Poetry and Context

After reading poems that mentioned Cy Twombly and Giorgio Amgabam in relation to each other, for this week’s tangible object, I decided to research Cy Twombly and Giorgio Amgabam to look into how they relate to David Herd’s poetry in Through.

In the poem VI, “As one might say/ This first day of spring/ Now it is backed by sunlight/ Itself/ Against the crosswires/ Like Cy Twombly.” pg. 40 Herd first mentions Cy Twombly. After reading this, I later discovered that Cy Twombly was an artist who worked across multiple decades. One of the most distinctive elements of his biography was that his painting style had changed after the 1950s, which could be due to Twombly’s involvement in war during that time and how he worked as a cryptologist. After this experience, his paintings were described as a regression of his past paintings. From the terms “Crosswires” and “backed like sunlight” I assumed that Herd could be a referencing Twombly’s post-1950s paintings, many of which featured lines that could resemble crosswires.

While we can assume that Herd is using Twombly’s artwork to further expand on bleak imagery, there is another poem that places Twombly’s artwork within the context of Agamben. In the poem, VIII Herd writes, “Like Twombly articulated by Agamben/ Designated/ Falling beauty” (pg. 42).

First, we must look at who Giorgio Agamben is. Through research, I found that he is an Italian philosopher that believed that throughout time, there have been instances of governments degrading the status of people into “bare bodies” as opposed to individuals. Agamben calls this living in a state of exception, in which a nation’s authorities justify the degradation of human bodies in order to do what’s best for public safety. Amgbam considers an example of a state of exception to be the treatment of people in the Holocaust, where the nation’s authorities allowed people to be degraded to numbers.

I imagine that Agamben would comment on Twombly’s work that the paintings aren’t just bleak, but that they reflect a regression of art. By relating Twombly’s art with these poems, the narrator’s environment could be seen as a regression of what’s considered normal in life. This can go further to describe the environment of the syntax section as a whole, that in an environment that looks at syntax so closely, there may be a regression of words and their meaning. This idea of regression can be alluded to in the poem through the term, “Falling Beauty.”

I was impressed with how Herd incorporated context in his writing and that these references allowed him to build more on ideas without the expansion of an explanation. I’m curious if Herd expects readers to understand the references about Agamben and Twombly or if those references simply exist to enrich the world of the poem.

Thank you for reading this, enjoy your day!
-Danielle

A Reflection on Fall Break

Fall Break will be over soon and on Wednesday, most if not all of us will be asked what we did during our time off. While many of us would like to say that we got a jump start on that paper that’s due, or finally got to read that book, I can honestly say that I didn’t do much, especially when it comes to academia.

Fall Break always seems to hinder my productivity. I often come home and realize that despite it being home there is so much to do with my family that I often never get a chance to have alone time, let alone time to do school work. As I type this I’m picturing all my textbooks, even poetry books that are currently in my backpack that I haven’t yet read. However, during this break, I noticed that home is also where I become the most creative. I’m not recommending procrastinating responsibilities for the sake of inspiration but I do think that when I’m on break, my mind has time to dwell and reflect. Of course, I’m not always in the greatest mood when I write during this time, but words flow from me more rawly than they would at school.

Over break, I took my mom to the emergency room (it was non-life-threatening so no worries!!!) and through the process of getting c-t scans and a diagnosis, my mom and I were there well over five hours. This wouldn’t be so bad, however, for least three of those hours, visitors were not allowed with their patient. After an hour sitting in the waiting room, I decided to get some coffee from the cafeteria. While I was there, I remembered thinking that I would have brought my neuro-psych textbook if I knew I’d have so much time to myself. With my hospital coffee and an empty table all to myself, I found myself typing on my google docs app about an idea of a new protagonist and how they would sound in my head. This burst of creativity hasn’t happened to me in a while. Later in the weekend I started writing more and jotting down some stanzas of poetry that came to me when I was waiting for the next family activity. During this time I realized that I was the most productive in writing when I seemed to fail at my normal level of productivity.

This realization led me to two reflections. The first being: I prioritize the manual labor of school work more than writing and my creativity suffers from it. Having so many amazingly creative friends allows me to look at my lack of progress honestly and see how their work ethic pays off in their writing and during this time off, I was able to see for myself how my creativity could expand when I had the time to do so. I think coming back to school I need to fight for my craft the way I fight for time to read my textbooks. If I don’t study in a span of two days I get antsy, and I should feel this more for my creative endeavors because those areas need my attention too.

Secondly: Home has been a source of a lot of my writing, whether I like it or not. My poems have been a little bleaker, but I think that this is the place where I’m at and it feels good to produce work that feels authentic to me. I’ve always heard that writing is therapeutic and I think a lot of my work, both in fiction and poetry has been a reflection of something in my past, whether I was conscious or unconscious of it at the time. While being home makes me feel unproductive, it has also been an opportunity to retreat back and use this time as a source instead of a roadblock to my poetry. Hopefully, my writing will move to another source soon (like the bank lol) but until then I might as well make the most of this stage in my life.

If anyone has similar experiences about their productivity during fall break I would love to hear!

Review on Inside Out and Back Again

Inside out and Back Again is a beautifully written narrative of immigration. Thanhha Lai does not show concern about traditional word count but rather the presentation of the story in which her words can be framed and thought of over and over again.

The verse novel is about Hà, who escaped with her mother and brothers from Vietnam to the States as a result of the Vietnam War in the mid 1970s. The verse novel showcases her adjustment to American culture and how her brothers and Hà survived growing up in such a different environment. The form allowed for more moments of pause throughout the text than what is normally considered the typical format of novels. Instead of featuring a form in which words are jammed into each other in the pages’ expanded content, this novel’s form followed one of a lineated poem. Passages are broken up by stanzas, allowing white space to exist in which the reader could visually savor each word. Given the childlike narration, the narrator makes innocent yet insightful claims through her passage to America. Such as the line, “everyone must follow \ despite how we feel” (1) exists in white space, a solemn statement from a child which could have been easily overlooked by a reader if it was presented in a different form.

The story follows Hà for the course of a year from her home in Vietnam, to a starving ship, to a rural farmland where she is alienated for being Vietnamese. Thanhha Lai allows readers to learn in depth about the world surrounding the main character’s journey and show’s how much a setting can impact a child. Each setting showcases a different aspect of Hà’s life, and the potency of descriptions can make a reader become lost in the lines.

Inside out and Back Again is a great resource for fiction writers and poets alike and serves to inspire writers that sometimes a story must be told, but that doesn’t mean the story has to conform to the conventions of a novel or the brevity of more traditional poems. Through the youthful narrative of a young Vietnamese girl, this verse novel is a refreshing take on the epic.

 

On creating Texture in Poetry

In one of our classes, Lytton discussed how poetry should create resistance through a poem’s lines. This idea really intrigued me. Party, because my ideas for writing often comes without much friction, and I don’t look to create this effect either. To explain, a lot of times when I do writing exercises, what I put down first on a page is usually from a stream of thought that I later revise and re-edit into a poem. Even when I write fiction, the most promising drafts are ones that flow in my mind and out onto the page. While these writings go through many revisions I still don’t look at words on a sentence level and think about how I can take things that don’t go normally go together and incorporate them to create something unique.

While what Lytton said wasn’t something I thought much about, I really liked what was said in class; it makes sense that readers like conflict within poetry whether that’s done socially, through form, or through narration and it can be used to make the poem a lot more interesting to read. When I write poems, I mainly think about what thoughts or things go together and not so much about tension. In fact a lot of times I am only made aware of the tension that exists in my poetry through workshops. I want to be much more conscious in the creating the first draft process. Moving forward, I can’t wait to challenge myself to try to split apart my past work and try to create this type of tension. I envision it as taking a strand of hair and teasing it so that it gets textured. (if you don’t know what teasing is, it’s kind of like making your hair big as they did in the 80s but not as extreme).

On a separate note, I think it’s really cool to be able to learn things that you’ve never paid much thought about before, especially if it is something that can change your perception on writing. If you ever need convincing about how you’ve grown as a writer look back at your past work. When I see the how many ways I can improve something based on what I know now, it makes me feel accomplished. The phrase “the more you know, the more you how much you don’t know” is slowly creeping its way to my favorite saying.

 

On Finding a Distinct Writing Style

When Professor Lytton discussed out first class workshop, I found it really interesting that we were submitting our work anonymously. Although the point of this was to focus on the poem and not the writer, I wondered if the people who’ve read my past poems would be able to recognize my style.

Recently I’ve noticed that my writing has been moving further away from what I’ve written in the past and the poem I chose to submit read very differently than my other poems. Part of me is very nervous about how this poem will do in class and if it will be received as well as my past work. There’s also a part of me that fears I’m moving backward in my writing. Does anyone else feel like it’s hard to grasp onto a writing style?

This semester I want to challenge myself to find what works in my writing and what poems best represent my voice. I don’t want to stress about the creative process too much, but it would be nice this semester to identify what exactly makes my poems mine. On the bright side; it feels refreshing to create something new.

If anyone has any writing exercises that help develop a personal style I would love to know!

Tiredness and Writing

***This post does not contain spoilers for the movie Coraline but watch it anyways!

This past weekend I made the mistake of watching Coraline while being tired verging on sleep drunkenness (being so tired you start to act super loopy even if you’re sober). Suddenly, a movie I have watched multiple times before became a lot more terror-filled than my mind could comprehend. Scenes and dramatic plot shifts that before were a little creepy caused my body to curl as I continued to watch the movie. This made me wonder how much tiredness affects our physical bodies and how that in turn is transferred into our mental state. I felt that being mentally tired, I had less  resistance to fears that I could previously rationalize as just being part of a movie. Without the cognitive strength I possess when fully aware I became provoked to the very fears I already experienced and technically speaking “conquered”.

This moves me to my next point: a lot of writers tend to write at night, which makes sense given our daily academic tasks. I wonder if our minds process things different at night than when our minds are more generally aware. A lot of my deep and emotional writing tends to be written at night when my mind is less preoccupied with daily survival and has time and the lack of mental restraint to dwell in my past. This mental shift could be considered a good thing creatively speaking, it causes me to think about things I may have not during the day, however, if writing in the day versus night produces different types of works then it might make writers avoid writing at certain times if they desire more control of the mindset they write in.

In the future, I want to challenge myself to generate writing solely at night for a week and then write solely during the day and compare what I’ve written, but that will be way after finals week!

I would love to hear what people have to say about this since we all have different writing schedules.

On Fonts

One of the things I love most about poetry is the amount of detail that goes into the process, and that every aspect of the presentation, down to the font style can be used in some way. In our poetry class, I like to notice the variations of fonts we use for workshops and I always wonder if there’s a reason behind the selection. I have the tendency to use Cormorant Garamond a lot. For one, I like the aesthetic and two, I feel that the font presents words in a softer tone similar to a stream of thoughts which works with my writing style. In fiction, I wrote my first first-person narrative in this font for similar reasons. If I was to use a different font I feel as though the reading of my work could alter in some way.

As a fiction writer, there are normally two types of fonts we use for workshops; Times New Roman and when we are struggling with story length, Courier (I speak out of experience). It was only through multiple re-edits would I think about the font and if it could be changed to improve the story’s reading.

What I would like to know is if it’s a bad thing to utilize fonts to aid tone. I can see how a person could argue that we should focus more on establishing tone through words alone. It could force more practice on writers to not rely on a visual experience for a perceived tone which ultimately, can make us more precise in our syntax. However, if poetry is an art form then shouldn’t we take advantage of every tool at our disposal?

If anyone has an opinion I would love to hear thoughts on this! (also not going to lie, I was tempted to write this in comic sans)

Grammar and Me

Throughout my life, I’ve noticed that my friends are often very surprised when they first meet my dad and hear his very thick Colombian accent and realize that this man is my father. My dad came to this country when he was 25 and had to learn English from scratch. While my dad did learn the language he was never concerned with perfecting it, he was satisfied just to understand and it comes out a lot in daily conversation.  My father pronounces his hellos like HAlo and in my house all spiders are girls. If you were to see a spider instead of saying let’s kill it, its let’s kill her because in Spanish words have gender. Stairs are pronounced estairs and if you want some fruit you could have some estrawberries. (in Spanish there is no “sss” sound just “es”) After dropping me off at school one day after receiving bad news he said very profoundly “When it pours it rains” It’s almost like his mind knows what the correct phrase is and then flips it just for fun.Yet this is the same voice that read to me Shel Silverstein growing up and without knowing that I would enjoy writing, gave me the nickname, Papelita (little paper) that he created because he liked how Danielle and Papel sounded together. He fed into my imagination and luckily I inherited his storyteller voice (without the accent) from years of listening to all of the stories he would tell me about his life in Colombia.

Due to my dad being such a big influence in my life, I immediately know what he is trying to say, even if it’s off. I remember over winter break, we were going somewhere and when we got out of the car my dad said: “Make sure you shut the window” at that moment I knew he meant car door even if he didn’t say it. So I shut the door without hesitation and we went on our way neither one of us acknowledging the correct term. My mind works quick to forge a connection, anything to grab onto so that we can be on the same page (so that we can both function as normal people). The only consequences are that when your brain prioritizes being on the same page, grammar gets thrown out the window. I don’t ever get tripped up by bad grammar and to me pretty much everything sounds right. Which is terrifying as an English major where intelligence is expressed through the sentence structure.

The other day my friends and I were joking about long distance relationships and I used the phrase “out of mind out of sight” to which my friend said, “what are you talking about Danielle?” It’s not the first time I’ve said something backward. My relationship with the English language is a very loose one, and I tend to disregard the rules as I go. It doesn’t help that growing up my dad would use the incorrect term for something that I thought was actually the word for it. For instance, I didn’t realize that a tablecloth could never be called a cover- even if its used to cover a table. When I write I fear my words are convoluted and what I say sounds stupid. My mom once read the first draft of  something I’ve written and said “this is why you check off the Latina box for applications” and whenever I missay phrases my first thought is “how could I make that mistake, I’m an idiot.”

Despite my grammatical errors, when it comes to creative writing I realized that I have an advantage in writing in the first person. If I write the way my character speaks I can convey a much stronger voice in the story than people who have trouble connecting to a character’s speaking tone. I think that over the years my struggle with grammar has humbled me, that I have to accept that I don’t have the same ability to write grammatically flawless work which can come effortlessly to others. It has been ingrained in my mind that to write is to rewrite and I can never afford to turn in something I wrote the day before. I’ve learned to endure the editing process (after I’m done staring in horror at all of the red and green lines across the word document) knowing that my work can be made better if I choose to work at it. Something that I may not have realized if my minimum effort allowed me to coast in my writing.

Fiction and Poetry

As a person who now writes fiction sometimes I am hesitant into where it falls in regard to poetry. I remember once writing a poem that was in the early stages of editing. One of the things that drew me to edit this poem further was that I wrote it purposefully with a feel-good moment, that made me feel joy later when I reread it to myself. When one of my friends (@Grace) read it I could see her smile form as I followed her eyes down the stanzas. At the end, she asked me, was this a memory of you are you sister, right? When I told her that the poem was a work of fiction she looked taken aback for she felt that real emotion was there, I think there was too. I think that’s an interesting aspect of poetry, that it can include fiction or nonfiction without stating it explicitly to the reader. As someone who involves both fiction and nonfiction in my poems, it’s interesting to think that the reader may try to tell the difference since a lot of poems tend to engage us emotionally speaking.

Poems are vessels that can be used to hold emotion, even if we do not experience the literal aspect of the poems in real life. I like to think of my poems like a sample size perfume. You get the scent and know what it is going for (hopefully), you know how the lines are trying to reach into your mind and activate something that the author could never guess was there.

In poetry, often I use what I have learned from fiction writing to draw up an intimate world, that at its core, is powered by the desired feeling. I hope this doesn’t make me an artificial poet, that I can recreate events that have no technical connection to me, scenes that read as non-fiction that isn’t, hugs between imagined siblings that are inspired by my own love of my sister and our childhood innocence.

My Snapshot Mentality

When I first started to write poetry, I pictured it as capturing a flash in a moment, one snapshot. Not to say this is never the case, but I’m learning that if you want to show your readers a log cabin, how you let readers arrive at the scene plays a role in letting the readers find their way, that they can linger in a sentence, or speed along quickly enjoying the momentum of the piece, that the poem doesn’t have to be standstill; there is a journey in reading along.

My command of sound is more tied to the visuals of the poem, such as how I prefer shorter lines look on a page with my poems surrounded by plenty of white space. I often keep my poetry terse and as close to the point as I can, and I try to root out unnecessary words, so my lines are typically shorter than average. While this tends to make my poetry read more slowly, as the pacing is heavier on each word I choose to keep in the poem, it is often unintentional. When I do read through lines of my poetry my mind is more concerned with how the individual words carry meaning and how they can best be expressed through insights in the poem’s line and how it captures a snapshot I think with my work I am often trying to express a moment in time and I try to carry the readers to that rather than considering the reading itself as the real experience. When I envision what I am writing about, it is so vivid to me that I do not consider the reader’s experience or question the gaps between reasoning in my poetry. I write from a snapshot perspective. Due to this, I tend to use more abstract terms in my writing, assuming that everyone is holding on to the same visual that I am.

I’ve never been on such a level of my work where I consider the impact of word combinations but I am eager to start my journey with sound. I look forward to learning how to surround my reader with my words in a way that they take their time through the piece, that my readers may not just see what I’ve fleshed out, but they can breathe in it as well.