I Had to Mention Ekphrasis Eventually

            While the year is coming to a close, I couldn’t end the semester without saying something about ekphrasis, writing inspired by art. It has long been one of my favorite methods of writing. It allows for an expansion of the conversation that the art has established. In this way, ekphrastic writers have the opportunity to create a powerful network.

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Revision Thread!!!!

I thought this would be a great way to get some cool tips and tricks out there for revision!

We know the usual ways of revising: sitting down in a cute coffee shop and crying into a latte is my go-to. But really, we’re used to revising a certain way, and we could be doing so much more with nuanced approaches!

Revising method 1. Play games! Too many people doubt the power of writing games! Sometimes cool ideas stem from simple word games with friends that can offer new insight on a poem!

Method 2. Try out a new form! By giving yourself new limitations with which to work, you can see what’s important in your poem. Giving yourself a set number of syllables to use per line or using a different alliteration per line can be a fun way to play with different sounds!

Gimme more methods!! (please I’m desperate)

Please, Frankenstein was my father….

I’ve been thinking about my last workshop piece. It felt like two poems stitched together, and that’s because it was. I lean heavily on certain aesthetics and imagery we all already know I have a soft spot for, and I keep trying to use them as a crutch or disguise to talk about other things that, if I’m frank, I don’t always want to talk about.

Something we’ve struggled with this semester, both as peers in our workshop commentary and in relation to our own work, is separating the poet from the poem. We talked in class about ‘fudging the truth’, how once something becomes a poem, it should not, and cannot, try to be completely truthful and authentic to the poet’s reality.

I don’t have a problem with that; even in the middle of writing it, I could tell my most recent poem was veering away from its origins in my real-life experiences, and that’s okay. I’m left with this dilemma, however, one that I feel I have very often, where my writing seems to be trying to say something, but I don’t know what that something is.

I’m excited to work on it, but find myself at a loss. When I manage to write something I do like, I often feel as though my writing is cleverer than I am. So I’m left with this, a half-formed amalgamation of things, ideas stitched together, that’s taken on a life of its own.

How do you wrangle your Frankenstein’s monster?

Meaning or no meaning?

I started wondering do poems have to be evasive and have a secret code. Is it bad if the message is clear, does that make it a “weak poem”.? Many of the poems we read we tend to look for what are they talking about or what was the poet going through that could have influenced that. However what if is just a combination of words that worked well together or images that came to mind and they just made sense of them. Does there have to be something for the reader to figure out or can it be straightforward?. I just notice that most of the more spoken about poems have hidden messages so I fell as though they make it better in the world but is that always the case. I guess I am curious as to what makes a poem stick or what makes it a strong poem. I always thought it was language and how you make certain words blend together. Or if there was a story aspect to it and takes your reader from their reality and into this mini world or moment you created.

Dear Diary…

Though we are alway supposed to assume that what our fellow poets produce and share does not give us insight about them, most of us automatically jump to conclusions, myself included. The moment I begin reading workshop pieces, I assume that the speaker or the protagonist is the author, although I realize that this is a grand fallacy. I even catch myself stumbling over this in workshop, as I critique someone else’s work. I typically consider the speaker and the author the same person, even going so far as to make the author’s name and the speaker, “I,” interchangeable.

On a similar note, I believe that writing poetry and sharing it requires bravery. Many of us write about deeply personal topics regarding our family relationships, pasts, sexuality, and heritage. Needless to say, it can be nerve-wrecking to take such a vulnerable piece of yourself and let a classroom full of students critique it.

Even when I read published collections, I mesh the author and the speaker’s identities together.

I believe that I stop writing from other people’s perspectives because it feels fraudulent and sometimes politically incorrect. I know that other people have struggled with this, as well.  If you do write a poem that does not revolve around oneself, how do you justify narrating someone else’s thoughts?

I was wondering how everyone else stops themselves from assuming that the speaker of the poem is in fact themselves. I also was wondering if anyone else gets nervous exposing themselves through their writing.

Empty emails and blank word documents

At twenty-one years old I’ve yet to send a single email that took me less than fifteen minutes to write.

After shooting off a careless email (because I’m tired and I have things to do) I sit, bleary eyed and full of regret. I’m looking at the redundant mess of a sentence that I, an alleged writer, have created. I’ve made an abomination of the English language

It’s irretrievable, of course, already sitting in their inbox. This is the future of communication! It’s not like I have four weeks to agonize over its transit via Pony Express. It’s been half an hour and I’m still thinking about it, how this is the only representation of myself I have given to another human being, who I have not met. This is all they know about me.

This is what happens when I don’t agonize over what I’m doing, apparently.

My usual email-writing process goes like this: write a list of the things I need to say and/or ask. Write a sentence or two for each item. Make sure to make a new line when I change subject so that it’s easy to read at a glance. Figure out what an appropriate salutation to use – do I Ms. or Mr. them? Can I use their first name? ‘To whom it may concern’? Does anyone really start emails with ‘Dear,’? I check to make sure I’ve spelled their name correctly. I check again. Rearrange sentences. Make sure it still makes sense after I’ve re-arranged it. Spell-check again, because I’m still a sloppy typer. How do I thank them for their time? Am I supposed to have a professional looking email signature? I should really get on that. Read it out loud. Should I thank them again or will it be too much? Never settle on what closing sounds  the least stilted – ‘Sincerely’? ‘Best’? Or is just ‘Thanks’ fine?

Give or take a few steps depending on how much I want the recipient to like me.

It’s honestly not unlike how I write in general. I double-check lines and phrases as I write them and lose steam because I should have just thrown down something, anything to get the feeling out (I think that’s why I write shorter poems – and even then I get the same feedback, that I start strong and peter out around the end). Even after all this time listening to folks expounding the importance of revision, I’m stuck with the idea that becoming a good writer, a good poet, means that someday I’ll be able to transmute things directly from brain to page in perfect form, divine inspiration-style, the first time around. It’s irrational, and can’t help but feel like it’s hurting me as a writer.

It’s something I don’t have a solution for, but I’ve been trying things out. I started in the biggest marker I have; sometimes I can’t fit more than a sentence on the page. The lines are ugly and not even close to poem-worthy, but it’s fast, ugly and satisfying. I’m going for quantity with these, not quality. There’s a specific kind of burnout I’m trying to avoid, where I sit on ideas with the intention of letting them stew, waiting until I find the best way to go about realizing them, only to lift the lid off the pot to find that they’ve boiled away to nothing.

There’s a lesson I’ve been trying to teach myself lately, one I’ve never quite managed to put into practice, both in writing and in life: something is better than nothing. Partial credit is better than not turning it in; showing up unprepared is better than not showing up at all. Trying is something. Something is better than nothing.