I get comments (concerns? questions?) very often about the choice to refrain from using capitals in my work. Lately, I’ve been attempting to analyze what it’s all about, knowing that I don’t typically like to do things for simple aesthetic pleasure. I mean, ya girl hates Pier 1 and its associated meaningless decor. If it’s not about aesthetics, what is it about?

During the identity writing exercise in class, I wrote the following things:

who am “i” (I)?

“i” prefers to watch shrek alone in a hotel room rather than attend a cocktail party. “I” will go and wear extroversion like bad perfume.

“i” winces at the sound of rushing water. “I” tells her therapist she’s over it.

“i” is always convinced of being unseen. “I” is a fake brand of assertive


“i” tells people what she needs to say. “I” tells people what they want to hear.

& some other semi-dramatic declarations.

Writing seems to access the primitive realities in which the “i” humbly dwells. Living seems like a big game of faking it, especially (perhaps exclusively) in a university setting, where “I” give presentations in fake confidence and drinks up the term “resume builder” like SmartWater. I’ve taken comments from writers I trust about using capitals, but as soon as I do so, it feels off. I’ve come to try and separate the quiet, bold, refreshing honesty of the “i” with the “I” that I must unclasp and throw on the ground like a bra at the end of every long, exhausting weeknight (sorry for the image).

There is a weird divide between who i am when i write and who I am when I meet with professors or walk around the Union like I own the place. I’m sure we all know this feeling, as separating personal from professional is good and necessary. However, i see the distinctions so clearly between “I” and “i,” it’s not even about whether the “i” in the poem is being assertive or passive, it’s about the difference between what“i” says on paper and what “I” would do in real life. I can’t bridge the gaps that exist there. 

I’m not sure if this makes sense, and perhaps my attempt at justifying myself proves that this technique isn’t working, and I’m not all convinced that it does. I suppose I will continue to revisit what a poem needs, but at least while I’m trying to get through school, “i” needs to be allowed a platform or i might just go CRAZY.

If y’all have any thoughts, please share them! “i” and “I” would both be glad to hear.



i write because i’m selfish

Here is a blog post I recently wrote for another class, thought I’d share here. Enjoy!


“Poetry is always about my life. It’s a way to express how I feel,” sixteen-year-old Grace muses dramatically, holding her doodle-laden spiral notebook close to her chest after third-period study hall. Sixteen-year-old Grace has been utterly heartbroken approximately 2.7 times. She is assured that she has never been, and will never be, “seen” (whatever that means). She is still too embarrassed to buy maxi pads at the supermarket, but thinks she really knows the world for what it is. She wants to share this with you. Sixteen-year-old Grace un-ironically likes the Dave Matthews Band. She eats triple cheese Lunchables on the bus ride home from school, and as she stares out the window, she pretends she’s in an indie film, preferably starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as her boyishly awkward but spellbound love interest. Sixteen-year-old Grace makes sure to document all of these things with an unmatched melodramatic flair, always with a mechanical pencil that she probably borrowed from Lexi during Algebra II and never returned.

When I look back at my younger self, and even when I consider my work now, some internal eyebrows are raised.

Are all writers selfish bastards?

I say probably.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are genres that were built around pure philanthropic goodness, if such a thing exists. Dictionaries and thesauruses catapult themselves into the arms of red-eyed college students who have just used the word “pedagogy” seven times without knowing its meaning. In a more serious and historical example, many folks who contributed to writing parts of the Bible and other holy texts were martyred for their cause.

Creative writers, however, seem to take on a particular brand of literary narcissism. And that’s okay.

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand,” claimed author George Orwell, who, judging by his novels and this quote, never had much of a penchant for rose-colored glasses. In my own writing, I find this to be entirely true. The demon is a particular need. Just as sixteen-year-old Grace wrote incessantly about her recent arguments with the boy she just knew she would marry, I write now because the need is there. Namely in my preferred genres, poetry and CNF, it is a selfish need, one that aims to define the world in my own terms and assumes that the reader will care as I do, but still a need nonetheless.

If this need is unearthed whilst paired with technical skill, evocative language, and a refreshingly honest perspective, then the reader will care. If not, then a finished work, especially a non-fiction work, can end up as nothing more than a tired diary.

I believe, though, that the expansion of the ego is at times necessary for a work to develop. A writer must convince themself, however fool-heartedly, that the things they know about the world are important enough to share; consequently, they must explore the depths of their own perspective to articulate it all fully and effectively.

While the impulse to write is truly driven by some type of need, it is like any other—an appetite, a necessity. At the risk of sounding dramatic, the writer’s selfishness tends to be more about survival and less about fame and glory (if any of us are disillusioned enough to expect such a thing).

Regardless of what particular internal demons cause one to instinctually click-clack away at a busted Toshiba laptop at three in the morning or scribble ideas on recycled napkins at business luncheons, writing is one of the most self-focused “life sports” in existence.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean that it can’t bring others healing, perspective, and a realization of one’s own needs, especially ones they’ve never been able to articulate.

Sixteen-year-old Grace, still pocketing weeks worth of lunch money to purchase whatever band T-shirt will support the idea that she is beyond her years, encourages you to follow your heart and write whatever the heck you want, who cares if it’s selfish?

Perhaps you should listen to her, she seems to have it all figured out.

the amputee’s guide to sex & other discoveries of disability

Hello, friends!

I’ve been reading books lately by poets with disabilities, specifically by poets who write about the human body and the human brain and why “norms” shouldn’t exist in such intricate and individualized systems. Disability studies and poetry lend themselves well to each other: the voice that poetry has is strong, even when a physical presence is overlooked or disregarded due to a disability. I would encourage you to check out the following poets who have disabilities, and read the brief NaRMo review that I wrote for Jillian Weise’s collection, “The Amputee’s Guide to Sex.”

Laurie is a poet born in Newport Beach, California. At seventeen years old, she was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. “I was diagnosed at the age of 17, so MS has defined much of my adult life. I consider what goes on in my body an important factor of who I am; we are inextricably linked, MS and me,” Lambeth shares. She often writes poems that reflect the individual body’s form within the context of the world. She has an MFA and PhD in creative writing from the University of Houston, and has been published in many high-profile reviews and journals. Her book “Veil and Burn” is highly regarded and coveted, as her poetry is very much involved with her disability and what it celebrates.

Arthur was an Australian lyric poet. He was born with cerebral palsy and was unable to speak clearly or write with a pen. Ultimately, he learned to type and overcame his physical disability enough to put pen to paper. He received a higher education and was wildly successful in the world of poetry and the arts. Banning valued compression and brevity in a poem, admiring the haiku especially. He named his disability “his own particular demon” but was able to produce phenomenal verses before his death in 1965.

Denise Leto is both a poet and a Senior Editor at the University of California, Berkeley. Her poems have been published in a multitude of journals and reviews. Leto’s latest poetry tells of the somatic experience of grief as allied to perceptions of disability. She has a form of vocal dyskinesia in which she cannot control the production of her voice, which infiltrates her work in notable ways.


Jillian Weise

“The Amputee’s Guide to Sex” by Jillian Weise

“The Amputee’s Guide to Sex” by Jillian Weise is an electric and audacious collection of poetry that shows readers the complexity behind emotional and sexual intimacy when it comes to having a prosthetic leg. The poems are a dance set to (at times) hesitant music: the agile movement of sex with the unfriendly metal of a prosthetic seems incompatible to an unaware society.

However, to Weise, having a disability doesn’t keep a person from being a badass anywhere, including within the confines of the bedroom. Sardonic, thorny language litters the poems and adds an element of sarcasm, humor, and confidence to the collection, like this line in “Abscission”: “Your favorite post-coital pastime \ is nicknaming my scars.” However, poems like “Despite” show the micro aggressions that she faces even in moments of intimacy: “The leg would \ not slide on & would not \ slide on. He said he rather \ liked it, could \ kiss despite it. I know \ that word. It means \ the desire to hurt someone,” assaulting the reader with a delicate blow of irritation and pain.

As relationships become more intimate throughout the collection, so do the heartbreaks. “His hand felt the plastic of my leg \ and he froze. It was our first and last \ week. He called to say he wasn’t ready \ to date me…I thought he would make it. He had \ a dead father three years back. \ If that doesn’t show how entirely useless \ the body becomes, than what does?” reads the poem “Bust,” leaving the reader with the aching whisper of a question. The short, choppy line breaks and innovative images throughout the collection create a beautiful and enthralling world in which the arts and the human body are morphed, discovered, and uncovered deliciously.

*I have the book, currently on loan to Danielle, so feel free to borrow it whenever you’d like, or purchase one of your own here

Happy reading 🙂

book swap ?

This isn’t exactly a blog post, but more of a solicitation:

Would anyone be interested in a poetry book swap? I have a multitude of contemporary and modern poetry books that have literally (yes, literally) changed my writing forever. I’d love to share them and also acquire some new inspiration from you all.

in which a silent room of slim shady’s wait for the real one to stand up first

“Okay, thank you. Goodbye,” I said nervously upon hanging up the phone after speaking with a professor I know. Satisfied with my pseudo-professionalism, I looked over at my friend and realized she was silently giggling at me.

“What?” I asked, setting my phone down on the dining room table.

“It’s just funny. I mean, your voice gets so much higher and sweeter when you’re talking to real adults. It’s like you’re switching personalities,” she responded, proceeding to return to her homework.

She was so right. Lately, I’ve been considering “voice” and what that actually means in the world of poetics. After spending nearly a year pinpointing precisely what a “Grace poem” is, I’ve been a bit afraid that I will never be able to successfully deviate from it. To combat this, I made a list of the different voices I have around different people in real life: the voice only my friends and family know (and hate), the quiet and serious voice, the voice I use when Johnny bites Kenny in my second grade classroom, the voice I use when speaking with my dear Great Aunt Bonnie, the voice I use in every dreaded class presentation, the voice I use when someone knocks on the public bathroom door and I, for a moment, forget how to speak humanly.

After writing said list, I started to generate poems from different voices, and ended up narrowing in on the sarcastic and witty asshole that lounges in the La-Z-Boy between my brain hemispheres, always making delicious puns in the wrong context or getting nine-year-old Grace out of trouble by making Mom laugh. Writing with wit was an exercise in restraint, especially in the excitement of Taylor Swift-ing the shit out of someone whom I can only hope will someday stumble across a published version of my most recent poem and feel, like, real human emotions or something. Anyway, it was refreshing to get something out there that didn’t follow my own footsteps.

I think biting humor is a great place to start, but I’m excited to keep attempting to access different voices and come at poems from varied angles. For all of you lovely poets out there, what are ways in which you defy your own normal and “try new things?” I could always use more inspiration.

Oh, and if my ex-boyfriend ever Google searches me…since this is a public blog and all…I’m doing pretty damn well and you should think twice before wronging a poet next time.

See y’all in class! 🙂

indeed the tulips change tense too quickly

“Indeed the tulips \ change tense \ too quickly. \ They open and fly off. \ And, holding absolutes \ at bay, the buds \ tear through the fruit trees, \ steeples into sky,” –Jorie Graham’s “Strangers”

I purchased Jorie Graham’s “Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts” after drooling over it in a bookstore in Saratoga for an inappropriately long time. I felt that if I had already taken out my notebook and penned countless lines that gave me poetic aneurysms (whilst dog-earing nearly every page), the book deserved to be given some consistent shelter and love. Jorie’s poetry has continued to reach into the furthest corners of my mind through lofty and complex ideas that I still have yet to fully process. What I admire most, however, is her sometimes subtle and sometimes abrasive use of sound to carry these complexities to term.

I typically consider sound to be a means of transport, a way of emphasizing and extending meaning by carrying certain sounds throughout a piece (think the importance of s in Keats’ ‘”To Autumn.”) When done correctly, sonic elements in a poem can carry a heavier weight than the actual “content” or argument of the piece (though I would argue that, at times, sound itself is the provided argument). The reappearing in “Strangers” makes the first three lines echoes of themselves, carrying us with it until we reach “steeples,” where the t‘s have suddenly formed into a place of worship. Due to the repetition, however, we don’t blindly walk into the glass door of the steeple; we have seen it on the horizon since we were given the map.

There is a linkage of ideas, no matter the distance, when sound is utilized. We can connect “bay” to “buds,” but we can also connect “tulips” to “through” to “fruit.”

With sound serving to transport and manipulate meaning, we are offered a beautiful platter of impossibilities: tulips rearrange themselves into a steeple and “quickly” becomes the sky behind it.

math w/ a feeling

There is a math to poetry: a counting of lines, a REcounting of memories, an arithmetic of the heart (no pun intended).

I despise math.

Whenever we learn about and discuss iambs and stresses and syllables, it feels like I’m playing around with a currency that is foreign to me. I focus on the visceral, the obvious, the sound of a piece…and content…but when it comes to lines, I still have a really hard time with parsing them out and making some sort of numerical sense to it.

I’ve been toying with numbers of lines in a stanza, line length, line placement…but usually I go by how I FEEL rather than what makes sense (not surprising, this is how I go about nearly everything in life). If one stanza FEELS like it needs 5 lines and the next needs only 4, should I craft another line for the sake of mathematical sense and consistency or should I throw caution to the wind when it comes to form?

I tend to go with the latter. How do you know what kind of form your poem should take? Do you tend toward logic or feeling in this regard?

(Also, I’ve been on a family-stress-induced Thanksgiving bender for a solid 3 days so don’t mind my incoherence).


line break (up)

As I sit here in Panera Bread, wearing noise-cancelling headphones that don’t quite work (think: The Shins with a glorious orchestra of crying babies and clanking silverware), I’m thinking of some serious poetry questions.

Ah, the break-up poem. The glorious, multidimensional, cathartic break-up poem. After quite a tumultuous end to a tumultuous relationship, I find myself writing pages of break-up poems and angsty love poems…even when I don’t want to write about this topic because I’m sick of reading about it in my own work.

I guess this post is more of a question for all of you: how do you stray away from your immediate circumstances and write about other things? How do you write about other topics than just the one you gravitate towards? How can you use the poetic line to do this (getting away from the form and lineation that is most conducive for the topic)? How do you break-up with break-up poems, at least for a little while?

I want to write about cleaning products or farcical political things or the meat industry…not because these represent my passion, but because I want to try writing about ANYTHING that isn’t dripping with unrequited love and ice cream (most likely).

For now, I’ll eat my free apple (I wish I had chosen the baguette as a side) and brood some more.

my old poems belong on MySpace (& other musings)

Picture it: you submit a poem to a literary journal of any sort, knowing full well the risk of rejection. Months go by, seasons pass, and you slowly forget that you sent anything at all, imagining your submission in a yellowing pile of slush on the top left corner of some big shot editor’s desk. Then, you receive an email that begins with “Congratulations!” and you nearly spit up your soy latte.

The poem, however, once you revisit it, doesn’t seem very…well…good anymore. You wrote it almost a year ago, and there are so many things you’d change now as a more “sophisticated” and “learned” writer. The present (and possibly unrightfully pretentious) you scoffs at faulty line breaks and turns up their nose at questionable word choices, yearning to violently stab a red pen through the computer screen and go nuts before this thing ends up in the hands of unsuspecting strangers. It feels like the poetic equivalent of sending out a link to your seventh grade MySpace page to everyone you know.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate (as all poets do), but really…just this week, I faced this exact situation. Elated as I am to share my work, I suddenly feel like it’s not even mine anymore after months separated from this specific piece.

After our discussion in class about publication and readership, and after receiving the “Congratulations!” email later that night, I was faced with the burning question: as we grow in our craft and in our lives in general, how does that change the way we look at things written in the past? I especially wonder about poets who publish whole collections and look back on them months or even years later…do they still find immense value in their past work? Can they appreciate something they’d written at 20 years old when they are old and gray? Do they laugh at themselves? Do they cut themselves some slack?

At least for me, I know I have an odd relationship with past work and I wonder if this is a universal feeling or if I’m just being pretentious. Let me know your thoughts on this!

feels & rusty stop signs.

In my hometown, there is a stop sign near a brick-clad elementary school that I pass every time I’m driving into town. The sign looks pretty standard until I approach the corroded base of it; underneath the bright white letters, barely noticeable, the word “war” is effortlessly scratched into the reflective red background. It strikes me every time, the stop sign overlooking a menacing chainlink fence that wraps around a quaint playground full of laughing young children. When I put my foot on the pedal to keep cruising down the bustling main road, I’m left with knots in my stomach and a quiet longing for peace.

To me, the old stop sign is reminiscent of what poetry can do. Poetry can both punch me in the gut and whisper sweetly and quietly, planting a small seed of emotion that burrows itself within the very lining of my mind, changing the chemistry of the ground it’s rooted in. The fact of the emotion lives on, wanted or not.

Good poetry does stuff to a person, and it does it without an over-eager tour guide or flashing arrows. I’ve read poetry oozing and dripping with intense musings in which I felt nothing, and I’ve read poetry that breaks my heart and stitches it to the paper after just three words.

When I write poetry, I try to think of how to craft the momentum of emotion in the reader, which I think comes down to the very frame of the poem, the line. I want to scratch (war) effortlessly under STOP so that in the three seconds one slackens their grip on the wheel, they are confronted with a quiet and potent image or message that will linger.

I want the emotion of my pieces to become less obvious and more genuine, which I think starts with the careful structuring of it all.

How do you evoke emotion in your poetry, specifically by use of the line and/or line breaks? How does structure inform the emotion of a piece? How do you avoid holding a reader’s hand and telling them how to feel?