Senior Scaries

As time progresses and I begin to reach the middle of my Fall semester of my Senior year, a million thoughts began to run through my head. The one thought I have that has been pretty prominent, is what I want to accomplish when I graduate, and where my degree can take me.

I started this process by going back and looking at the first poems I have ever written. In doing so,  I realized how much my writing has improved. My old writing isn’t necessarily bad, but it definitely is not good. Seeing this improvement made me realize that my writing can only improve in the future.

I was always concerned that I would not be a good writer, and who is to say that I am right now. Seeing my improvement has given me the confidence that my journey as a poet is blossoming and improving every day.

With that fact in mind, seeing my improvements has given me the courage to apply for my MFA. I am currently looking into different programs that I believe will best suit me. Part of being a successful writer is confidence, but it is not grown over night.

“Ramona” by Guster: a desire for intimacy

In middle school and high school, my two self-proclaimed favorite bands were Guster and CAKE. I didn’t know why I appreciated these bands, exactly, but along with the “alternative” likes of Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Sufjan Stevens, and the Weepies, they did something to my adolescent mind. Something I liked, something that quickly released dopamine through my brain cells to create contentment and relaxation. Part of it was that these bands reminded me of my older sisters, who would play their music. But once I decided I liked the music for its own sake, there was a reason behind it.

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What we have the right to (ekphrasis, epigraphs, artistic responsibility…)

Literature cannot exist in a vacuum. Everything which is written and put out into the world is a product of a history of other works; it comments on, and is shaped by the culture and context which created. I’ve been thinking about this more than usual after David Herd’s visit. Through is grounded in a place, in a context. Herd saw something happening in the world which demanded to be recognized, recorded, and he felt the need to do what he could to bring it to light through his work. We talked with him in class about what we, as poets have the right to write about. By the end of his visit, after hearing him read and speak to the work he has done on Refugee Tales, it became clear to me it was less about a right, but about a responsibility to say what is difficult. Continue reading “What we have the right to (ekphrasis, epigraphs, artistic responsibility…)”

Fluidity in Language

After reading David Herd’s Through, as well as having time to talk with him in our class, and finally getting to hear him read in Doty, I went home thinking about the ways language is fluid. Herd talked to us about how a Prime Minister in England had hoped to treat the issue of illegal immigration with hostility. And although I’ve forgotten the woman’s name who served as Prime Minister, and her words here are paraphrased simply from Herd himself, Herd seemed to take issue with term hostile. And reasonably so, I suppose, as you’d hope that a leader of a nation would want to treat people in their country with hospitality, rather than hostility.

Through, then, seems like Herd’s way to counter this movement of hostile language, or perhaps to counter the disregard of the weight of language. I don’t want to get too political, but in watching Donald Trump’s campaign and eventual presidency, I noticed, as I’m sure much of the world did, that he’d altered expectations regarding the lexicon in debates, speeches, and interviews for a presidential candidate. He’s mocked a disabled reporter, referred to his opponent as a “nasty woman,” he insulted ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega more recently by stating that she’s “not thinking. You never do.” So while you may be in support of his presidency or against it, I think it’s clear to everyone that Trump has taken liberties with language as the POTUS, in a very public and informal manner, that’s unprecedented.

Through doesn’t comment on the Trump administration, to my knowledge, but I think many of the issues Herd speaks to, which are largely in regards to the U.K., are relevant here in the U.S. Whether we like it or not, language will remain fluid and the battle that Herd is participating in might never come to an end.

Embarking On A New Journey… (Genre)

Next semester, I have decided to branch out. Well not really, my main motivation behind that decision is because I almost, basically have to. With the rule that you cannot take three of the same genre workshops in a row, without a directed study or whatever the fine print is… I found myself struggling in filling out my application. All I have ever written is poetry. However, my poetry is all Creative Non-Fiction.

With this in mind, I set out to apply to the CNF track (fiction was an absolute lost cause…). I emailed Lytton in a panic, per usual, and he assured me in my choice of this endeavor. My poetry literally is CNF… I just had to omit the line breaks, add more of a theme, and string together some sentences… easy enough, right?

I sat down, with a blank word document, thinking about what to write about. I had a few things in mind, and of course my train of thought always conducts itself onto my family… which is fine because my family, specifically my dad, is my muse anyway. So I wrote about a very specific incident in my family’s life, and I just kept writing and writing, until after ten pages, it was ‘done’.

I was proud of myself for doing this, and it was so satisfying to complete this application. The writing however, was not just the ‘string together a couple of sentences’ mantra that I originally thought. Obviously, it was much more than that. Trying to recall the specific details, and thinking of ways to phrase the syntax of my sentences was an interesting feat. Usually in poetry, if I’m stuck, I just make my diction more concise by taking out small words — those of which that don’t matter in poetry such as ‘of, it, my, the’ … but in CNF — you can’t really do that. So, the ‘cut your darlings’ technique — my go-to — was not as reliable this time around for the sake of literal grammar, which doesn’t apply in my usual genre. My style of writing was also more scenic, rather than abstract and imagined — as it should be. So, again, it was a different experience overall, but I do indeed feel accomplished.

I asked for feedback on my piece, from a trusted friend, and after taking their critiques into consideration, I was ready to submit my application. I even wrote a small note on my cover sheet, saying “I already took poetry twice, time for a new genre” with a smiley face. I was nervous I wouldn’t get in, so I felt this need to debrief and defend myself in a weird way. But no worries, a few days later, I found out that I indeed made it into the track!

Now that I am admitted into a CNF workshop I have NO IDEA what to expect. But, I sure am excited.


Julia xoxo

~through~ on a bicycle

Last week in class, I brought in a drawing of a bicycle as a symbol of my experience in reading David Herd’s Through. (I thought about bringing in a bicycle but I don’t have one, and also that seems like a drag.)

The bicycle seems like an apt symbol for me as, evidenced by the title, movement is vital to Herd’s book. Within Through, Herd moves through a lot of things: time, space, borders, so on and so forth. He does so at varying speeds, oftentimes referencing walking. For me, though, the experience of reading Through felt more like riding a bike; moving at such a speed that the images and letters you are passing are, at times, recognizable, and at other times, totally foreign. At a walking speed, everything is readable, and at a driving speed (car, train, bus, whatever) things are rarely ever readable. Through, for me, felt like the middle-ground. This isn’t to say that I didn’t understand half of the book. I think more than that, it is to say that half of the book wasn’t written for me. That same half of the book may or may not have been written for you. Herd, in my estimation, provides so much content and so many nouns, proper and otherwise, that it becomes inevitable that the reader will grasp onto some, but not all, of what he is saying; I would reckon, too, that Herd doesn’t want us to grasp onto everything. He renders just enough of his text inaccessible that we, as readers, are able to begin to understand the feeling of inaccessibility in being an immigrant or refugee, for whom language (in addition to things like borders and countries and jobs) is rendered inaccessible, fleeting, appearing to move faster than they are.

Through, Syntax, Page 44, X.

I’ll think I’ll talk all little on one of the poems that really stuck out out to me in David Herd’s Through. On page 44 in the section “Syntax,” the poem “X.” really pushed me into a head space preoccupied with the concept of space.

While the poem itself is intelligible as a whole, I read it more as a series of couplets, tercets, and a single quatrain woven together to form two stanzas. The separations don’t have many visual markers as punctuation (like many of the poems in “Syntax”) as the focus is more on the arrangement and relationship of ideas rather than forces that, even unintentionally, divide. We’re left to sift through the syntax.

Some of my favorite portions of the poem are:

“I leave the following message

  It is not ok”

These two line start the poem. The mix of formal urgency and a low, everyday response establishes the poem’s logic that can flow in and out of contexts in the single flourish of a line break. My reading of the couplet implies a colon after “message,” but it could be that “not ok” describes the message rather than comprising the message. The ambiguity and subsequent over reliance on the syntax lets the complexity play.

“Dear Jurisdiction –

  Your conduct

  Has become


This one’s a letter (it even follows a reference to waxwing birds in the line prior that are named after their resemblance to wax seals on old letters). The use of “Jurisdiction” as the pronoun to which the letter is addressed reinforces the formality discussed earlier, but also supplants a small absurdity in addressing an authority in such curt, politically charged means. On that note the diction (which is the root word of “jurisdiction” meaning “law” and “saying,” which I highly doubt is unintentional), “deplorable” as a word has taken up such radically different connotations following the 2016 US presidential elections that the irony of the four lines, while formally, come across as funny and mocking. Also, the notion of a jurisdiction as an area of which the power of law is exerted is so central to the idea of space identified earlier.


  Like houses

  Shall comprise an area”

This one is my favorite. The tercet, mentally and on the page, just takes up so much space at the very end of the poem that it just can’t be ignored. But “Here,” standalone, carries so much weight and fully occupies the space it establishes in the tercet, stanza, poem, and higher concept of places, spaces, and areas as something physical. And it plays so well off of dear jurisdiction from earlier, the other stanza-ender.

“X.” occupies and justifies the space it takes up on the page, in our minds, and in the world. Either despite or in tandem with the charged diction in terms of high and low, etymology, or politics, it doesn’t take a direct stance and teeters so carefully on the spaces of outrage and the mockery of outrage.


Just a quick note: the poem also references a writer (and professor of poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver) named Steve Collis who, from severely limited research, also uses language and poetry to address socio-political issues. He probably writes in the same vein as Herd if Herd’s speaker holds him in the same regards as he does his associates, the waxwings. I think I’ll look into him more.

Also, the conversation with between this poem and the other “X.” poem on page 31 and 32 is quite something.

Thanks for reading.

Cultural Capital and David Herd’s “Through”

Recently in my Anthropology 100 class we’ve been learning about the concept of cultural capital. A brief definition of cultural capital is that it is the knowledge, habits, and tastes learned from parents and family that individuals can use to gain access to scarce and valuable resources of society, such as a social organization, important position (such as a Supreme Court Judge) and other social arenas. In many cases, the “culture” in cultural capital is the culture of old, wealthy, white, Western, cis, heterosexual men. This theory was developed by Pierre Bourdieu, an intellectual who came from a French farming town and felt looked down upon by the Parisian elite, who made fun of him for his rural accent. He realized that in order to be respected and gain access to those Parisian intellectual circles, he had to change his accent to match the Parisian’s, and his theory of cultural capital came from that experience. Bourdieu migrated to Paris from Denguin, and his struggle with language after his journey is similar to Herd’s speaker in “Through”, who wrestles with the ambivalence of both governmental, informational texts and aesthetic texts. Their struggle with language links them together.

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Writing What You Know

I believe that writing about something you’re familiar with is equally hard as it is easy. When I want to write about something I am very familiar with, it can sometimes be easier for me because I can probably reference things about it that others can’t or wouldn’t have thought of. For example, for writing exercise 7, we had to write about something we are informed about so I wrote about my body which I obviously have the most knowledge about and experience with than anyone else could. But at the same time, writing about something I’m so familiar with makes me uncomfortable. I feel like I’m trying to capture something that will never be accurately described. At least with something I’m not as familiar with, I know that I won’t get it all completely right so I give myself more freedom. But with topics I’m more familiar with and informed on, I feel more pressure to be very accurate about every thing I say.

“Scissor” Through

Last week in class for my tangible item, I brought in a scissor. I felt that this item represented the tension throughout David Herd’s collection of poems in Through.

Herd touches up upon various topics in Through such as  politics, intimacy, tension, and human language itself. I found this collection of poems to be rather gripping because it demanded to be read. Each and every word used had a purpose and told it’s story well. There was a heavy attribute of focus which lead to the reader listening to all the concepts this collection had to offer. The poems were all written in free verse which gave them the feel of being light weight, organic, and truthful. This collection is modern and thought provoking. Although this collection feels unforced, there is this tension between the reader and the poems because it forces its reader to engage within the poems on the page. The poems call on you to look harder at the world, whilst also saying that your view is only ever occluded.