calling all right brains !

My brain thinks in pictures.

Mostly big ones.

This makes poetry hard when we’re dealing with small units like the line, punctuation, a space, a breath.

I was having a phone conversation about music yesterday in which the person I was talking to referred to albums as a “collection,” which I’ve heard many times before, but it hit me right then that a poem, too, resembles an album: a poem is a collection of lines. Just as each song in an album is it’s own entity, singing its own melodies and showcasing it’s own rhythm, tone, and meaning, each line in a poem has its own agency and independence within a poem. It gets interesting to think of many different independent lines or songs working together as a collective whole.

I admit that I generally think more often about the collective whole: the meaning of a poem or the narrative flow of a poem and how to convey certain things to a reader either directly or indirectly. Only recently have I discovered the independence that lies within a poem and how lines can be listened to over and over again on their own, shuffled with other lines, or even stolen and put in a “playlist” with other lines by other poets. What I once thought was only pure interdependence actually turned out to be a network of independent things linked together, or broken in a way that they may fit together.

This is not new information to many of us, but by putting an analogy with what we are learning about lines, I became a bit more flexible in how I think about poetry and the line.

For any of the rest of you right-brained “big picture” type folks, what has helped you understand the line in poetry specifically? What has helped you to focus on the unit rather than the whole in our discussions of the weight each line holds?

the option to linger

I value poems with a story and a general narrative flow from A to Z. As a writer, I tend toward creative non-fiction, and thereby adopt many of it’s inherent principles even while writing other genres. When I write poems, many of my lines are vehicles used to get to the next line, the next great revelation of plot or another link in a sequence of narratives. I establish setting, mood, conflict in the beginning and work it out throughout the piece…voila, a creative non-fiction poem has been born!

When I read something like Ríos’ declaration that, “a line is a moment, and moment is intrinsically non-narrative. That is, a moment does not move forward, not readily, not right away. A moment stops, and stopping is the friendly nemesis of narrative. A line is a moment that has value right then, and which deserves some of our time,” (207), I freeze up a little. I’m inclined to move forward and propel the piece towards itself, but there is value in asserting that the line is indeed a moment.

I think of picture frames, the amount of times I’ve spent staring at a photo and dwelling in whatever small moment was captured and caged. If a poem is a collection of moments, then it is like a wall of picture frames, with the reader gently stopping at each successive photograph and reveling in whatever images or truths are present. Only when the reader is done lingering do they stroll over to the next picture; suddenly a gallery of moments has been strung together in some sort of magical oneness, though each moment is distinctive and salient on its own.

I have difficulty crafting potent lines that offer the option to linger. My lines at times aren’t anchored, I’ve broken them in a way that they depend on each other. A goal of mine is to turn each line into a self-sustaining entity that in turn lends itself well to the poem as a whole; hopefully this semester will be for new growth in this area.




Tides & Curly Fries

This summer I ate curly fries almost every single day.

I smelled like kid sweat and mod podge.

I also had barely any time to be alone and write extensively…mostly anything I was able to write was written on a dirty napkin or a band-aid wrapper or my hand. I blame it on the kiddos that I spent the summer with, but honestly I think summer was generally quite low-tide creatively.

One sticky day in July, while I was walking the trails at my summer camp after dinner, I realized how damn tired I was of consuming curly fries. Now, I love curly fries, and if I were on my deathbed I’d probably request to be hooked up to an IV filled with Arby’s special sauce. However, there was not a single meal that didn’t involve them…the entire summer.

I don’t necessarily believe that the creativity within us dies, yet I do think it submerges and then resurfaces in different seasons. Maybe we need a respite from the hard work of creating in order to reevaluate why we create in the first place. After a few months away from frantically scribbling in my notebook and generating material any time my hands were empty, I had some time to think about the purpose in what I do.

When I write to keep busy or for the sole purpose of submission, my finished product tends to fall short. It may not be bad, per say, but I always felt that any piece I wrote without the “right” motives just didn’t seem genuine. Rather, it became alien to me, warranting the “Did I really write that?” response.  Over the summer, I spent some time reflecting on the purpose in crafting something. I don’t want to produce things cheaply for the sake of creating something tepid or pretty, I want it to be dynamic and alive with meaning and real. In order to do this, I need time and inspiration.

Even if writing was replaced by the consumption of fifteen pounds of curly fries this summer, I think I’ve learned to be okay with the slower months. They allow me to regain the stability I need to truly understand the purpose in what I do and why. In low tides, I’ve learned to be reflective instead of discouraged.

I know I’ll always come back to writing, rather, it’ll always come back to me–and the same may (unfortunately) go for curly fries.

My question for you: how do you recharge when you become frustrated or burned out by the process of writing? How do you find purpose in what you do?

I’m excited to learn from all of you this semester! 🙂



People! (a prelude to my source showcase)

Hello hello,

I wanted to write a post concerning my source showcase next week, which is largely centered around people & living source.

I struggled for awhile with figuring out how to fully understand people as a source, because they are so complex and have their own experiences that may differ from our own.

It really struck me last week, when I found out that a CNF piece of mine is to be published. I was elated, and absolutely terrified as this story is a very personal anecdote featuring my immediate family. Although this is my experience, crafted in a way that helps me to process the situation better, I realized that people are so nuanced and may have a completely different take on something that I would. My older sister doesn’t remember half of the stuff in my CNF piece, and she is adamant that some sections “never happened” (though I have a vivid recollection of them).

For my source showcase, I am going to attempt to discover and showcase people as nuanced living sources in a way that reflects my writing. 99% of my poetry is about people, mixed with the specific language of an object that somehow characterizes both the person and gives solid imagery of a person through these objects. My poetry is often trying to understand people better through something that seems wholly other than them (i.e. my father and the language of US Mint). It provides me with a different dimension of that person to help me to describe/relay an experience better.

Aaaaaaanyway, I’d like to pose a few questions to you all to think about prior to my showcase on the 12th:

  1. How would you feel about being the source of someone else’s poetry?
  2. How do you attempt to write about people in a way that shows their complexity and nuances?
  3. What are challenges you’ve had in writing about people or an experience with people?
  4. Have you ever talked with the source of your poetry and asked them about their opinions on being a source?
  5. What people tend to be the biggest source(s) of your poetry?



In remembering the classical

Sometimes I forget about the classical.
I get so caught up in the contemporary that it’s easy to look back in disdain for poetry and craft that existed in a time before the trends that poetry is seeing now.
I realize that I blog a lot about bookstores and libraries, but for real, these places are magical. This past August, my boyfriend and I were strolling around Saratoga Springs and were caught in a torrential downpour, so naturally our soppy and shivering selves ran into the nearest used bookstore which felt like Ollivander’s wand shop from Harry Potter.
I found a book of poems by John Donne, whom I knew my grandmother liked (my grandmother is also a poet of sorts, and we talked line breaks and the romantics one night after accidentally getting too drunk before a funeral) and I really loved a particular poem by him which I will paste below. I read it over about 15 times trying to understand what he meant, but I found a new appreciation for the classical poetry that I had forgotten about in the midst of the contemporary. Don’t get me wrong, I love contemporary poetry, but I think sometimes I forget that classical poetry exists or I undervalue it. I love how carefully selected words are, how dainty and beautiful the poems read. They remind me of lace curtains or something.
I wonder how folks like John Donne could be a source of our poetry today? What classical sources do you guys turn to, if you do?
Any who, here is the poem that I bookmarked. I also ended up purchasing John Donne’s collection for $13.99, and he now sits on my bookshelf and makes my bedroom smell like old books (better than any kind of Febreeze).
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
John Donne
As virtuous men pass mildly away,
   And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
   The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise,
   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
   To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
   Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
   Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
   Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
   That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
   Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
   Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
   As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
   To move, but doth, if the other do.
And though it in the center sit,
   Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
   And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.

Writing the Happy, Writing in Appreciation?

I never had good friends in high school. Heck, by the end I didn’t really even have friends in high school. I had one or two friends, only one of which I talk to on occasion still. High school was a slow, dragging limp to the finish line. So when I came to college, and met the most wonderful group of people that I call my best friends, I felt as if I owed them writing in some form or another. I want to bring them into my writing in appreciation and in thankfulness.

My question remains: how do I write about these people I love? How do I write for people? I have so many people in my life that I want to paint into a poem or a story, but for some reason I always feel like my people-poems are lacking. I write a lot of people in a vague sense, and utilize the observational qualities that I take into social situations, but I can’t seem to get at the complexity of a person, especially when they mean a lot to me.

This spurs on another question: how do we write about the happy? The lovely? How do we write poems that are just simply joyful and full of appreciation for somebody else? Every time I write a poem, it ends up being more cynical or depressing than I originally intended…which is fine, I suppose, but I want to be able to write with a tone of joy. Does anyone else find this difficult?

Library Hours

Over the “spring” break, while trapped in my lovely boyfriend’s small hometown for three extra days due to the blizzard (can’t complain), I got some much needed library time. He and I, both advocates of “Woah There, I Need Space” tend to do this thing where we frequent bookstores and libraries, but the moment we walk through the doors we fully acknowledge that we won’t see each other for a good two hours, besides occasionally hearing a snicker or a gasp from a few shelves over (side note- wondering how I could bring in a physical representation of these cherished moments for the source showcase). That is my idea of love. Braving the bitter wind and whiteout conditions, arm-in-arm, glove-in-glove, the walk to the local public library felt like a mission or maybe the trek to Disney World. It also felt like frozen eyelashes and potential frostbite.

After perusing the local history section, trying to persuade myself into caring about the forefathers of Albany and Schenectady, I struck gold in finding a massive dusty anthology about wildflowers of New York from the early 1900s. Laying on the carpeted floor in the botany and nature section, I was overwhelmed with the amount of language I had found in this book. I then pulled Jorie Graham’s “The Dream of the Unified Field” and read these two vastly different collections side by side. I felt like an alchemist, scribbling and discovering the intersections between Graham and Mr. Wildflower (I couldn’t remember the author) in my trusty journal. I felt a little sheepish in trying to craft a poem that stole lines from Jorie Graham, as if my poems should be bowing down to her in reverence, but for some reason this combination of sources just worked. I don’t think I’m insightful enough to describe why, but somehow these channels of source and language gave me what I needed to write a poem I’ve been meaning to write for awhile (but wanted to do justice). It was a sort of magic.

I want more library moments in my life, in my writing. I am continually wondering how many faded shag carpets and bookshelves I’ll have to loiter until I have some sort of divine intuition about what can combine, what I can mash my experiences and ideas with to create something new. I wonder how to come across source not just by accident but by knowing that the sources will work well together. I love the idea of having a poem in my head, in my Grace-voice, and being able to employ multiple sources that use language and images that attack my head-poem and contribute to it from wildly different angles.

When it comes to multiple sources, how do you know what the poem in your head needs? How do you know what it dreams of? How do you peruse the shelves of the library with intention rather than stumbling across books and other sources that happen to work? Or is this just another case of the “happy accident?”

P.S. I was so excited I lost track of time, but boyfriend managed to find me and pull me away from the library with “we should probably eat dinner at some point.”

Place, place, displace

I figured I would jot down my thought process in crafting the upcoming writing exercise. I’ve noticed that the places I’ve tended to write about the most lately are quite disjointed in nature:

Kitchens (of all sorts- dirty, chromatic, small, large, etc.)

Large bodies of water (lakes, mainly Lake Ontario where I grew up)

Living room spaces (with an especial focus on curtains and fabrics)

I suppose I will not be writing about any of these things.

What are your common places?






Submission sounds like a dirty word.

When I think of submission, I think of the Church and I think of writing. Either way, I have always been too stubborn to NOT cringe at the thought of submitting under someone else (even if that person is Jesus). I don’t like things being out of my hands and under someone else’s control (which has caused issues in both my faith and my writing).

When it comes to writing, I see SUBMIT! written all over the place. Working at the Union, I’m in charge of approving and hanging up posters. There was a day when I approved a poster about a literary magazine asking us to


…I stared at it for a solid ten minutes.  It made me nauseous. I thought of the rejection that may await, of the glances at a work I’ve written that will deem it un-ready, of the shame and embarrassment. I thought, in a whir of self-condemnation, about how big my ego must be if it gets deflated so much by a simple “We can’t accept your work at this time.”

I desire to share my work by the off chance that some soul will read it and think, someone gets it. That it’ll make someone out there feel a little less alone, a little more understood. I want my work to be for others and not for myself, so why is it so difficult to risk hitting that SUBMIT! button? Am I afraid of rejection or am I afraid that my family will read the work and be offended by the personal things I expose about them (though most often it’s more embarrassing for myself)?

I have no answers, only questions: are you afraid of submission? What fears do you have in submitting your work? What joy do you have in submitting work?


I guess I’ll blog about love…*collective sigh*

I told the guy I’m seeing that I don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. He was relieved to hear this, of course, so he wouldn’t have to try and present a gift that represents love when “I love you” has been a taboo phrase in our relationship. I thought about writing him some sort of love poem, but I couldn’t…what would I call it, anyways? A “like” poem? Anywho, I think all of this talk about love had me thinking about poetry and source. Love poetry is a terrifying and unfamiliar territory for me. I can write about seemingly mundane and obsessively minute things, but big concepts like love leave me in a chokehold. I get angry reading some of the love poetry I see online…especially when poets equate their lovers to their UNIVERSE. I don’t like the idea of being in someone else’s orbit, and it drives me crazy to see love become “you. are. my. everything.” I don’t hate love whatsoever, I just have a hard time writing about it while balancing what I learned in church growing up, what I’ve observed around me, what I’ve experienced myself…it’s a confusing abstraction. How do you guys feel about love poems? Have you ever presented someone else with a poem directed at them? How do you encompass the wholeness of love in a single (no pun intended) poem?

To conclude, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite poems. In high school, in the library during 3rd period, I came across this love poem by John Frederick Nims and ended up scotch-taping it, handwritten on a torn page of my student planner, to my hot pink bedroom wall until graduation. “THIS IS IT!” I thought, realizing that this was the only love poem I had never scoffed at or winced while reading. I loved how messy this love was, and how ordinary and flawed it was as well. This poem felt real to me. I hope you all enjoy it as I did, and have a lovely Valentine’s Day (whether you’re a lover or a cynic or just plain confused).

Love Poem
(by John Frederick Nims)

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apopleptic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.