I Am Trying To Become Smarter… Weird, I Know.

Ok SO —

I watch a lot of Criminal Minds, let’s start there. Whether listening to Reid spit out amazing, random facts that he learned from a book he read once years ago, or listening to Blake know the root of every word EVER because of her background in linguistics, I love to see and hear intelligence. These (fictional and scripted) people are SO SMART (ya know, in this fake world but whatever) and it is so attractive to me. I love the idea of being smart, and having that be the first thing someone notices about me.

I also find it AMAZING when Lytton just knows direct quotes and books and authors — it’s actually insane. He’s an encyclopedia. I strive to be like that, very well versed and just brilliant, ya know?

Another one of my role models if Ruth Bader Ginsburg because how can she not be one of your role models… I watched her documentary, and a quote that when she said it made me literally CRY INSTANTLY was when she was talking about her husband and she said “he was the first boy to ever like me for my brain.” And I began to cry, that just really hit the spot with me. I have never had that spontaneous of a reaction to simple words before, it was an unforgettable moment.

It was unforgettable for many reasons. One of which being that I have never had that experience. Sure, I’ve had people call me smart, but I’ve never had that be the reason that someone loves me, or is friends with me. That is never the first thing someone notices about ‘Julia’. But one day, hopefully it is.

So no, I don’t want to get smarter for a boy, but I do want to just be more well-read and better cultured in terms of reading, writing, and language overall. In short, I want to be Lytton (or an FBI agent, or Supreme Court Judge — whichever comes first). With this goal, I started crossword puzzles over the summer and MY GOD, they’re difficult. I bought a book of 500 of them (why I needed that many, no idea) but so far I’ve solved anywhere between 10%-80% of all of them. I have yet to complete one entirely, and no, I don’t cheat.

My goal is to keep this book, and hopefully one day after I’ve studied my butt off and read every book in the universe, then maybe –just maybe — I can look back at the puzzles I never finished and say “damn, how did I not get that answer before?” Once I get to that point in my life (and ya know, have 4 kids, a pool, and a dog named Sprout), I’ll know I’ve made it.


P.S. I also want to learn how to play chess so if anyone knows, teach me!




txt talk

I’m going to talk about words this week. I’ve been thinking, for a single discernible reason, a lot about words as of late.

I’m using a flip phone right now. Yes, it’s on purpose. In short, I thought it might be nice to disconnect from social media and all that. Anyways, I’ve been sending all of my texts with one of those keyboards where you have to press three times to get the letter “c” and so on. I’m sure you remember them, it’s been quite a nostalgic experience for me to go back to that.

So yeah, imagine me typing out full paragraphs like that. It goes without saying that this experience has made me more cognizant of and more grateful for words and the weight they can carry, down to each individual letter.

I don’t know if this is affecting my poetry or not just yet, although I’d imagine it is, or at least will. Regardless, though, it felt fitting that I wrote Bri’s letter for workshop this week; she had such an awareness for individual letters, and that’s sort of the world I’ve been living in for the last couple of weeks.

For my sake, I’d like for this blog post to serve as a reminder to me to look back at my work and see whether or not my new hyperawareness will manifest in my poetry at all. Honestly, I feel like my poetry has been changing quite a lot lately anyways, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

For your sake, I’d like for this blog post to serve as a reminder to pay attention to words. Not only in your poems, but also in your daily life. We’re surrounded by them and we take them for granted.

Blank Verse

When we began working with stresses in poems and trying to do scansions in class, I was very confused. Being able to tell what syllables were stressed was not really making sense to me even after reading a poem aloud. It seemed to feel like despite hearing it, some syllables just felt like they could go either way. The one tip that really helped was that content words are usually the ones that are stressed. This tip helped with writing exercise number 5 which was to write a blank verse. I tried to alternate content words and prepositions or articles but it wasn’t as easy as I originally thought it was going to be. Giving the poem the rhythm was really difficult but I really enjoyed the flow it gave to my words once I was done. I feel like once I keep playing with it, it’ll eventually feel more natural to hear and write.

Metaphysics in Kai Carlson-Wee’s “Steampipe”

Carlson-Wee places the poem “Steampipe” within section II (of V) of his collection RAIL. In reading RAIL, I immediately identified section II as a bounded network of poems connected deeply by violence. In “Steampipe,” Carlson-Wee explores the contrast created by form against empty space. His speaker describes, for example, the vapor created by methamphetamines as “perfectly odorless” and “colorless,” and yet, the occasion of the poem is a participation in getting high, which I would presume to be a detail-oriented, colorful experience. The character of a tadpole is introduced as the darker element of the poem: “I got one here, he says, seined us a toad. / He holds up a little black tadpole, / kicking its one black leg in the air.” Not only is the tadpole twice categorized as black (in opposition to the odorless, colorless drug), it is also the object of violence: “Put it in the bowl, the first man says, / and positions the lighter beneath / the pipe.” The moment continues; the man who captured the tadpole laughs as it’s “writhing now, / knocking its head against the glass.”

Continue reading “Metaphysics in Kai Carlson-Wee’s “Steampipe””

More than one way to scan a cat

I have a confession: I kinda really like scansion. From past experiences with poetry, I always felt meters and feet and stress were the drier elements that the old traditional people at the poetry headquarters forced new poets to learn. Stiff, formal scansion just didn’t jive with my image of hip, newfangled free verse. And maybe I’m just bad reading a room, but I never get the impression that scansion is anyone’s favorite to go over. I’d be happy to hear that I’m wrong, though; just about every one of my posts on here is about how past me was wrong about something (including this one).

My intrigue is morbid, probably. Scansion feels like a dissection of a poem, which, for those who haven’t dissected anything before, requires the specimen be dead. Scansion kills the poem in that sense, takes the life out of it until it’s bludgeoned down to a couple slashes and semi-circles, but it’s also the reason we can cut open and learn so much about a poem’s sentence structure and form.

But that may also be a reason why some people don’t enjoy it as much. Not necessarily weaker poems, but ones that don’t take stress and meter into such high account may seem like all the guts and gross parts of a frog, for instance, have rotted out leaving only a sweet-sounding goo behind. Those types of poems tend to outshone by poems that incorporate stress and meter centrally to the poem, maybe the frog’s leg muscles still twitch with a little shock.

I love understanding how mysterious things, like poems, are able to be so… so poem-y and lean on itself to create something worth more than the sum of its words. I love doing that with all sorts of things, even things like frogs. I mean, I could look at my hands for hands for hours and have an existential exploration of how we’re all just a series of self-sufficient pulleys and levers between our muscles, bones and tendons. On the other hand, I can see how this kind of incessant mechanical thinking can maybe go to far and outshine the actual content. I can’t make a fist without thinking about the weird stringy tendons controlling my fingers like piano hammers.

With all this in mind (and believe me I have a lot of this in mind), scansion can’t be a way to diagnose how good or bad a poem is, it merely identifies a pattern in a poem. It’s a tool (I think I’ve come to same conclusion that most techniques are tools in most of blog posts, but every time it feels like a revelation to me, maybe it’s a crutch). And like all tools, we’re welcome to use it at our own discretion. I just think it’s fun to take a scalpel to things. Anyway, I have to go stare at my hands some more.

Thanks for reading.


October is the tenth month of the year, and a month I look forward to whenever I check my personal calendar. In terms of official dates, I look at a long weekend for National Indigenous People’s Day (formerly Columbus Day, or, for Geneseo, Fall Break), my birthday in the middle of the month, and Halloween on the last day of the month, which is my favorite holiday. In terms of experiences, I look forward to October because it is the month in my experience when the leaves start changing color, when I’m settled into the school year, when I feel the crisp fall breeze and a chai latte in my hands. It’s cold enough to wear sweaters and the occasional jacket, but warm enough that I don’t die of frostbite. It’s the month of pumpkins and apples and cinnamon and “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” What more could I ask for?

Continue reading “Autumn”

Gandy Dancer

I’m going to take this time to make a shameless plug about Gandy Dancer. I assume most of you are aware of what Gandy Dancer is, BUT if you don’t, this is the perfect opportunity for you to learn more.

Gandy Dancer publishes writing and visual art by current students of the SUNY campuses only. We publish poetry, ficiton, creative non-fiction, and visual art. We are taking submissions until October 8th!

The reason I bring up Gandy Dancer, is because I believe that it is a great opportunity for young writers like us. There is no guarantee that your work will be submitted but it pushes you to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk of submitting your work!

Before I began working in the Gandy Dancer editing workshop, I submitted my own work. Although I did not get published, it inspired me to keep practicing, and to push myself even harder. I believe this submission process can help other young writers the same way it helped me.

Although I am not published in any Gandy Dancer issues, working behind the scenes may be able to give me insight as to what the editors are looking for in the future. Therefore when I apply to either Gandy Dancer or any other literary magazine, I have extra knowledge about the editing process.

I encourage everyone to both submit their work AND to take this class. It is helping me improve my craft on various levels, and it can help you too.

So you want me to write a Villanelle: Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” and other obsessive verses

Looking through the feedback I received in my last workshop, no less than three people made note that they’d be interested to see me write a villanelle. I will be honest, before being reminded of the form when we talked about Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” in class, I wouldn’t have been able to think of what it was off the top of my head: a poem of 19 lines, five tercets and and one quatrain, often in iambic pentameter, often with an ABA rhymeand utterly dependent on two refrain lines, so you’d better get them right. It’s not a form than I ever felt overwhelmingly drawn towards, but I’m guilty of thinking that way about anything that isn’t “whatever-feels-right” free verse. In any case, as far as I’m concerned one is a suggestion and two is a request, but three is a challenge.

Continue reading “So you want me to write a Villanelle: Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” and other obsessive verses”