On creating Texture in Poetry

In one of our classes, Lytton discussed how poetry should create resistance through a poem’s lines. This idea really intrigued me. Party, because my ideas for writing often comes without much friction, and I don’t look to create this effect either. To explain, a lot of times when I do writing exercises, what I put down first on a page is usually from a stream of thought that I later revise and re-edit into a poem. Even when I write fiction, the most promising drafts are ones that flow in my mind and out onto the page. While these writings go through many revisions I still don’t look at words on a sentence level and think about how I can take things that don’t go normally go together and incorporate them to create something unique.

While what Lytton said wasn’t something I thought much about, I really liked what was said in class; it makes sense that readers like conflict within poetry whether that’s done socially, through form, or through narration and it can be used to make the poem a lot more interesting to read. When I write poems, I mainly think about what thoughts or things go together and not so much about tension. In fact a lot of times I am only made aware of the tension that exists in my poetry through workshops. I want to be much more conscious in the creating the first draft process. Moving forward, I can’t wait to challenge myself to try to split apart my past work and try to create this type of tension. I envision it as taking a strand of hair and teasing it so that it gets textured. (if you don’t know what teasing is, it’s kind of like making your hair big as they did in the 80s but not as extreme).

On a separate note, I think it’s really cool to be able to learn things that you’ve never paid much thought about before, especially if it is something that can change your perception on writing. If you ever need convincing about how you’ve grown as a writer look back at your past work. When I see the how many ways I can improve something based on what I know now, it makes me feel accomplished. The phrase “the more you know, the more you how much you don’t know” is slowly creeping its way to my favorite saying.

 

“A Note on Stress” from Hass

Perhaps some of you are scansion wizards already, but my first attempt at our scansions did not go great. It was my first attempt at it on my own, so I can cut myself some slack, but I still hope to improve. I really enjoy analyzing  some of language’s most detailed components, but for now I sort of feel like I’m just guessing. This week’s reading didn’t necessarily provide me with an epiphany on how to scan like a champ, but I thought it was helpful to hear about the different ways stress is used. From pages 394-395, Hass outlines the reasons that stress exists on different syllables in words. As a writer and as a reader, I always try to image what words, characters, images, conflict, dialogue, etc. would look like and sound like either in real life, or as a movie/TV show. This is mostly because I like to think of language as a means of connecting with people.

So, I connected most with Hass’ analysis of “rhetorical emphasis”. While stress may be crucial to poetry, how stress impacts speech is more relevant in my life, outside of our workshop. The same words can mean different things in different contexts, and while this effect is present in poetry and prose, I think it’s best displayed in either real life or in movies/TV. Stress in everyday speech feels like it just happens naturally, so it was odd to give it thought and notice how I use stress and how those around me place stress on words or syllables.

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:

 

 

 

Like Carbon

Carbon is in anything living; it is organic. The pure forms of carbon are either graphite, or diamond. One dark, grainy, breakable; the other being strong, clear, and untouchable.

Our discussion on the organic got me thinking about how organic means anything with Carbon, and Hydrogen. It also pertains to anything living. It also means anything grown without synthetic materials. There are many forms that being organic, and being Carbon can take on.

There are many forms that writing can take on, as well. Writing is in everything–every day, every profession, every requirement. Whether it be writing an essay, an application, an email, a text, a letter–it is essential. It is Carbon. It is living.

This discussion caused an existential crisis on my end. It reminded much of Dead Poet’s Society and the inspirational quotes from Robin Williams, Rest in Peace.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

“To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

This movie is one of my favorites, and makes me cry every time. These quotes are also two of my favorites, that I refer to often when I need a reminder of why I write, or why I go to art exhibits, or why I sew some of my own clothes. This is the sustainable part of life; this is what we stay alive for.

Organic, Carbon, Raw, Natural, Writing. All are synonymous and interdependent in my eyes. And they always will be.

 

Julia xoxo

The naive poet and erotic poetry

Okay, so this may get a little personal, but I feel like reasoning through a topic that always leaves me a little perplexed: eroticism.

Poetry has a history with this subject and we’ve read a few poems that wandered into the erotic realm (Sam Sax’s “Lisp,” for example), so, I guess, this blog is as good a place as any to get down and dirty. In the other class/workshops I have been a part of whether it be fiction or CNF, the erotic was something we only acknowledged when it showed up. We never fully embraced it, it wasn’t something we actively sought to integrate, in my mind. Maybe university classes just aren’t the right forum for it. Personally, I felt a similar way. It’s just a technique that conveys a high degree of intimacy, but, in my head, always seemed to be just over the edge, never quite hitting the mark.

To be frank, I’m kind of scared to tackle erotic topics in my writing. I don’t think I’m a prude, but maybe sex has just never been something I openly discuss. I’m fascinated by it, though. I haven’t actively sought out erotic literature or poetry, but from what I have read, it feels like it falls into two camps: the explicit and the implied. The explicit is, well, explicit. The erotic becomes an image. The implied at least tries to be more subtle using clever metaphors or something equally contrived to evoke the shadows of sex (i.e. eruptions as ejaculation, flowers as vulvas, or “the little death” coming to imply an orgasm).

For some reason, I resent both of these approaches. The explicit approach is powerful in stirring the physicality, but it makes me pull away from the speaker/narrator/I. I agreed to consort with your mind, not your body, I find myself thinking. It’s not that it’s vulgar or forced; it’s just forceful.

The implied sexual innuendos feel like they don’t have the courage to bring the image to completion (I know I’m doing the very thing I’m rebuking, but how could I not). The physical and pointedly emotional is left in some ethereal state without delineating the nuances its playing on, something I just don’t find satisfying.

Boy, am I hard to please. But, miraculously, I think “Lisp” was excellent. The reason why, I believe is the fact that the erotic in that poem is a symptom of the wider context. The poem is about the speakers identity, of which his lisp and his sexuality are inextricably linked, specifically in an orally fixated way. We engage with his identity. There’s a logic. If the sex is extraneous, like anything so personal really, it can’t possibly hold any weight for an outside observer. Without the logic (I’m gonna do it again) it just comes off as masturbatory, only serving to engage the writer. But I do need a bigger sample size.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Perhaps, the erotic can equally create distance as it does intimacy. I’ve accepted that a relationship between reader and writer is fundamental to writing in general, but maybe I just have to accept a personal core tenet may not always be tenable. Sax may be confronting and barring people just as much as he welcomes them in.

Sex isn’t that special. The erotic is a tool and technique like anything else, probably.

Thanks for reading.

A Review of “Lisp” by Sam Sax

One of my favorite poems that I have read so far in workshop is Sam Sax’s “Lisp”, an eye-opener for me in terms of manipulating alliteration to suit both form and content. The poem is one stanza long, and the line breaks at the end end in relatively the same places on the page. All of the text is in lowercase, except for the singular letter s. This lowercase appears muted, whisper-like, but also draws our attention to the phrases, instead of the names and proper nouns like it would if there was capitalization. A forward slash separates each phrase, and sometimes it ends a line, sometimes it does not. The line, traditionally used in literary analysis to separate lines of prose from one another, becomes warped in this poem, halting the reader as they read for a phrase, stop, and continue reading. There is very little punctuation throughout the poem, and the refusal to abide by traditional grammar standards (as seen in the lack of capitalization) indicate a speaker who is not interested in the grammatical rules as well.

Continue reading “A Review of “Lisp” by Sam Sax”

How to Steal to Start

I really enjoyed writing for the third exercise which was writing a poem with stanzas. I think this exercise was easier for me because as part of the exercise, there was a suggestion to steal a line from a poem we’ve already read in class to begin our poem. I stole a line from the poem “You can take off your sweater, I’ve made today warm”. The line goes “what if it’s cold”. Immediately when I went back to this line, I knew what I wanted to write about. It feels a lot easier to write when I’m given a specific starting place. As soon as I read the line on it’s own, I thought of a situation of unrequited love and staying together even when it’s cold. Writing about the physical side of relationships has always been so interesting and fun for me because there are so many verbs, body parts, and descriptions that can be used to describe it. I love seeing the way a single moment or touch can look on paper and the different ways it can be described. I like the way the words slide together and that even if you’re not the one that experienced it, the words can help you feel the way the speaker did.

Poetry, community

I’m a talker; I like to talk. I’m also a fan of thinking out loud, discovering thoughts and ideas as I say them —  very often it feels like the space between a thought and the words hanging in the air are indistinguishable (this has it’s pros and cons).

Needless to say, I love workshop. Sometimes I come in feeling like I haven’t had an interesting thought all week, but all it takes is hearing one of my peers’ sharp observations to set me off in a hundred different directions! I end up leaving class in the evening more awake that I was when I got there. The way I learned poetry, both to read and to write it, began in class workshops. Now, as I’m coming to the end of my time in college, I wonder what I will do without it.

It feels like a contradiction. Poetry forces me to take the time to say things that I know I’d botch on the first try. It demands revision and reflection, makes me hang on to words instead of letting them all fly away. In a very short time it’s become something very important to me. Yet, despite all the introspection involved, I think of it as a social thing. We talk about writing being personal and vulnerable, which it can be, but it also flourishes most when under the scrutiny of our fellow writers. My experience of poetry has become very closely tied to the idea that I will have this community of people to share it with, to offer me perspective, and motivation. I don’t have anyone outside of this little pocket of student-poets who think, and talk, and care about poetry in the same way.

It can seem like the Venn diagram of people who read poetry and people who write it is a circle; Lord knows I read exponentially more poetry now that I’m trying to write it than I ever did before. It feels important, because of this, that we know each other, and know how to find each other.

 

I want to know: Do you have a community of poets, outside of workshop classes? Poet-friends, online acquaintances?

 

And: What do you do to keep yourself sharp when you’re the only one reading your poems?

 

Something Borrowed

I often find myself running out of things to write about. For example, I’m even struggling to figure out what to write about for this blog post.

I believe that it is important to read poetry daily that isn’t your own. Doing so can help you gain inspiration from other poets. You may discover new ideas to new forms, words, and themes.

When I read poems from my peers, I am more inclined to not “steal” their work simply because their ideas come from such a tight knit community. However, I am more inclined to borrow and use other ideas other poets have published and incorporate them into my work.

Finding new ideas and concepts to write about is always difficult to me, but inspiration from others can help guide me into producing a great poem.