Reliving Trauma

During my Great Day presentation, someone asked me an interesting question that I wanted to pose to the rest of the poetry community:

“Do you feel you are reliving your trauma by reading past poems you’ve written about it?”

I was caught a bit off guard by this question because I’ve never thought about the concept. A therapist I work with once mention that she was confused as to why a client of hers would talk about sexual trauma during a group because talking about it was reliving it. I disagree with this, and I disagree with the idea of someone reliving their trauma by writing about it. Yes, I’m sure someone can be triggered by reading about trauma similar to their own, but the idea of not being allowed to talk about it because talking or writing about it is reliving it… that just sounds like so many different types of wrong to me. Writing and talking through trauma is processing it. Yes, processing is hard. But what is the alternative?

In terms of being triggered by your own work… I didn’t have an answer because I’ve never thought about it from either my or someone else’s POV. I suppose it is possible, but I’d image some aspect of the poem has already been processed before being put on paper, at least enough to allow the person to sit down and open up about it.

It was an interesting question, and I really wasn’t sure what to say in response to it. So if anyone wants to give their input, feel free.

Poems I want to Share because Sharing Poems is Cool

Hello, my lovely poetry lovers,

I stumbled across several poems while going through the “poems of the day” in my email that I let pile to embarrassing numbers, and I just wanted to share my favorites with you! Many of these have aspects that I would like to steal and use in my own poetry–the content for some, comparisons that I seem less able to make in my own work.

Poem of the Day: Constructive

You take a rock, your hand is hard.
You raise your eyes, and there’s a pair
of small beloveds, caught in pails.
The monocle and eyepatch correspond.

You take a glove, your hand is soft.
The ocean floor was done
in lizardskin. Around a log or snag
the surface currents run

like lumber about a knot. A boat
is bent to sea—we favor the medium
we’re in, our shape’s
around us. It takes time.

At night, the bed alive, what
teller of truth could tell
the two apart? Lover, beloved,
hope is command. Your hand

is given, when you take a hand.

“You take a glove, your hand is soft.
The ocean floor was done
in lizardskin”     Great, as I’ve been trying to write about my lover in which I focus on on his hands… Although, now it seems I’d only be able to half-ass the focus seen in this poem.

The Widow’s Lament in Springtime
by William Carlos Williams
Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before, but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirty-five years
I lived with my husband.
The plum tree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red,
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they,
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.
To be honest, I’m not sure what stands out to me in this poem. But the poem itself did stand out to me and stick, so I figured I’d add it to this list.
The Catatonic Speaks – Poem by Pamela Spiro Wagner
At first it seemed a good idea not to
move a muscle, to resist without
resistance. I stood still and stiller. Soon
I was the stillest object in that room.
I neither moved nor ate nor spoke.
But I was in there all the time,
I heard every word said,
saw what was done and not done.
Indifferent to making the first move,
I let them arrange my limbs, infuse
IVs, even toilet me like a doll.
Oh, their concern was so touching!
And so unnecessary. As if I needed anything
but the viscosity of air that held me up.
I was sorry when they cured
me, when I had to depart that warm box,
the thick closed-in place of not-caring,
and return to the world. I would
never go back, not now. But
the Butterfly Effect says sometimes
the smallest step leads nowhere,
sometimes to global disaster. I tell you
it is enough to scare a person stiff.
This one I’m not sure if I like because the craft itself is ienticing, or if I simply love the poet herself. Nonetheless, I love the way she uses sound to slow the reader into the static state she herself is in until the end.

More Art and a Writing Exercise

I want you to look at this painting:

I don’t love this painting. It is by no means my favorite. But every time I see it, I find myself drawn because it’s the best example of the middle finger to all of color theory. It says, fuck you, you were wrong when you said there were three primary colors. There are four, and black—the boldest color of them all–is not included. White is. White, red, blue, and yellow. And those are the only colors used in this painting. But even knowing that, the mind wants to believe that the color black is weaved into the painting, as though unable to understand how darkness can be made without such a basic color.

Based on this painting–or rather, using this painting as a starting point (whatever that means to you) I want everyone to write down three primary elements of general poetry that you lean toward. Then, I want you to think of two major elements of your poetry, separate from the three, that are unique to you. Then, I want you take one of the two away, and write a poem using only the four elements you have left, while behaving as though you have all five when one looks at the surface of the poem.

Art as Source

Does anyone have forms of art that they do that they feel less attached to?

For me, it’s painting, which I do when I’m less into what my brain seems to view as forms of art I’m more attached to (e.g. writing). It lets me continue to be creative so that part of me doesn’t shrivel and die, but it feels lighter, if that makes much sense. Although, part of me feels bad that I feel less attached to it, and as though I’m not doing that form of art the justice it deserves because I care less.

That aside, painting feels like something of a source, because ideas of poetry seem to come up, or I find myself translating the art pieces into poetry pieces.

I’m curious to know if anyone else has other forms of art that they fall to when they aren’t writing poetry and if the ideas that spark these other forms bleed into poetry (or, rather, find themselves eventually translated into poetry or vice versa).

Love/Hate Relationship with Poetry

And then Amanda realizes she hasn’t contributed to this blog in, like, a month…

I’ve had a weird love/hate relationship with poetry—and with most forms of art—the past few weeks. I love them, but creating them feels overwhelming. I feel that I can put the words together, but I can’t attach meaning.

Part of this comes from not wanting to write about the same topics I have been writing about (mostly trauma), but when I try to write about other things, the poem takes life of its own and then trauma and whatever I’m working on in therapy forces its way in… which, yes, has made my shrink overwhelmingly happy. Me, less so. For me, it feels repetitive, and I start to wonder if I’m simply ruminating on the same ideas rather than processing them, which in turn, takes away my need to write less. In compensation, I’ve been trying to read more poetry, but it seems in shutting down the part of me that wants to write, I’ve also shut down the part of me that wants to read, and I find less meaning in the words written by others (or, rather, concentration feels harder). So in compensation to that, I’ve been trying to do more art and listen to more music, which often results in similar manners (but I do want to write another post relating to art, so I won’t go into detail on that).

Anyone else ever feel this way? This post turned into a bit of a rant, rather than a comment on source in poetry. But, you know.

Painting instead of Writing

Hello, all

I’ve been struggling to find something to write about in this post… mostly because I’ve been struggling to write anything this past week. I’ve been on an artistic binge, which is always great, but it’s been directed toward painting rather than poetry. Normally, I don’t mind. Hell, I doubt I really notice when I lean toward painting and visual art and away from writing and poetry. I’m just in a poetry workshop where writing poetry throughout the semester is sort of an obvious requirement.

I’ve been trying to connect the two by creating art based loosely on past poems I’ve written/ideas I plan to write. In doing so, I’ve noticed I’ve been adding elements of collage into my pieces, which I don’t typically do–not a very popular form of art. Rather underrated, unfortunately. Possible future rant about the school system: How it teaches art, emphasizing collage as some sort of “fun crafts project” rather than an actual medium.

In the spirit of collage as a medium (and for the sake of not missing another blog post), I wanted to share some pieces/artists I’ve been looking toward for inspiration. Enjoy.


George Grosz,

The last one isn’t collage. I just stumbled upon Nancy Spero’s work today and felt like adding it because I thought it was cool.

Poetry, Religion, and Education

The first experiences with poetry in my education was also tied with one of my first experiences with prejudism against non-Christian religions. I don’t remember which poem we were reading in my 3rd grade class, but I remember not understanding a reference to Original Sin.  “It’s why you were baptized,” The teacher told me.

“But I wasn’t,” I said.

“You’ve never been baptized?” She asked me, eyes suddenly wide. When I told her no, she shook her head, muttering, “That’s not good.”

I doubt she would have said that to another girl—a friend of mine—in the class who wore the hijab. The difference between us was that my skin was lighter, and I never covered my hair in school. It wouldn’t be for several more years that I would understand the benefits and privileges I would receive throughout my life.

Fast forward to high school (no, we didn’t study poetry during the remainder of elementary or middle school), my ninth grade class, and we’re reading a poem by Rumi (always fucking Rumi. Rumi is the only Muslim poet in all of existence, in case anyone was wonder… the Islamic Golden Age wasn’t a thing). “We aren’t Muslim. We don’t get the refences to Miriam.” One student said. This was the same student who liked to shout out that the way to spot a Muslim was by large noses “like Hussain.” So, no, I doubt he even read the poem. The teacher looks to me.

“Ameen is Arabic, isn’t it? Pakistani?”

“Syrian.” Don’t say it. Don’t fucking say it.

Then she said, “So you understand the references to Islam?”

There it is! Because all Arabs are Muslim, and there are no denominations within the religion. “My family is Shi’a. Rumi was Sufi.” Yes, there’s a difference. “And I’m sure if you read the poem, you’ll figure out the Christian version of the name Miriam.” Really not that far off from Mary, you assholes.

“That was rude,” the student commented. (The was the same student who would later draw swatsikas on the bathroom walls and off hand mutter sand-n**** and towel head to my friend [also Muslim] and me in the hall…. But, you know. Whatever).

“Poetry is hard, guys. I understand if you have trouble with this.”

Poetry. Is. Hard.

No. I still don’t know which part of that situation I’m more pissed at. But it does bring me to my next memory.

The Odyssey. This was the next example of poetry we were given in 9th grade, with the assumption that we rarely read poetry prior. Excellent idea. Take a bunch of lazy 14 year old, and give them a piece of text that is fairly difficult to understand when you’re not used to older styles of writing, and remind us over and over again that poetry is fucking hard. That will 100% up our appreciation for the art.

Oh, wait… No it won’t because that’s probably one of the worst methods of introducing students to poetry, next to forcing them to read Shakep—OH MY GOD THEY MADE US READ SHAKESPEARE NEXT. WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS TO US?

Yes, the following work of poetry we studied was Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream. Not a bad choice to introduce Shakespeare… Had the teacher not have repeated excused lazy reading for the work—or, rather, poetry in general—because poetry is hard.

Now, in terms of literature to study in by school, I agree that we should have read books like The Odyssey and Midsummer’s Night Dream. There’s a reason they’re considered classics, and that’s not my problem with the way poetry was weaved into my high school education. My problem was these were the words that introduced poetry to us, long after we should have been. Where was Shel Silverstein? Where was Sharon Creech? And more importantly, as we reached middle and high school, where were the contemporary writers to stand alongside the contemporary ficton and nonfiction novels we were told to read? Why were the works by Warsan Shire or Marie Howe less valuable to our education than Lucy Grealy? Why was poetry always sold as something that was hard by nature, and why was it always so deeply tired with Christianity, despite being taught at non-religious public schools?

I bring this up because I’m deeply afraid and worried for the future of our public education system, as I’m sure many are. As it is, it’s riddled with flaws from not truly being dissociated from religion (rather, Christianity) to denouncing particular forms of art and literature. But rather than fixing it, a woman who has openly stated that state funding should be pumped out of public schools and into both religious schools (again, I’m sure we can guess which religious she was referring to… hint, hint, it sure as fuck isn’t Islam or Judaism) and charter schools. I’m scared because as it is, the arts are so quick to be cut when a school loses funding. I’m scared because right now, poetry isn’t valued in the education system as deeply as it should. And I’m scared because, despite protesting and calling representatives and voting, I’m not sure if the children going to public schools over the next few years can truly be saved by this unqualified excuse of a person. Even if in 2018, we manage to push more progressives into Legislative branch, even if we get Trump out of office in four years, we’re still destroying the lives of children, enabling the idea that anything that requires the least bit of thought is “too hard so you don’t have to do it,” enabling the notion that it’s okay to be racist ad assume that your beliefs are the only beliefs.

Education is the only true weapon the people have against a man who does not want to lead a democratic society. Trump wants a dictatorship. And he is well aware that picking away at an already shaking education system, privatizing our institutions, and creating wider gaps between the upper and lower classes, destroying the middle class—that’s how a society falls into dictatorship. And for this, I am afraid.

Transitions in Source Material

I joked a few times last semester that all of my poems were about rape and sexual abuse, which even I got sick of by the end of the semester—so this idea of exploring the sources of our poetry is so important and exciting for me, and something I’ve been trying to work on this past winter. However, I can obviously acknowledge that poetry can be used as a way to process emotions, especially those felt by children who don’t have the proper language to express emotions, and who also lack adequate adult support to help guide them, resulting in these childhood feelings clinging to the individual throughout their lives until adequately processed… But this is me becoming too clinical and off topic. Writing. That’s what this is. Right.

I find that when I try to simply jump into a new source, the poem or whatever writing feels forced. For this reason, I’ve been trying to ease away from my older topics by turning away from myself and thinking of moments I’ve had with other people that stand out, not because they were heavy or traumatic in some way, but because they’re simply mundane in a way that is somehow interesting. I’m still writing about people, but not necessary my life or even the life of the other person, but trying to capture the individual in the moment, which makes transitioning from one source to another easier for me. I’ve also been reading more about and listening to more podcasts about history, and pulling out people/experiences that pop out to me. For example, I would like to do something this semester with the idea of Princess Alexandra of Bavaria who believed she swallowed a glass piano as a child, and believed she had the piano inside of her throughout life. I don’t know what exactly I would want to do with the idea, but no one can say it’s not interesting and weird and all of the things poetry should be.


I’m not sure if this has been discussed on this blog, or if this is even a conversation that deserves a post on this blog, but we’ve had several conversations, both in and out of class, on the role of the poet during political uproar, which is why I feel compelled to ask the question here.

How do people feel about the use of hashtags in protests? I don’t mean simply online articles/posts related to something happening outside of the internet. I mean people holding signs with some sort of hashtag written on it.

I ask because I’m starting to notice my veiws slowly shift on the topic. When I first began attending political protests and noticng people holding signs that had only the hashtag, I became annoyed because I didn’t see the validity of social medial protest (even now I wouldn’t call social media protesters helpful if they do not leave their computer, but obviously spreading articles and information is never something to be frowned upon). But I’m starting to wonder if time is slowly turning this into something on par with a chant one may hear in protests… But I’m really not sure. Part of me still feelings the idea of a hashtag outside of a search engine belittles the concept of the protest.

I’m actually trying to think of a literary equal of hashtags that began valid in the past, and nothing is coming to mind… Nonetheless, I wanted to hear what others had to say.