The Environment and Poetry

Last class we had workshop outside. How could we not? It was sunny and warm, and the green just outside Welles looked so inviting. I was practically skipping outside, and desperate to find a good seat.

The moment I was brought back into reality was when my white shoes squished into the damp ground. I hopped around, trying to find a good spot to land. I settled for a good enough spot, hopped over, and found my seat.

I really liked workshopping outside. It was a welcome change of pace. Instead of confining our poetry to the (often-overheated) walls of Welles 216, we were able to talk about poetry in nature (as close as we can get on the Geneseo campus). Golden hour is my favorite time of day, and to be outside with my fellow poets in such gorgeous weather, and soak up as much of the sun as we could before it disappears for the next six months, was a pleasure.

However, as indicated by the white shoe altercation with mud, I was not dressed for the weather. I wore a knit sweater and ripped jeans that day, poor choices when sitting stationary for an extended period of time. As time went on, I slowly froze. The freeze was the equivalent of opening your fridge extremely slowly for a snack at 3 am without trying to wake your sleeping parents up. Towards the end of that half of workshop, I was extremely eager to go back inside.

The moment that I really wanted to write about took place in the middle of workshopping Daniel’s poem. I looked over my shoulder and saw a stinkbug crawling up my right arm. That freaked me out. I pondered my options, not noticing that Lytton had started to ask a question.

With all of the patience I could muster, I swiped the stinkbug off of my arm. It fell into the grass below and scurried away. I took a moment to catch my breath, and realized that the rest of the class looked deep in thought. They might have been freezing and trying to keep as warm as possible, but they at least looked deep in thought. It dawned upon me that I had no clue what just happened in the previous conversation. I asked Lytton if he could repeat the question since I was distracted, and he repeated the question.

The reason why I am telling this story is because I am curious about how the environment influences how we read, write, and critique poetry. When I am traveling, it seems either I write the most original pieces of my life or absolute drivel. No in-between. If I’m stuck on an idea, a helpful thing for me to do is go walking outside, ideally talking to somebody else, but the change in environment helps me engage a part of my brain that might have been hidden before. Maybe the warm class environment (temperature-wise here, not ambiance-wise) helps my thoughts come together faster than they would in even the crisp fall air.

How does the environment influence the way you read, write or critique poetry? What is the most conducive environment for you to do those things? What is the least conducive environment for you to do those things?

discovering my purpose

My friend Jenna and I set out to do homework together. Both of us grabbed our things, packed up and walked to a nearby study room in my dorm. As soon as we got our laptops out, we both looked at each other, laughed a little bit, and decided we were going to write poetry instead. We decided to do an exercise where we put on a song and stream of consciousness wrote for the duration of it. No reading, revising, or even thinking as we went — just writing. It felt incredibly liberating to write without criticizing my own words as they came out. And even if just a line or even just a phrase was decent from the writing, it was something, and it was genuine, authentic writing being generated.

I entered Geneseo as an Adolescent Ed/English major. Three semesters later, I’m an English/Creative Writing major with a Women’s and Gender Studies minor. I knew as soon as I entered 201 here that Creative Writing was my place here, in fact, I’ve known CW was my place since high school. It was my safe space in high school, where I felt I could express myself without censoring anything, and it turned into the thing I love more than anything. However, it was my love of not just learning and understanding English, but of teaching it and making it accessible to others as well as providing feedback and editing that led me to even consider attending college at all. In my high school English courses, I always felt a desire to not just participate but be the one behind all of the participation, crafting the activities and writing comments on papers and poems.

In my time here, my desires have shifted from working with high schoolers to pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and working with Creative Writing at a higher level. I think that through my work in the Creative Writing track so far, I have been able to not only push myself to new places as a writer, but to understand that I love creating prompts and helping friends with their work. I am grateful for all the track has given me so far and look forward to all the things it has in store for me in the rest of my time here.

Inspiration, or Lack Thereof

Sometimes an idea comes from a dream. Sometimes it comes from a glance at something new and exciting. Sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Those can be the scariest and most anxiety inducing moments, but not to worry, as long as the pen touches paper it can’t be too much of a waste of time. Even if you think it is.

My issue is of a different caliber; I have plenty of ideas, plenty of topics which can spring into life, forming verse on a sheet of paper. But those ideas are painful. They hurt to utter, to dream of, or to think of in line at the Starbucks in the union. Thoughts of lost loves, anxiety in the shapes of lightning bolts, empty glasses that should be full. The physical act of writing used to be cathartic; now it’s more of a trip into the sides that I don’t want to cross. In a way this whole experience could be used as a way to experiment with different types of writing, maybe trying to work on landscape pieces or piece of fiction, as most of my writing focuses on my own self, as narcissistic as that is. It’s fun to try an avoid something in writing; really digging in my heels and not even placing a “you” in a piece, and barely focusing on the “I”. It could be better, it could be worse. I hope this proves fruitful, and that I can dig myself out of a hole if I end up burying myself.

The End of Workshop

It’s hard for me to sit at my seat in workshop and not respond to people when they are critiquing my work. So hard. Sometimes I want to run over and hug the person who got the exact intention of my poem, or just wring my hands or roll my eyes at that one person who doesn’t. Ever. Get. It.

During my last workshop, I really wanted to tell the workshop the real story behind my poem. I wanted to tell everybody the stories of Marina Abramovic, of the weaver in Kusadasi, of the meta ideas I had about this poem. I suppose this is my space to do so.

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