I will always be glad of the way Ms. Steele, my sixth grade English teacher, introduced myself and other children to poetry. Sixth grade wasn’t the first introduction to poetry as a whole- it’s near impossible to get through childhood without poetry of any kind- but as an introduction to reading and understanding it as well as writing it. As a fantasy-driven kid, I loved when the assignment was to make up words like they were commonplace, while my very stoic friend liked the strict rhyme schemes. It was interesting to think of how many ways thoughts could be put to paper, how creativity could be expressed.

Poetry lost its free form as I grew older, becoming something somber and lyrical. Poems were written about the forest and love and wondering about which path to trod. While I understood and even enjoyed some of these poems, I never realized how much I missed the freedom of the children’s poems. They were written for simpler thinking, for the bounce of the sounds and the lightness of topics. Sure, they didn’t quite make sense and they bent rules just for the hell of it, but it was fun. Kids didn’t care how it was written, just as long as it was entertaining, and while poetry is some sort of game for adults, finding meaning in the nuances and listening to schemes, I love the simplicity of children’s poems.

One of the poems I remember reading and enjoying in sixth grade was Jack Prelutsky’s “The Average Hippopotamus”:

The average hippopotamus

is big from top to bottomus,

It travels at a trotamus,

And swims when days are hotamus.


Because it eats a lotamus,

It’s practically a yachtamus,

So it’s a cinch to spotamus

The average hippopotamus.

Sure, the poem makes words rhyme with hippopotamus forcefully, but it’s an enjoyable poem to read. Also, how many poems are written about hippos? Not many that I know of.

I guess I just felt like reflecting back on the poetry kids get to read, how poetry nowadays tackles objects a lot heavier than hippopotamuses (which is hard to do (sorry for the bad joke)), and I like the lightness of kids’ poetry. Makes it easier to forget about the doom and gloom that is reality.

Note: Hippopotamus is not fun to write, especially in plural.


I guess I’ll blog about love…*collective sigh*

I told the guy I’m seeing that I don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. He was relieved to hear this, of course, so he wouldn’t have to try and present a gift that represents love when “I love you” has been a taboo phrase in our relationship. I thought about writing him some sort of love poem, but I couldn’t…what would I call it, anyways? A “like” poem? Anywho, I think all of this talk about love had me thinking about poetry and source. Love poetry is a terrifying and unfamiliar territory for me. I can write about seemingly mundane and obsessively minute things, but big concepts like love leave me in a chokehold. I get angry reading some of the love poetry I see online…especially when poets equate their lovers to their UNIVERSE. I don’t like the idea of being in someone else’s orbit, and it drives me crazy to see love become “you. are. my. everything.” I don’t hate love whatsoever, I just have a hard time writing about it while balancing what I learned in church growing up, what I’ve observed around me, what I’ve experienced myself…it’s a confusing abstraction. How do you guys feel about love poems? Have you ever presented someone else with a poem directed at them? How do you encompass the wholeness of love in a single (no pun intended) poem?

To conclude, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite poems. In high school, in the library during 3rd period, I came across this love poem by John Frederick Nims and ended up scotch-taping it, handwritten on a torn page of my student planner, to my hot pink bedroom wall until graduation. “THIS IS IT!” I thought, realizing that this was the only love poem I had never scoffed at or winced while reading. I loved how messy this love was, and how ordinary and flawed it was as well. This poem felt real to me. I hope you all enjoy it as I did, and have a lovely Valentine’s Day (whether you’re a lover or a cynic or just plain confused).

Love Poem
(by John Frederick Nims)

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apopleptic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.



“milk and honey”

Hi all,

I found myself struggling when deciding what to post on the blog this week.  I was looking through some of my books for inspiration, and I figured I would post some of my favorite pieces from Rupi Kaur’s “milk and honey.”   Her book is currently one of the best-selling contemporary collections of poetry.

Regarding Kaur’s sources, I believe she is writing (a) to help her readers through traumatic experiences similar to  her own, (b) about what it means to be a minority (regarding her gender and race), and (c) about relationships (familial and romantic).  These are the sources I notice the most, but I’m sure they don’t stop here.

My absolute favorite poem of hers  is on page 51:

Continue reading ““milk and honey””

tracing sources//being selfish

In the poem, “Introduction to Poetry,” by Billy Collins, is this brilliant stanza:

“I say drop a mouse into a poem/ and watch him probe his way out,/ or walk inside the poem’s room/ and feel the walls for a light switch”

I came across these four lines written on a sidewalk at Governor’s Island, when I attended their annual poetry festival.  I wanted to draw attention to this image of probing a way out of a poem–aren’t we all feeling around for a light switch? Isn’t it this that steers us closer to the source of our poetry? The source of poetry in general?

Ah, the source of poetry. The business of tracing sources, which is a theme of Catherine Halley’s “Detective Work” interview with Susan Howe. This interview is what brought me back to this poem by Billy Collins. Which brings me to my next point.

If I am to say that Halley’s interview with Susan Howe reminded me of four specific lines in a poem by Billy Collins, am I also saying that poem was a source for Halley?

This is the frustration I had, reading the interview with Howe.  Aren’t we ultimately always informing our understanding of a poem by US, OURSELVES?  I did that very thing while reading the interview.

Which brings me to my final point.

I want to be selfish with my sources. And I think all poets are selfish with their sources. This act of tracing sources is ultimately an act of probing a way inside ourselves.

Aren’t we all writing ourselves?


I hope we can find a balance between writing into ourselves and exploring the sources of other poets.


Lately I’ve found myself thinking about structure. Structure implies order, that everything has a place to make up a whole. I like being structured. Having a structured schedule makes me feel productive and helps me figure out what I need to do and when I need to do it. Structure goes beyond schedules, to buildings. The structures of buildings are skeletal frames that somehow form a whole building. Sure, you can think of the straight beams like skyscrapers, or maybe the curves of the Sydney Opera House. Short or tall, structures make up the building. A lot of people forget about the structure beneath the facade making up the building. It’s a lot like poetry.

Meaning in poetry is often scoured and filleted from the poem itself, in the words making up the poem, but many people often overlook the structure of the poem.  The structure itself can establish a feeling- chaotic, anxious, relaxed- and it determines the length of the poem. Structure can create order or chaos, though many times readers overlook how a poem is written, looking between the lines rather than at them.

Personally, I myself have not thought about structure until this year, and it’s incredibly fascinating to analyze how a poem is written rather than why. So, when writing, I’ve been trying to analyze structure a lot more than I used to. Filling space, creating holes, compacting and stretching; it’s all very fascinating. It also provides more leeway than paragraphed prose.



Foundations of Thought

I’m in English 203: Poetics, with Dr. Doggett, and lately we’ve been studying the originals, you know, Plato, Aristotle, Shelley, Wordsworth, and analyzing their thoughts on poetry. Originally, poetry was thought to be imitation of life and art, and therefore, a lesser art. Despite their ideas that poetry was lesser, poetry was also seen as divine, through the Oracles of Delphi, but history was also told with poetry. Wordsworth stated that poetry had a way of taking something ordinary and using creativity to make these happenstance events unique. That, I think, was my favorite point made.

Poetry is a way of looking at life and thinking of phrasing it in a way that connects to people. It’s a way of looking at language and the double-meanings and how it applies to people as a whole. We connect through art and how it invokes emotions within us.

Overall, I enjoy writing because, as someone who struggles to connect face to face, I can connect through my words and emotions. I have time to string together my words and thoughts to show what I see and how I feel to show to other people how I see the world. When people find their own thoughts, their own feelings, in the words on the page, they can connect, and that is what I think poetry is. It is the imitation of real life, and there is a divine sense to it, through our means of connecting even when we have never met someone.

Have We Met Before?

I’m loving the class Spotify playlist.

It’s only a few days old, and I’ve listened to it probably over 7 times, not all the way through, but I’m getting there. Whether I’m sourcing the poetry consciously or subconsciously, I’m just ecstatic about the new sounds bouncing around in my room. The Spanish rap is certainly something out of the ordinary for me. So far, I’ve added like 6ish songs to the playlist. I contributed quickly, adding 6 of my favorite songs that fall strictly into the genre of Indie or Alternative, since that sums up my auditory comfort zone. One musician that I placed on there is Tom Rosenthal, the artist that I want to dedicate this blog post to. His music is simple, quirky, and odd, but so relatable and honest. His lyrics are poetry and his music videos are these low budget little art projects. Look him up on YouTube.

Tom Rosenthal is based in or around London, and because I stalk his vlogs and Instagram, he has two adorably-fat-faced babies. He collaborates with a lot of the film makers that I frequent on YouTube, usually creating songs and soundtracks for their content. Imagine having a seriously musically talented friend who could generate original pieces for your work?

The title of this blog post is “Have We Met Before?,” my favorite song by Tom Rosenthal. It’s a love song, not necessarily distinct to romantic or platonic love. Set to piano, the lyrics are a series of statements, read as questions:

Are you thinking?
Is she close?
Do you struggle with umbrellas?
Are you leaving?
Are you home?
Have you timed this badly?
Have we met before?

As the song progresses, the lyrics become more personalized, and you can gather that Tom is singing about someone. He’s singing about all of the random talents, tendencies and idiosyncrasies that comprise that someone. If the song comes on and I’m working, I smile. If the song comes on when I’m available to let it consume my mind, I melt.

Love songs with clichés exist for a reason: universality. But what do we really want to hear from love songs? We want love songs to ask:

Can you count to ten in German?
Can you whisper?
Can you lie?
Did you design your own website?

“Have We met Before?” is a love song about someone and everyone. It’s about you and me.  I think as a source, the song makes me feel value in my individuality. It makes me notice the beauty in the freckle on my lip and the oddity of boyfriend’s hatred of bananas. It reminds me to write honestly and exactly. You better watch the video below, and fall in love with his music immediately. It’s a great soundtrack to study to.

The idea behind the video, I believe, was to compile videos collected from viewers all over the world, who filmed their bedroom view for a few moments. You get to travel around the world for two minutes. I think that further shows how the song encompasses everyone, yet pays mind to all of the tiny details.


Because I Am This Person

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Goodwill with my best friend about an hour before they closed, then we drove across the street to watch “A Dog’s Purpose” together and teared up several times. That last part is less important…That’s a lie; that film was so cute and I love puppies and it had so many happy moments and I wanted all of the dogs to be my pals!

What is important are the three books I got from Goodwill. An art book on sea monsters (I am a child, I know, fight me), a guidebook on how to survive unnatural disasters like a arachnoquake or a boaricane, and a book of translated Japanese love poems.

This is who I am. This is how I spend my spare time.

Now, seeing as this is about poetry, I could give a review on the poetry book. But I shan’t! I mean, it is really great, but I need to address how fantastic the word “beeclipse” is. Like come on, that’s so cute and punny.

Aside from the glorious puns, “How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters” is a book based on cheesy SyFy movies. This book actually exists and I can enjoy it whenever I want and it was a steal at only $2. Noice.

It’s really funny, especially because I now have the word “pirahnaconda” in my head and it will likely pop into my mind again tonight when I’m really sleepy and I’ll laugh out loud like an idiot and tell my roommate/best friend and then we’ll both laugh like idiots. Good times, good times.

There isn’t really a point to this other than to say I enjoy and admire this book’s silly humor and wanted an excuse to share these dumb words with everyone. I’m hoping that this year, I’ll come up with at least one funny, lighthearted poem to make someone smile, though. Fingers crossed!

Poetry, Religion, and Education

The first experiences with poetry in my education was also tied with one of my first experiences with prejudism against non-Christian religions. I don’t remember which poem we were reading in my 3rd grade class, but I remember not understanding a reference to Original Sin.  “It’s why you were baptized,” The teacher told me.

“But I wasn’t,” I said.

“You’ve never been baptized?” She asked me, eyes suddenly wide. When I told her no, she shook her head, muttering, “That’s not good.”

I doubt she would have said that to another girl—a friend of mine—in the class who wore the hijab. The difference between us was that my skin was lighter, and I never covered my hair in school. It wouldn’t be for several more years that I would understand the benefits and privileges I would receive throughout my life.

Fast forward to high school (no, we didn’t study poetry during the remainder of elementary or middle school), my ninth grade class, and we’re reading a poem by Rumi (always fucking Rumi. Rumi is the only Muslim poet in all of existence, in case anyone was wonder… the Islamic Golden Age wasn’t a thing). “We aren’t Muslim. We don’t get the refences to Miriam.” One student said. This was the same student who liked to shout out that the way to spot a Muslim was by large noses “like Hussain.” So, no, I doubt he even read the poem. The teacher looks to me.

“Ameen is Arabic, isn’t it? Pakistani?”

“Syrian.” Don’t say it. Don’t fucking say it.

Then she said, “So you understand the references to Islam?”

There it is! Because all Arabs are Muslim, and there are no denominations within the religion. “My family is Shi’a. Rumi was Sufi.” Yes, there’s a difference. “And I’m sure if you read the poem, you’ll figure out the Christian version of the name Miriam.” Really not that far off from Mary, you assholes.

“That was rude,” the student commented. (The was the same student who would later draw swatsikas on the bathroom walls and off hand mutter sand-n**** and towel head to my friend [also Muslim] and me in the hall…. But, you know. Whatever).

“Poetry is hard, guys. I understand if you have trouble with this.”

Poetry. Is. Hard.

No. I still don’t know which part of that situation I’m more pissed at. But it does bring me to my next memory.

The Odyssey. This was the next example of poetry we were given in 9th grade, with the assumption that we rarely read poetry prior. Excellent idea. Take a bunch of lazy 14 year old, and give them a piece of text that is fairly difficult to understand when you’re not used to older styles of writing, and remind us over and over again that poetry is fucking hard. That will 100% up our appreciation for the art.

Oh, wait… No it won’t because that’s probably one of the worst methods of introducing students to poetry, next to forcing them to read Shakep—OH MY GOD THEY MADE US READ SHAKESPEARE NEXT. WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS TO US?

Yes, the following work of poetry we studied was Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream. Not a bad choice to introduce Shakespeare… Had the teacher not have repeated excused lazy reading for the work—or, rather, poetry in general—because poetry is hard.

Now, in terms of literature to study in by school, I agree that we should have read books like The Odyssey and Midsummer’s Night Dream. There’s a reason they’re considered classics, and that’s not my problem with the way poetry was weaved into my high school education. My problem was these were the words that introduced poetry to us, long after we should have been. Where was Shel Silverstein? Where was Sharon Creech? And more importantly, as we reached middle and high school, where were the contemporary writers to stand alongside the contemporary ficton and nonfiction novels we were told to read? Why were the works by Warsan Shire or Marie Howe less valuable to our education than Lucy Grealy? Why was poetry always sold as something that was hard by nature, and why was it always so deeply tired with Christianity, despite being taught at non-religious public schools?

I bring this up because I’m deeply afraid and worried for the future of our public education system, as I’m sure many are. As it is, it’s riddled with flaws from not truly being dissociated from religion (rather, Christianity) to denouncing particular forms of art and literature. But rather than fixing it, a woman who has openly stated that state funding should be pumped out of public schools and into both religious schools (again, I’m sure we can guess which religious she was referring to… hint, hint, it sure as fuck isn’t Islam or Judaism) and charter schools. I’m scared because as it is, the arts are so quick to be cut when a school loses funding. I’m scared because right now, poetry isn’t valued in the education system as deeply as it should. And I’m scared because, despite protesting and calling representatives and voting, I’m not sure if the children going to public schools over the next few years can truly be saved by this unqualified excuse of a person. Even if in 2018, we manage to push more progressives into Legislative branch, even if we get Trump out of office in four years, we’re still destroying the lives of children, enabling the idea that anything that requires the least bit of thought is “too hard so you don’t have to do it,” enabling the notion that it’s okay to be racist ad assume that your beliefs are the only beliefs.

Education is the only true weapon the people have against a man who does not want to lead a democratic society. Trump wants a dictatorship. And he is well aware that picking away at an already shaking education system, privatizing our institutions, and creating wider gaps between the upper and lower classes, destroying the middle class—that’s how a society falls into dictatorship. And for this, I am afraid.