Getting out of your own way–

Last night, I sat down to write something for another class. I stared at a blank document on my screen for about 15 minutes before letting out a frustrating sigh, and closing the laptop down entirely. The ever so familiar phrases began in my head while I got up to make a cup of tea: “I can’t think of anything to write because I don’t think I’m good enough to write. I will never be as good as the writers who have come before me. I have nothing in my brain that is worth writing down.” The tea kettle started screeching, and the chain of thought broke. I could feel the cloud of defeat stretching over me.

This assignment that I needed to finish was due the very next day; there was no way around it. I had to write. I opened the laptop again, and groaned. My partner came over, and sat down next to me.

“Is everything okay?” he asked. It had been a stressful weekend, and he knew I was struggling.

“I feel nothing. I don’t have anything that is going to be good enough for this assignment.” I said, sipping on the tea, and basking in the laptop light. I explained the assignment to him, and he looked at me and smiled.

“I don’t know anything about the literary world, but I do know that you’re stuck for a very simple reason.”

“What reason is that?” I asked in an irritated tone. I did not want a lesson, I wanted an answer.

“You’re literally standing in your own way. Cut out the bullshit of other people’s ideas, stop thinking about the process of writing, and just look. Look at this as an opportunity, not as an obligation. Stand up, and let yourself in. You’re blocking what you really want.”

I do this thing where I focus on the writing process, and not the writing itself. I stare into the abyss, thinking of the perfect piece, and then I get stage fright. I talk myself into thinking that any idea I have has either been done before, or will be done better in the future. Then I enter into a never ending feedback loop of bad thoughts, and I accomplish nothing.

This may seem like a very cliche piece, but I thought I’d share it with this blog to explain my fear; this fear of never making it in this world. But I’ve learned in the past 24 hours that nothing will EVER be written or produced in the same voice, because my voice is entirely my own. There’s only one of me, and that is something irreplaceable. Even writing this piece is giving me a sense of self doubt, but I’m here, still in the light of the laptop, persevering.

This post doesn’t really have anything to do about poetry, but this subject can be attached to any type of creative endeavor. If I were to look up resilience in the dictionary, I’d like to think I’d find a picture of a writer at a desk, cup of tea in hand, swimming in self doubt. But I know that writer would still have their head above water, somehow.

FALL-ing for the Season

I don’t know about you guys, but as soon as the weather gets a little grey and cold, all I want to do is write about death and destruction of all things happy. I think part of me always wants to write about that, but I reign it in when it’s sunny out because I feel bad for being dark when it’s light. I don’t know what that says about me, but here we are, whatever.

I’ve been having trouble writing out of the cliche when it comes to the fall season. I don’t want to write about the falling leaves, or the color orange. I just wrote letters for Rachel and Carrie, and they both did a great job with writing about the outdoors in  a less than summer-y way. Do you guys have to be in a certain mood to write outside of the happy and sunny? (meaning all of you, not just Rachel and Carrie). I usually need a change of season scenery, and I’m getting there. I just need some subject matter that doesn’t seem mundane or used before… I don’t know, how do you all feel about seasonal writing? Do the seasons help you get into a mood, or does that not matter to you?

I’d love to capture the essence of weather in my upcoming writing. That will be my goal in the next few pieces that I write, I think. In the busy-ness of this semester, I keep forgetting to look out my window and appreciate the world for what it really is in that moment. I’m hoping to take some time and look in the next few days. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this in the comfort of my own bed this weekend.

Starting Anew: Looking at “The Greats” for the first time

So, I’m going to confess something to you all, because this feels like a safe space and it’s something that I’m not really THAT ashamed of, I don’t think. I probably should be but. Whatever. Here it goes…

I hate the classics. I cannot stand To Kill a Mockingbird, I’ve skimmed East of Eden, and Great Expectations went right over my head. With that being said, I did a thing that might be hurting me in my poetic voice, but I don’t know? This is where I need your help.

Since I’ve tried really really hard to steer clear of “the greats” in fiction, you can probably guess that I’ve never had any real relationship with any of the poetry greats either. I’ve read some Emerson, some Thoreau, and ummm… some other things? This section makes me feel a little bad for ignoring some historic writers, but at least I’m admitting my wrongs!

This class has turned me into a poetry fiend. I want to write it, live it, and research it as much as I can. A trip to the Ithaca Book Sale (which everyone should try to get to before it ends on October 28th. They have a bag day where you can buy BAGS OF BOOKS for $1!!! It’s incredible) left me with arms full of poetry books that I never would have found in a Barnes and Noble or any other commercial bookstore. I grabbed some e.e. Cummings books, Maya Angelou, and Ezra Pound. I can’t wait to dive into these works and contrast the more contemporary stuff I’m in to. But I want more! Does anyone have some authors that I can get acquainted with, so I can become a well-rounded poet? I’m literally open to any suggestion at this point. Who am I missing? Who will help me re-imagine the line? Who will make me shiver with emotion while I read their books on the weekends?

Gimme all of the poets! And thanks for being here for this very important message (don’t worry, I’m judging myself just a teeeeeeny bit, too).

Analysis in Music-Weird?

I am continuously pulled out of my own world full of work, school, and taxing trips to the grocery store (taxing being kind of a stretch. Wegmans for life) by music. When I was younger, I told everyone that I was going to be a rock star. I saw my first show at 13, and I’ve never stopped loving the intensity of emotion that music makes me feel.

A few years ago, I definitely thought of music as a way to say the things that I couldn’t say out loud. I listened to some heavier music as a teen (and now when I’m feeling angsty), and always wanted to scream the lyrics all over my hometown to get people to understand me. I still feel this way, honestly. But as I’ve indulged deeper and deeper into the literary world, I can’t help but find myself analyzing and trying to find the poetic elements in the music I listen to now, and the music I used to listen to.

One of my favorite bands, Twiddle, came out with a new album last spring, and I listened to it front to back, no stopping. Usually when I hear new music, I appreciate the lyrics, like the music, hate some shit, love some others. But this time, I found myself searching for theme, and reason behind every song. That was the first time this has every happened to me, and I now have no idea how to stop it. For the record, the album was embedded with food images, and songs about weather and change. Then there were also songs that had a lot to do with the current political climate, and feeling lost but finding a way to return to the person you once were. There were also hints of mental illness, and fantasy sections that could point to drug use. You guys probably don’t care about any of this, but I needed to vent that because no one else really cares about this shit in the jam scene! and I can’t help but do this now!

Anyway, now that we’ve been focusing so much on the line, I am fascinated by where artists would put line breaks in their songs as if they were using them for poetic devices. I listen to the most nonsensical stuff, (Phish), and I still want to know where they would use emphasis in their breaking of lyrics and pauses to play certain riffs or solos. That’s a really interesting way of looking at music, too. There’s space for music, which is white space in poems on the page.

My once easy listening has turned into analysis, and I kind of love it? It’s hard to do during live shows, so I appreciate the reprieve I get when I see live music. But listening to music in this moment, I’m constantly finding the moments where the tone turns, or the music changes based on lyric. It’s exhausting, but so very cool. Does anyone else do this…?

Poetry as Fiction?

What I found the most interesting about Martha Rhodes visiting Geneseo, was her emphasis on the fact that she didn’t really know where her characters, or her subjects for her poems were coming from. She said something along the lines of “I was shocked by the words coming out on the page” and “I didn’t know the characters, or why they were being created until after I dug deep and figured out the correlation between my life, and the characters personally.” (This is obviously paraphrased, i don’t remember word for word, unfortunately).

I have never really thought like that? I’ve always had a person, or a particular scene in my mind whenever I start writing my poems. Even if the scenes, or the conversations are somewhat made up, I continue to delve into my own personal memory for subject matter. I think this stems from my background in CNF, which sometimes makes me feel like I have very little imagination. Like, I can only retrieve content from my own personal memories and events, and not from the more creative or story telling parts of my brain.

This might just be me being lazy, and if that’s the case, I really need to up my game. I’d like to start treating poetry as somewhat a genre of fiction for myself in the next few weeks; see what I can come up with that doesn’t have to do with a memory I had in high school, or something my mom said to me when I was growing up (although, that does stimulate some really interesting imagery for a poem as I’m typing this…) I want to create new scenes, introduce new characters, and discover a whole new world of poetry that I’ve never indulged in before. Maybe it’ll take me somewhere, maybe it won’t…

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a creative way of getting outside of your own memory and finding something new? If so, Pllleeaaassseee share, I’m already at a loss and I haven’t even started yet!

Focus on Word Choice

I’ve been trying really hard to figure out a way to up my word choice game. I’ve noticed that many of my peers in my Poetry Workshop are masters (or, close to) of word choice; they can take a line that could be described as boring or mundane, and flip it on it’s head and turn it into something beautiful, all with their choice of words. It’s astounding sometimes, to read their work, and be catapulted into a different universe with just one word or phrase. Some of the phrases or words are abstract, others just set into a line with a different purpose than they usually serve. It’s impressive, and these poets make me want to be better, to choose better.

I’ve recently started a technique in my writing that I think has helped me in this, so I thought I’d share it. I start off with a subject, and then just write from the heart; no thought, no true attention to the wording or phrasing. And then I read it over and over again. In these close readings, I take stock in the words that are weak, or could be better in the context of the poem itself. I then begin to brainstorm different wording, different phrasing, and then come up with something that is totally different than what I thought it was going to be.

Now, this may seem like a no brainer to some writers- fix the shit that doesn’t sound exciting. We do that in workshop all of the time. But this exercise has actually helped me academically as well. I have started looking up new words, new phrases, and trying to accompany them in my everyday conversations to see where they make the most sense, and where they don’t. I’m taking words that I usually would never use, and trying to make them work in my own poetic head space. It helps a lot to know how to use the word, and when it makes no sense conversationally. Take for example, the word minutiae. It’s a beautiful word, but I hardly ever use it in conversation. But now that I’ve started this new exercise, I keep finding places for it in my conversations, and then finding spaces for it in my poems as well. I’m becoming acquainted with words, and then allowing them to flow within my writing as they would coming out of my mouth.

I’m also focusing on crafting more poetic sentences, so my everyday language can be reflected in my writing in a way that doesn’t seem awkward or forced. A lot of my friends and co-workers have been picking up on it, and it’s been a pretty fun ride so far. Give it a shot, if you’d like! I think it makes the whole world seem like poetry to me. More than it already does, I think.


Sincerity in Line Breaks- An Understanding of Rios, and the second quip in “Some Thoughts on the Line”.

I’m consistently trying to find meaning in my lines. I’m somewhat new to writing poetry, even though I’ve been reading it for quite some time. After taking my first poetry analysis class last semester, I can’t help but think that my line breaks are sometimes insincere; I only put them in the poem to complete some sort of “poetic-ness” that I feel is necessary in the poem that I am trying to write.   In Some Thoughts on the Integrity of the Single Line in Poetry”, by Albert Rios, he brings up a point that I feel will help me on this poetic journey, and not just add line breaks because they feel like they are poetic in the moment.

Rios explains that a line break can “present a moment of small melodrama” when it is broken in a certain way that is seen as suspenseful. The major differentiation of this though, is the fact that not all moments need to be melodramatic. Poetry, to me, seems to have a lot at stake. With every moment and narrative presented, there needs to be something pushing the narrative, or the poem won’t go anywhere. But from the statement that Rios made, there is an understanding that melodrama will seem over dramatic if not done correctly. Some lines are meant to drive the narrative, and that may just be it. If someone is on their way to a doctors office, and needs to open the door within a poem, there is no harm in saying:

he then opened the door

The author could however, use the open space as a way to show the door opening, though.

he then opened

the door

But there should be no shame in using the characters actions as a way to begin suspense on the next line.

he then opened the door,

to find a nurse

covered in someone else’s blood.

That is a very dramatic statement in itself, but the lines after the initial reaction serve more purpose being broken than the lines above, showing that the speaker opened the door to find a scene more detailed and gory in a more suspenseful way.


Rios states that “inserting a line break does not add to the poetic nature of the moment.” I think that was the line I needed to read the most. To recognize that lines should be broken because they drive the speaker to do something, feel something, see something. Not just because the line break would look “poetic.” The moment should be sincere and raw, and with unnecessary line breaks, the reader may be pulled from that sincerity for the sake of being poetic.