What I Want For My Birthday

For my birthday, every year, I usually get some great gifts from my friends (consisting of clothes, make-up, alcohol) — you know, the usual. We go to a nice dinner, take some photos and call it a day. But, with my family, the day is very different. My birthday is on November 17th, and I look forward to spending it with my family every year. Specifically, we have a GRAND breakfast — the works — and then my parents head to work, and we reconvene for dinner. But my favorite part (besides, you know, celebrating life and time with my family) is my present. And no, it’s not because I get a card of cash — I always ask for books.

Normally, I ask for big books, such as history, feminist books. Last year, I got a book on the history of Marie Antoinette, and Mary Queen of Scots. Just recently, have I begun asking for poetry books, and mostly because I have no idea which to ask for, or what author I would like without physically seeing the book before hand.

Whenever Lytton mentions a book, I usually trust his recommendation and write it down. I then look it up, and add it to my cart on amazon. I have a bookshelf in my room, and I love watching it grow — specifically around this time of year (birthday, Christmas, etc). It is also very interesting to see the evolution of the books that I buy, and read.

Besides the regular children’s books (like Dr. Seuss) that everyone has and reads, the first set of poetry books that I remember buying and reading for myself was Shel Silverstein. Those poems made me laugh, and I think got me very interested in poetry, and what it can do. The play on words, and the feelings evoked kept me interested in poetry. And I eventually graduated to other books and poetry such as Emily Dickinson.

Ultimately, reading is what makes me a writer. And continually reading is what makes me grow as a writer. Not only do I ask for books for my birthday, I always GIVE books to people for their birthdays and other events. I think EVERYONE can use a good book. My one friend loves movies, so I got him a book called “The Movie Geek” where it talks all about movie facts, and production. My friend’s boyfriend cheated on her, and I got her a book about strong, powerful female quotes. My mom’s birthday, every year, I get her a John Grisham novel — and so on, and so on. Not to quote Hallmark or Kay or some other weird mushy company, but books really are the gifts that keep giving.


In case you’re curious, the books in my cart right now are pictured here: 



Julia xox

A Poet Who Inspires Me

A poet who constantly inspires me (I think I’ve written about him before — probably. I write A LOT of blog posts, remember?). SO — this poet is Kaveh Akbar, and his collection of poems is Calling A Wolf A Wolf. I have no idea how this book got into my hands (maybe I stole this one, too). But legitimately, I don’t remember how I acquired this collection. I just remember how I started reading it over summer.

I instantly loved Akbar’s work — so much I followed him on twitter (LOL), researched him, got his social security number… you know, the works. What I love most about him, and something that I try to mimic in my writing (key work: try), is the subversion he constantly brings after line breaks, or when creating an image. The juxtaposition of certain words, and phrases and things that don’t/shouldn’t go together, but do in poetry, is what propels me to keep reading his work — it is exciting. There is always the unexpected — expect the unexpected while reading his work.

Last year in workshop, before I even knew Akbar existed, and before I somehow acquired his book, I encountered one of his poems — and later when I read his collection, I realized why I hung onto this poem for so long — because it was his. Last semester, in workshop, there was a student named Jasmine, and she would go ALL OUT in letters, and annotations. She would suggest poems to look at, give people entire books, and print out pages on pages of work to compare yours to, and give you inspiration. For mine, I wrote a lot about alcohol (I dropped that this year — in workshop, at least), and she printed out a poem for me called “River of Milk” — I didn’t pay attention to the author (even though it was Akbar) and I just LOVED the poem. I loved the poem so much that I looked it up online, and tabbed it in my bookmarks — it is still there, and I read it from time to time. Then, when I got Calling A Wolf A Wolf, I loved that just the same. One day over the summer, I was like “hold on, I’ve read this before what is this it sounds SO familiar” — and I whipped out my computer, and looked at my tab and my mind was BLOWN that it was the same author — Kaveh Akbar. It was crazy that Jasmine had predicted I would love his poems, and that I bought his book later was just so insane to me as a person, reader, and writer.

Overall, I love Akbar’s work — and suggest it to anyone, and everyone. I try to mimic his subversions and pairs of images. All of which are purely satisfying, and masterful to me. Please consider what started it all, River of Milk, below.

River of Milk 

bear with me      it wasn’t long ago I was brainless
lazily pulling fireflies into my teeth       chewing them
into pure light       so much of me then was nothing
I could have fit into a sugar cube      my body burned
like a barnful of feathers        nothing was on fire
but fire was on everything       the wild mustard
the rotting porch chair         a box of birth records        eventually
even scorched earth goes green       though beneath it
the dead might still luxuriate in their rage     my ancestor
was a dervish saint     said to control a thick river of dark milk
under his town        his people believed
he could have spared them a drought       they ripped him to pieces
like eagles tearing apart a snake    immediately they were filled
with remorse       instead of burying him        they buried a bag
of goat bones and azalea      my hair still carries that scent
my eyes      black milk and a snake’s flicking tongue
does this confuse you       there are so many ways to be deceived
a butcher’s thumb pressed into the scale       a strange blue dress
in a bathtub    the slowly lengthening night      I apologize
I never aimed at eloquence      I told my mother I wouldn’t live
through the year       then waited for a disaster      sitting cheerfully
on cinder blocks pulled from a drained pond      tossing
peanuts to squirrels     this is not the story she tells     hers filled
with happy myths       fizzy pistons and plummy ghosts
it’s true I suppose       you grow to love the creatures you create
some of them come out with pupils swirling       others with teeth
~ Julia xoxo

About The Book I Stole…

So about that book… that I uh… ‘borrowed’.

Just kidding, it will be put back safe and sound next week (most likely).

You see here, Maria Lima is my adviser — and never have I ever had a meeting on time with her. This is a fortunate thing, because it allows me to browse the Welles/English Department library. I always noticed the books on the shelf, but never actually got up to take one down. This past Wednesday was different. I found an April 2016 Poetry Magazine — and started reading. The poetry was extremely refreshing. I want to talk specifically about my favorite poem in the magazine, which I am pasting below.

A Little Closer to the Edge

Young enough to believe nothing
will change them, they step, hand-in-hand,
into the bomb crater. The night full
of  black teeth. His faux Rolex, weeks
from shattering against her cheek, now dims
like a miniature moon behind her hair.
In this version the snake is headless — stilled
like a cord unraveled from the lovers’ ankles.
He lifts her white cotton skirt, revealing
another hour. His hand. His hands. The syllables
inside them. O father, O foreshadow, press
into her — as the field shreds itself
with cricket cries. Show me how ruin makes a home
out of  hip bones. O mother,
O minutehand, teach me
how to hold a man the way thirst
holds water. Let every river envy
our mouths. Let every kiss hit the body
like a season. Where apples thunder
the earth with red hooves. & I am your son.
I LOVE this poem. The couplet form is specifically speaking to me. The couplets in particular are working with the use of enjambment, and line breaks. The subversion of expectation and language is astounding to me. In addition, just to scratch the surface of reasons to be inspired from this poem, the images are also doing an incredible amount of work. The “black. His faux Rolex” and a “miniature moon behind her hair.” These lines and imagery are creating so much for the reader. In addition, content-wise, the interplay of family, characters, people and inanimate objects are creating a very divine and surreal feeling/tone in this piece. Specifically, the line “O father” and “the snake is headless” and “unraveled from the lovers’ ankles” — I feel like I am waiting to see imagery of fruit, or a garden as well. Oh WAIT — there IS! The last couplet, which brings me satisfaction as a reader — “apples thunder/ the earth with red hooves & I am your son.” This line is, for lack of a better term, BOMB. There are so many natural, and organic vibes from this poem that it is cohesive, paints a setting for the reader. There is so much I love about this poem — from the tone, to the sonic components of it, to the refreshing quality, and the images — I hope you love it, too. I will keep you updated on my journey through this book, and if I ever give it back.
Julia xoxo

Embarking On A New Journey… (Genre)

Next semester, I have decided to branch out. Well not really, my main motivation behind that decision is because I almost, basically have to. With the rule that you cannot take three of the same genre workshops in a row, without a directed study or whatever the fine print is… I found myself struggling in filling out my application. All I have ever written is poetry. However, my poetry is all Creative Non-Fiction.

With this in mind, I set out to apply to the CNF track (fiction was an absolute lost cause…). I emailed Lytton in a panic, per usual, and he assured me in my choice of this endeavor. My poetry literally is CNF… I just had to omit the line breaks, add more of a theme, and string together some sentences… easy enough, right?

I sat down, with a blank word document, thinking about what to write about. I had a few things in mind, and of course my train of thought always conducts itself onto my family… which is fine because my family, specifically my dad, is my muse anyway. So I wrote about a very specific incident in my family’s life, and I just kept writing and writing, until after ten pages, it was ‘done’.

I was proud of myself for doing this, and it was so satisfying to complete this application. The writing however, was not just the ‘string together a couple of sentences’ mantra that I originally thought. Obviously, it was much more than that. Trying to recall the specific details, and thinking of ways to phrase the syntax of my sentences was an interesting feat. Usually in poetry, if I’m stuck, I just make my diction more concise by taking out small words — those of which that don’t matter in poetry such as ‘of, it, my, the’ … but in CNF — you can’t really do that. So, the ‘cut your darlings’ technique — my go-to — was not as reliable this time around for the sake of literal grammar, which doesn’t apply in my usual genre. My style of writing was also more scenic, rather than abstract and imagined — as it should be. So, again, it was a different experience overall, but I do indeed feel accomplished.

I asked for feedback on my piece, from a trusted friend, and after taking their critiques into consideration, I was ready to submit my application. I even wrote a small note on my cover sheet, saying “I already took poetry twice, time for a new genre” with a smiley face. I was nervous I wouldn’t get in, so I felt this need to debrief and defend myself in a weird way. But no worries, a few days later, I found out that I indeed made it into the track!

Now that I am admitted into a CNF workshop I have NO IDEA what to expect. But, I sure am excited.


Julia xoxo

Watch // Time // Through

Time is movement. It is a passage of space and momentum and feeling and importance. Chronologically speaking, this is most vital conversion in human existence (in my opinion), because we can learn SO MUCH from history. That is why, to diagnose Through, I chose my watch.

I wear my watch everyday (on the inside, as it should be), and I looked at it as I was reading this poetry by Herd. I thought about the word ‘suspend’ that Herd uses, extensively. To temporarily suspend time and sequence is such a graceful interruption. Similar to old shows like Saved By The Bell when Zach Morris can pause the scene, and speak to us: this suspension is vital to the plot, and audience’s interpretation. I have a stopwatch on my watch, and I can, too, suspend time for my own time-keeping abilities and desires. But, this idea of suspension, specifically in this book and title, is ironic.

To me, this book is about ‘moving through’ things. Of course there are deeper meanings within the smaller poems, but broadly if I could summarize ALL the poems into one word — it would be on very similar to the word through (thank God that’s the title…). Perhaps a word like movement, fluid, exist — any one that suggests momentum, but a slow one. This book encompasses many themes, and all have to do with change. Whether that be within politics, people, the environment, or personal goals, this poetry is about opening doors, and walking through them. The most important movement in this book is time: the change in politics, speakers, and important faces and voices. Or just the time throughout the day, and the changing of that concept, is imperative as well. From the images of birds to sunsets, it is chronological statement of day in and day out, and of political state of affairs.

My watch represents this fluidity, or lack thereof in terms of suspension of time. This is directly related to the political environment, the faces involved, and the personal journey between doors. The concept of moving through something, is based on time. The old saying that is often said to those grieving is: “time heals all wounds” — now,  we will not get into this cliche, but the idea of time healing  wounds isn’t what I care about. What I am interested in is the idea of eventually, time resolving hurt. It is funny though, how history repeats itself. Maybe we are wearing the cast, just to soon break the same bone again…

Without entering any political climate territory, reading Through with this lens of time has helped me to understand the book as one segment, continuously. Reading the book in this way helped me to see the movement of the pieces, together and fluidly, yet separate and suspended, as well.

I suggest reading this book of poems perhaps on a timer, or a metronome, and use this to feel the way the rhythm feels to time, and the way the concepts and content do as well.


Julia xoxo


I Am Trying To Become Smarter… Weird, I Know.

Ok SO —

I watch a lot of Criminal Minds, let’s start there. Whether listening to Reid spit out amazing, random facts that he learned from a book he read once years ago, or listening to Blake know the root of every word EVER because of her background in linguistics, I love to see and hear intelligence. These (fictional and scripted) people are SO SMART (ya know, in this fake world but whatever) and it is so attractive to me. I love the idea of being smart, and having that be the first thing someone notices about me.

I also find it AMAZING when Lytton just knows direct quotes and books and authors — it’s actually insane. He’s an encyclopedia. I strive to be like that, very well versed and just brilliant, ya know?

Another one of my role models if Ruth Bader Ginsburg because how can she not be one of your role models… I watched her documentary, and a quote that when she said it made me literally CRY INSTANTLY was when she was talking about her husband and she said “he was the first boy to ever like me for my brain.” And I began to cry, that just really hit the spot with me. I have never had that spontaneous of a reaction to simple words before, it was an unforgettable moment.

It was unforgettable for many reasons. One of which being that I have never had that experience. Sure, I’ve had people call me smart, but I’ve never had that be the reason that someone loves me, or is friends with me. That is never the first thing someone notices about ‘Julia’. But one day, hopefully it is.

So no, I don’t want to get smarter for a boy, but I do want to just be more well-read and better cultured in terms of reading, writing, and language overall. In short, I want to be Lytton (or an FBI agent, or Supreme Court Judge — whichever comes first). With this goal, I started crossword puzzles over the summer and MY GOD, they’re difficult. I bought a book of 500 of them (why I needed that many, no idea) but so far I’ve solved anywhere between 10%-80% of all of them. I have yet to complete one entirely, and no, I don’t cheat.

My goal is to keep this book, and hopefully one day after I’ve studied my butt off and read every book in the universe, then maybe –just maybe — I can look back at the puzzles I never finished and say “damn, how did I not get that answer before?” Once I get to that point in my life (and ya know, have 4 kids, a pool, and a dog named Sprout), I’ll know I’ve made it.


P.S. I also want to learn how to play chess so if anyone knows, teach me!




Why I Write 11 Blogs A Week

I get paid to write. Thank God.

When trying to find a flexible, noble, cool, and paying job on campus — my pickings were slim. Last semester, I came into contact with a GREAT opportunity. It was to be an International Student Blogger. And now, I have held this position and worked for this office for over 6 months. I am responsible for writing 10 hours worth of blogs a week.

At first, I had trouble really finding things to write about. Essentially, my job is to give a well-rounded view of what Geneseo is, and what it offers. My blog posts are put on a database for prospective international students to read, and hopefully be enticed by. As time passed, I got better at finding things to write about — it didn’t even feel like work anymore. After going to a school event, or a new restaurant with my friends, I would simply snap a picture, and write about the logistics of the topic, then my opinion about it, and then a conclusion: easy-peasy. Basically, I was and am getting paid to live my life, and write about it. I love my job, and the people I work with are amazing. But with anything, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

I type A LOT throughout the week… my wrists ache constantly. Honestly, I am grateful that I do not a laptop from 4:30pm-7:50pm on Wednesday nights. But yes, typing for 10 hours a week about my life can certainly be painful and tiring. But I do it for a good cause, and it is beneficial for not only my finances and self-reflective thoughts, but also for incoming students trying to get a feel for Geneseo in its entirety.

So, I would call myself a master of blogs by now… I write 10 for ISSS, and one for Lytton. All in all, 11 blogs a week isn’t too bad; because, at the end of the day, I get to do what I love.

Julia xoxo

Like Carbon

Carbon is in anything living; it is organic. The pure forms of carbon are either graphite, or diamond. One dark, grainy, breakable; the other being strong, clear, and untouchable.

Our discussion on the organic got me thinking about how organic means anything with Carbon, and Hydrogen. It also pertains to anything living. It also means anything grown without synthetic materials. There are many forms that being organic, and being Carbon can take on.

There are many forms that writing can take on, as well. Writing is in everything–every day, every profession, every requirement. Whether it be writing an essay, an application, an email, a text, a letter–it is essential. It is Carbon. It is living.

This discussion caused an existential crisis on my end. It reminded much of Dead Poet’s Society and the inspirational quotes from Robin Williams, Rest in Peace.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

“To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

This movie is one of my favorites, and makes me cry every time. These quotes are also two of my favorites, that I refer to often when I need a reminder of why I write, or why I go to art exhibits, or why I sew some of my own clothes. This is the sustainable part of life; this is what we stay alive for.

Organic, Carbon, Raw, Natural, Writing. All are synonymous and interdependent in my eyes. And they always will be.


Julia xoxo

Week 3: Being a TA for Intro to Creative Writing

This is the third week of school, and for me it is my third week of being a Teaching Assistant for Caroline in English 201. It is going well… I think.

On the first day, we went through the syllabus–and that was fine. Caroline asked me to explain a few things from a student’s perspective, such as the fourth wall. So I explained that best I could, and all the students just stared at me with blank looks. I realized, they didn’t even know what the verb ‘workshop’ meant… well, this was awkward. So then I tried rambling about that and I confused them even MORE. They asked, “so I just sit here silently and everyone talks about what I wrote??”, I tell them yes and they looked TERRIFIED.

I remembered there was a time when I first heard this verb of ‘workshop’ too. And yes, even then it seemed daunting–and it still is terrifying. I told them that I get nervous too when my piece is workshopped, but it’s best to look down, bite your nails, and take notes. They still just looked confused. Then they asked, “well what should I write about?”, and I told them that they could write about anything. I gave them the very sound advice that I received as a young writer that you must distance yourself from your piece. Nothing is too close to you. I told them that often times, I write about my father and it feels numb to me now–in a good way. After hearing about my ‘dark’ writing and ability to write about my family and still having it workshopped, I saw some relief on their faces. I think that came from the fact that I am also a student, and if they saw I did it and am continuing to do it, then they can do it, too.

The next class Caroline actually was diagnosed with Strep … so class was cancelled, unfortunately.

This past class on Tuesday, we went over poetry and creative non-fiction. These kids were LIVELY (that is mostly because I told them that participation gets them a LOT of brownie points) so they were talking SO much and it was beautiful. They asked questions, talked with each other, and each had such an individual voice and personality. Truly it is an inspiring class, and I am honored to be a part of it.

I will keep you updated on my chronicles as a TA. Wish me luck!


Julia xoxo

My New Favorite Author

I encountered my new favorite author (regarding poetry, that is) this past summer. His name is Kaveh Akbar, and he is PHENOMENAL. His book, “Calling A Wolf A Wolf” is one I read time and time again these past few months. I was recommended this book by TC Tolbert (and by Lytton, I believe)–and I am so glad I ordered a copy of it.

This book is raw. You can FEEL the personal journey and feelings of Akbar. As a recovering alcoholic Muslim, he channels the most organic and connecting feeling throughout his writing. Something that tI have noticed throughout his poems is the incredible use of comparisons. In addition, his word choice is fluid and extremely deliberate and strategic–everything connects. These are the two things that I NEED to steal from him, and two things I greatly admire within his writing.

Something even COOLER is that Kaveh Akbar, THE KAVEH AKBAR, quote tweeted one of my tweets. I almost cried. I posted a picture of my marginalia in his book because the page was covered in notes and pencil markings. He then saw the picture, quote tweeted it, and said “Nothing fascinates me more than someone’s marginalia.” I immediately was SO insecure that the author of this book I just graffiti-ed was reading my notes, but I also was like ‘holy shit the author of this book I graffiti-ed is reading my notes…’

It was crazy. But, moral of the story–read the book, it’s incredible.