Expression and Understanding

Poetry has always felt intimate to me as I mainly use it to express and explain my inner thoughts and feelings. My work tends to be driven by my emotions and the way I analyze (or overanalyze) them. In that sense, I’d say the main source for my writing is really just my interest in balancing and understanding myself in relation to essentially everything else; I write to make my thoughts and feelings more tangible to myself and and I write to see how the world around me effects my behavior and vice versa. I’m also decently confident in my writing abilities, so there is a sense of pride and comfort attached to writing that motivates me to continue working.

I believe that as modes of expression go, voices heavily impact the way people are perceived and understood. My own speaking voice has always felt a bit lackluster to me. Moving around a lot during my youth never let me latch on to any dialect in particular and my speech patterns tend to be fairly awkward. Poetry and creative writing in general, however, let me express myself more succinctly and even allows me to create new personas for myself. I write to have a voice for when it’s difficult to verbalize.

People whom I admire also influence me. With poetry, I enjoy listening to slam poets (Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay are two favorites). Attempting to duplicate their styles using my own experiences or create something that I find equally compelling to hear are fun challenges for me. With stories, I enjoy being given prompts by people whose work and/or knowledge impress me—professors, fellow writers—or attempting to create interesting worlds or characters reminiscent of those from my favorite books1. I love watching standup comedians, especially sarcastic ones, so any humor in my work is in part because of people like Maria Bamford and Mitch Hedberg.

The final and arguably strongest source would be musical influences. I’m interested in the way that sounds and phrases can produce something lovely. Many of my poems are lyrical and rhythmic. It’s very inspiring when I hear a song that tells a story poetically2 or alters my mood with a particular beat; it makes me want to do something similar. That’s why I enjoy listening to alternative and indie music (Glass Animals, Passenger, Tora, Nothing but Thieves, Damien Rice). There aren’t any many limitations in either art form, which feels freeing from a creative standpoint (as much as I like setting goals and achieving them, I don’t appreciate being boxed in).


1 I love Tolkien’s intricate descriptions of Middle Earth, young characters that discover themselves like in “Ask the Passengers” by A.S. King, and the complex relationships from stories such as Lisa Jensen’s “Alias Hook.”

2 By poetically, I mean both having beautiful qualities and utilizing the techniques often associated with poetry like rhyming and figurative language. I personally enjoy using these techniques in prose too, as I feel it adds depth.

One Reply to “Expression and Understanding”

  1. Upon reading through your post, a particular line jumped out at me, “I write to have a voice for when it’s difficult to verbalize.” ~*cue Grace spitting up lukewarm coffee all over her T-shirt*~
    Yes, yes, and yes. Verbalizing is hard- especially with something BIG.
    There are things in life we encounter and cannot explain, much to a poet’s frustration, because some things take up every space in every dusty corner of life after they occur- how do we describe the everythingness of an experience? How do we verbalize the all-encompassing? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with David Foster Wallace, but he was a rock star author and also a very troubled mind. When he hanged himself in his garage in 2008, his wife Karen Green was the one to cut him down.
    She subsequently wrote a collection of stream of consciousness poetry called “Bough Down,” and it is equal parts breathtakingly beautiful and soul-gutting. Grief takes over even the most mundane activities in her life- walking the dogs, watching TV, cleaning the kitchen- she uses a very honest and rugged form of poetry to try and delineate (and verbalize) her grieving process.
    Karen Green wrote to regain a voice when every fabric of her being became griefgriefgrief.
    I would strongly recommend Bough Down to you- I have it on my bookshelf for when I need a solid dorm-room cry fest…if you’d like to borrow it 🙂
    I don’t know much about slam poetry, and I admittedly have been avoiding it for quite some time, but I was equally interested by the fact that you try to incorporate influences such as Sarah Kay into your written work. Upon listening to poems from some of the artists you mentioned, I wondered how you incorporate sources like vocal poetry into ink and paper. I also was intrigued by the fact that you have a hard time vocalizing things but draw from sources of vocal poetry and music. I’m sure you’ve listened to plenty of Sarah Kay’s work, but I would recommend her poem “Postcards” to you. Upon hearing this poem, I cried a little in Cricket’s and no amount of bagel, egg and cheese could console me. This recommendation to you is more of a question: after listening to this poem, how would you write a poem that mimics the rhythmic style even if it isn’t meant to be slam poetry? How does source translate for you between different realms of poetic expression?
    Lastly, in response to your adoration of Tolkien’s gorgeous and intricate fictional Middle Earth- which is deceptively realistic- I would recommend Tolkien’s poetry to you (!
    He writes mainly about the world he has created, and some poems are used as chants or songs within the books, but I think that furthers the impressiveness of his work…it is one thing to create a detailed, vivid world, but it takes pure dedication and imagination to be able to write dozens of poems that can illustrate the world in such lyrical beauty! I think this collection of Tolkien’s fantasy poetry will further his influence on you as a poet and also inspire your lyrical, rhythmic style of poetry.
    I look forward to reading your work 🙂

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