Home Depot by Brian Turner

During one of our past classes, Professor Smith referenced a poem by Brian Turner called Home Depot. After he mentioned it and the themes that surrounding the poem, such as a soldier’s PTSD and dealing with it in public, I was very intrigued. After that class, I spent a good hour and a half looking for Brian Turner’s Home Depot yet could not find it. Of course, it is when I gave up looking for it that Professor Smith emailed the class saying the title wasn’t Home Depot, instead it was called At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center. It was very humorous and I guess I can’t blame him for mixing up two very similar hardware stores. That aside, when I was finally able to read Brian Turner’s poem, I was blown away. I have never read a poem that has described combat PTSD is such a manner before and I was completely taken aback by it. I come from a military family, although my father didn’t serve, both my grandfathers and their fathers served in the military. My one grandfather, whom I was close to served in the Vietnam War. When I was around seven years old, my grandfather brought me to a Dunkin Donuts to get a jelly doughnut. It was our usual tradition to get one after my day at school. When we entered the building it was business as usual. We waited in line and my grandfather held my hand cracking some jokes. Suddenly, a loud crash came from the back room. I don’t know if it was a pan or something falling, but it made a pretty loud noise. My grandfather squeezed my hand and he looked straight ahead with a gaze that still make my hairs stand on edge today. I asked what was wrong, but he didn’t answer. After a few minutes, he snapped out of it and continued on like nothing had happened. I never had the courage to ask him what had happened, but over the years I pieced it together; I assumed that the noise triggered memories from the war. After reading At Lowe’s Home improvement Center, I was immediately drawn back to that memory. Keep in mind I had not thought about this for years and honestly didn’t even remember it till I read this poem. This brings me to a point that I would like to explore more in the future, that poetry has the power to cause repressed memories to rise to the surface. I believe that poetry is it’s strongest when it is able to draw on locked memories; to shatter the mold that would keep emotions hidden away. Anyway, I definitely look forward to developing this idea more and reading more of Brian Turner’s work. His collection Here, Bullet should be arriving in a few days!

Poetry in Music

Other than literature and writing poetry, music is a major passion of mine. However, I have always seen poeticism and music as something separate when, in reality, that’s not entirely true. I think that in a lot of recent pop music, the poeticism in the lyrics of songs has significantly decreased, or really isn’t there at all. Part of me forgot that a lot of songs are derived from poetry and/or started as poems themselves. It can be a bit difficult to explain, but I can only describe it as the pop-music-brainwash, I suppose.

Personally, I generally enjoy pop music. It is what most of my Spotify is comprised of, but every now and then, I stumble across an artist or a band where I can only hear their songs as poetic. Right now, I’ve been into Bon Iver, an American folk band started by the lead singer Justin Vernon. Their songs are so complex that it becomes inspiring. I cannot help but focus on every aspect of them, almost as if I’m workshopping a poem in class. I look at the title, the lyrics, I interpret them and then try and figure out where the inspiration for the song came from. Then I decipher with myself why the music works to compliment the lyrics, as well as work on its own. I don’t find this kind of experience in a lot of pop music. In particular, I listened to Justin Bieber’s new song called “Yummy” and while I think it’s kind of catchy, I don’t get the kind of overwhelming experience like when I’m listening to Bon Iver. I’m not entirely sure if there is anything more here other than just acknowledging the diminishment of poetics in a lot of contemporary music.

Source Code

So, I’ve noticed that when writing poetry, my poems tend to turn out better when I’m doing a writing exercise rather than if I’m just sitting down writing from nothing. I think it gives credence to the idea that using constraints, as writers, can help kickstart our creative juices. It’s a trick I used often when writing fiction. It usually starts with a character and a quirk and then it turns into a short blurb, an outline, and eventually if it picks up enough steam, a story. Poetry works the same way for me. It reminds me of working a garden. It’s hard to grow a plant without having a seed first. These exercises work as a seed from which we can water with our own creativity and blossom a plant that will eventually become a beautiful flower. The exercise where we had to pick a book unrelated to the creative side of literature, I ended up choosing a finance book. The terms and sayings just hit me in a way where I felt a door unlock and the words came pouring out.

I think it’s interesting pondering the things that act as inspiration for us. I usually write about nature and the environment, so to have a book about finance inspire me to write poetry was really weird. Does anyone else have seemingly contradictory or odd sources of inspiration?

How Poetry Evokes Emotion

Already this semester we have gotten into some deep poems in workshop. Ones that we necessarily don’t feel the most comfortable with, or ones that deals with tough or hard to talk about topics, or some that genuinely only apply to a niche audience. I have taken what I observed, read, and hear over the past few weeks and did some research. Why does poetry communicate such strong feelings and emotions?

Throughout workshopping, different poets respond to different poems differently. Does that make sense? I mean, depending on the subject of the piece, a writer will react and respond differently. Any good poet makes his/her literary works of extraordinary deep feeling and expresses these feelings through a medium of poems. These emotions and topics affect us differently, yet, they all effect us in some way. We are all liked by a sentimental relationship that connects us with the ties of humanity. It takes the work of a good poet to relay these feelings and messages to the reader and captivate them into their own experience. Immense talent and deep intellect goes into writing a poem that will move the readers. Also, diction is an essential part of any poetic work. The kinds of words you choose play a significant role in the effect they cause on the readers. I will observe during workshop, learn more about the topics we discuss, and continue to learn about each individual writer.

Interaction between text and reader

One of the things I’ve started thinking about for my work here is the structure of poems- not the placement of words on a page, but how the reader interacts with the poem itself and how the poem informs the reader. Kyle’s pieces on metacognition got me thinking of the poem as a one-sided communication- you read a poem- it speaks to you, but you cannot speak back. It elicits a response in you, it may change you, but the poem itself does not change. It is static, it is the same no matter the circumstance, context, interpretation or reaction. You cannot change the poem, like you could change someone’s mind in conversation.

Our in-class prompt asking who the audience of our poems are brought me back to that thought- I write poems for me, not for an audience, but as self-reflection, to process, to preserve fleeting snippets in text. But these poems are not for me, they’re for the workshop. So how do they need to change to speak to an audience? Poems can absolutely be for myself alone, but I want to try push the form to it’s maximum potential- to take the reader into account. Taking this kind of structure- the relationship between the text and the reader- how could the content of the text could reflect that structure? If my poems are static but inform the reader, what kind of form would best make use of that structure to amplify it’s meaning? Could a poem be something like an instruction manual, a map, a recipe?

I want to avoid nostalgia for this same reason- nostalgia itself is difficult to capture in any medium, and it’s specific only to the poet/narrator/individual. Even if I were able to convey the beauty of whatever I was nostalgic for, the elements of that nostalgia would be so specific to me that any reader wouldn’t be able to relate. I feel like I need to make my pieces universal at their core.

Contemplations on Submissions

I submitted pieces to The New Yorker and Catharsis, two VERY different publications, this evening. I was bored and decided to have a little fun. Here are some notes on that experience.

1: Writing a cover letter when you have NO experience and haven’t been published anywhere is difficult, but it’s also fun to try and brag about yourself and work to make yourself seem as publishable as possible. 

2: It’s hard to tell if my work will fit in there. It is very likely that it will not, considering all of my pieces have at least one gag-worth moment. I submitted two of my most tame poems from last semester. I honestly don’t know where my poetry will fit in the world if I’m completely honest. Not that I particularly care about fitting in, I just want to know where I would be able to publish my pieces that deal with dried cum on old jeans and maggots stuck in someone’s molars. 

3: It’s hard to decide what pieces I am comfortable with the whole world seeing. I submitted a poem I wrote about an ex-boyfriend. I am fine with people in my workshops hearing very personal details of my life, as we are poets and we are inherently understanding of each other, and workshop fosters a huge sense of community and safety, but do I want the whole world knowing the little details about my life? About his life? Luckily this piece didn’t have too many intense details, just the color of his glasses, but still, if he read it, would he know it was about him? And would he be angry? 

I love being a poet, and I love reading poetry. Just finding where to put my work is troublesome. I write niche. I hope to find my niche eventually, but for now I will work with what I can and tailor my work a bit for each place I try to submit to. 

Poetry & My Week

I’ve spent so long trying to capture and express my thoughts on poetry over the past week that my laptop charged completely before I wrote this sentence. Poetry flows in a constant undercurrent below my conscious thoughts, and it’s harder to shine my attention onto it than I thought it would be. I’ve been thinking about ‘found’ poetry a lot, I guess, in as much as one can think about something and only realize what they were thinking about in retrospect. This week I read “Day-Old Baby Rats” by Julie Hayden and I can’t stop quietly reflecting upon how she uses italics. It’s like she has a little poem-yolk enclosed within the short story. 

I’ve been taking note of the seemingly unintentionally poetic things I hear in my classes, but so far nothing’s really come from that. On Monday, (as a joke) my friend Grant asked me to write a poem about Han Solo. On Tuesday, I pushed through a morose hangover by writing a terrible poem about Han Solo and I will never show it to anyone. I miss my mom a lot this week, so she’s been haunting everything I write— even more so than usual. I feel like that makes it sound like she’s dead, but she isn’t. She’s just very ghost-like. 

The best poem I read this week was “Death and Tacos”, by Nathaniel Whittmore. I like poems with kids in them, and I like the casual and authentic conversation captured within it. I keep reading / learning / talking about cancer this week, so that might have been part of the poems’ appeal. On Saturday I caught fire. When the flames were climbing my bangs my first thought was “wow I think I’ll write a poem about this”, and then I didn’t. I think I will eventually, but I just don’t know how the fire connects to the rest of my life right now. I’ve been keeping books of poetry in my bag for some reason unknown to me. I guess it just feels right. In the event of a hostage situation, I’ll have something to do, at least. That’s all. 

On Poetry, In Time

Poetry’s ability to move through time, including the future, has always amazed me. I’ve noticed poets experimenting with tenses, form, and narratives in order to do so, and it’s inspired me to the same. I’m always conscious of my tenses when writing prose (as I feel one should be) but in my poetry, it usually comes naturally. Tenses are particularly important to me because it eliminates confusion for the reader (and I’ve caught myself messing them up sometimes). In terms of form, I’ve never branched out into innovative forms of verse but I would love to one day (if anyone has suggestions on how to approach poetic form that works with time, let a girl know!). But, of course, my favorite way in which writers play with time in poetry is with narratives. The voice of poem can range from a present day news reporter to a WWI doctor. The moment narrative voice is identified, the reader already has a sense of where on the fabric of time they have landed.

Word Vomit

I took a class on British literature during my senior year of high school. I never expected to like it because literature doesn’t get any stuffier than that, but it turns out, I’m exactly the stuffy person who loves British literature. I should have known because I’ve been in love with period pieces for a long time. I did one of my presentations in that class on the sexual innuendos in Jane Eyre, and let me tell you, there are millions. I mean, Jane Eyre literally puts out a fire in Edward Rochester’s room. There’s so much sexual tension in that book, and I loved it. (Not to brag but my poster used an unnecessary amount of red glitter paper to really drive home all those steamy details.) 

I think I idealized living in the countryside, and that was one of the main reasons for going to school here. That and teenage rebellion. However, as it turns out, the Geneseo countryside is nothing like the English countryside of the 1800s. Frat parties on the weekends are not exactly extravagant balls, but Geneseo does smell like cows, so there is that similarity. As much as I have idealized the small-town living, I can’t wait to move back to California where I get to sit in traffic for two hours and grass comes in yellow or dead. 

Those two very different ideas are often at odds in my poems. Most of my poems are set in California, and while the setting is often very fast-paced, the actions are normally not. The characters have nowhere to be except for that poem, so things don’t really move. If you haven’t noticed, most of my poems are very set in one time frame and in one action. It reminds me of the scene of The Illustrated Man where the children have a room full of screens. I feel as though my characters are on that screen, except they are on a constant loop, while I watch them and move them how I want.

I’m realizing that this blog post is all over the place in terms of theme, but sometimes you just have to word-vomit your thoughts.

Slam Poetry

When thinking about what got me into poetry, I had said it was because my parents introduced literature at a really early age, which is completely true; however, when thinking again about what actually got me into poetry, it was poetry in response to a tragedy that got me writing, specifically, slam poetry. Whether it was a rape survivor’s story, or survivors of a shooting, or a political statement, the readings piqued my interest. What took me by surprise was the emotion from the poets when they read their poetry. It was a performance, not just a recitation.

In class, when Lidabel mentioned Button Poetry, I was immediately brought back to my 15-year-old self staying up late on youtube, under the covers, headphones turned all the way up to “Somewhere in America” by Los Angeles Team on Youth Speaks. After watching some of their videos, I found Button Poetry, and a bunch of other channels with young poets writing and reciting poetry I could relate to. I would play the videos over and over, eventually being able to mimic the exact way the words were spoken by the poet. Like a song, I recited them in my head, sometimes writing them in my science notebook when I got bored in class (something I still do). I was attracted to the rhythm of their speech and the progression of their poem, revealing one thing after the next.

It’s really interesting to think back on it now. Those videos inspired me so much that instead of copying their poetry over and over, I started writing my own poetry in the spines of all my notebooks. My parents get upset with me now because I refuse to get rid of any book or notepad from high school, but every single one obtains pages upon pages of poems and scribbles of ideas I had that day. I have now developed an appreciation for poetry that doesn’t necessarily have to be read out loud; however, I think it will always have a special place in my heart, as cheesy as it is. Slam poetry got me writing on my own. It was a creative outlet for me at first, but now it’s something that I want to improve every single day.