Enter the Epigraph

As artists we are always attempting to be original. To break the status quo. To write the next best, mind-blowing masterpiece. Sometimes, though, we sequester inspiration from our peers or our favorite writers.

Enter the epigraph.

I realize that the epigraph is slightly controversial in that it can be distracting from the primary work; however, I would like to try at least one or two poems that are composed from a pre-existing work or quote.

Using epigraphs does not detract from the author’s personal creativity or originality. Epigraphs can act as stepping stones for your own ideas.

Perhaps the reason I am eager to add an epigraph to my work is my love of quotes. While many quotes can be labeled as cliche, I find some to be very raw, honest, and eye-opening. All of these characteristics are things that I want my writing to be infused with. On the other hand, some epigraphs raise questions, which my work tends to lack. Incorporating such real life questions in my work will only strengthen me as a writer.

How does everyone else feel about epigraphs? Feel free to share experiences at previous attempts!

Expiration Date

I first began writing when I was fourteen after impulsively signing up for a Creative Writing class offered in my high school. Once the wheels in my head were greased with the thought of creativity, I would spend two to three hours every night scribbling in a journal, or typing on Word. Writing was all-consuming. Writing was what I enjoyed, and looked forward to do.

But recently, I’ve been struggling coming up with new ideas to write about in my prose. The ideas that I write are either refabricated thoughts that I’ve written, or have been knocking around in my head for a while. I can only properly write 1,000 words a day in prose, when I was producing 3,000. This lack of production doesn’t fit my personal standards on where I should be as a writer. Why did I start my writing career so vigorously, and why has my writing capability dwindled? Which leads me to a concern that I never thought I would have:

Do writers have an expiration date?

It’s a great wonder where the inspiration to write stems from. Some think that its our everyday experiences that pepper or inspire writing. Some think that there are ideas floating above our head, that sink into our brain, and that we become so compelled by the ideas that we have to manifest them. I have always been of the personal belief that ideas that make me write come from random thoughts brought on my observations. At least, that’s how it was before I entered college. Now I’m more concerned with manifested scenarios around current ideas. My writing has become commentary on a situation I’ve heard about or seen, instead of the inspirational idea simply popping into my head.

What does this mean, in terms of my writing? Have I drained whatever part of me manifests ideas? Have I wrung my creativity dry, after demanding so much from it?

I’d like to think that the way my writing has changed, and the source of my inspiration, means that I have matured to a point in my writing where I am looking to make a statement about the world I live in. After struggling with the idea that my creative juices might be dry, I’ve come to the hopeful conclusion that maybe my job isn’t simply to manifest work for pleasure. A good work of writing should be a pleasure to read, of course, but maybe I’m searching for the truth in my writing. I’m no longer satisfied making up extreme worlds in which the plot doesn’t have any relevance to what I’m feeling or seeing. In my prose and poetry, I am looking to portray real feelings, real scenarios, real conclusions and frustrations. I am looking for a way to reach the audiences of the world, and to hopefully teach them something about the point of view of a young woman.

As for the significant decrease in time that I spend writing, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more careful in my writing. The sentences that I put into play are chosen with several thoughts: is this sentence relevant? how does it pertain to the message of the peice? is this word in this work of poetry important, or can it be cut to make room for a better, more substantial word?

Maybe I’ve simply matured to the point where the production of my writing depends on my stalling thoughts. The things that I want to write about take time, and research, and that’s also a roadblock in production.

My creativity hasn’t yet expired, but it’s certainly slowed. I’m not sure what this means for me as a writer, but as long as I keep observing and commenting on the world, I’m fairly certain that I’ll be able to live a creative life, writing well-researched and carefully plotted prose, and poems.

New Techniques

As I sat in class for the first time this week, I couldn’t contain my excitement over the fact that I get to share not only my work but read and engage in my peers work. Surrounding myself with such powerful and intelligent people pushes me to work harder and inspires me in so many ways.

I know for me personally, being at such a young age, creates a sort of writers block compared to writers who practically lived more than half their life. Being so young means not nearly as much life experience to incorporate into my work. I often am faced with a struggle of what to write about when wanting to make my writing personal. I often find myself taking a cliche route and writing about “love” and “heartbreak”. After reading my peers work, I have been inspired by so many interesting thoughts, ideas, and techniques.

One technique I wish to try, is spreading my words and or sentences throughout the page, and not keeping them in a basic couplet or stanza. This will  be challenging for me but I believe in order to become a stronger writer it is important to challenge oneself.

Snark Zuckerberg

As a person, I strive to be clever always. I appreciate witty repartee and intelligent comebacks. So, usually in my writing, that snarky-ness can come out. Especially at the very start/development while establishing myself as a poet, because I would just naturally write whatever came to mind. The voice just came out onto the paper. With this, came a very strong sense of self. That confidence then even reflected back into my reality. Writing has truly helped me to mature as a person. It has been my own therapy sessions, and progress of growth. I would go back and forth with the paper, constantly finding new ways to express myself, trust myself, and love myself. I became comfortable on the paper with my ability to write, and because of that, I became comfortable in my own skin. I am proud that I have developed in this and look forward to where even more vigorous writing can take me as a poet, and person.

Now in my writing, I think my voice and style has changed–for the better. I focus less on my sassy qualities of just pure, raw emotion/passion, and drive more towards sonic sounds and content. I truly think I am a fiction writer at heart because my poems always lean towards more narrative, but I will never let go of poetry. In my poetry, regardless of my more established sense of self, I do still want to try and experiment with more techniques. I want to try different perspectives, I am ALWAYS in first person. But perhaps my strengths lie in other areas that I haven’t even touched upon. There are many strengths while using second person, or even third person. I want to more immerse my reader into the sense of place and feeling that I try to so vividly paint for them. I think different point of views are a great place to start. BUT, I will never forget my roots of the 13 year old girl with an attitude who fell in love with poetry. A part of me while always have that snap to my writing and passion. I am proud of that sense of awareness and am excited to see where else it will propel me.


Through Sound

Over the last week, my thoughts have been lingering on a single idea that was brought up in class (though I can’t remember how or by whom): can a poem deliver meaning by sound alone? Can words be paired in a way in which the mere pronunciation of them gets a message through to the reader? Or does a poem need to be a string of words that make literal sense for someone to understand it?

I mentioned in class last week that I love listening to foreign languages, especially through music. Like poetry, music can have an emotional impact on us. It can inspire, relax, and excite us. It can trigger memories. I often associate songs with the times I first heard them. So some piano pieces by Brian Crain will remind me of a rainy day, and anything by Owl City brings me back to summer. If sound from music can have this effect, why not language? I have a special love for Japanese, probably because I’ve been listening to it one way or another since I was fourteen. Because I’m so used to hearing it, the language has become as familiar to me as my own. Its familiarity is comforting to me and has a homey feeling. Even though I don’t understand most of it, the sounds of the words have meaning to me.

For this reason, I’d say it’s more than possible for sound to have meaning on its own in poetry. It could be difficult to understand poetry that way when you’re trying to make sense of the words. If you’re reading the poem, the sight of the words could be distracting. So maybe listening to someone else read it would help put more focus on the sounds. When you simply listen, a foreign language (or a poem written in gibberish) can provide meaning.

Sound in Writing

As a writer, sound plays an important role. Sound varies from on paper to off. Anyone can write something like, “the clock made a ticking noise”. But what did the ticking noise actually sound like? Was it loud? Annoying? Calming? That is when it becomes the responsibility of the writer to dig further on what is just on the paper and to add meaning to the words.


As a writer it is difficult to incorporate sound in a piece. I believe in incorporating the five senses in a piece because it stimulates an image and causes the readers mind to think past the words and apply them to an actual meaning. Think about a song. If a song only had one instrument throughout the entirety of the song, the song would be really boring and no one would want to listen to it. So in writing, if we only wrote about things that stimulated, for example, smell, the piece would lack in both creativity and imagination.


Sound to me plays an important role to not only my actual life but writing as well. Each sound is unique. Some are calming like waves hitting a beach, and some are aggravating, like nails on a chalkboard. When I write I want my audience to feel what I am feeling. If I am writing a piece and want them to feel my anger or sadness I will use words to describe the sound for that emotion. Sound is often kept on a low radar but it is more relevant than we think.

A Few of Our Favorite Things

If poets have taught me anything, it’s the importance of generosity — to be generous to others and ourselves.

Indeed, the difficult work of creating is a labor we all share in.

As such, I firmly believe that, as writers, we have an obligation to lift up one another — to help our peers navigate this wonderfully complex craft.

What I’m trying to say is this: you’re always welcome to ask me for opinions or critique or reading suggestions or absolutely anything!

Having said this, I thought I’d share some pieces that I hold near and dear and invite you all to post your favorites as well: poems that spark joy, lines from your own work — anything and everything!

Creative Non-Fiction

• Rebecca Solnit’s “Diary” 
• Leslie Jamison’s “The Empathy Exams
• Nikolina Kulidzan’s “A Kiss Deferred by Civil War” 

• Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s “Carly Rae Jepsen and the Kingdom of Desire” 


• Christopher Soto’s “All the Dead Boys Look Like Me” 
• Tyree Daye’s “Neuse River” 
• Hieu Minh Nguyen’s “Apology, Sort Of” 
• Jane Wong’s “Twenty-Four” 
• Eloisa Amezcua’s “Long Distance” 
• Rosebud Ben-Oni’s “And All the Songs We Are Meant to Be” 
• Paige Lewis’ “I Love Those Who Can Walk Slow Over Glass and Still Hold” 
• Albert Abonado’s “The Greeting” 
• Leila Chatti’s “Reciting Poetry in the Psychiatric Ward” 
• Tiana Clark’s “Equilibrium” 

Performance Poems 

• Isla Anderson’s “The Forensics of Salt-Licking” 
• Phil Kaye’s “Repetition” 
• Rudy Francisco’s “My Honest Poem
• Athena Chu’s “Genesis Unedited” 


• Yaeji’s “Feel it Out” 
• Mura Masa’s “What If I Go” 
• Camille Saint Saëns’ “Rondo Capriccioso” 

• Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” 


On Sound, Bodily Honesty, and Paige Lewis

We are constantly immersed in and affected by sound and vibration. In truly quiet areas you can even hear the sound of air molecules vibrating inside your ear canals or the noise of the fluid in your ears themselves. The world we live in is full of energy acting on matter — it’s as basic as life itself.           

— Seth S. Horowitz, The Universal Sense

Sound, this?

Sound has many forms — a simulacrum for intimacy, an intrusion, the byproduct of any object in motion. Despite this limitlessness, it is best to discuss sound in its simplest iteration, as a unit of expression.

Indeed, sound tells us so much. Describing a projectile test conducted at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Horowitz writes, “The ultrasonic microphone picked up a submillisecond whissssshhhh of the projectile’s flight right before impact. But rather than a thump and some gentle pattering. . . we heard an explosion of sound at the impact followed by almost a full minute of a sandstorm.”

From these sounds, Horowitz is then able to piece together an illustration of impact and aftermath — how atmospheric presence affects the trajectory and nature of collision. By extension, this information can then be applied to everything from astronomy to defense research.

This is true in everyday contexts as well. The whistle and groan of a railway tells us that the train is imminent. A blistering alarm signals that, yet another student, has overcooked their ramen. The wince in a voice, discomfort. The turn of a lock, that someone is home.

Clearly, sound has a habit of snitching on others; however, I’m more interested in what sound tells us about ourselves.

Language, of course, is a manipulation of sound. It lies on a spectrum somewhere between silence and the scream. These two extremes are blank checks — expressions of a kind of profound, absolute desperation. But language, language is the comfortable medium where we’re able to approximate meaning.

Still, if we scrutinize language itself, we see that it’s more than surface level. For instance, rising intonation indicates a question. The emphasis of words can be a determinant of meaning. In this way, the fine mechanics of language can be considered an exercise in bodily honesty.

As Paige Lewis wrote, “So often our bodies betray us, just look / at our feet, how they point to what we desire” (The American Poetry Review). Similarly, what we speak is nearly as important as the way we speak it.

All of this is to say that sound affects our lives profoundly which, of course, is a truth we’re all aware of. Unsurprisingly, few will claim that sound isn’t important — its level of importance is the actual point of contention.

If you’ve ever been 10 and played the game Would You Rather, you’ve probably been asked this: “If you could only keep one of these two senses, would you see or hear.”

This question is really what it all comes down to.

When forced to choose between sight and sound, many will choose the former; however, as both Horowitz and I will argue, the correct choice is and always has been sound.

Hamilton: My Intro to the Importance of Sound in Written Works

You will learn soon enough that I have no shame.

After selling some of my textbooks to Sundance, I had a decent hunk of cash to spend wherever.  I could have purchased noise-blocking headphones so I wouldn’t hear the Kelly’s patrons fighting and smashing bottles outside of my bedroom window.  I could have purchased the new Halsey album so I could play it at parties and my sorority siblings would think I’m cool.  Instead, I purchased that gigantic Hamilton book; you know, the hardcover that was in the Sundance window for a month with all the information about Hamilton the musical.  I’m the sucker that bought it.

While half of the book is juvenile gushing about how great Lin-Manuel Miranda is by some no-name writer (and I refuse to feed egos), the other half made me read closer than I’ve read any form of literature in a long time.  Every song was typed out and annotated by Miranda, explaining how he chose specific words and phrases for each verse.  Within the first third of these annotations, Miranda introduced the term “tonal assonance” to his readers (I donated the book, so I can’t give you the direct quote).  As it turns out, tonal assonance is Miranda’s “thing.”  He is particularly good at maintaining tonal assonance in a verse.  His consonance generating skills aren’t too shabby, either.

Let me show you: in Cabinet Battle #1, Jefferson and Hamilton are arguing about whether or not the federal government should assume state debt.  One of Jefferson’s lines is as follows:

“…Our debts are paid, I’m afraid

Don’t tax the South cuz we got it made in the shade”

For a Hamilton lyric, four assonance matches is pretty common.  Keeping a set of assonance matches in one or two lines is similar to what we read on Monday.  This next set from Hamilton’s rebuttal to Jefferson, however, looks somewhat different:

“Thomas Jefferson, always hesitant with the President
Reticent—there isn’t a plan he doesn’t jettison
Madison, you’re mad as a hatter, son, take your medicine
Damn, you’re in worse shape than the national debt is in”

That quote represents ten seconds of rapping.  That’s eight assonance matches in ten seconds!  I’m sure we’ll cover this in class at some point, but the placement of the assonances is fascinating to me.  So, we have four at the ends of these period-less lines (I don’t know the precedent for punctuation in song lyrics).  But then, within those first three-to-five syllables at the beginning of each line (besides the last one), there are assonances.  And even without the assonances, Miranda keeps the “s” consonance with “shape” in the last line.  And the “hesitant” placement seems arbitrary until you hear it, and it sets the whole section of this verse.  As you can see, I don’t quite have the academic language to describe what’s going on yet, but I do find it important to show (myself, mostly) that I’m seeing something here.

Also, the myriad of word options one has when creating assonance and consonance is exemplified immaculately in this chunk of lyric.  At a glance, “son” and “cine” are not alike.  Depending on how one pronounces them, however, they can sound alike!  Isn’t that cool?  Maybe you guys already knew that, but I think that’s really cool.  I suppose it’s about being able to hear different pronunciations of things in one’s head while writing to create this.  I bet we’ll cover that in class, too.

My mind is a bit blown.  I was never taught to think about how the meaning of written work changes depending on how the words sound both by themselves and together.  Paying attention to how I say words was emphasized (I took voice lessons for a long time), and finding words that didn’t sound “clunky” together while writing was part of my education at some point, but nothing deeper than that.  And even though I’m perfectly comfortable reciting memorized works, I don’t like reading new works out loud.  I become wary of how I say things and how quickly or slowly I read, and I stumble over words like a second-grader when I’m reading something out loud that I haven’t read before.  I don’t like surprises, from obnoxiously loud motorcyclists speeding up my childhood road to being called on to contribute noise I didn’t plan on contributing.

For me, sounds can evoke fairly intense, emotional reactions.  I slammed my hands over my ears when Jeremy Jackson read aloud Corinne Enright’s explosive short story about hearing voices, and I cried when I listened to Kendrick Lamar’s Damn backwards for the first time.  But emotional intensity sometimes leads to intellectual clarity, and more than anything I search for that clarity.  I want to understand things.  I guess (or I hope) sound in poetry will be the next thing.