~through~ on a bicycle

Last week in class, I brought in a drawing of a bicycle as a symbol of my experience in reading David Herd’s Through. (I thought about bringing in a bicycle but I don’t have one, and also that seems like a drag.)

The bicycle seems like an apt symbol for me as, evidenced by the title, movement is vital to Herd’s book. Within Through, Herd moves through a lot of things: time, space, borders, so on and so forth. He does so at varying speeds, oftentimes referencing walking. For me, though, the experience of reading Through felt more like riding a bike; moving at such a speed that the images and letters you are passing are, at times, recognizable, and at other times, totally foreign. At a walking speed, everything is readable, and at a driving speed (car, train, bus, whatever) things are rarely ever readable. Through, for me, felt like the middle-ground. This isn’t to say that I didn’t understand half of the book. I think more than that, it is to say that half of the book wasn’t written for me. That same half of the book may or may not have been written for you. Herd, in my estimation, provides so much content and so many nouns, proper and otherwise, that it becomes inevitable that the reader will grasp onto some, but not all, of what he is saying; I would reckon, too, that Herd doesn’t want us to grasp onto everything. He renders just enough of his text inaccessible that we, as readers, are able to begin to understand the feeling of inaccessibility in being an immigrant or refugee, for whom language (in addition to things like borders and countries and jobs) is rendered inaccessible, fleeting, appearing to move faster than they are.

txt talk

I’m going to talk about words this week. I’ve been thinking, for a single discernible reason, a lot about words as of late.

I’m using a flip phone right now. Yes, it’s on purpose. In short, I thought it might be nice to disconnect from social media and all that. Anyways, I’ve been sending all of my texts with one of those keyboards where you have to press three times to get the letter “c” and so on. I’m sure you remember them, it’s been quite a nostalgic experience for me to go back to that.

So yeah, imagine me typing out full paragraphs like that. It goes without saying that this experience has made me more cognizant of and more grateful for words and the weight they can carry, down to each individual letter.

I don’t know if this is affecting my poetry or not just yet, although I’d imagine it is, or at least will. Regardless, though, it felt fitting that I wrote Bri’s letter for workshop this week; she had such an awareness for individual letters, and that’s sort of the world I’ve been living in for the last couple of weeks.

For my sake, I’d like for this blog post to serve as a reminder to me to look back at my work and see whether or not my new hyperawareness will manifest in my poetry at all. Honestly, I feel like my poetry has been changing quite a lot lately anyways, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

For your sake, I’d like for this blog post to serve as a reminder to pay attention to words. Not only in your poems, but also in your daily life. We’re surrounded by them and we take them for granted.

eeeeeeeek. talking abt rupi kaur (again)

I think at least once a semester I have to vent about Rupi Kaur for the sake of my mental health. So, here you go.

This video was suggested to me on YouTube and, out of curiosity, I watched it. I’m familiar with Rupi Kaur’s work, and I have a lot of respect for her given the poetic success she’s had at such a young age as a woman of color. Generally speaking, poetry does not exist at the forefront of culture, and yet she’s figured out how to make a healthy living off of it. This is evidenced alone by the fact that she’s reading a poem on The Tonight Show.

The thing is, when I hear/read her poems, I just kind of get mad. They’re clearly formulated for the sake of being posted and reposted on social media, and generally just for easy consumption. I like poems that make you work at least a little bit, but Kaur’s poems are digestible and effortless. They’re easy.

Although I guess it’s nice to see the public reading poetry in any capacity, I find this particularly frustrating as I have a difficult time even recognizing Kaur’s work as poetry. To me, it feels more like a sort of modernized inspirational office poster than it does poetry.

I won’t get into this too much, because this is beginning to stray away from Kaur’s poetics, but I also fundamentally disagree with some of the things she says in her work. For example, these three poems:

  1. how you love yourself is / how you teach others / to love you
  2. you must enter a relationship / with yourself / before anyone else
  3. you must / want to spend / the rest of your life / with yourself / first

First of all, these three poems are all the same poem. Second of all, this is kind of a damaging, albeit good-intentioned, ideal; if you do not love yourself, you are undeserving of love from another. But the themes of self-love and female empowerment/independence are trendy right now, hence why this poem was written. I think Kaur wrote this because she knew it would sell, and not necessarily because she genuinely subscribes to this ideal.

I’m curious as to what other people’s thoughts are on this, especially if those thoughts are pro-Kaur. Are there any poets who like Kaur’s poetry, or is it just poetry for the non-poet?

 

ra/p/oetry

Mac Miller released “The Divine Feminine” exactly two years and four days ago. Two days ago his vigil was held, because thirteen days ago he overdosed.

This death is heartbreaking for a lot of reasons; Mac was only twenty-six years old and, by all accounts, was finally in a really good place after years of battling addiction.

From the first time I heard Mac’s music, I was invested in its poeticism. He always paid amazing attention to his lyrics and, in addition to writing really damn good songs, was writing some really damn good poems.

In the wake of this death, I’ve been revisiting some of his music and, in general, been thinking more about the relationship between poetry and rap. So, for today’s blog post, I’m going to leave a list of tracks which I think are just as much poems as they are songs. I hope you enjoy these, and if you have any contributions I’d love to hear them.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Billy Not Really by Death Grips
  2. Black Quarterback by Death Grips
  3. Voila by Death Grips
  4. No Love by Death Grips
  5. Hunger Games by Death Grips
  6. Guillotine by Death Grips
  7. TEETH by BROCKHAMPTON
  8. JUNKY by BROCKHAMPTON
  9. FIGHT by BROCKHAMPTON
  10. BREAKFAST by BROCKHAMPTON
  11. Popeye by Quelle Chris, I, Led, Mndsgn
  12. Gold Purple Orange by Jean Grae, Quelle Chris, Dane Orr
  13. Peacock by Jean Grae, Quelle Chris, Dane Orr
  14. Doing Better Than Ever by Jean Grae, Quelle Chris, Ashok “Dap” Kondabolu
  15. Good Friday by WHY?
  16. There Was Plenty Time Before Us by Deem Spencer
  17. Edenville by Deca
  18. Ain’t it Funny by Danny Brown
  19. Hurt Feelings by Mac Miller
  20. Jet Fuel by Mac Miller
  21. So It Goes by Mac Miller
  22. I’m Not Real by Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt
  23. Perfect Circle / God Speed by Mac Miller
  24. Take Advantage of the Naysayer by Milo
  25. Going No Place by Milo, Elucid
  26. Yomilo by Milo
  27. Objectifying Rabbits by Milo, Open Mike Eagle
  28. Almond Milk Paradise by Milo, Safari Al
  29. Freedom (Interlude) by Noname
  30. Self by Noname
  31. Window by Noname, Phoelix
  32. Blaxploitation by Noname
  33. With You by Noname

And here’s everything tossed into a public Spotify playlist:

 

 

 

for the stuck

For me, undoubtedly the hardest part of writing a poem is starting it. Unless I get direct external inspiration, it’s nearly impossible for me to just sit down and start writing anything; and, on that note, it’s sort of difficult for me to pull inspiration out of thin air.

Over the summer, though, I found a really cool spot near my hometown (http://www.melanienelsonbooks.com) which sells more used books then I’ve ever seen in one spot for really cheap — all hardcovers are 1 dollar, all paperbacks are 50 cents. I stocked up and, while doing so, came across a dictionary of word and phrase origins. I saw and thought it would be perfect for forcing some inspiration when I want to sit down and write, and I think it’s been pretty successful so far. The book that I have, in case your interested, is by William and Mary Morris, but I’m sure you can find similar things elsewhere or online. Regardless, I highly highly highly recommending something like this if you’re stuck and in need of a starting point for a piece.

I’m going to include a few excerpts from the book, the ones with the best words and phrases I’ve found so far, and maybe you’ll find some inspiration from them:

alligator pear. By a process known as “folk etymology” (which see), unfamiliar or hard-to-pronounce words take the form of similar but more familiar words. Thus, especially in rural areas of the country, jonquils become “Johnnyquils” and asparagus is called “sparrowgrass.” In this case, avocado was mispronounced “alligator” partly because avocado trees were thought to grow in swampy tropical areas infested by alligators. And the avocado fruit does somewhat resemble a pear.

banzai. The war cry “Banzai!” meant “May you live ten thousand years!” The Japanese, with a logic incomprehensible to Western minds, used to should it when launching a suicide attack.

c.q. In a death notice in a weekly paper, c.q. was printed in small letters after the name of the deceased. The c.q. in this use has a meaning, but its appearance in the paper was an error. The symbols originally represented the sounds (dah-dit-dah-dit-dah-dit-dah-dit) used by radio operators at the start of a transmission. This c.q. alerts other listening operators that a message is to follow. As used by proofreaders, however, it is a warning to typesetters that a spelling that seems unusual or even erroneous is to be followed because, despite its appearance, it is correct. For example, if a first name had the unusual spelling “Lilyan,” a copy editor might well follow it with a c.q. in parentheses or encircled as a signal to the typesetter to follow copy. The error, in this case, was that the c.q. itself was set into type.

This reminds us of the ancient proof room legend of the zealous and now lamented proofreader who is so devoted to his task that he followed copy — even when it blew out the window.

 

writing (re: ranting) about writing

I get that this is a blog about poetry, but I’m going to take today’s post to talk a little bit about non-fiction, and just writing in general.

This semester, I’m taking two workshops: this one and, you guessed it, creative non-fiction. I’m taking this workshop again because I love poetry; it’s tremendously important to me and has been a coping mechanism and creative outlet of mine since I was probably eight years old. I’m taking creative non-fiction because I want to grow or something.

In all seriousness, I am really excited about creative non-fiction; not because it will be easy, but because I will be challenged by it, and hopefully it can inform my poetry in some way. Fundamentally, though, my brain doesn’t work in a narrative way, and thus I’ve found myself struggling with writing non-fiction right off the bat (Because of this, I’m really interested by the lyrical essay, as I think it has the potential to both satisfy my needs as a poet and satisfy the non-fiction requirements of the class).

My other issue with non-fiction this semester is that the theme of the class is family. I’ve written about this on the blog before, and I probably will some more throughout the semester, but I have such a difficult time writing about family, whether that be in poetry, non-fiction, or elsewhere. It’s not that I have nothing to write about; it’s just that I’m terrified of publishing the work. Oftentimes, the things I write about my family aren’t exactly the things I want them to read. I also just don’t know how much ownership I have over shared stories, and I’m reminded of that daily in my non-fiction workshop. I’m always interested in other people’s thoughts on this, I’d love to hear what some of ya’ll think.

check this out!!! :-)!!!

Hey guys! I already posted this week but one more thing! There’s this really cool project going on and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s called “The Lost Poem” and it’s been put together by Saint Flashlight, a duo composed of Molly Gross and Drew Pisarra, and the O, Miami Poetry Festival. Basically, they’ve hung up “Lost Poem” flyers all around Miami that have a phone number on them —  1-(786) 373-6311‬ — that, when called, leads to an automated message that reads you poems. The goal of the project is “for every single person in Miami to encounter a poem during the month of April.” I obviously didn’t find out about this by stumbling upon a poster in Miami, though. I stumbled upon this project, instead, because I follow Saint Flashlight’s Instagram (which I’ll link below) and they’ve been posting about it. So yeah, either way — check out these poems! Such an interesting project, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

https://www.instagram.com/omiamifestival/

http://www.omiami.org

poetry in prison

I’ve always had a fascination with the prison system here in the United States, as it’s a pretty convoluted one. The implications of institutions like death row and solitary confinement are brutal to the psyche but maintain intact regardless, rendering the lives of inmates tremendously limited and ultimately unfulfilled. 

Recently, though, there have been small but impactful initiatives being implemented throughout the nation (mostly in the northern U.S.) which are dramatically improving the system on the individual level. One example, and the example with which I am most acquainted, is the Bard Prison Initiative, based out of Bard College, a school I’ve become fairly embedded within given it’s in my hometown. The Bard Prison Initiative, or BPI, enrolls upwards of 300 individuals currently incarcerated within New York State in full-time degree programs; 97.5% of BPI graduates leave prison and never come back. Among other things, my geographic proximity to this program has garnered my interest in working with inmates. Up until today I wasn’t entirely sure how I might go about combining this with my other passion, poetry. 

A few hours ago I did a fairly simple Google search that I admittedly should’ve thought to do quite awhile ago, but regardless — I looked up “poetry prison inmates” and “prison poetry” and a few such variations. Now I’m headed down a wormhole of work published in and around prisons. A lot of it’s fascinating and deeply, deeply emotional; for example, the handwritten lines “Jasmyn equals honey bears times peanut butter / She don’t remember me” or “THE CONCRETE WALLS OF MY HEART ARE 25 FEET / SO DON’T DANGLE ME HOPE” (both from https://betweenthebars.org/campaigns/prison-poetry-workshop/).

If you don’t feel terribly sympathetic towards inmates in this prison system, I genuinely think that reading a few of these poems could change that. So regardless of your interest in the prison system, or even in poetry, I highly recommend checking some of these out. They’re honestly some of the rawest poems I’ve read in awhile. 

i’m going to write until i figure out why i haven’t been writing

I mean that literally; this blog post is going to be a stream-of-consciousness wherein I try to figure out why I haven’t been writing much lately. In other words, a therapy session wherein I am both the therapist and the patient. 

So, yeah, as you know by now, I haven’t been writing much lately.  And I’m not sure why that is. It seems I just haven’t been able to find inspiration on my own for some time now. Most of the poems I’ve written over the last few weeks stem directly from the writing exercises. This, of course, isn’t the worst thing — after all, I am still writing. It’s just that these writing exercises are acting as a crutch for me in a way that I’m not used to.

Again, though, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The poems I’ve been writing for the exercises have been far longer and less restrained than my poems have been all semester, and it honestly feels really good. 

Maybe, then, this writer’s block isn’t so much of a block as it is a balancing act. I’m figuring out how to better harness creative energy, learning to have stamina in the act of writing, letting my poems get longer and looser. 

Or maybe I’m coming up with excuses for writing these long, nonsensical poems instead of the more concise, logical poems from earlier in the year. Or maybe I’m finding my style or my voice or something like that. 

Honestly, this blog post is pretty comparable to how my poems have been lately, for better or for worse; that is to say, unstructured and selfish.

Also, I’ve been painting a lot recently. And painting is a whole lot like poetry for me. So maybe I haven’t stopped writing. Maybe I’m just writing with watercolors instead of words for the time being. 

Therapy sessions are never truly conclusive, and as such I think it would be unfair of me to assume that this blog post would be any different. It seems our time for this week is up, would you like to schedule an appointment for next week?

found sound

This is pretty tangential to poetry, but I want to talk about it. Hope ya don’t mind!

Anyways, as an assignment for another class I’m taking with Lytton I’ve been tasked with developing a piece of installation art for the campus. My installation is going to be sound-oriented, as it will consist of sound poetry playing from MP3 players in bathroom stalls; the title of the piece is Deep Shit. The sound poetry itself is a compilation of recordings I’ve gathered from peers on campus (perhaps I’ll post the final MP3 on here at some point). In gathering these raw sounds, I asked friends and classmates of mine to sit by themselves for at least one minute in the recording studio in the basement of Newton; during this time,  I asked them to make sounds (words or otherwise) into the microphone. I then took these sounds and began to compile them into, like I said, sound poetry — a process I’m not yet done with. 

The sounds I got out of people under these understandably uncomfortable circumstances were fascinating. There were recognizable patterns and trends regarding what people decided to talk about, varying from stress to school to creativity to family, all broken up by intermittent mutterings of “wow this is awkward” and “oh my god, what should I talk about?” 

Regardless, this process has definitely heightened my interest in the idea of found sounds/words in poetry. I suppose all words are “found” to some extent, but the idea of soliciting them from people in a controlled environment is really interesting to me. 

But yeah, keep an eye out for these installations! They’ll be up by April 2nd if not sooner, and there will definitely be one in both the women’s and men’s room in Welles.