Form as “credible work”

It just so happens that focus on form in this course was applicable to me in another—Marxist Milton. In this course we looked at John Milton through the lens of Karl Marx and his idea of productive work. I ended up give a presentation on GREAT day on a paper I wrote about how Milton used form in his poem Lycidas to establish his work as credible and productive. One of the main things I focused on was that Milton was writing amongst many poets who relied on shape poetry to carry across their ideas, while Milton still used form with meter and a set number of lines, etc. his form was much more subtle and very much a reflection of the content in a way that was not so blatant. There even is a cyclical feeling to the form of his piece that conjures the feeling of the battle of life and death.


Overal really neat to be able to tie the focus of this class to another!

what is poetry?

To reiterate: “I hate this question”—me in class last week.

Because I’ve taken a class or two each semester that consists of studying and synthesizing poetry from a literary point of view this question has reared its ugly head in my direction a few times too many. It’s also a question delivered to early high school students first introduced to the realm of poetry with Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” or William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow”. We are taught poetry has a set of specific aspects that dichotomize poetry and prose such as rhyme scheme and formal line breaks. This may or may not be too accurate.

We touched upon this question just briefly in class and I think it’s definitely a topic that deserves more air time in a poetry workshop. However, I believe that instead of “what is poetry”, the better question is “what is good poetry?”

I’m not even sure the latter sits completely well with me but it’s most certainly more worthwhile. Say we address the former: we discuss common shared aspects of  poems and compare to something that doesn’t and we debate…but then what? It’s a poem. So what? It’s prose. So what? We still read it as a piece of literature and form some sort of analysis.

The more important aspect to spend time on is the quality. What is the poem trying to do, what is the poem achieving, what is working for the poem and what isn’t? Does the poem seem to hold value to the speaker or writer? Does it hold value to the reader? Does it intrigue the reader? These are all questions that I think we, as readers and writers of poetry, should be spending our time and precious brain energy on.

Contradicting Myself

Something that workshop does is help me to isolate what exactly turns me on or off in a poem. **HOWEVER, I often find a very annoying and peculiar phenomena occurring during class. It is difficult for me to isolate exactly how I feel about certain aspects of a poem. It doesn’t mean that I’m wavering around not knowing how I feel, it means I convince myself I feel one way and then I am able to convince myself I feel the exact opposite. This can get rather frustrating. One second I am so sure that I don’t like the placement of the punctuation in the poem and then the next second I find that there may be merit to that exact aspect. I’m constantly changing my mind about how I feel about almost everything in a poem that we receive for workshop. I think this may have a lot to do with the setting. For instance, if I stumble on a poem in the Poetry Foundation app, I think I might be less likely to be as critical of it. I am told that this poem is supposed to be at least “good” or “worthwhile”, so I am already perceiving it in that mindset. It’s difficult for me to be less judgmental and picky with a poem if I know it was written by one of my peers. I think this is a good thing in the context of workshop, because that’s what workshop is for…however, I don’t think it’s good for me to be more or less critical of something because of knowing who wrote it. I think it’s ideal to try to read a poem as is, blind to knowledge of the writer.

This also doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things that are 100% clear to me. There are always aspects that I can really be sure I love and things I just hate. These are often the strongest and weakest parts of the poem. I find that these gut, deep-seated feelings, are the ones that are most valuable and important for the writer. They also help me out the most. Deciding how I feel about other people’s poems helps me to identify what I am trying to achieve with my own poetry.


Something I’ve recently started to get into is making zines. Zines are the perfect little multimedia projects I’ve been searching for. Short for “magazine”, they are tiny little DIY self-publications. They are usually reproduced using a photocopier, although in the digital age, you can find a lot of zines swimming around the interwebs. They usually contain drawings/doodles/poetry/photography/etc. and they almost always have a political agenda or outlook. However, I’ve stumbled across many-a-zine that are extremely personal and have nothing political about them (I’ve also made a few of these myself).

There is something so raw about zines. They are supposed to be rough around the edges—they aren’t supposed to be polished. I think Ben Franklin might have created the first zine, which was meant for staff at a psychiatric hospital. Zines are also really important to the riot grrl feminist movement. I think the best ones are the collaborative ones, the ones where you get as many different hands in the pot as possible. So that’s why I want to maybe propose making a zine together—anyone who is interested! I also have a few that I am working on now that are still not finished and looking for submissions. A current zine I am working on focuses on political correctness, and tries to take a stab at some questions like, “is social media really conducive for real political discourse?”, “where do we get our information from”, and things along those lines. Here is a rap/poem that was written for it:Screen shot 2016-02-03 at 1.44.35 PM

The cool thing about zines though is that it can be a little all over the place! Someone sent me some poems that she wrote using her Iphone autocorrect function, and though that may not fit 100% with the aim of the zine, I still want to include it because it does probe at some interesting thoughts regarding technology and communication in general.

Also, I recently put together an audio zine with a friend of mine, Alex McGrath, that is sort of a conglomerate of speech, audio clips, spoken word poetry, and other sounds that you can check out here: if you want!

If any of this sounds at all interesting to you, let me know if you have anything to contribute or have an idea for a new zine, I’d love to collaborate on some work!

Szirtes & Form

Upon reading Szirtes, I was startled to realize that form doesn’t even cross my mind when I write a poem. I think I can mostly owe this to the fact that I rarely ever sit down and write a poem all at once. A poem is composed over several sessions in my writing process. I’ve always seen form as a limiting factor, however Szirtes proves that it can be quite the opposite. Form is all about establishing a pattern and then being able to break it. This is what brings forth the “reassurance, progress, and delight” of the poem that we all strive to find when we compose our poetry (Szirtes). Pattern is meant to be broken.

Going forward, I think this can be extremely applicable to my poetry. Much of my poetry focuses on a repeating phrase and this can get monotonous at times. Instead of falling in that trap, it can be rewarding to establish that repeating pattern and then surprise the reader with a change or break of that pattern. That especially helps to strengthen unexpected content and subverting expectations. It’s also important to remember that form exists to reflect content. The form should add meaning to the words. That being said, form is definitely something that I want to be more conscious of when writing.

is this cheating?

One of the techniques I use when I write poetry is finding random lines that I’ve written scattered in various notebooks, napkins, receipts, etc. and put them all in a hodge-podge on one page and then work with that. Often times the random bits are too disjointed to have them flow, but sometimes I can smush things together and create one jumbo super poem. (Occasionally I’ll put in filler transition lines that helps to bridge from one idea to another) I was wondering if this is somehow cheating. If all these ideas are written in separate headspaces, is it wrong/facetious of me to put them all together as one work? Sometimes it’s even for the aesthetic value, if something sonically is interesting, as opposed to the original meaning I was trying to get at. I’m not sure if this is maybe “lazy” or “untrue”. Thoughts?


Hey guys I just wanted to share a little bit from my poetic statement and I was wondering if what you guys thought:

“Poetry exists outside the bounds of time. Prose’s linearity hinders it from existing as the thought truly presents itself. Our mind does not work in straight lines—we do not think according to the man-made constructs of time. For instance, when you see a man on a red bike crossing the road, the thought exists as an image. You do not think “a man on a red bike crossing the road”; instead it’s something that could be more like “across the road//me&man//bike//red”. Our thoughts are much more imagized than literature allows for it to be.

In this way, I use poetry as a direct imprint of my thoughts. Because it is much more visceral, the poem allows us to present something that is much truer to what appears in our brains.”


I went on further to talk about beat poetry. Beat poets seem to be the most into getting exactly what’s in their mind on paper—even if it doesn’t sound intelligent or poetic, persay. Much of my poetry is influenced by the “first thought best thought” ideology.

Music + Poetry

For me, poetry has always beens very closely linked with music. I know it may be limiting myself, but I very rarely can write without listening to music simultaneously. This is true for practically all writing (I’m listening to Fleet Foxes right now), however, it is especially true for poetry writing. When I write poetry, I always feel like I need some extra creative stimulation and music provides that extra buzz in my brain that is needed to produce anything creative. I need to be a *little* distracted in order to focus. Meaning, a minuscule part of my brain needs to be engaged in the music I’m listening to, but then in turn using that to feed into the creative energy I need to generate to write a poem. Often times I’ll even use the mood/rhythm of whatever I’m listening to affect the mood/rhythm/tone/sometimes even content of my poetry. This really works well for me.

Furthermore, when I read other’s poetry I am usually reminded of a particular song or artist, or at least genre. Maybe this is just because I grew up around music, in a family of musicians, went to music high school….that my brain is too immersed in music to disconnect it with everything else. Does this happen to other people?? Or maybe if it’s not music, a sport? What is something outside of poetry that truly affects your poetry??

Poetic Statement in mind

Something I have always wanted to try is to write a poem with the poetic statement in mind. (I guess this means first I have to fully form the poetic statement that I have in mind.) I think that knowing where I’m coming from as a writer would give me some form of guidance that I’m not usually used to writing from. Often times when I write a poem, it is very haphazard—originating with a line that I hastily jot down somewhere and then continues rather lackadaisically from there on. However, if I were to sit down knowing my intent and with my usual stylistic choices in mind, that would bring a consciousness to the act of writing the poem, therefore providing a fresh sense of awareness.

My relationship with poetry

I’ve always struggled to take poetry too seriously. Poetry has always been something that I’ve derived great joy from reading and writing but also despised. The poet has always been a very enigmatic figure to me and I’ve toiled over understanding my true viewpoint on the topic. (Are poets writers? Or moreso artists?) I write poetry as an emotional expression and as an art form…so sometimes it is hard for me to apply literary criticism in the same vein that I would an essay. Some of the time, in a poem, the poet decides to place certain words places because they have nice aesthetic, not necessarily for any “deeper meaning”. So then it becomes hard for me to do poem analysis because I’m not sure how much I should be “reading into” the poem. I’m sure this is something I have to sit and think about more and hopefully come to a definitive answer further on down the road.