Generalizations & Gendered Language

I had several reactions to the US dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Among my concerns is one frustration that addresses how we use language, namely, the name. MOAB is an acronym for Massive Ordinance Air Blast, but the weapon has been colloquially known as the Mother Of All Bombs. Mother?? This sent my mind spinning into one of my controversial beliefs in that we should have a trial run wherein women switch places with male leaders and have a go at running things. I foresee that there would be a lot less killing, considering women’s capabilities to be more nurturing- more motherly- than men who aren’t as biologically and often culturally inclined to take care of others. But that’s my binary gendered generalization, and I understand that’s an extreme speculation to make. Nonetheless, I believe it, so when I see weapons that are created by male-dominated agencies (CIA) and approved by individual US generals (John Nicholson) I’m curious as to why makers of this bomb decided to correlate destruction with motherhood? Actually, I’m not as curious as I am insulted?

I think this is just a recent example of how we utilize femininity to describe objects that can be explosive or tumultuous, in any sense of the word. I know for a long time hurricanes were solely named after women and still today female-named hurricanes are on record more deadly than male-named hurricanes. It took until the 1980’s for enough women to say, “I am not a storm that sweeps in and destroys communities,” in order for male names to start being used. Whether it’s Siri, boats, cars, storms or bombs, it’s offensive to feminize in an effort to soften them, subjugate them, or insinuate that these things are volatile just like women.

To make matters worse I’m reading Bukowski. I just re-read Ada Limón’s How to Triumph like a Girl and it’s reassuring to see womanhood paralleled with constructive, rather than destructive power.

Exhibit A: how to triumph like a girl

Big Gestures: An Epidemic?

For another class I’m preparing to give a lesson on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As I’m throwing together my PowerPoint slides for my imaginary class, I start thinking how I’m going to begin the lesson. My teacher brain kicks in:

okay well before we even touch the novel, the students need to be situated in the genre. Frankenstein occurs towards the end of Romanticism, in the golden age of Gothic literature. Come to think of it, I think Frankenstein is a nice hybrid of the two genres- it’s full of horror and death but riddled with SO much human emotion. So let’s start by teaching them a little bit about both. Well how did Romanticism come to be? It started with Goethe’s infamous forbidden love story in which Werther pines after Charlotte, who is promised to another man. Unsurprisingly, Werther dies of a broken heart and do we roll our eyes at this love sick man baby? Of course not! We regard him as a victim of love, a brave soul who perished at the feet of his beloved, unattainable Charlotte. 

After that thought process I contemplated: why the hell does our culture emphasize such big, dramatic gestures?

To supplement the introduction lecture on the two genres I plan on showing some famous movie scenes in which characters confess their love for one another in showboatty fashion. This video exemplifies romantic literature in how the characters are publicly, shamelessly honest about their passions. One video I’ve already selected is Heath Ledger’s singing performance to win over Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You.

Weigh in on my deliberations. Why do we value the drama? Why do we live in an age of million dollar weddings and fucking promposals? In what ways does poetry come into play when we talk about this human tendency to consume things that are emotionally-unveiling, often ostentatious, and screaming-i-love-you-in-the-rain expressive?

Its true that you’ll find what you’re looking for once you stop searching. I had some realizations about poetry in my education class today. Even though my T/TR block is an education course, it’s an English class too. We learn how to teach English. That course is my happy place, combining two elements I love, and aspire to learn about persistently, throughout both my life and career.

We examined 3 poems/creative NF pieces, which are high-school age appropriate, but range in meaning and style. One poem by Seamus Heaney relayed the death of Heaney’s younger brother and how Heaney returned home from college in order to deal with the loss. Another poem “Things I Lost” by Brian Arundel is a busy, creative NF piece in which Arundel narrates a list of all of the things he has lost, and their significance or lack thereof. One of the more funnier lines reads, “My virginity: in 1980, a couple weeks short of 16, in a ritual so brief, awkward and forgettable that I have, in fact, forgotten it. ” This piece reminds me of how we can use snapshots of places and time periods to garner familiarity, association, and in order to serve as settings. In addition, Arundel’s piece reaches out to so many readers, despite dedicating its contents to specific things that Arundel misplaced. For example, he says, “My shit, figuratively, that same summer when Bob Weir sang “Looks Like Rain” just as my acid trip was peaking at a two-night Dead stand in Roanoke, Va”, which made me jump and say “MOM!” because I know full-well that my parents were there, probably.

After sifting through these works, my prof had us pull out “objects” that drove the story. For Arundel’s work, there was an object or item in every single sentence. For Heaney’s I drew an integral object from the line, “A four-foot box, a foot for every year” which despairingly indicates how young Heaney’s brother was when he died. Whether it’s Arundel’s virginity or “shit” or the coffin in Heaney’s family home, these objects are utilized by the writer to incite recognition in the readers. You may be saying “duh, that’s why writers select metaphor and symbolism and every other literary device to enhance their work”. Despite my understanding of how and why we write in order to convey meaning, it never occurred to me that almost all of my poems, as well as so many poems I’ve come across, build themselves upon a single object. Often we include several objects, feelings, scenes etc in our works, but do we realize that our inspiration usually appears when our eye catches something and our mind shouts, “BINGO!”? I know for me, this is constantly the case.

Tomorrow I’m handing in a poem that I’m really excited about, and I think the piece exemplifies how my writing initiates on a single matter. For my boy friend’s birthday, I blew up a big shiny dollar store balloon with my own breath, because I didn’t have Helium. Even though the balloon looked like the real deal, it would sink to the floor unless it was taped to the wall. Revisiting pictures of the party reminded me of this balloon, and I reflected on the pathetic existence of the balloon: it made itself appear like a real balloon, but without any reinforcement, it couldn’t fly on its own. Thus sprang my latest poem.

I think my post comes at a pretty appropriate time, considering how Lytton has us working on writing about ideas and specifically things, although he’s challenged us to write in a discreet manner. Feel free to share any of your other objects here, that you think could invite some writing. As a bonus question, I’d also like to know about some of your favorite symbols outside of texts, and what they mean for you in/outside of writing. For me, I will always love the roses in American Beauty. After Inception came out, I had one friend become obsessed with spinning tops. Tell me yours!

Source: An Opinion Piece

Opinionated- it’s a word that has always seemed to find its way to me. Never have I, nor never will I ever use the word to describe myself or any other person. I mean, we all have opinions, right? Who doesn’t have any opinions? It would be absurd for a person to withdraw themselves from having viewpoints, so why do we often label people (typically women) as opinionated?

This annoyance has plagued me throughout my entire childhood into teenhood, and unfortunately, it has resurfaced into my early adulthood. Last week, a very dear old friend sent my old high school friend group a message. It was a little odd and unexpected, but very sincere and heartfelt. The sender of this message directly appealed to each recipient by naming some of the things she had missed/admired about us (no jaw dropping confessions since we have all been friends for over 10 years and know everything there is to know about one another). The sender missed Sydney for the fact that Sydney is a “selfless woman” and Emily because she is “so caring and genuine.” The portion dedicated to me began with compliments like “passionate and inspiring,” which made me smile. It reminded me how powerful it can be to spread positive words to those around you. However, the section ended like this: “You aren’t afraid to voice your opinion.” What does that even mean?


To reiterate, the group message was intended to be light and sweet. I ascertain that. BUT, here I am again, being dubbed the opinionated one. Whether words like this were offered as praise or hurled as insults, I’ve always been characterized as some type of three-headed monster- bossy, fiery, passionate, shouty, intense, opinionated. I start to wonder, is this adjective ever applied to men? Are men allowed to have opinions about things? I’m pretty sure they do, as everyone should.

In lieu of the fucked up state of our country’s leadership, it’s easy to engage in political debate everyday, with friends, family members, crude boys from high school, even strangers on the internet. Understandably, everyone seeks to voice their opinion. Yet, I tend to steer clear of this form of debate due to my boy friend telling me to ignore Facebook, or stop watching the video. My own mother advises me to stop reading news and posts that “upset me.” Mom has kicked me under the table during multiple family dinners when my grandpa has started to quote the only trustworthy news source, Fox News. Don’t, her eyes warn me. I listen.

I’ve gotten to a point where I feel as if I’m going to explode. I know so many others do, too. Since the start of spring break I haven’t been shying away from expressing my opinions as much. In fact, I haven’t turned a conversation away as long as I have something meaningful to say. Of course, I’m staying in check with my facts and feelings, because we all know the ugly form that hate speech and baseless allegations assume. Nevertheless, I say fuck it. Be bossy, fiery, passionate, shouty, intense and especially opinionated. If there was ever a time to scream, it’s now. Just scream with purpose.

Emptying these built up frustrations and addressing repressive words such as opinionated has really liberated me. I wrote more this past week than ever before. It’s cathartic. To conclude this post I want to share a speech from the SAG awards that reminds me to stay opinionated. Stay involved and don’t surrender because someone believes that you should disengage. Here, David Harbour delivers an emotional, electrifying call to arms. He cuts loose and speaks what’s on his mind, and my mind. Though we should heed him figuratively and not literally, I’m ready to punch some nazis in the face.

Also Winona Ryder’s exhilarated facial expressions are worth the watch alone.

The Comfort of Habit

This past week I’ve been religiously listening to a new artist. After getting hooked on a few of her songs, I turned to YouTube to find acoustic sessions featuring this artist (because e.v.e.r.y. song sounds better acoustically, in my opinion). The video I clicked on was one of “NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert,” in which musicians play a few songs behind a tiny desk for a teeny tiny audience. It’s quaint and acoustic most of the times, which is all that matters. After playing two of her popular songs, the artist figured she would play  new one. She prefaced the song with it’s working title, “sad song 11,” since she already has 10 sad songs. The audience chuckled and she thanked them for their “courteous laughter”.

Even though this side conversation had nothing to do with me enjoying acoustic music, it struck a cord with me. As incredible and talented as this artist is, she openly acknowledged her weakness: her tendency to write sad songs repeatedly. She was self deprecating about it. Not ashamed of her work, because she loves her music. She performs her songs and markets her art for a living. Nonetheless, she judged herself for sticking to habit. I won’t read further into her, but the feelings she was displaying are so common among writers. Yes, we write what we know, which isn’t always easy to reinvent, but it’s even more true that we retreat to our established niche and write how we write best- however that may be.

This week I submitted a poem that scares the shit out of me. I honestly think I spat the poem on the page because I was so overwhelmed. I had spent all of my time consumed in the design of the poem, which involved minor photoshop skills that I severely lack. Not only was the creation of this poem complicated, it was foreign territory for me. I wanted to write sad song 11. I wanted to write down the left hand side of the page about my grandma. I was no where near my safe house, my niche. I’m weirdly embarrassed of putting something out there that felt so bad and so not me. But, this is the first step in changing my writing style and embracing all those insane (and admirable) formats I read in workshop from you all.

Tell me about your niche. Where is your comfort zone? How do you want to expand?

Dear Perfectionist,

I like SoulPancake maybe half as much as I love i’s creator, Rainn Wilson. Given how much I love him and The Office, I like SoulPancake a considerable amount. I recently re-watched one of their videos titled, “Dear Perfectionist”. The video itself follows the title- it’s an open letter addressed to the speaker himself, the perfectionist called into question. Even though it’s a letter, several parts played in my ears like lines of poetry. One of my favorite parts:

“Obsession with perfection is a rope you tie around yourself with every thought a new strand drawing tighter. Paralysis by analysis. Unable to move, you sink.”

Like most students here at Geneseo, I was always called a perfectionist, by friends, teachers, parents and coaches. I was driven. Yet, the term never felt like it fit me. I’ve never called myself a perfectionist, because I think perfection is both something everyone tries to obtain and a goal that no one actually believes exists within reach.

Right? When we were little they told us, “nobody is perfect.” I accepted that when I was a child and I sure as hell believe in it now. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the pressure to do things right just melts away. Every week day, my brain nags at me to say the smart thing, write the right thing to receive the high grade. Despite my refusal to label this as perfectionism, I do see the madness in the pressure and fixation. Which is why pieces like  “Dear Perfectionist” resonate with me. I’ve failed countless quizzes in Geneseo’s Geology department and one time a Psych professor gave me a C+ on a paper. But like the video says, “You’ve become so fixated by the little details, you have forgotten what is real.” When writing poetry, I can focus so fiercely on one word, one phrase, one line, working to refine it until it sounds perfect, only to create something that’s not honest, not real.

Videos like this one can bring perspective on days when you’re cramming for that test or preparing for the massive presentation that all of your group mates neglected. There is a price to pay when you endeavor to be perfect, but there is no harm in working your ass off.



“RIP Nelson Mandela, you were a great actor, and Bruce Almighty is my favorite ever film…”

After reading some examples of found poetry, I’m reading empanada recipes and lengthy handwritten letters from my grandma as potential sources to pull from. Last class, we looked at a few ways in which found poems like “Blonde” form political statements about stereotypes and sexual violence. The article we covered investigated appropriation within McDaniel’s use of found poetry. I started to see found poetry in this somewhat negative light, thinking it can only materialize into something serious or harmful.

I remembered a series of videos I watched a few years back, titled “YouTube Comment Reconstruction”. It’s found poetry portrayed in such a comedic way. It’s hilariously brilliant. Film maker Adrian Bliss (side note: my last post was about musician Tom Rosenthal, who creates music for Adrian and other artists, check them both out!!) directed 10 videos in which 2 very posh old British gentlemen hold a conversation. Their script? A conversation from the YouTube comments section (oh, yes), riddled with the amount of rudeness, stupidity, ignorance, and trolling(?) that one would expect to find down there. The one I shared below is my favorite video, in which one user confuses Nelson Mandela with Morgan Freeman… Enjoy!

Have We Met Before?

I’m loving the class Spotify playlist.

It’s only a few days old, and I’ve listened to it probably over 7 times, not all the way through, but I’m getting there. Whether I’m sourcing the poetry consciously or subconsciously, I’m just ecstatic about the new sounds bouncing around in my room. The Spanish rap is certainly something out of the ordinary for me. So far, I’ve added like 6ish songs to the playlist. I contributed quickly, adding 6 of my favorite songs that fall strictly into the genre of Indie or Alternative, since that sums up my auditory comfort zone. One musician that I placed on there is Tom Rosenthal, the artist that I want to dedicate this blog post to. His music is simple, quirky, and odd, but so relatable and honest. His lyrics are poetry and his music videos are these low budget little art projects. Look him up on YouTube.

Tom Rosenthal is based in or around London, and because I stalk his vlogs and Instagram, he has two adorably-fat-faced babies. He collaborates with a lot of the film makers that I frequent on YouTube, usually creating songs and soundtracks for their content. Imagine having a seriously musically talented friend who could generate original pieces for your work?

The title of this blog post is “Have We Met Before?,” my favorite song by Tom Rosenthal. It’s a love song, not necessarily distinct to romantic or platonic love. Set to piano, the lyrics are a series of statements, read as questions:

Are you thinking?
Is she close?
Do you struggle with umbrellas?
Are you leaving?
Are you home?
Have you timed this badly?
Have we met before?

As the song progresses, the lyrics become more personalized, and you can gather that Tom is singing about someone. He’s singing about all of the random talents, tendencies and idiosyncrasies that comprise that someone. If the song comes on and I’m working, I smile. If the song comes on when I’m available to let it consume my mind, I melt.

Love songs with clichés exist for a reason: universality. But what do we really want to hear from love songs? We want love songs to ask:

Can you count to ten in German?
Can you whisper?
Can you lie?
Did you design your own website?

“Have We met Before?” is a love song about someone and everyone. It’s about you and me.  I think as a source, the song makes me feel value in my individuality. It makes me notice the beauty in the freckle on my lip and the oddity of boyfriend’s hatred of bananas. It reminds me to write honestly and exactly. You better watch the video below, and fall in love with his music immediately. It’s a great soundtrack to study to.

The idea behind the video, I believe, was to compile videos collected from viewers all over the world, who filmed their bedroom view for a few moments. You get to travel around the world for two minutes. I think that further shows how the song encompasses everyone, yet pays mind to all of the tiny details.


The Handmaid’s Tale: Dystopian Genre, Soon to be Historical Non-fiction?

Last week’s in-class activity threw the familiar word “handmaiden” at me. Kizer’s “A Muse of Water” began, “We who must act as handmaidens.” Kizer was writing about necessary Narcissism and the power of worshipping the goddess within oneself. Margaret Atwood wrote of handmaids in a much more suppliant sense.

A few years back in high school I found a Goodreads suggested book list, titled something like, “Books Every Woman Needs to Read Before She Dies.” With that list in mind, along with a Barnes and Noble gift card that I received for Christmas, I purchased The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. As of today, it is still my favorite book. The handmaid’s tale is haunting and eerily comparable to past and present governmental rule over women. Other than being a gripping, emotional story, the novel assumes a faux historical fiction narrative to further serve as a warning to those men and institutions that seek to suppress individual freedoms.

The novel’s chapters are separated into descriptions of Offred’s (literally “Of-Fred,” as in, “belonging to Fred”) daily tasks, such as “Nap” “Shopping,” or “Household.” “Night” and “Nap” occur repeatedly. Offred’s dystopian world is the result of a totalitarian theocracy takeover. Offred struggles to escape her role as a handmaid in which she is imprisoned in a Commander’s home, with the sole purpose of producing his child. By the end, Offred has an opportunity to escape, and I will not spoil her outcome for you. The novel concludes with an epilogue, in which it is 300 years after Offred’s experience. Atwood adjusts the narrative into an interview with alternating dialogue: A college is holding a lecture in which historians are analyzing the diaries and audiotapes kept by handmaids of the now-overthrown theocracy. The scholars and students chuckle at the misogynistic barbarianism of Offred’s prison, as if it is something that appears so unreal and unlikely. Considering Offred was an American and Atwood is Canadian, I think Atwood’s censure of religiously-saturated American politics is clear. And I FEEL it.

There is a film adaptation of the novel, I believe. I haven’t seen it. Hulu is creating a series based on it, coming out this year. Here is a link to a trailer. Samira Wiley is in it (!!). The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely a book that knocks you out for a few days, and once you finish it, you feel kind of numb inside. I hope you read it, and share your thoughts with me.

Amichai and my (less than) Half-Sized Religious Fervor

This time last year I was in ENGL 201, and it was the first time I shared any of my poetry with other people. One poem that my professor shared with us was “Half-Sized Violin” by Yehuda Amichai. It’s easily one of my favorite poems, and I’ll explain why. The meaning I gather from it, along with the time lapse from childhood to adulthood are the two main characteristics that draw me to this piece. However, the mystery behind this piece I think is the reason why it stays so fresh in my mind.

If you go online, you can find dozens of poems by Yehuda Amichai, a revered Israeli poet. Yet, “Half-Sized Violin” is hidden within the abyss of the Google, which I thought was supposed to give me 86,300 USEFUL results in 1.02 seconds. I managed to uncover three leads. “Half-Sized Violin” was printed here, in an August 1996 issue of The New Yorker. Funny, because a few months ago I seized a student discount offer and now I receive issues of The New Yorker at my front door. Honestly, I still prioritize online news and social media to stay informed, but the cartoons only require a spare 30 seconds to enjoy. Anyway, once I located the poem online, I could barely make out the words. I’ve transcribed it below, but as a caveat, the poem I’ve included may vary from Amichai’s actual one.

I read up on Amichai. His background in Judaism fuels his poetry’s commentary on God. To quote one of his lines from a JSTOR article, “God remains like the fragrance of a beautiful woman who once passed them by and whose face they never saw.” Scholars comment on Amichai’s “impudent” relationship with God. He interests me. (That’s Amichai, I mean.)

I think the most brazen thing about this poem is Amichai’s portrayal of God as a child, “pat-patting” the sand, as if carelessly toying with the fate of mankind. The speaker also introduces his own childhood experience, in which his elders threw a half-sized violin at him, along with feelings and emotions that are too complicated to bear, so they lesson the burden  by placing their faith in the hands of a boy on the playground.

I’m curious to know what you may know about Yehuda Amichai. Are you familiar with him, his work, or this very poem? I’d also like to hear some thoughts about the second stanza. When I return to this poem, there’s always something new to unpack. But, I always sense the same gratification of learning to rely on my individuality “dress and undress all by myself,” as well as the crippling uncertainty of larger forces at play.

Half-Sized Violin

I sat in the playground where I played as a child,

The child went on playing in the sand His hands went on

making pat-pat then dig then destroy

then pat-pat again.


Between the trees that little house is standing

where the high-voltage hums and threatens

On the iron door a skull and crossbones: mother

old childhood acquaintance.


When I was nine they gave me

a half-sized violin and half-sized feelings.


Sometimes I’m still overcome by pride

and a great joy; I already know

how to dress and undress

all by myself.


Yehuda Amichai