Although I am upset that this semester is coming to an end, I am anxious and excited for the Spring. Next semester will be my first semester where I am not taking a poetry class or workshop of some sort. Next semester I am taking my first fiction workshop and to say that I am nervous is an understatement. I am used to being stuck in my comfort zone, writing things I felt most comfortable with, but now I am placing myself far out of my comfort zone. I believe that in doing so, this will push me to become an even better writer. I also think that writing fiction can push my creativity in poetry and help me strengthen my quality of writing. Although I am scared, I know this will be a positive and beneficial opportunity for me.
This semester I am taking English 426 which is the editing course that puts together the literary magazine, Gandy Dancer. Coming into this course I was not sure what to expect. I knew we were going to be doing some heavy course load readings and editing, but I never expected it to make me a stronger writer.
This course does not require you to submit or talk about your own writing which is something I am not used to. We are in charge of reading all poetry submissions and deciding if they are publishable or not. It was not until after I read the submissions and made the final deliberations with my group that I noticed my writing make a shift. While reading the submissions we picked them apart for cliches, word choice, and use of form. I carried the comments we made and discussed in our group and began applying them to my own writing. My writing shifted to using more concrete language, and although it is almost impossible, I try my hardest to avoid cliches. I also started experimenting with new forms. This course has helped me in ways I never expected, and I am excited to see what else I will learn and how it can help me grow.
Next week in my Women and Gender studies class we have a paper due that explores intersectionality in everyday campus life, developing your own case study and analysis. The paper will rethink “everyday practices underpinning racism, genderism, classism and other -isms” in the university environment with a focus upon your own discipline/major.
I thought to myself, what could I possibly write about that involves these said issues that also relates to my major (English creative writing). I was stumped for a while, thinking about what my major has to do with intersectionality. But then I was reminded of David Herd’s, “Through”. David Herd’s collection of poetry deals with politics and the various ways it can be echoed.
This brought to me to my paper topic and that poetry can be used to express ones political views, emotions, privilege, etc., and this relates back to intersectionality. I am also arguing that what a person may write may spark interest and potentially bring rise to a movement or start a new passion for someone who is reading said poem. Poetry can be written and read in various forms and I believe it allows one to explore intersectionality in a creative and artistic manor.
As time progresses and I begin to reach the middle of my Fall semester of my Senior year, a million thoughts began to run through my head. The one thought I have that has been pretty prominent, is what I want to accomplish when I graduate, and where my degree can take me.
I started this process by going back and looking at the first poems I have ever written. In doing so, I realized how much my writing has improved. My old writing isn’t necessarily bad, but it definitely is not good. Seeing this improvement made me realize that my writing can only improve in the future.
I was always concerned that I would not be a good writer, and who is to say that I am right now. Seeing my improvement has given me the confidence that my journey as a poet is blossoming and improving every day.
With that fact in mind, seeing my improvements has given me the courage to apply for my MFA. I am currently looking into different programs that I believe will best suit me. Part of being a successful writer is confidence, but it is not grown over night.
Last week in class for my tangible item, I brought in a scissor. I felt that this item represented the tension throughout David Herd’s collection of poems in Through.
Herd touches up upon various topics in Through such as politics, intimacy, tension, and human language itself. I found this collection of poems to be rather gripping because it demanded to be read. Each and every word used had a purpose and told it’s story well. There was a heavy attribute of focus which lead to the reader listening to all the concepts this collection had to offer. The poems were all written in free verse which gave them the feel of being light weight, organic, and truthful. This collection is modern and thought provoking. Although this collection feels unforced, there is this tension between the reader and the poems because it forces its reader to engage within the poems on the page. The poems call on you to look harder at the world, whilst also saying that your view is only ever occluded.
Everyone knows how hard it can be living with someone you often butt heads with. This frustration often leads to people being passive aggressive and saying things that can offend others. I know this because I am currently living though it.
When I find myself dealing with issues such as these, and I have little to no control over the situation, I like to take my anger and put it into my writing. This can either result in an aggressive piece or something with deep emotion. In a way I am appreciative of these experiences because it helps drive me to write about things that are personal and meaningful.
Poetry is like my own personal journal. The things I write are intimate and often help guide me through my own problems that I may not know how to deal with. Even if you may not be the best poet, I am a strong believer that poetry or any sort of writing can help one relieve stress and become all around healthier mentally.
I’m going to take this time to make a shameless plug about Gandy Dancer. I assume most of you are aware of what Gandy Dancer is, BUT if you don’t, this is the perfect opportunity for you to learn more.
Gandy Dancer publishes writing and visual art by current students of the SUNY campuses only. We publish poetry, ficiton, creative non-fiction, and visual art. We are taking submissions until October 8th!
The reason I bring up Gandy Dancer, is because I believe that it is a great opportunity for young writers like us. There is no guarantee that your work will be submitted but it pushes you to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk of submitting your work!
Before I began working in the Gandy Dancer editing workshop, I submitted my own work. Although I did not get published, it inspired me to keep practicing, and to push myself even harder. I believe this submission process can help other young writers the same way it helped me.
Although I am not published in any Gandy Dancer issues, working behind the scenes may be able to give me insight as to what the editors are looking for in the future. Therefore when I apply to either Gandy Dancer or any other literary magazine, I have extra knowledge about the editing process.
I encourage everyone to both submit their work AND to take this class. It is helping me improve my craft on various levels, and it can help you too.
This week and last week, we were asked to think about the word “organic” and what it meant to us as a writer. I thought about other words such as “natural” and “flow-y” and things along that realm.
When it came to writing our fourth writing assignment this week, I decided to try something different. I took all the words I have been recently thinking about within the past month and wrote them on a piece of paper. I then took the words that did not go together and removed them. I was stuck with an array of words that some what went together and I then added other similar words that had the same meaning. I rearranged these words into what is now our fourth writing assignment. Doing this technique felt organic to me because all of the words I used were in some way or another related to one another OR I was thinking about that word earlier in the week.
This process was unique and thought provoking because it does feel like a giant mishosh of words, yet still has a common theme. I think everyone should try this technique at least once. Its incredibly thought provoking, and even makes you question why you were thinking about those words.
I often find myself running out of things to write about. For example, I’m even struggling to figure out what to write about for this blog post.
I believe that it is important to read poetry daily that isn’t your own. Doing so can help you gain inspiration from other poets. You may discover new ideas to new forms, words, and themes.
When I read poems from my peers, I am more inclined to not “steal” their work simply because their ideas come from such a tight knit community. However, I am more inclined to borrow and use other ideas other poets have published and incorporate them into my work.
Finding new ideas and concepts to write about is always difficult to me, but inspiration from others can help guide me into producing a great poem.
This week our first Scansion was due. I sat there staring at my laptop for about 10 minutes, completely lost on what to write about. And not only did I not know what to write about I didn’t even know how to attempt to write whatever I was about to write. I googled different definitions of a scansion and how to write one until I said to myself, “you’re overthinking this, you’ve written a scansion multiple times without even realizing”. So I decided to just start writing. I wrote about 20 lines of decent poetry and after multiple rereads I deleted 12 lines and rearranged words/deleted words until I came to the decision to write my piece in iambic trimeter. Which is three feet per line but each foot is iambic. I really found myself struggling with my “first” scansion piece, but after some revision and reassurance that I could pull this off, I was able to produce something that I was happy with overall.