Art & Poetry

This semester, I am in ENGL 426 with Rachel Hall. Basically, the entire class reads, edits and publishes the SUNY wide literary magazine called Gandy Dancer. For one of our assignments, we had to read the last edition of the magazine (Gandy Dancer 8.1) and come to class with thoughts, likes, dislikes, etc. One thing that I noticed in the magazine is that next to a lot of the poetry and fiction pieces were different art pieces. For example, the poem would be on the left page, and the painting would be on the right, so that way, visually, they are seen together.

This got me thinking about how much a visual image can change the tone and/or meaning of a poem. Paintings, photographs, sculptures, & sketches paired with the right poem, you have a completely different piece of art. I hadn’t realized at first that my interpretation of the poem was altered with the image right next to it. There was one poem called Motion Sickness by Mitchell Angelo, and it was paired with an abstract painting of bright colors like red, yellow, blue and white; they were in chunky lines that were spread all around the page. As my eyes were reading the poem, they would catch a glimpse of something in the painting, so I would take two seconds to look at the painting, and then continue reading. I hadn’t realized that the movement of the painting altered my perception of the poem.

Had I read the poem by itself, I cannot say that my interpretation would have been completely different; however, the painting brought the poem to life, if that makes sense. Similarly, how experimenting with the form of the poem changes how you perceive it. When a poet scatters words around a page, the visual effect of the words being scattered is meant to change the pacing of the poem, perhaps, but I believe it is also there to evoke some kind of emotion. The thing is, some of the images seemed to make no sense until you read the poem, and then look at the image again, and realize in some abstract way that they make sense together. In high school, I had a creative writing teacher that would assign extra credit to anyone who took a line of poetry and put it in an image to either have it make sense with the words or change the meaning. For example, someone took a poem that mentioned boots and had written the line on the bottom of the boot and then took a picture. Someone else had taken a poem about childhood and had written a line out in chalk on the sidewalk. I just find it really interesting how visual art like paintings, or photographs, or where something is written can alter the meaning of a poem. I kind of want to try pairing some of my poetry with different images and just see where it takes me. Does anyone else experiment with this?

Happy Poems Just Don’t Happen

I have never written a happy poem. I am sure that I am not the only one who struggles with writing something happy, but I simply cannot bring myself to writing about something that makes me happy. Sometimes, I’ll start to brainstorm, and then get a few lines out, but I immediately decide that I hate it, so I move on. I also chose a poetry book that is about grief for the book review. Actually, I’m kind of expecting there to be at least one poem that is perhaps about happiness, because as someone who has experienced grief, it definitely is not just “sad.” I suppose that could be an interesting thing to write about, the happiness experienced during grief, but I feel like it’s not the “happy” that I’m looking for. It’s sad happy. I need just happy happy, does that make sense? Whether it’s about romantic love, or familial love, or a kid on their birthday, or maybe being able to get your favorite meal that you haven’t had in a while–I don’t know, anything without something sad tagged onto it.

Has anyone written a “happy” poem? I’m really stuck on the process. Where I typically start when I’m writing poetry is to create a certain atmosphere using imagery, and then go on from there. I suppose I also haven’t read a lot of uplifting poetry, or at least none that I liked or didn’t find cringy. If anyone has a suggestion, or perhaps a good poet who writes about uplifting, “happy” things, please let me know.

Poetry in Music

Other than literature and writing poetry, music is a major passion of mine. However, I have always seen poeticism and music as something separate when, in reality, that’s not entirely true. I think that in a lot of recent pop music, the poeticism in the lyrics of songs has significantly decreased, or really isn’t there at all. Part of me forgot that a lot of songs are derived from poetry and/or started as poems themselves. It can be a bit difficult to explain, but I can only describe it as the pop-music-brainwash, I suppose.

Personally, I generally enjoy pop music. It is what most of my Spotify is comprised of, but every now and then, I stumble across an artist or a band where I can only hear their songs as poetic. Right now, I’ve been into Bon Iver, an American folk band started by the lead singer Justin Vernon. Their songs are so complex that it becomes inspiring. I cannot help but focus on every aspect of them, almost as if I’m workshopping a poem in class. I look at the title, the lyrics, I interpret them and then try and figure out where the inspiration for the song came from. Then I decipher with myself why the music works to compliment the lyrics, as well as work on its own. I don’t find this kind of experience in a lot of pop music. In particular, I listened to Justin Bieber’s new song called “Yummy” and while I think it’s kind of catchy, I don’t get the kind of overwhelming experience like when I’m listening to Bon Iver. I’m not entirely sure if there is anything more here other than just acknowledging the diminishment of poetics in a lot of contemporary music.

Slam Poetry

When thinking about what got me into poetry, I had said it was because my parents introduced literature at a really early age, which is completely true; however, when thinking again about what actually got me into poetry, it was poetry in response to a tragedy that got me writing, specifically, slam poetry. Whether it was a rape survivor’s story, or survivors of a shooting, or a political statement, the readings piqued my interest. What took me by surprise was the emotion from the poets when they read their poetry. It was a performance, not just a recitation.

In class, when Lidabel mentioned Button Poetry, I was immediately brought back to my 15-year-old self staying up late on youtube, under the covers, headphones turned all the way up to “Somewhere in America” by Los Angeles Team on Youth Speaks. After watching some of their videos, I found Button Poetry, and a bunch of other channels with young poets writing and reciting poetry I could relate to. I would play the videos over and over, eventually being able to mimic the exact way the words were spoken by the poet. Like a song, I recited them in my head, sometimes writing them in my science notebook when I got bored in class (something I still do). I was attracted to the rhythm of their speech and the progression of their poem, revealing one thing after the next.

It’s really interesting to think back on it now. Those videos inspired me so much that instead of copying their poetry over and over, I started writing my own poetry in the spines of all my notebooks. My parents get upset with me now because I refuse to get rid of any book or notepad from high school, but every single one obtains pages upon pages of poems and scribbles of ideas I had that day. I have now developed an appreciation for poetry that doesn’t necessarily have to be read out loud; however, I think it will always have a special place in my heart, as cheesy as it is. Slam poetry got me writing on my own. It was a creative outlet for me at first, but now it’s something that I want to improve every single day.


Thinking back to when I actually started writing poetry had to be in the junior high years of my life. I don’t distinctly remember reading poetry outside of what school had assigned for me to read, however, some of my earliest memories are sitting with my parents on my bed reading a book before bedtime. It was the routine to brush our teeth, put on pajamas, and pick out a book to read together. I think that is where my love for literature really started; not only because I love to read and I love unfolding stories in my head, but because it is associated with such an intimate and crucial part of my childhood.

I remember being in first grade or so, sitting on the coffee table in the living room (I always rejected chairs for some reason) and reading “Green Eggs and Ham” over and over to my parents making dinner in the kitchen. I will say I definitely did not pick up a poetry book as a young child and immediately know that poetry is what I wanted to do. It was my early beginning of reading which developed into reading multiple books a month, then writing epilogues to some of my favorites, then discovering poetry and already having the drive to want to understand what I was reading. I had written in my last blog post that my source of poetry really comes from my childhood memories and that I owe a lot of my inspirations to my parents, something I think still reigns true here as well.

My Inspiration

Whenever I am compelled to start writing, my immediate reaction is to write about family. There is a lot of pain, as well as joy, that derives from my family, whether it is my close family, or distant. Besides the hardships, the importance of family is something that my parents reinforced throughout my childhood and into my young adult life. Some were silent lessons of making sure I was always around them when I was young, but others developed as I grew older; through funerals, holidays, new family members through marriage or birth, the message that family will always come first was always just under the surface. Which, I suppose, is why it is my first response.

I also find that nature really gets me in the mood to write. I have a hammock strung between two birch trees in my backyard that I swing in often. I watch the birds hop above me, the leaves rustle in the wind, perch my knees up, and scribble in my notebook for hours. I have always loved nature, another thing that I can credit my parents for. Annually, my parents, brother and I stay for a weekend at a secluded cabin with no electricity, running water, or basically any other civilization around. I am not able to go there seeing as how it is two hours away and boat access only; however, my hammock allows me to conceal myself from my neighbors & the busy traffic and just write.

There are so many other little things as well. I love language, so just conversations with friends and family, or even strangers will spark some inspiration for a story or even just a single line in a poem. I also have a passion for music, so compositions that tend to give me chills really inspire me. I think walking is something a lot of people gather inspiration from, myself included, not only because it might be a brand new place that you’re visiting, but also just the little things that you might notice on a daily walk to class on campus. Something I do not do enough is write down single phrases, or even just a few words, as I get the inspiration at that moment, a skill I look forward to building upon throughout this semester.