- anything & everything I am feeling (events in my life that I need to digest)
- Jack Kerouac (On The Road, The Subterraneans); books that were introduced to me when I first started taking writing seriously, around the tenth grade of high school
- Egon Schiele (an Austrian painter, known for his distorted & ugly portrayel of the human body); first fell in love with his work when I visited Vienna in 2016
- Maya Angelou (mainly her memoirs)
- Jean-Michel Basquiat (paintings Untitled & In Italian); one of the first artists I learned of when visiting museums as a child
- butterflies; I had those ‘butterfly pet’ kits when I was younger, and ever since then I have seen them as a symbol (specifically monarch butterflies)
- Alternative Music (Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, Fleet Foxes, Big Thief, Elliott Smith, Beach House, Cigarettes After Sex, Keaton Henson, The Japanese House, Jeff Buckley, Mitski, Nick Drake, Soccer Mommy, Regina Spektor, Cavetown, etc)
- Hip Hop (Kid Cudi, Blood Orange, 03 Greedo, Future, NAV, Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Kanye West, Young Thug, The Weeknd, etc)
- Movies (The Lovely Bones, Amelie, Howl’s Moving Castle, 500 Days of Summer, Switch, Zodiac, Donnie Darko, etc)
- Eyes (I have always been extremely interested in what others eyes can expose, and use this idea in a lot of my poetry)
- Poets (Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Yeats, Charles Bukowski, Mary Oliver, etc)
One source of source of inspiration for writing I’ve found, surprisingly, is Twitter. Sometimes people will write or share very short, very abstract, outlandish jokes, to stick out other posts, and those end up being incredible in syntax, they must carry enough power and weight to grab your attention. People began compiling them before they’re lost in the mix: dumb snippets like “tell me the name of god you fungal piece of..” that are obviously jokes, but still carry weight. But Twitter people will often share snippets they find anywhere. I remember, someone had shared a photo of a church sign that read like “I want to be so full of Christ that even mosquitoes will say ‘there is power in the blood.’” A bunch of ads, or billboards are also potent, they have to give the same impact, with the same short space. Each word carries multitudes.
I find a lot of inspiration from surrealist and abstract paintings- the texture of brushstrokes, blending colors, the implications of shapes and contrast inspire me, I try to capture that same “texture” in words, I guess you’d call it. Cubist paintings especially have a wild shape, I want to try and make my writing feel the same.
One source that always inspires me, but I can never really capture well is the geometry of mindsets, the relations between people and perception. I always try to imagine thoughts and feelings and impulses as physical things. How do they interact? What symbol represents this type of mindset, what is gratitude shaped like, as an object? What motion/texture does it have? I haven’t run out of this as inspiration yet, so it must not be completely bankrupt.
I believe that the word inspiration speaks volumes to what happens as I engage in poetry, to be in-spired is to be spirited with a zealous creative bent splattering the canvas of my mind with words and colors and narrative imagery. I draw from this to create a “piece” and the “piece” is rightly described as only a fragment of the inner realm. That’s my source. It’s a chipped and beaten brick from my private gallery.
For me, I find the question best rephrased given this metaphor: what are the building materials of this inner life and who is the architect?
This is a mystery for me and a question fascinating to ruminate upon. I believe that the primal source is my spiritual life. I truly believe that I commune with my God and whether it is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit indwelling within me or images of Ezekiel before the throne of the Father, my Christian faith provides more than enough fervent energy to impassion my art. From the depths of Sheol in the Psalms to the Most High depicted as Alpha and Omega in Revelation, The Bible has been the foundational literary source for my sense of existential truth; and therefore I cannot help but watch it bleed up into everything I do.
Recognizing the foundation, I turn now to the walls and to the pillars upholding this ethereal basilica…
Philia-Sophia also known as philosophy or the love of wisdom. I love to discover new and needlessly complex words for simple concepts like “ontological” synonymous with “what has being.”
I love abstractions and dwelling on the particulars of words and the most simple of concepts. I am the person that makes mountains out of molehills.
Beyond philosophic ideas and texts, I find that innumerable scientific models of the world through contemporary advancements in neuroscience, biology, astronomy, psychology, and physics, all congeal into a symbiotic pillar.
Third, I’d say the relevant personal experiences with the world from my memories on high school sports teams to the back of cop cars, psych wards, and the Grand Canyon; from living in Cambodia for 5 months and hiking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, to rebuilding homes in Toa Baja and walking the cobblestone streets of Prague; my experiences have each significantly challenged the global and interpersonal perspective that I have. Hilarious day to day experiences and soul-crippling stares into the abyss of tragedy are what I lean on as another personal pillar.
Lastly, in this meta-basilica, is reverberating the eclectic sounds of the rap group “beautiful eulogy” and alternative-rock Christian worship music from the bands “Kings Kaleidoscope,” “Citizens and Saints,” and “Ghost Ship.” Hymns and pleas and jam sessions galore, countless other bands and musical artists have sang and played in this cathedral and I know they have each had their role in carving into my walls.
I think that it is under these three pillars: philosophy, science, and experience, and in the presence of much music and art, that my stain-glassed pupils attempt to project out onto the page a poem, a picture, or some other piece of prose.
- My emotional state
- My complex relationship with my mother
- The real-life things I’m processing (or at least trying to process- is this too vague? I feel like it’s pretty apparent in each individual poem.)
- The advice column of The Cut
- Catapult Articles
- Biblical imagery & poetics, but also the more abstract concepts of God, faith, and creation
- My stupid friends and their stupid choices
- ‘Class of 2013’, ‘A Pearl’, and ‘Jobless Monday’ by Mitski
- Ocean Vuong’s novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
- My own journal entries (especially when I’m talking about my mother)
- My friends who are scientists and their insights on things (meteor showers, hydrothermal systems, the eye gene on fruit flies)
- ‘Life on Mars?’ by David Bowie
- Liana Finck and Meredith W. Park’s illustrations
- Jenny Slate’s collection of essays, Little Weirds
- The Arctic climate (and the antarctic climate)
- My childhood home and the ghosts that stay with my mother
- Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s show ‘Fleabag’
- Lorde’s ‘400 Lux’ and ‘No Better’
- The struggle to be authentic
Traffic. I love sitting in traffic, particularly at night when all the lights blend together. My eyes tend to glaze over, and all the lights spread out. I think this is the part where I also admit to accidentally rear-ending someone because I was zoned out staring at the lights. Back home, there is no shortage of traffic. There is not a single freeway that is truly free. It takes your time. (If you like wasting money, you can also go in the FasTrak lanes where you pay to sit in traffic.) Sitting in traffic gives me time to think, and it also gives me time to stare at the person right next to me. People do the weirdest things when they’re essentially trapped in the car, but I’ve also seen a woman apply red lipstick while she was going 90 mph in her Lexus. I like to look at people and imagine their life stories and where they have to go. It feels so surreal knowing you can’t move. I like capturing that feeling of helplessness in my poems.
I find that same feeling when swimming in open water. I find it funny that I can’t stand to swim in a lake, but I absolutely love the feeling of swimming in the ocean. It’s freeing, but at the same time, you are helpless. I don’t know about you, but I definitely can’t swim long enough to survive if I was stranded in the middle of the ocean. One of my favorite places is Fisherman’s Cove. I do a lot of snorkeling there because there is a sharp drop in the water where you can see a lot of fish without going far into the water. I’m probably only fifteen feet from the shore, but everything is so different. The fish seemed unfazed by my presence unless I try to touch them, of course. I find that entire experience relaxing and freeing, and I think that makes its way into a lot of my poems.
Whenever I am compelled to start writing, my immediate reaction is to write about family. There is a lot of pain, as well as joy, that derives from my family, whether it is my close family, or distant. Besides the hardships, the importance of family is something that my parents reinforced throughout my childhood and into my young adult life. Some were silent lessons of making sure I was always around them when I was young, but others developed as I grew older; through funerals, holidays, new family members through marriage or birth, the message that family will always come first was always just under the surface. Which, I suppose, is why it is my first response.
I also find that nature really gets me in the mood to write. I have a hammock strung between two birch trees in my backyard that I swing in often. I watch the birds hop above me, the leaves rustle in the wind, perch my knees up, and scribble in my notebook for hours. I have always loved nature, another thing that I can credit my parents for. Annually, my parents, brother and I stay for a weekend at a secluded cabin with no electricity, running water, or basically any other civilization around. I am not able to go there seeing as how it is two hours away and boat access only; however, my hammock allows me to conceal myself from my neighbors & the busy traffic and just write.
There are so many other little things as well. I love language, so just conversations with friends and family, or even strangers will spark some inspiration for a story or even just a single line in a poem. I also have a passion for music, so compositions that tend to give me chills really inspire me. I think walking is something a lot of people gather inspiration from, myself included, not only because it might be a brand new place that you’re visiting, but also just the little things that you might notice on a daily walk to class on campus. Something I do not do enough is write down single phrases, or even just a few words, as I get the inspiration at that moment, a skill I look forward to building upon throughout this semester.
For many years, my father would look at my creative process and gasp at how chaotic it becomes. Most of my notebooks are organized like that one movie scene from A Beautiful Mind starring Hollywood’s most underappreciated actors in Russell Crowe. I am mainly a fiction writer, and unfortunately when I am struck with inspiration it’s often dispersed in a myriad of notebooks. I have roughly 15 different mini-composition books, all filled cover to cover with characters, scenes, ideas, sketches, jokes, etc. He likes to say he “sees the madness in my method.”
The biggest reason for my massive collection of notebook is that when I do have the inkling to write I’m usually outdoors, walking through whichever park I feel like exploring that day. I find nature to be my biggest inspiration, which is weird considering that I despised being away from my television set as a child. I have a deep fascination of discovering and exploring places I’ve never been. Usually those untouched by the claws of civilization. When I’m exploring a park, I like to imagine how the place came to be, how it looked at the beginning of the millennia. I like to wonder who walked those paths before me, which animals may have passed or flown by. When I’m surrounded by trees I feel most natural, as if I am able to tap into my creative juices unhindered. Secluded areas often find their way into my stories. Last semester, for example I wrote a story where one scene takes place similar to that of Geneseo’s arboretum. The creek acted in my story as an allegory for life moving on after death.
No, I don’t play competitive sports or shoot up heroin. I don’t go on morning runs or watch the Super Bowl. I get my adrenaline from the scores and lighting in movies seen in theaters and the smell of cooked arroz con leche from Washington Heights bakeries. My poetry often reflects the many rants I have with myself, in my head, on a daily basis. That smell of arroz con leche inspired a love note to my favorite neighborhood in Manhattan. The score of the film Queen & Slim brought a piece about children wanting power out of me. My poems are usually about other people, but I never take the time to notice how frequently the things that trigger my senses provoke the way I express my thoughts about them. I wrote a poem about a boy this past June that, after re-reading it, I realized was inspired by my reusable Starbucks cup with desert rock and cacti patterns on it. Another one of my pieces was derived from studying gothic architecture, specifically in the texture of the Chartres Cathedral’s outside walls and windows. I am drawn to art of all kinds, as long as it indulges my senses. I then incorporate this physicality, or at least I attempt to, into my poetry. I have yet to find a taste that provokes my poetic thought, but I am on the hunt for one. Who needs drugs or athletics when there are movie soundtracks, your grandmother’s cooking, and Art History classes?
In simplest terms I would respond with everything! My day to day walks around campus, the conversations with close friends, the intense UNO game nights in the suite, the car rides around town and everything in between. I tend to pay particular attention to things that interest me such as the blooming blossoms on the spring Geneseo trees, digesting a new culture, language, and experiences of a friend studying abroad, as well as the latest news regarding friends and advice. Whether I am paying close attention or not, I am always taking in information, processing it, and storing it for later. I am going to be completely honest, I have barely read poetry. The only source of inspiration from my past poems come from in-class examples and personal experiences. Though I have read a few pages of the well known book “Milk and Honey” I feel as though that does not make me anywhere near qualified as a true poet. Through this poetry workshop, I hope to find myself as a writer, and specifically, a poet. I hope to further my skills and compose a plethora of pieces in which I am proud of and can compare to earlier works. I am beyond excited to give my all and expand my horizons in this workshop class.
I am what may be gently referred to as a “packrat”. Any harsher than that and I’ll get too defensive for you to convince me to edge the Vogue Magazine back issues I’ve been hoarding under my bed for some time now into the recycling bin. Paper tends to be my weakness for its flexibility – I decorated my walls last year exclusively with the legs of X-Acto-wrested models, now it’s several images from the American Got Milk? campaign. Just over a month ago I insisted on taking my girlfriend on a tour of Sturges, convinced that the building was on its last legs given the recent mass exodus of the health staff, clubs, and history professors, solely for the purpose of taking what they had all left behind – paper. Doodles, advertisements, misdated posters, flyers for STD prevention – I shoved it all into a cardboard box and took it back to my house for a gleeful day of cutting, snipping, and otherwise repurposing. Several totes and, most recently, one particularly large accordion file in my room are dedicated to holding these paper cutouts. Catalogues and fliers are dissected by me for their crispest images, most catching typography, and whatever else I’m convinced that I can make use of (hint, there’s a wide berth). Advertisements in particular fascinate me: remove the product and logo, and many an ad instantly becomes some form of basic-level poetry; or at least highly motivational, at worst.
Wresting the means of art from companies and salvaging it from trash-bins is where my inspiration comes from – dipping my hand into my store and being able to draw out bits of a child’s hand-written homework, a Gucchi model whose eyes I accidentally removed with a poor scissor cut, and a double entendre from a Sun Chips advert sans the chips is the ultimate literary grab-bag; your mind can’t help but working it all over to make a cohesive narrative, just like what happens when we dream.