The Environment and Poetry

Last class we had workshop outside. How could we not? It was sunny and warm, and the green just outside Welles looked so inviting. I was practically skipping outside, and desperate to find a good seat.

The moment I was brought back into reality was when my white shoes squished into the damp ground. I hopped around, trying to find a good spot to land. I settled for a good enough spot, hopped over, and found my seat.

I really liked workshopping outside. It was a welcome change of pace. Instead of confining our poetry to the (often-overheated) walls of Welles 216, we were able to talk about poetry in nature (as close as we can get on the Geneseo campus). Golden hour is my favorite time of day, and to be outside with my fellow poets in such gorgeous weather, and soak up as much of the sun as we could before it disappears for the next six months, was a pleasure.

However, as indicated by the white shoe altercation with mud, I was not dressed for the weather. I wore a knit sweater and ripped jeans that day, poor choices when sitting stationary for an extended period of time. As time went on, I slowly froze. The freeze was the equivalent of opening your fridge extremely slowly for a snack at 3 am without trying to wake your sleeping parents up. Towards the end of that half of workshop, I was extremely eager to go back inside.

The moment that I really wanted to write about took place in the middle of workshopping Daniel’s poem. I looked over my shoulder and saw a stinkbug crawling up my right arm. That freaked me out. I pondered my options, not noticing that Lytton had started to ask a question.

With all of the patience I could muster, I swiped the stinkbug off of my arm. It fell into the grass below and scurried away. I took a moment to catch my breath, and realized that the rest of the class looked deep in thought. They might have been freezing and trying to keep as warm as possible, but they at least looked deep in thought. It dawned upon me that I had no clue what just happened in the previous conversation. I asked Lytton if he could repeat the question since I was distracted, and he repeated the question.

The reason why I am telling this story is because I am curious about how the environment influences how we read, write, and critique poetry. When I am traveling, it seems either I write the most original pieces of my life or absolute drivel. No in-between. If I’m stuck on an idea, a helpful thing for me to do is go walking outside, ideally talking to somebody else, but the change in environment helps me engage a part of my brain that might have been hidden before. Maybe the warm class environment (temperature-wise here, not ambiance-wise) helps my thoughts come together faster than they would in even the crisp fall air.

How does the environment influence the way you read, write or critique poetry? What is the most conducive environment for you to do those things? What is the least conducive environment for you to do those things?

The End of Workshop

It’s hard for me to sit at my seat in workshop and not respond to people when they are critiquing my work. So hard. Sometimes I want to run over and hug the person who got the exact intention of my poem, or just wring my hands or roll my eyes at that one person who doesn’t. Ever. Get. It.

During my last workshop, I really wanted to tell the workshop the real story behind my poem. I wanted to tell everybody the stories of Marina Abramovic, of the weaver in Kusadasi, of the meta ideas I had about this poem. I suppose this is my space to do so.

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Confessions about the Confessional

The Art of Losing

Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

So many things seem filled with the intent

To be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent,

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! My last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went,

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

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Re-Visiting ENGL 301

It’s amazing how much can change in a year. I’m back in ENGL 301, at the same time as last year, and I am comforted by the familiar. I was in the workshop that was the test for the writing pods structure, which admittedly was difficult to decipher the first time around. Now I look at that document and it is easy to decipher, to know exactly what I am responsible for. Back in Welles 119, with the same circle of desks, with the knocking on the desks to signal agreement, with some returning folks and some old friends, feels like coming home.

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A Culture of Exception

Ever since David Herd’s reading of Through nearly a month ago, I have found it difficult to get out of my head the idea of “a culture of exception.” This phrase summarizes as an American what I’ve observed both in brief interactions and in historical developments over decades, even centuries. The idea of a culture of exception is so stark and bleak that it’s been behind my obsession with political thought. Now that the midterms are over, an event which has been accompanied by a lot of high stakes, I’m wondering what my imagination will be occupied by next.

Florida today voted to grant over a million formerly incarcerated people (excluding murderers and sexual offenders) the right to vote after serving their time. This proposition was known as Amendment 4, and that is something that I am still in awe of. I spent a lot of tonight checking my phone for the midterm results, concerned about various candidates, but this is a development that has momentarily held the culture of exception at bay.

Let me know what occupies your imagination lately!

A Poem I’ve Been Thinking a Lot About Lately

In these stressful times, I wonder what will become of the 2010’s, and how we will we be written about in history textbooks. Along with that thought, I wonder how we as older people will explain our actions and our thoughts about this moment we are living in. I’ve been thinking a lot about the poem “First They Came” by Martin Niemoller. It’s almost been like a mantra.

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Midterms (no, not the exams)

In light of midterms coming up, I’ve noticed a very strong political undercurrent, the likes I have never witnessed before. Of course I’ve seen it during 2008 (age 10) , 2012 (age 14), and 2016 (age 18), but I’ve never seen this high stakes fervor in the midterms. I don’t intend to go in depth about the state of politics in our country, which I can happily discuss in person or in a message conversation. I’m intending to write about how this impacts me as a writer, and how I mused about this as I was writing the poem for my writing assignment.

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Cultural Capital and David Herd’s “Through”

Recently in my Anthropology 100 class we’ve been learning about the concept of cultural capital. A brief definition of cultural capital is that it is the knowledge, habits, and tastes learned from parents and family that individuals can use to gain access to scarce and valuable resources of society, such as a social organization, important position (such as a Supreme Court Judge) and other social arenas. In many cases, the “culture” in cultural capital is the culture of old, wealthy, white, Western, cis, heterosexual men. This theory was developed by Pierre Bourdieu, an intellectual who came from a French farming town and felt looked down upon by the Parisian elite, who made fun of him for his rural accent. He realized that in order to be respected and gain access to those Parisian intellectual circles, he had to change his accent to match the Parisian’s, and his theory of cultural capital came from that experience. Bourdieu migrated to Paris from Denguin, and his struggle with language after his journey is similar to Herd’s speaker in “Through”, who wrestles with the ambivalence of both governmental, informational texts and aesthetic texts. Their struggle with language links them together.

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Heavenly Bodies

One of the highlights of my fall break is seeing the “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday. This was a really special occasion because it was closing day, the Met Museum was open on a Monday, and I could witness couture in real life. The “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit is part of the Met Costume Institute, which organizes costume and couture in a stunning exhibit. In order to raise money for acquiring both elements, the Met hosts the Met Gala/Met Ball to pay, which is when Rihanna basically owns the red carpet. Sometimes celebrities go on theme, a lot of times they don’t.

Heavenly Bodies is organized around the theme of the Catholic Imagination, which most designers have interpreted as a white European of a certain generation imagination. These pieces revolved around a certain opulence, and often repeat similar biblical motifs such as the colors red, black, gold, white, and blue. Some of the designers featured were Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, Thom Browne, John Galliano, and many more.

I find a lot of inspiration from fashion because fashion can go in so many directions. Whether you design a piece of clothing for the mall shopper (which is totally valid) or design a piece of clothing as a conceptual art piece (which is also totally valid), that premise is always at the heart of fashion no matter how much capitalism tries to assign value to things. A lot of the big fashion designers now are part of two huge conglamorates called LVMH and Keuring, and it dismays me to see that sometimes. But that premise always gives me hope.

What other forms of art are you guys inspired by? Is there a perception of this form of art that is ill-informed?

Can you assign value to art at all?


October is the tenth month of the year, and a month I look forward to whenever I check my personal calendar. In terms of official dates, I look at a long weekend for National Indigenous People’s Day (formerly Columbus Day, or, for Geneseo, Fall Break), my birthday in the middle of the month, and Halloween on the last day of the month, which is my favorite holiday. In terms of experiences, I look forward to October because it is the month in my experience when the leaves start changing color, when I’m settled into the school year, when I feel the crisp fall breeze and a chai latte in my hands. It’s cold enough to wear sweaters and the occasional jacket, but warm enough that I don’t die of frostbite. It’s the month of pumpkins and apples and cinnamon and “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” What more could I ask for?

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