. I can read the poetry of Plath and Dickinson and fixate over it, but I have not been able to recreate or embrace their lyrical, metaphorical darkness for the life of me. I think if I had to categorize my creative writing, I would clarify it as prose, not poetry. As a result, my inspiration has only stemmed from my own physical and mental interactions with people. I feel cut off from music, art, and the lives of everyone else.

“hermit crab form”

When Lytton told me this class would be focused on “sources” of poetry, I knew I would really enjoy being a part of this class. I often find myself writing about things I have come across in other readings, or stories I have come across through research. For example, I have a poem about Marilyn Monroe–one of my favorite original pieces. I also have written a piece about Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, both writers during the Second World War; they had a correspondence of love letters throughout the war. I have a poem about a woman who was became pregnant by a wealthy man on the Titanic, written in the voice of their child. From here I will write my list:

1. I love bringing old stories/historical moments (like those I have written about above) back to life.

2. Nature often grabs my attention and I find myself writing about things I see in nature all the time. A few months ago a deer jumped out in front of my car and I have yet to write a piece about it but I REALLY want to. I also am fascinated by fruit and love cutting it up and tossing it in my poetry.

Continue reading ““hermit crab form””