Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Persona Poem

"Write a poem from the perspective of someone you aren't."
-The jist

It doesn't sound that hard, does it? Except, I'm having a terrible time of it. I just can't get a hold of an entry-point on this one. Ugh. The only thing I can think of is a story my mom told me about how her grandfather forbid her to learn German, "You're an American. Americans speak English."

I think this may be the worst poem I've written during this class. *sigh*

Oracle Hiatus

"I don't know what to say, without being able to see all of it together."
-Paraphrase of repeated critiques

I've been working on, and submitting, Oracle for about two years now. I've been going slowly, and I keep changing things as I go. Ultimately, I realized how unfair I was being to people in the writers' group. So, I've decided to stop submitting Oracle until I finish it. I have no idea when that'll be, but I think I'm okay with the idea of putting it aside and focusing on short fiction for a while.

This month, instead of Oracle, I submitted a 1,200 word short story, An Ocean Kind of Blue, which I have my doubts about. I wrote this story in a style that's very different from my usual, and I'm curious to see how people respond to it. It'll be good for me, though, to get out of my comfort zone. After all, with Oracle, I'd pretty much hit my narrative stride and the critiques of individual submissions were fairly mild, i.e. "I think Devyn should be madder that Arnell's sleeping with Kelda" and "I want more description of the electric mill" kind of stuff, rather than the major "I'm totally confused, nothing makes sense" kind of comments.

Now, the trick will be finishing the novel without the constant monthly deadline that kept me writing one chapter after another. I have to find some other way to put the pressure on to keep me from dropping it all together.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"When" Poem

"When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut..."
-When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

Last night we talked about "When" poems where you start off with the word, then at the end, pay it off. Mary Oliver pays it off with "I don't want to end up simply having visited this world." They key, also, is that this poem is not an imagist poem specifically, it's a poem that explicitly sets out to make a point.

The funny thing is, I never intended to write a political poem, but that's what I did. Hard to avoid, though, since I wrote about my AFA cadet brother. He's in his second year, which means he's getting close to graduation, which means possible deployment. A detail which freaks me out a bit. Also, something I’ve only just admitted by writing this.

“When my brother
goes from cadet to officer
as quickly as the words
can be pulled from lips
I am afraid the war will get him
…when he comes back
his face won’t look
like mine anymore.”

I brought my draft to David, and he looked at it for a while, and said the middle part was flat. Stereotypical “bullets will rush at him” stuff that we put in the war box. Then he had a eureka moment, “These are your fears, that’s what needs to be here, and the more strange they are, the better.” I’m still trying to figure out how to articulate those fears, but what he said made perfect sense. I’m digging into the personal, and I need to dig deeper.

David also mentioned that the poetry I’m writing now is the poetry he’s been waiting for me to write. He asked if I felt it, too. I do. Right now I’m finally confident enough to let go, to get into that personal territory that makes me so nervous, and to play with that anxiety. Strange, isn’t it? Ties right in with my last post, too. If you’re going to write poetry, don’t write what’s safe because no one cares about safe.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It Doesn't Count if You're Not Scared

"Give me your hand
skinny, beautiful Danny
with a pock mark scar
on his left cheek
said in sixth hour English"
-Barbed Wire, by me

David said to write a "close looking" poem for our second one, and a memory popped into my head of a guy I knew my freshman year of high school. One day while we were bored he drew on my wrist, a line of barbed wire, like a bracelet. It was a very strange, almost surreal, experience - especially since I had such a crush on him.

Putting that down was one of the most scary things I've done in writing because of how incredibly intimate/personal the memory is. (Ha! Not anymore!)I knew, despite the scary factor, that it was the right thing to do. I was hitting a nerve and that tends to be where the best poetry lies. Not the big "this is why I am what I am" kind of hitting a nerve, like writing an "I have issues with my mom/dad" poem, but digging out that memory that sticks with you even though it was only a moment kind of hitting a nerve.

To date, I think it's the best poem I've written (and the class & David agree). After reading and writing poetry on and off for a few years, maybe I'm finally starting to figure it out. To really get to the good stuff, you have to get to the scary stuff. It's all about taking that which is intensely personal and laying it out, layer by layer. Tough, especially for me, given how private and wrapped up I am.

Days of Inspiration

"To days of inspiration playing hooky, making something out of nothing. The need to express, to communicate, to going against the grain, going insane, going mad..."
-Rent, “La Vie Boheme”

It’s a pretty appropriate quote for an English major blogger, don’t you think? I love the idea that you can start with nothing, think of a character, an event, a setting, a plot and write them all down then end up with a story. Making stories fascinates me, especially at times when I read or watch one that sticks in my head for days/weeks afterward. To think, if that person, say Jonathan Larson, never wrote it all down, I would have missed out. That’s why I write. Not so much for any grand philosophical reason, but because I like the idea that if I do my job well enough, I can entertain people.

In this blog, my aim is to talk about stories, both reading and writing them. Another lovely thing Larson wrote in that song is "the opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation!" Here's to creation.