Tagged writing

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

30, basically

12716524_176695836037160_1541122990_n

 

There’s always something terribly sad to think about. Terribly terrible. And sometimes when you haven’t tricked your brain quite right, it skips to that terribly sad thing without your allowing it.

And the longer you live, the more terribly sad things you acquire. So you have to learn how to trick your brain better. But then you might become “jaded” or “hard” or “avoidant,” and maybe then even the good things have a way of not being the brightest.

It’s a fine line between feeling and hard, carrying and letting go. And I call that line 30.

I posted this at about 3 a.m. on Facebook the other day. There’s something about that social medium, being hit with the lives of so many at once, that prompts me to think more wholly, more big picture stuff. On days where I feel inspired by the people around me, I create anthems. Mostly in my head. Just small truths that I can hold onto, that can connect me to others. I’m always relating and empathizing and hoping people get it.
But maybe it’s just loneliness? And not the OMGIMSINGLEANDNEEDSAVED loneliness, but the kind that’s always just there like another skin. Maybe I’m still that 6th grader still writing in her journal about how she just doesn’t fit, how other girls are pretty and popular and have nice hair and cool clothes and I’m too scared to be anything but a clown.

I don’t know that much has changed. But everything.

Moleskine musing

11085049_902836069775109_170882587_n

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

10391386_10102635167465213_3587884488404534339_n

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.

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

 

Ain’t nobody got time for pain

This is what I do know:

It’s nearly 5:00 p.m. on Friday, payday Friday, that is.

Binging on Halloween treats makes me feel like a trash bag.
My life feels a lot like Tetris.
It’s November. Bring it on, November. Can you believe that?

The only super exciting thing about November, besides the true death of everything colorful outside (I kid), is the November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2013. If you don’t know, it’s a little poetry challenge. You’re given a prompt every day for a poem. SO YOU WRITE ONE POEM A DAY FOR A WHOLE MONTH. You can do it; I dare you.

It’s inspired by the more well-known, NaNoWriMo. This challenge is actually where you attempt to write a WHOLE NOVEL in a month, since November is apparently National Novel Writing Month. (Get the acronym-ish title now?) But I don’t know about writing 50,000 words in a month—unless I was suffering from verbal Dysentery.

Anyway.

Ain’t nobody got time for that [pain].

I had this very serious post in mind. It was about pain. The kinds of pain, reaction/action… etc. I sat in my car before class on Tuesday, before I even went to the hospital to see my mom, writing about it. “Pain is subjective.” “No pain, no gain!” “You’re a pain in the ass!”  “I haven’t got time for the pain…”

Wait. That last one is a Carly Simon song.

I guess what I’m getting at, or what I was attempting to get at, is that we accumulate pain, maybe, like scratches on a wall. But it’s not just one type of pain; there are so many shapes that pain can take. Some are more triangular, some round and heavy like an oversized marble. And each pain, then, elicits both a reaction and an action. The reaction being more of the “involuntary” sort—auto-spat. The action seemingly becomes a way to cope.

Example:

John’s dog dies.

Reaction: He cries and loses his appetite.

Action: He doesn’t tell anyone, and he never gets another pet.

See what I mean? For me, this helps me to look at my pain. It’s good to find the source, of course, but also define it in my terms—the “subjective” part. I like to examine what has changed because of it. Perhaps, I am doing this because so much of me has changed—not just my living sitch, my relationships, my creative endeavors, but my core. For the better, I hope. In ways. It’s just been a dynamic (geez, that’s being kind) two years. YES, TWO. It’s like an obstacle course. Maybe, just maybe, making it to the other side is what has changed me and not the events specifically. Maybe this will show me that, not matter what, I can do obstacle courses.

Except for rope climb activities. I suck at that.

Happy Friday/Weekend/November, everyone!
Oh, and don’t forget to write your poem!

mt

Feeling lightning

You ever just look at something, a scene or an object, or maybe just the colors of light crawling through your window and get a feeling? A big feeling?

I can’t really explain it, but in an attempt to capture what it is I’m feeling, I write poetry. Sometimes poetry doesn’t make sense, people may think. It’s “obscure,” or “cryptic,” or “hard to follow.” For me, though, poetry is a way to conjure a feeling in me and in others… And sometimes those feelings are neither logical nor linear.

A good part of my academic writing career was spent trying to untangle it all, to make phrases and terms more everyday, to put a story or narrative to it (the feelings), but what I have allowed myself (post-college) is to just… write. I have silenced the committee, somewhat, and learned to trust what I write. But this isn’t just poems.

A couple years ago, a barista friend of mine from Starbucks asked to use my friend and I as her thesis project. She came over, made us doodle or color or paint, all the while allowing us to just be, just emote. Before that moment, I had rarely given myself the chance to draw or paint from me—instead I copied and mimicked the world around me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have loads of respect for those who can paint as detailed and realistic as a photograph, but this is the very thing that kept me from painting and doodling more. I wasn’t pressured to create an exact replica, but permitted to explore my own creativity. Wow!

I can only assume this is what happened with my writing. Once I was able to transcend the lines of reality (along with my own version of it) words became completely unfettered for me. It seemed boundless.

Today as I left my office, that 8 to 5 home-away-from-home, I caught a feeling. It was something in the way the sun, lower than usual, hit the glass door, the golden-orange of it. I don’t know how to explain the feeling. A cup of nostalgia. It took me somewhere. It reminded me that the world isn’t so linear, isn’t so black and white.

I can trace the world around me with a sharp pencil, memorize inches and hues, or I can take all that lightning in my chest and use it to shake the world, make it my own.

I hope you do too. I hope you wrangle your own storms and stop trying to chase everyone else’s.

mt

National Poetry Month Loser

http://meghantutolo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/zombies_honey_badgers_slacker_mug1.jpg

SLACKER!

Ah, I must say, I’ve been slacking on keeping up with so many poems. I’d like to blame it on the barrage of death, illness and the end of the term. Also, my newly rabid ukulele addiction. Any down time seems to be devoted to strumming and singing and pretending I know what I’m doing. Still, I’m not giving up on the poems. I think this bout of “Writer’s Block” has come at a lame time, but I continue to push on.

Bukowski said: “Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

Not sure if I agree… but I thought in honor of the month, I’d share a poem I’ve written during this mission. This was Day 12: A Broken Poem.

THE BILLIONTH BREAK-UP POEM
Clicking copy/paste
back-brain replaying how
she left me, left
the zipper down on us             too much
this deep-space kind of silence. Maybe
we didn’t need the finale, or
sitcom-grief of all those years
not-saying        counts, maybe,
for something. The same curtains
hang neon in windows where we
don’t sleep now. I don’t know
why I drive by, but some nights
it’s easier than trying to get
around it.

In the meantime, my assignment to all y’all poets and writers: write a poem today. Even if you aren’t doing the challenge. My prompt to you, if you care to play…

Write a sonnet, or simply a 14-line poem, with the theme of “something you love too much.” We all have one of those things—whether it’s a person or a video game or a imported red wine. Go!

mt

The sky might, indeed, be falling…

Yesterday, I told D: “I think the world is trying to kill me.”

It’s nearly the end of March and besides meeting someone lovely, 2013 hasn’t been so kind. I have come to realize, perhaps just admit aloud, that this year is just the lame sequel of 2012—and it’s getting old. An extension of the shit storm, as it stands.

I could depress myself with the tally, the list of nasties I’ve encountered thus far, but I’ll spare us all. But first, not without dump-trucking on you poor folk a brief synopsis of my weekend:

It began Friday with my work computer crashing, finding out that all is lost hard-drive-wise, and then my Gram’s passing. The weekend ended with me pulling something in my back and becoming a near-invalid, twinging on the floor.

Loss isn’t something I yet know how to process. I thought… maybe since I was hit with it early on that I’d have learned the ropes or something. But I haven’t. I wish I could describe the way it feels in a way that makes it tangible, easier to choke down in the night when it hovers above me like a wet memory. But I don’t have anything to strangle. Not yet.

There are bright things to look for—one of which being April, National Poetry Month. And guess what time it is again? Poem-a-Day Contest. I’m gearing up to get busy.

I thought it might be cool to share some poems on my blog, each day. We’ll see! Maybe form poems [not mine.]

Anyone else doing anything for National Poetry Month? If not, try it out? It’d be a great way to start writing something. Even if they’re haikus!

Wednesdays feel like hope,
sweltering and nondescript—
get over the hump.

There’s my Wednesday poem. Enjoy! hahah.. feel free to share your haiku!
mt