Tagged poetry

What to do when you can’t do

Rando typewriter flow

 

You write about not being able to do.

I just spent the last hour trying to find a medium for this rabid, though undeveloped and unsettling outrage. First, I got out a pencil and paper. Then, I opened a Word doc and began a new poem. Frustrated and unable to write that way, I decided to look at one I’d written the other day. No dice. I moved to another folder entitled “Non-fiction,” and opened a few documents to edit.

The state of things (things that I haven’t gotten a chance to dive into all the way yet)—but when should I? Now at 3 A.M.?

These days, I haven’t figured out yet how to balance day-to-day living, productivity and sanity with the research and discussion needed to know to stay on top of politics.

This is why when there are moments of goodness, I grab onto them. Even if it’s just the crisp colors of sunset over the Mon. Even if it’s just my cat waking me up with his purr and whisker-tickle technique. I don’t know. I’m hanging on. Because, like it has felt all along since the beginning of this presidency, it isn’t about me. It’s bigger. How does one exist and not exist at the same time?

My first AWP at 12,000 writers deep

I can’t believe I’m here.

During my years of undergrad and graduate school, AWP—Association of Writers & Writing Programs—was the definition of cool, was the thing the cool students did. Yes, even in grad and undergrad there is cool. It’s not a concept reserved solely for the untouchables at the middle-school lunch table or the hunky highschool football team. On the other hand, the very lack of cool is a disease, uncool. It follows you. It’s on you. You wear it like a bad style. In adulthood, cool exists with a different name: elitist, bougie, yuppie, pretentious, hipster, etc.

You think I’m being dramatic, don’t you? Sensitive? Maybe. But it’s there and it’s been instilled in me, drawn-out and awkward as the “growing out” phase of a bad haircut. Cool is now ironic. It’s not for those of us that grew up in an age where sweaters, cat shirts, stretchy pants, thunder thighs and glasses were considered severely uncool. I was never cool, and so I can never be.

“I just never want to be the type to take myself too seriously, you know? I hate that,” I explained to Laura during one of my anti-academic rants.

“You just don’t like pretentiousness,” she clarified.

“Yeah, I guess. I just don’t want to be that movie. The one you hear all the hype about, and then you go to see it, and it sucks.”

Who knows? Maybe the movie wouldn’t suck so bad if expectations weren’t so high. All that hype.

I’ll admit that most of my adulthood accomplishments and sense of self has come from a heavy dose of “fake it ’til you make it”—a (clichéd) mantra I learned early. I mean, let’s face it: self-deprecation is embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone. We can’t all be Alanis with her $10 words. We can’t all turn our insecurities and hyperawareness into some moody and attractive Canadian twenty-something with a record deal.

Ok, so this appears to have nothing to do with AWP at all… but I swear it does!

Just as I learned in school early on (again and again), doing something cool doesn’t necessarily make one cool. Sure, I wore men’s JNCO Jeans and Airwalks and memorized all the words to Puff Daddy’s album, No Way Out. (Clearly the definition of cool. Ha!) But even this didn’t affect my position on the highschool popularity chart. Likewise, attending AWP didn’t suddenly transform me into some poised, self-assured and impervious academic writer. Instead, it made me feel small and unimportant and squash-able: a feeling I wasn’t ready for, to be honest. But maybe that is the lesson too, a reminder of the lesson.

You can’t just put on the JNCO Jeans. You have to be the kind of person that wears the JNCO Jeans, you know?

Being uncool and remaining uncool kept me at a distance back then. I was overweight, reactive and super insecure. I might as well have worn a sign on my head. And if I am truly the alien that I say I am and I never fit into any community, I don’t have to live up to the expectations and definitions of success defined by that community, right? So maybe I’m just afraid of not achieving those successes. What if I am not more than this? (How many years of trying does it take? Have I even tried? …this could easily turn into the Question Game.)

That is what AWP was for me. Reflective. Figuring out my place. It was a trip away with sun. It was a chance to learn more about writing, about people and life. I got to see and experience so many things and people in just a few days, and yes, this was all very overwhelming at times (see: ugly-crying alone in my hotel room like a lost pup), but it felt worth it and necessary. And while it was hard to connect to anything too much, it was still a time of connections. These moments made an impact, even if they were brief. So thank you for them.

At the end of the day, it’s not really about cool, is it? I’m sure cool would help. I will always be an alien, though—whether I came to it by fear or innately—but I cannot navigate my life or my writing career on those feelings of inadequacy. Maybe that has worked in other aspects of my life, like kicking my ass at the gym, but I cannot allow the shame of Not Enough to stifle me. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of her—the chubby four-eyed, freckled-faced president of Poetry Club— but maybe that’s ok. I

If I could wrap up that “freedom to be” like a gift, I’d give it to us all.

mt

Even if you stop moving

scoot

Life keeps going.

If nothing else, that’s one thing we can bank on. Even in our stubborn complacency, our unhealthy comforts, our black-hole grief—even if the first thing you think about when you wake up every day is what you are not, or you don’t have, or worse, what you have lost.

This year has been a fierce, really, and in all the ways. Since D died, I have inadvertently split my life into two distinct time periods, before she died and after. Yeah, there are a ton of pivotal moments in my life that could’ve created a similar divide, but they didn’t. Mostly because of who I was before and after, and who I continue to be.

Three years this July.

The anniversary of her death came on so suddenly. It was physical. I was readying myself for a Chicago trip (the same location I headed to the day after her funeral), fussing to finish work assignments, worrying the semester, but then it came on… a wave over me. Not sure that I believe in much, but I do know when I feel her there. She kind of knocks you know. I’m sure you know. I’m sure there is someone you lost or miss and though often it’s the intensity of the missing that conjures them, sometimes they come uninvited. It’s a surprise. And no matter what your beliefs are—god or no god, spiritual or black and white—you invite them in. You invite them because it’s warm and nostalgic, the kind that hurts in the best way.

Do you speak to them? Out loud? A whisper? Inside? I do. I’m not embarrassed to say it—three years later I’m still sneaking in chats. Not like the daily texts and phone calls we engaged in, but car rides and bathroom breaks and walks to the coffeeshop. In that way, I never feel so alone. Not like I used to.

But for some good? Facing fears… and hopefully not foolishly. I got a scooter! It’s a “barely” used guy, a Yamaha Vino 125. It’s honestly been a source of pure joy. I can’t explain it. I’m just glad this summer weather is holding out as long as it is.

Latest poem published by Arsenic Lobster, “ONCE I DIDN’T DROWN IN A LAKE.”

And I finally scored a poem in my white whale of a lit mag, my favorite, Rattle. Scoop up a copy of your own.

But this. This is something that’s been haunting me, this poem and it’s sentiment. It’s so vital. While I wish I’d had discovered it long ago, I don’t think I’d have the Life Equipment to really get it.

Leaving you with it. Here.

mt

 

After Twelve Days of Rain – Dorianne Laux

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.

I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.

Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.

And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me,
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?

I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear,
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

—From What We Carry. (If you don’t have this book, you need it.)

Poetry prompts from National Poetry Month

Greensburg Back Roads

 

Hey, all! I told you I’d recap all the prompts and so here we are.

Yeah, I attempted to inspire the Facebook masses with a somewhat lofty goal of writing a poem a day in April. Did I accomplish that goal? Not quite. 23/30. But I’m not giving up. I plan on responding to these prompts. Soon. (Maybe once I’m done with a Doodle A Day May…. someone smack me.)

 

// NATIONAL POETRY MONTH – POEM A DAY PROMPTS //

DAY 1: Write a poem of firsts.

DAY 2: Write a poem en media res, or a poem that begins in the middle of things.

DAY 3: Write a sonnet. It can be modern, not necessarily rhyming or in meter.

DAY 4: Write a poem about a lie you told. Don’t be afraid of looking bad, though. Be vulnerable and honest and get to your guts.

DAY 5: Write a poem about the street you grew up on and title it as such. For example: “East End Avenue, 1992.”

DAY 6: Write a teeth poem.

DAY 7: Write a blackout poem.

DAY 8: Write a cliché poem using some overdone words, but make it fresh. (Here’s a list supplied by posters on Dan Shapiro’s wall: loam, tongue, crepuscular, moon, impossible, cicada, crow, bird, body, blood, map, ghost, specter, pearl, alone, silver, cerulean, azure, scrim, dream, starling, wolf, milk… Choose a few of these or make up some of your own.)

DAY 9: Write an unexpected poem presented in an unexpected way.

DAY 10: Write a confessional poem. Spill them beans!

DAY 11: Write a poem about another (possibly hidden) side of you.

DAY 12: Write an instructional “how to” poem.

DAY 13: Write a poem about feeling awkward, small or uncomfortable.

DAY 14: Write a haiku. 5/7/5 syllables. You know…

DAY 15: Write a tattoo poem or a “I don’t want to…” poem. Life is for options.

DAY 16: Write a silence poem.

DAY 17: Write a changes/transitions poem.

DAY 18: Write a poem titled, “Dear _____.”

DAY 19: Write a triptych poem, or a poem of threes. Bring together three events or images. (This courtesy of Melissa E.)

DAY 20: Write a recipe poem. Get creative without the kitchen time.

DAY 21: Write a poem centered around one word. Make it the title. Definition? Maybe.

DAY 22: Write a poem in couplets. Be a hero.

DAY 23: Write a Craigslist poem, inspired by findings therein. Personally, I like browsing Missed Connections. Typical.

DAY 24: Write a poem of or about colors. Be a painter of words!

DAY 25: Write a stolen text poem. Grab the nearest book or pamphlet. Flip through it and point to a place on a page at random. Write a poem centered around that word, phrase or image. Maybe even use it as the title?

DAY 26: Write a poem titled, “When I Stopped _____.”

DAY 27: Write a tarot poem. Use the image or idea of a tarot figure or minor arcana card to tell a story in verse. Have you ever picked which major arcana card best represents you?

DAY 28: Write an ekphrastic poem using album art as inspiration. Not just ANY album art, but the art of your favorite high school album.

DAY 29: Write an ode poem. It can be to your lover, your favorite sweater or a bottle of Ketchup. Make us feel the love.

DAY 30: Write a sestina… BOOM! (Easily my favorite form!)

 

Any hey… I’d love to see any of these, so feel free to share—here in the comments or my email!

 

 

Scary shit

Dingy Diner Doodles

Sometimes I catch a feeling, a gigantic wind. It might be that I feed it, let it consume me. If I do, it will grow and so I count on it as I would any tangible thing so big, lake or mountain. It will become memory inevitably, taking up (I think) that same space.

Years later, something may poke at it—an image, a person, a song, a smell—and it seems the weight of those years has flattened it, a two-dimensional feeling.

Sometimes I am grateful that it isn’t so strong.
Sometimes I am disappointed by this.
Sometimes it makes the better poem, flat like that.

But no matter the outcome, the passive yet brutal way in which time can take down mountains… that scares the shit out of me.

Moleskine musing

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I’ve slept on floors, on pull-out sofa beds, on ash-sprinkled backseats, my body tucked in on itself, conserving space and dreaming. I grew up and into shapes, edging  corners and rounding curves—an eye on my imposition: how much of me could fill the room, how much of me could remain invisible.

Now, the world makes me, turns me over in its sweaty palm like an imperfect marble, weak planet, dwarf star. I’m dense, punctured, changed without my permission. Alien. It’s true: what we endure creates who we are. Even then, experience has only made me feel lonelier. Is that the emo kid speaking? On a Weebl toon the other day called “Late Night Shopping 2,” I caught a tiny detail in the cartoon, a box with some scribble on it. I had to rewind to see:

“Emo Cakes: The cakes that eat themselves.”

That sounds about right. Hah. Is that what I’m doing?

Anyhow, where once was the vastness of blue-blanket sky, the hope of impossible highway miles, the canvas of unpaved lots, the wings of folded and refolded maps in my car’s door pocket… I have come to this, book-ended.

Everything keeps getting smaller but what’s in me.

What’s with that?

 

mt

 

Repeating remainder

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Damn.

Maybe it was after Robin Williams’s death that this truth really smacked me. More likely his death was a reprisal of some other thing. I’m sure the initial feeling announced itself one of the many times D was praising my art or my writing that I came to this epiphany. Prior to her, praise was in the form of penned stars, circled descriptions and meetings with professors and advisors. I mean, a few close friends of mine(who were into such things) definitely enjoyed my work on occasion. But they were friends, they were writers or painters… it was in their realm of understanding. Besides, I dated a science major who “hated poetry”—or so she told me one night after a reading. Clearly that didn’t work out.

So I guess this truth unraveled itself when I was near someone who didn’t have that much stake in me. A visitor into my world, my worlds, whatever realms those art people live in. I never knew that a compliment could hurt.

Let me explain before things get silly. Some of the deepest pain I’ve felt came during those years… 2012-13. The end of the world. I was discovering all of these parts of myself, bleeding inside a lot. I was pretty messy. Anyhow, this was also a tremendously prolific time in my world as far as writing and art went. And so every time she grinned at my paintings or poked around in my poetry, it felt like she had an eye on my insides.

“It’s like excrement, though,” I told her.

“What?”

I explained that the process was pain, that it was like a black hole at my center. And maybe the stuff that came out was pretty. (Quasar talk again.) But what went into it wasn’t.

“I don’t care. I still like it,” she’d say.

She didn’t get it, of course. Or maybe she didn’t want to. It would ruin the thing—words or acrylic—and who would want to tarnish something so visual, tangible, aesthetically pleasing?

It’s just been on my mind. Sometimes it’s hard to see my work, have people praise it—especially writing. Because what went into creating it was hard and almost (I wonder) not worth it? At the same time, someone praising you, believing in you, supporting you… that makes it worth it, makes you keep going. It’s like some strange kind of solace and they don’t even know it’s happening. I don’t know what kind of monster that makes me.

Artists and their repeating remainders: what doesn’t fit neatly, all these pieces and parts of ourselves… we keep going, keep creating. That’s how we hold it together.

mt

Hung up on holidays and poetry scribbling

Besides re-watching the episode where House and Cuddy finally get together and downloading the Sims 3 Seasons Expansion Pack, I might say tonight was uneventful. Hah! God, I’m lame. I also excitedly ordered the 2014 AP Stylebook, dined and gabbed with my wonderful aunt and aimlessly walked around Target staring shiny-eyed at the Christmas decor.

Before we go into Christmas… Halloween went swimmingly. Our Red Neck/White Trash Bash was a blast. I slipped seamlessly into that character, the hillbilly grandpa, and nearly didn’t come out of it. I’m pretty sure my roommate and I were annoying the shit out of everyone with our banter.

“Eh, Jeb, whyonchu hand me that there fancy beer (a Yuengling) and put somethin’ on the tube.”

You’ll have to check out my Instagram for some snaps of that.

In other news, I am once more attempting November’s Poem-A-Day from Writer’s Digest. It’s not easy. This time around, I’m allowing myself to produce small bits, to produce anything without hacking it away then and there. I’ve been feeling awfully inspired, poetically speaking. I’ve been reading more, which helps. What are you reading? Does what you read ever change the shape of your day, your thoughts? It’s powerful to get into a book too deeply. You might live there for awhile.

3 Books of the Moment

Along with these three, A and I have been reading Margaret Atwood’s trilogy beginning with Oryx and Crake. I have read two of the three long ago, so it’s a refresh for me. Even now, years after I first fell in love with them, they (and her writing) blow me the hell away. She really is my hero.

Ok, and here’s the riot-inducing exclamation of the eve: I had to stop myself from bringing up my little two-foot Christmas tree from the basement. I don’t know what’s wrong with me anymore. Ever since D, I just… I want it to be winter/Christmas all year long. Prior to this, I didn’t hate Christmas, but it felt like a cold stranger. It was sad mostly, nostalgic. In fact, I think I just made a lot of grumpy grumbles about it and everyone around me agreed.

And yes, I did listen to that damned Rosie Thomas song, “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” already. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard, Christmas or otherwise. I don’t know how it could be, as it’s a Alvin and The Chipmunks tune. As one friend put it, “Don’t listen to that alone!” My plan is to master it on the uke this season. We’ll see.

“If anyone of us could write the saddest song ever, it’d be you,” I’ve been told. Hmmm.

Pumpkin candles, Blood-Moon stalking and an interview with Blast Furnace

So many things have been going on lately. Namely, this new blog/website. Dig my digs? It’s been so exciting to create this space (including my logo). I don’t know what I’d do without Shane. It’s a work in-progress, of course, but so am I. And who doesn’t love to piss around with WordPress.org and impossible code?

Speaking of impossible… can you believe it’s October? I’m obsessed with fall. We know this. And now I’ve gotten my grubby mitts on heavenly pumpkiny candles, so I’m even more in the spirit. Isn’t it amazing how just the smell of something affect you. I swear my heart is tied to my nose! Do you feel that way? Any smells in particular? Tell me I’m not alone.

Then there’s the moon. If I can manage to hang in there until 5:15 a.m., I’ll be stalking the blood moon. It’s quite an event—one I have yet to truly experience. Damn Greensburg and it’s cloud shield. Still, I have to try. Look how amazing this looks!

As seen outside of Tokyo, NASA
As seen outside of Tokyo, NASA

And then there’s good ol’ Becky Clever. I’m not sure why she’d want to interview me, but she and I got coffee and pretty much spilled our guts all over a Crazy Mocha. She heads up Blast Furnace, an indie literary publisher, but also an amazing destination on the interwebs for literary fill and awesome interviews. It was an honor.

Check out the interview here.

Well, I better get a quick snooze in to wake for this spacial spectacle.

Little As Living

Visit the shop and see what’s up >>

Guess what?

My new (and very first) chapbook is up for sale. I’m super stoked and can’t wait to share my poems with the world. I even did the cover, which I’m pretty ok with… but what pressure! And let’s be honest, I’m kind of scared about my words traveling around in foreign hands: honored, excited, vulnerable, and terrified.

I think all of us have experienced a thing (a someone or a something) that has made us question everything, that has made us explore ourselves again—as if for the first time. That is what this book is. Realization (and the process of getting to it). Both of the self and of the tiny universe we breathe in: the mundane; the sleepy routine; the waking-up-getting-a-shower-going-to-work-eating-dinner orbit we spin daily. Finding the meaning in that.

I hope you all will check it out. It’s only $7! Dancing Girl Press made this happen and to them I am forever grateful. Thanks to everyone, to those that believed I could do it even when I didn’t. I’m so lucky to have you on my team.

Best,
mt