My friend Jenna and I set out to do homework together. Both of us grabbed our things, packed up and walked to a nearby study room in my dorm. As soon as we got our laptops out, we both looked at each other, laughed a little bit, and decided we were going to write poetry instead. We decided to do an exercise where we put on a song and stream of consciousness wrote for the duration of it. No reading, revising, or even thinking as we went — just writing. It felt incredibly liberating to write without criticizing my own words as they came out. And even if just a line or even just a phrase was decent from the writing, it was something, and it was genuine, authentic writing being generated.
I entered Geneseo as an Adolescent Ed/English major. Three semesters later, I’m an English/Creative Writing major with a Women’s and Gender Studies minor. I knew as soon as I entered 201 here that Creative Writing was my place here, in fact, I’ve known CW was my place since high school. It was my safe space in high school, where I felt I could express myself without censoring anything, and it turned into the thing I love more than anything. However, it was my love of not just learning and understanding English, but of teaching it and making it accessible to others as well as providing feedback and editing that led me to even consider attending college at all. In my high school English courses, I always felt a desire to not just participate but be the one behind all of the participation, crafting the activities and writing comments on papers and poems.
In my time here, my desires have shifted from working with high schoolers to pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and working with Creative Writing at a higher level. I think that through my work in the Creative Writing track so far, I have been able to not only push myself to new places as a writer, but to understand that I love creating prompts and helping friends with their work. I am grateful for all the track has given me so far and look forward to all the things it has in store for me in the rest of my time here.
I have been writing poetry since before I even knew what it was or what it meant. It is something that has always come naturally to me, something that has always been important to me, and something I’ve never really known how to stop doing. However, something that was new to me when I began taking college workshops was the concept of revision. In my high school creative writing classes, the concept was certainly introduced, but after submitting our work, we got our assignments back, got the grade, and never had to revise. Revision was entirely left in our hands. And quite honestly, it was something that I never did. I felt that once my piece was written, with the exception of an occasional word change or line break change, it was usually complete.
When I got to Geneseo, my 201 workshop introduced me to the idea that revision was absolutely necessary in order to make the piece as effective as possible. After all, what is the purpose of a workshop if not to revise a piece and utilize the feedback being provided by other writers? We were not only introduced to the importance of the revision process, but also required to submit a revised version of our original workshop piece for a second “revision workshop”. When I revised this piece, I no longer felt like it was my own. I felt as though I took far too many suggestions, I drastically changed the structure and lots of other aspects of the poem until it no longer felt like my poem at all. This was no one’s fault but my own: but it made me even more afraid of revision than I had ever been. How to reconcile my preconceived idea that a poem was done once it was complete with the concept of workshop, something I’d be participating in for the next four years of my college education and my Creative Writing degree?
When I sat down with Lytton in office hours, my first question was how to begin reconciling this struggle of mine. This is my third semester at Geneseo, my second as a Creative Writing major. It’s my second time taking poetry, and for some reason, now more than ever, the feedback I am receiving is overwhelming me. My conversation during office hours reminded me of something important: everyone’s process is different, and also everyone’s process is valid. The idea that I have of my first thought being the most honest and real version of what I’m trying to say is valid, and revision isn’t about pleasing readers or changing your work to the point where it doesn’t feel like yours anymore. It’s about clarifying, using words that may make the piece make more sense, may remove readings from the room that you’re not okay with people having, and most of all, allow the poem to live up to its full potential.
“to isolate is to lock / the mind inside of itself”
I chose isolate because it was how I had felt all summer. I hadn’t written much over the past three months, but ever since unloading my belongings into my dorm a few days ago, writing is all I’ve been doing. Normally when things get hard for me, writing is my saving grace and the thing I pour it all into. But somehow this summer’s challenges just shut the switch off.
So to sit in a room of other poets, talking about words and associations and accidentally oversharing about what this summer had been for me — it was refreshing, to say the least. This definition of a simple word was enough to remind me what it was about writing that always kept me coming back. There were other people in the room that got it.
And no matter how lonely of an activity writing can be, when you sit down with a group of strangers that get it right away it reminds you of the magic behind what it is that we’re doing. The idea of translation, to me, reminds me that the job of a poet or writer in this world is to throw pride and privacy away and share every gritty detail of your truth to convey a universal idea or feeling and make other people feel less isolated in their experiences, their struggles and their joys.
And so my semester goal is “Tell the truth. All of it.” To play with new styles and new tools, yes. To push myself to try new things and get out of my old habits, yes. But mostly, just to tell the truth. My truth. In the hopes that it could someday help someone accept theirs and feel a little bit less alone.