On changes and poetry in translation

For me, this past summer was filled with margaritas and disposable days. I felt greedy, hoarding these hours with nothing to do and nowhere to go. It’s nice to be back to a more scheduled life,  to return to a classroom setting where I’m pushing myself to create poems rather than waiting for them to come to me. 

When I’m writing organically, my poem ideas usually start as one-word concepts: glacial, locusts, larvae. So in class, it was an easy transition for me to shift from attempting to capture the image words invoke into defining what they mean to me. I had forgotten how nice it was to be surrounded by writers, a community of people looking to write and explore poetry and translation together. 

I’m excited to see where this next semester takes me and my writing! I’ve always viewed poetry as my way of continually interacting with the mutable world around me, so the constantly changing nature of translation really intrigues me. The truest and most beautiful thing that pushes me into creating is the way that nothing lasts. Everything changes and passes. The creative process is just that. Not a means to an end, but a way to engage with being alive. I hope to improve my skills and continue to learn techniques that will bring my writing to a more advanced level.

Invasive: tending to intrude on a person’s thoughts or privacy

Much of my writing is based around an intrusive thought. There are always moments in my day where I see something that will remind me of someone or something that I want to push far back into my consciousness; something that I desperately do not want to remember. It could be brown and curly hair, a song on the radio, the smell of a burning cigarette; anything can send a grenade into the psyche that explodes into an intense memory that I have tried my best to erase. These little invasions lead to some great poetry, as, at least for me, it’s easier to write about trauma and the things in life that are less than happy than things that make my heart sing. Yes, some of these memories are positive, like the sounds that my ex-boyfriend made while he slept beside me, but they are always tinged with some form of sadness, or perhaps regret. They are no longer, they are but moments in the past that come back to haunt the present. Even if I am in a better state of mind when I was when the memory took place, part of me is always sentimental about the past, always wishing to go back. But, as I am here, in Geneseo, the only place to go is forward, into the future.

The invasion of thoughts stands as a foundation to a work. My process most often starts with a thought popping into my head, most of the time completely out of the blue. I have found myself on line at the grocery store, at a bank, driving a car, when out of nowhere I will need to stop whatever I am doing to write down an idea before it slips away, never to return. These thoughts are fleeting, however they are strong in nature, and require immediate attention, and then more and more attention until I feel satisfied enough to post them to a blog or put them in my google drive folder of poetry, to forget about it until I find it at a later date, and have to start revising again.

Basing poetry off of a memory has always been an interesting idea to me. Not only are you able to vividly describe a scene, but there is room to put the conclusions of the event, as well as the implications of what has occurred, and how it will effect the speaker. The speaker of each piece is given the opportunity to not only share something that has occurred, but to give it meaning beyond what is actually being said.

Invasions of the mind are inescapable. It is not only difficult to truly push these memories out, but it appears to be impossible as humans don’t even know the entire capabilities of our own brains. So, if you ask me, the best thing to do with these thoughts is to write them down, and see if they provide any clarity to the present day that could be useful in everyday life. Embrace the little invaders, and remember that no matter how unpleasant the memory, it is still your life, and is, in the end, under your own control, and no one else’s.

to isolate

“to isolate is to lock / the mind inside of itself”

I chose isolate because it was how I had felt all summer. I hadn’t written much over the past three months, but ever since unloading my belongings into my dorm a few days ago, writing is all I’ve been doing. Normally when things get hard for me, writing is my saving grace and the thing I pour it all into. But somehow this summer’s challenges just shut the switch off.

So to sit in a room of other poets, talking about words and associations and accidentally oversharing about what this summer had been for me — it was refreshing, to say the least. This definition of a simple word was enough to remind me what it was about writing that always kept me coming back. There were other people in the room that got it.

And no matter how lonely of an activity writing can be, when you sit down with a group of strangers that get it right away it reminds you of the magic behind what it is that we’re doing. The idea of translation, to me, reminds me that the job of a poet or writer in this world is to throw pride and privacy away and share every gritty detail of your truth to convey a universal idea or feeling and make other people feel less isolated in their experiences, their struggles and their joys.

And so my semester goal is “Tell the truth. All of it.” To play with new styles and new tools, yes. To push myself to try new things and get out of my old habits, yes. But mostly, just to tell the truth. My truth. In the hopes that it could someday help someone accept theirs and feel a little bit less alone.

Writing a Definition

When asked to write a definition for one of our words, I wrote one, erased it, and wrote another better one. Easy peesy. “Delve into the specific words you picked. Why?” (to paraphrase because my memory is not that good). Ha, I already did that too. I started to feel pretty confident and smug about this activity.

“Consider your line breaks” Line breaks? What line breaks? Was this supposed to be a poem? Suddenly, the five words I had written next to my word did not look so good. Maybe it was a nice definition (although not very scholarly), but it was not a poem. I did not write a poem …even though I was in a poetry class. It had not even occurred to me that it should have been a poem. When I hear “definition”, I think of dictionary.com, not poetry. This was a mini mind-opening experience. Why can’t a definition be poetry? In a way, a poem could be (but is not always) the definition to the title. What does the title mean? Read the poem to find out. Its almost the same as looking at the definition under a word in the dictionary.

Unfortunately, my creativity was not fast enough to transform the small definition I had written into a more intentional poem in the few minutes left of the activity, but even without the words written yet, I feel that my knowledge and experience with poetry has already grown. You could say my definition of poetry has expanded.

Re-Visiting ENGL 301

It’s amazing how much can change in a year. I’m back in ENGL 301, at the same time as last year, and I am comforted by the familiar. I was in the workshop that was the test for the writing pods structure, which admittedly was difficult to decipher the first time around. Now I look at that document and it is easy to decipher, to know exactly what I am responsible for. Back in Welles 119, with the same circle of desks, with the knocking on the desks to signal agreement, with some returning folks and some old friends, feels like coming home.

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