Definition: poetry

So I’ve been asking myself this question since my last post and thought I’d bring it up here. Reading through other posts put up this week, I saw that Henry actually mentioned the same thing I’ve been thinking in his post “Poetry I don’t understand”. A couple weeks ago, I wrote a review on Matthew Dickman’s Wonderland. I remember feeling like my review couldn’t possibly be enough to express how fascinating Dickman’s work is because I could barely understand it. I got a basic idea of what he was saying, but I wasn’t sure how since (to me) nothing was clearly connected. But it was. And I know this because I got something from it. I kind of wish I could have a better understanding of the poems in his book, but I also loved how I was able to thoroughly enjoy it despite how little I “understood.” Now I want to ask you all this: Continue reading “Definition: poetry”

A Review on Matthew Dickman’s “Wonderland”

Matthew Dickman’s Wonderland is an intense display of what a writer can see in our world and how they can deliver that insight to others. The poems in this book revolve around themes of childhood, race, and violence. Many of them feel like little stories or scenes from peoples’ lives. One thing that’s truly intriguing is Dickman’s use of language and tone. Many of the lines and sentences don’t connect clearly, and sometimes they don’t seem to at all. Often, each sentence stands on its own, tells its own story, which might make the reader want to stop and think multiple times with every poem. It’s a work of art that is so different from any other. Continue reading “A Review on Matthew Dickman’s “Wonderland””

“I am a poet”

I’m sure I’ve said this more than once before, but I’ll say it again: I love music. So much that I wonder why I’m not interested in being a musician. My oldest memories of music involve family movie nights and my dad trying to teach himself “Linus and Lucy” on the piano. Now I get absorbed in music while stocking shelves at work; while my sister (who is also very self-taught) sings Lukas Graham’s “7 Years”, bringing our family’s piano back to life. It’s always played a major role in my life, and stirs up old feelings and memories unlike anything else.

The excitement I get from listening to music is what I’ve longed to experience in my writing again. This past week’s writing exercise helped me find it. Writing to a song was perfect, since music is a huge inspiration to me. I remember reading something years ago about how an author (I think it was Gail Carson Levine) loves struggling to find just the right words for her books. That’s something I’ve always wanted. And this exercise gave me a chance to see what it’s like. It felt like a puzzle that had to be solved with creativity.

Like music, there’s something in writing poetry that I haven’t found elsewhere. There’s a kind of curiosity I get. It’s this realization that there are still things my mind is capable of doing that I don’t know yet. I’ve noticed before how I can learn something about a person through their writing, but I never knew the things I could learn about myself as I write. Poetry has a special way of showing me what I don’t know.

I’ve never really considered myself a poet. Fiction has always been what I want to work with most, and the title “poet” sounds to me like something I can’t possibly earn. There’s a weight to it I can’t quite explain. I still plan on publishing novels someday, but I’ve realized I can’t push poetry aside. I love it. I just keep forgetting it. I need to remind myself every so often. This would be my answer to the question of what would make me feel more like a poet: acknowledging it myself. Believing others when they tell me I’m a poet. Hearing people call me that gives me a little confidence boost. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. So whenever I doubt myself (which happens frequently), I think I should also be one to remind myself that I am a poet.


I’d been meaning to go hunting through my room for a past class book, and today I was excited to find that I still have it. It was a book I used in my first creative writing workshop back in 2013: In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit. In it, I rediscovered a poem I had liked. After reading the poem and Kowit’s discussion on it, I realized it might have strongly influenced what I aim for in my own poetry.

The poem is called “Girl in the Doorway” and was written by Dorianne Laux. It displays multiple terms and phrases that serve more than one purpose/meaning in the piece – a technique called ambiguity. I love poems that can (or have elements that can) be read in multiple ways. This is something I often try to accomplish in my writing. One of my favorite parts of a workshop is getting to hear others’ interpretations of my work, especially if there’s a variety. I think that was partially inspired by this poem, so I thought I’d share it:

Girl in the Doorway

She is twelve now, the door to her room
closed, telephone cord trailing the hallway
in tight curls. I stand at the dryer, listening
through the thin wall between us, her voice
rising and falling as she describes her new life.
Static flies in brief blue stars from her socks,
her hairbrush in the morning. Her silver braces
shine inside the velvet case of her mouth.
Her grades rise and fall, her friends call
or they don’t, her dog chews her new shoes
to a canvas pulp. Some days she opens her door
and musk rises from the long crease in her bed,
fills the dim hall. She grabs a denim coat
and drags the floor. Dust swirls in gold eddies
behind her. She walks through the house, a goddess,
each window pulsing with summer. Outside,
the boys wait for her teeth to straighten.
They have a vibrant patience.
When she steps onto the front porch, sun shimmies
through the tips of her hair, the V of her legs,
fans out like wings under her arms
as she raises them and waves. Goodbye, Goodbye.
Then she turns to go, folds up
all that light in her arms like a blanket
and takes it with her.

When Poetry Goes Silent

During this first month into the semester, I’ve been working to focus more on how sound is used in poetry. In the past, I had a habit of reading poems in my head. I might be able to “hear” the words in my mind, but I’ll notice more of the creativity in sound when I read it out loud.

But this morning, I was reminded of something else. Continue reading “When Poetry Goes Silent”

“Horses to be Broken”

I’ve recently been thinking about the poem from Carey McHugh’s American Gramophone that my group observed in class this week. The poem was “Death (as a Woman) Comes for the Draughtsman” on page 54. I remember we pointed out the idea of “stopping,” particularly in the first couple lines: “But there are horses / to be broken”. Then I realized something. The term “breaking a horse” means to train it. A broke horse is one that’s safe to ride. Here’s a description I found online:

“A well broke horse is one that is well trained and understands more than just the basics of go and whoa. A horse that is said to be broke to saddle or harness indicates what the horse has been trained for. Saddle breaking is training a horse to carry a rider, and harness breaking is training the horse to pull a vehicle.” Continue reading ““Horses to be Broken””

Why I Came Here

As I’ve been thinking about what I took from Monday night’s “whirlwind” workshop, I realized I sort of relearned the things I keep forgetting; the things that are important to me. I hadn’t been able to take any kind of writing workshop in a while, and being a part of this poetry class has begun to bring back the mindset and inspiration I’ve been desperately needing.

Continue reading “Why I Came Here”

Through Sound

Over the last week, my thoughts have been lingering on a single idea that was brought up in class (though I can’t remember how or by whom): can a poem deliver meaning by sound alone? Can words be paired in a way in which the mere pronunciation of them gets a message through to the reader? Or does a poem need to be a string of words that make literal sense for someone to understand it?

I mentioned in class last week that I love listening to foreign languages, especially through music. Like poetry, music can have an emotional impact on us. It can inspire, relax, and excite us. It can trigger memories. I often associate songs with the times I first heard them. So some piano pieces by Brian Crain will remind me of a rainy day, and anything by Owl City brings me back to summer. If sound from music can have this effect, why not language? I have a special love for Japanese, probably because I’ve been listening to it one way or another since I was fourteen. Because I’m so used to hearing it, the language has become as familiar to me as my own. Its familiarity is comforting to me and has a homey feeling. Even though I don’t understand most of it, the sounds of the words have meaning to me.

For this reason, I’d say it’s more than possible for sound to have meaning on its own in poetry. It could be difficult to understand poetry that way when you’re trying to make sense of the words. If you’re reading the poem, the sight of the words could be distracting. So maybe listening to someone else read it would help put more focus on the sounds. When you simply listen, a foreign language (or a poem written in gibberish) can provide meaning.