A Final Reflection….

Today when I was going over my final draft of my portfolio it made me realize that a lot of the poems that I expected to write for the class felt in a way completed. I’ve never really had this sense in poetry before. Prior to this semester, I was always unsure of my work and whenever it was time to edit my work I always felt like I was grasping at straws and just hoping that it overall made sense. This was coming from a place where I wasn’t sure exactly what poetry was, or how certain people are so comfortable writing it. I think that a lot of my prior work was based off of emotions which I had tried to turn into concepts or themes. While this wasn’t necessarily bad I felt this pressure to create something rather than unveil it and that what I had to say wasn’t “poetic enough”. While I don’t think I will ever have a clear answer as to what poetry is, I think that I have grown as a poet by embracing what poetry means to me. Right now I think I use poetry as discovery or unveiling about thoughts and patterns in my life that I hadn’t realized needed to be unearthed. There is something I find much more natural about this process, even if the tone of the poems isn’t necessarily cheerful ones. I believe that something resonated with me last year when T. C. Tolbert spoke to us and said that sometimes they would have to go off and write and deal with being in a less than positive mood in the process. I think in this way their poetry was not necessarily coping but visiting their pasts. While I connect to what Tolbert said about these emotions, I don’t think my reactions to spending time to write aren’t nearly as draining and I think that in part its because my process is questioning and reviewing my thoughts so that I write what comes to mind even if I am not completely sure how what I’m writing resonates with me. Often in a workshop, someone will make a comment about the tone or content and it will make me pause for a moment and think, is that what I meant by that? That being said, I think with the content I write now, I’ve become surer because I am more at home (no pun intended!) with what my poetry’s about. Before this semester started I remember being nervous about my second poetry workshop, and I felt that I had nothing left to write about and I had no real thing to say. Now that this semester is over, I feel as though I have scratched the surface of what I can write about as a poet and am hopeful that I continue exploring where my poetry goes in the future.

I would love to know how everyone else felt about this semester of writing. Please feel free to share!


Reflection on the Kindergarten Teacher and Why Poets Write


****Warning! This post contains spoilers for the Kindergarten Teacher!!!!!*******

A couple of weeks ago my friends and I watched the Kindergarten Teacher because we heard it was about poetry and were excited to see where the movie went with this topic. As we watched the movie, we found that the protagonist became increasingly obsessed with one of her students, who she believed was incredibly gifted at poetry. At the same time as this discovery, we learn that she also is interested in poetry, and even attended a weekly poetry class in the hope of improving her craft. While her poetry was never really complimented amongst others she sees the young student’s potential and decides that she needs to nurture this boy, in a way that would further harness his talent. While she still writes some poetry at this time, she is much more interested in what the boy has to say, even to the point of substituting his work as her own in class to see how her teacher would rate it. While all of this is happening, we can clearly see that this obsession is unhealthy and that it is taking the teacher away from many elements of her established life, losing attentiveness over her family and career, and in many situations prioritizing the boy’s poetry over those previous responsibilities.

What I found most interesting is the aspect of her losing touch of her life in order to pursue the boy’s poetic genius. I thought it was especially interesting that to her, abandoning the responsibilities in her life would improve her worth as an artist. For her, this detachment was something that could lead to being better in touch with poetry. In my experience, gaining better attachment to what is going on in my life in delving deeper into my relationships with others and myself, help improve my poetry. I think if I was to completely detach myself from aspects of my life, and try to write poetry without those aspects it would be incredibly hard (unless I wrote about the process of trying to detach from everything) and even if I did produce something I don’t think it would feel very organic to my writing style. I believe that writing is another way of interacting with the world rather than trying to isolate a craft from anything I would consider normal in my life.

Even though this is my main motivation for writing, I would love to know what other people think about the reason they write. Also if someone writes out of a detachment of their surrounds I would love to know about that as well!

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!

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.