Workshop Experience

As I first entered this class, I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous of course, and I knew it was going to consist of workshop, but I have never partook in a workshop this intense before. It was for sure stressful and nerve racking at first, but as the semester is coming to a close, workshop has become something I really enjoy.

Critiquing other peoples work has really enhanced my writing skill. It helps me realize and understand the type of work I want to produce. Work shopping my peers work gives me ideas of what to possibly write about while helping me avoid techniques and or vices that I do not wish to write about.  

Sometimes I find myself unsure of what to comment on my peers work. No piece of writing is truly perfect but it may be hard to find the right thing to comment. I always try to give my peers comments to the best of my ability. It is always disheartening when you receive your poem back and there are little to no comments on it, does it mean I am doing something right or does my reader not care? Showing some effort truly goes a long way. 

Collaborative Poetry

Poetry is often thought of as a solitary act; an art form we do alone. I understand this, as most of our poetry is rather personal and reflective. At the same time, workshop is a collaborative effort, in which we gather the thoughts and opinions of other people on our work.

Recently, I have been wondering what would happen if we made poetry even more collaborative. Some works of fiction have co-authors, but is this possible in poetry?

Yes, according to Wikipedia, (I apologize I know referencing Wikipedia is not ideal in an academic setting) there is such a thing as collaborative poetry. Japanese poetry is influenced by collaboration, as are some famous French Surrealist poets. Similarly, Charles Henri Ford created the “chain poem” in which each author writes a line and then sends it to the next author. This type of poetry was also relevant in feminist poetry. These are just a few of the sources of collaborative poetry; however, it is enough to pique my interest.

I think it would be very interesting to write poetry collectively, especially with my talented peers here at Geneseo. All the workshops I have attended offer such great feedback and produce such amazing results, I can’t imagine what madness we could create altogether.

Next writing exercise? Collaborative poetry?

i’m going to write until i figure out why i haven’t been writing

I mean that literally; this blog post is going to be a stream-of-consciousness wherein I try to figure out why I haven’t been writing much lately. In other words, a therapy session wherein I am both the therapist and the patient. 

So, yeah, as you know by now, I haven’t been writing much lately.  And I’m not sure why that is. It seems I just haven’t been able to find inspiration on my own for some time now. Most of the poems I’ve written over the last few weeks stem directly from the writing exercises. This, of course, isn’t the worst thing — after all, I am still writing. It’s just that these writing exercises are acting as a crutch for me in a way that I’m not used to.

Again, though, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The poems I’ve been writing for the exercises have been far longer and less restrained than my poems have been all semester, and it honestly feels really good. 

Maybe, then, this writer’s block isn’t so much of a block as it is a balancing act. I’m figuring out how to better harness creative energy, learning to have stamina in the act of writing, letting my poems get longer and looser. 

Or maybe I’m coming up with excuses for writing these long, nonsensical poems instead of the more concise, logical poems from earlier in the year. Or maybe I’m finding my style or my voice or something like that. 

Honestly, this blog post is pretty comparable to how my poems have been lately, for better or for worse; that is to say, unstructured and selfish.

Also, I’ve been painting a lot recently. And painting is a whole lot like poetry for me. So maybe I haven’t stopped writing. Maybe I’m just writing with watercolors instead of words for the time being. 

Therapy sessions are never truly conclusive, and as such I think it would be unfair of me to assume that this blog post would be any different. It seems our time for this week is up, would you like to schedule an appointment for next week?

A poem in a psychology paper?

Guys, I found a poem!  No, it’s not a “found poem,” in that I constructed it.  I literally found a poem in Dr. Merrilees’ 2014 research!

Some context: Dr. M is a Psychology professor here at Geneseo.  She is also a peace psychologist, which means that she studies peace maintenance in conflict zones.  Dr. M’s research focuses on the conflict in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, specifically on how the conflict affects adolescents’ social identity.  The text I’m featuring is from the discussion section of her 2014 paper. Here it is:

As youth develop a greater

awareness of group distinctions, naturally occurring

changes in sense of community &

group identity may shift.

I swear on my GPA, these words appeared just like this in the paper!  Even sans context, a poetry workshop could legitimately workshop this.  I’m blown away: poetry is everywhere!


Why I don’t play an instrument

I don’t have many theories on life, nothing like Sick Boy’s unifying theory of life from Trainspotting, but I do have one personal philosophy on the arts that I’m a little proud of and like to spout at the hours of the night suited to sustaining pseudo-intellectual platitudes. I listen to a lot of music and enjoy talking about it, but have never really tried to dabble in it myself, aside from a few recorder lessons as a first-grader that culminated in me throwing my recorder to the ground during my first recital.

Sometimes I fantasize about being a rock star (Who doesn’t?) or even just strumming a guitar after a long day, but for the most part I think that respecting music only as an outsider to it’s inner workings is beneficial to my sanity. Maybe my ego is over inflated, but when reading I have something of a competitive streak. Really good lines are appealing, but in the back of my mind I can’t help but compare my own work to the them. Beyond this, I also find myself dissecting pieces of literature, identifying various craft elements that make them what they are. I think this a good thing for me as a writer, but worry that it damages my immersion as a reader.

I can handle this with one art, literature, but don’t think I could deal with doing the same for another, music. I have close to no grasp on the ways in which music works, I’m nescient as to what the different notes are, I don’t really get what chord progressions are, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of my overall musical ignorance. Yet, this means that music is untouched by any sort of law for me, it’s like a miracle to me. It also means that I in no way compare myself to whatever musician I’m listening to. I may pick mental fights with Hemingway’s craft (I don’t win), but not with Hendrix. Okay maybe a lyric makes me jealous every now and then, but instrumentals are too abstracted from my understanding to stoke any sort of envy in me. I respect people who attempt to take on multiple arts, but I know that it’s best for me to stick to the one and let the others retains their mystery. One form of artistic turmoil is enough for me. 

Recurrent Theme: “Body”

I never thought of my poems as having “recurrent themes” because they seemed to go in all sorts of directions. But one day recently I was looking at different literary journals and I found one called Love Me, Love My Belly which is a publication of Porkbelly Press, out of Cincinnati, Ohio. I am super excited about this zine and hoping to purchase one of their issues soon. They requested that work submitted be in relation to the body. I started looking through my work, self-reflectively, and noticed that much of it deals with the theme of my conflicting relationship to my body, my questioning of my body, and sometimes, a bolstering of my confidence concerning my body. What’s interesting also is that I really like the word “body” and I use the word itself in many of my poems (I didn’t realize this before). It seems to signify, to me, the mechanism which houses a person’s spirit, the skin and muscles and bones that put a person together. And in a certain sense, it also represents, to me, the sexuality of a body, as the “b” stretches to the “dy” slowly, having to press its way slowly over the “o.”

Continue reading “Recurrent Theme: “Body””

What Poems Ask of Us

One of the things that struck me this past week was our analysis of There but for fortune. I noticed that the poem itself was incredibly straightforward and blunt, but our analysis assumed that the poem was a multi-faceted metaphor, with layers of symbolism and multiple different meanings. There but fortune is different from the most of the poems we’ve looked at in the past- it tells events just as they happened, with little room for conjecture. 

That’s not surprising, our training as readers has always been to look for the deeper meaning. We have been taught to vivisect text under a microscope and pluck out what’s there. We expect everything to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma, unraveling layers of surrealist metaphors, and that’s justified, all the poems we’ve read have done that with few exceptions. Our poems have always asked us to solve them like puzzles. So I’m not surprised when we would confabulate when faced with something so straightforward, so blunt, so immediate transparent and bare, our only reaction can be “What am I missing here? What does it mean, and why can’t I see it?” 

Of course, none of the interpretations are wrong. There is zero objectivity in poetry. Sometimes, a poem is just asking us to bear witness to an event, an emotion, to glimpse something we have never experienced.


I get comments (concerns? questions?) very often about the choice to refrain from using capitals in my work. Lately, I’ve been attempting to analyze what it’s all about, knowing that I don’t typically like to do things for simple aesthetic pleasure. I mean, ya girl hates Pier 1 and its associated meaningless decor. If it’s not about aesthetics, what is it about?

During the identity writing exercise in class, I wrote the following things:

who am “i” (I)?

“i” prefers to watch shrek alone in a hotel room rather than attend a cocktail party. “I” will go and wear extroversion like bad perfume.

“i” winces at the sound of rushing water. “I” tells her therapist she’s over it.

“i” is always convinced of being unseen. “I” is a fake brand of assertive


“i” tells people what she needs to say. “I” tells people what they want to hear.

& some other semi-dramatic declarations.

Writing seems to access the primitive realities in which the “i” humbly dwells. Living seems like a big game of faking it, especially (perhaps exclusively) in a university setting, where “I” give presentations in fake confidence and drinks up the term “resume builder” like SmartWater. I’ve taken comments from writers I trust about using capitals, but as soon as I do so, it feels off. I’ve come to try and separate the quiet, bold, refreshing honesty of the “i” with the “I” that I must unclasp and throw on the ground like a bra at the end of every long, exhausting weeknight (sorry for the image).

There is a weird divide between who i am when i write and who I am when I meet with professors or walk around the Union like I own the place. I’m sure we all know this feeling, as separating personal from professional is good and necessary. However, i see the distinctions so clearly between “I” and “i,” it’s not even about whether the “i” in the poem is being assertive or passive, it’s about the difference between what“i” says on paper and what “I” would do in real life. I can’t bridge the gaps that exist there. 

I’m not sure if this makes sense, and perhaps my attempt at justifying myself proves that this technique isn’t working, and I’m not all convinced that it does. I suppose I will continue to revisit what a poem needs, but at least while I’m trying to get through school, “i” needs to be allowed a platform or i might just go CRAZY.

If y’all have any thoughts, please share them! “i” and “I” would both be glad to hear.



i write because i’m selfish

Here is a blog post I recently wrote for another class, thought I’d share here. Enjoy!


“Poetry is always about my life. It’s a way to express how I feel,” sixteen-year-old Grace muses dramatically, holding her doodle-laden spiral notebook close to her chest after third-period study hall. Sixteen-year-old Grace has been utterly heartbroken approximately 2.7 times. She is assured that she has never been, and will never be, “seen” (whatever that means). She is still too embarrassed to buy maxi pads at the supermarket, but thinks she really knows the world for what it is. She wants to share this with you. Sixteen-year-old Grace un-ironically likes the Dave Matthews Band. She eats triple cheese Lunchables on the bus ride home from school, and as she stares out the window, she pretends she’s in an indie film, preferably starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as her boyishly awkward but spellbound love interest. Sixteen-year-old Grace makes sure to document all of these things with an unmatched melodramatic flair, always with a mechanical pencil that she probably borrowed from Lexi during Algebra II and never returned.

When I look back at my younger self, and even when I consider my work now, some internal eyebrows are raised.

Are all writers selfish bastards?

I say probably.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are genres that were built around pure philanthropic goodness, if such a thing exists. Dictionaries and thesauruses catapult themselves into the arms of red-eyed college students who have just used the word “pedagogy” seven times without knowing its meaning. In a more serious and historical example, many folks who contributed to writing parts of the Bible and other holy texts were martyred for their cause.

Creative writers, however, seem to take on a particular brand of literary narcissism. And that’s okay.

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand,” claimed author George Orwell, who, judging by his novels and this quote, never had much of a penchant for rose-colored glasses. In my own writing, I find this to be entirely true. The demon is a particular need. Just as sixteen-year-old Grace wrote incessantly about her recent arguments with the boy she just knew she would marry, I write now because the need is there. Namely in my preferred genres, poetry and CNF, it is a selfish need, one that aims to define the world in my own terms and assumes that the reader will care as I do, but still a need nonetheless.

If this need is unearthed whilst paired with technical skill, evocative language, and a refreshingly honest perspective, then the reader will care. If not, then a finished work, especially a non-fiction work, can end up as nothing more than a tired diary.

I believe, though, that the expansion of the ego is at times necessary for a work to develop. A writer must convince themself, however fool-heartedly, that the things they know about the world are important enough to share; consequently, they must explore the depths of their own perspective to articulate it all fully and effectively.

While the impulse to write is truly driven by some type of need, it is like any other—an appetite, a necessity. At the risk of sounding dramatic, the writer’s selfishness tends to be more about survival and less about fame and glory (if any of us are disillusioned enough to expect such a thing).

Regardless of what particular internal demons cause one to instinctually click-clack away at a busted Toshiba laptop at three in the morning or scribble ideas on recycled napkins at business luncheons, writing is one of the most self-focused “life sports” in existence.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean that it can’t bring others healing, perspective, and a realization of one’s own needs, especially ones they’ve never been able to articulate.

Sixteen-year-old Grace, still pocketing weeks worth of lunch money to purchase whatever band T-shirt will support the idea that she is beyond her years, encourages you to follow your heart and write whatever the heck you want, who cares if it’s selfish?

Perhaps you should listen to her, she seems to have it all figured out.

Revision Blues

The one thing I hate most about writing is revision. In general it takes a lot out of a person to be like yeah, I was wrong let me fix that. Let alone going back to their OWN writing and changing it.

We get so attached to our writing that we forget that these workshop comments are constructive criticism. They are meant to help not hurt us. I personally write poems, or even short stories, and find it so hard to go back and revise. Sometimes I wanna scrap the whole thing in general and start over. But then a voice in the back of my head stops me and tells me its not the end of the world, this revision is gonna make your piece stronger. That voice is right. If I stop being so stubborn, I can have the potential to really enhance my work by tweaking a few/or a lot of things.

Revision sucks in my eyes but at the end of the day I know that it can truly help me become a greater writer.