Tag: writing

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

Inspired on a drive

It’s where all my big thoughts happen. The car. For some, it’s the shower. For others, it’s right before sleep. Either way, it’s always inconvenient. Am I right? Tonight, as I drive, my brain fills up like a birthday balloon. Don’t worry. I’m being safe. Talk-to-text helps.

A former professor, dear friend and [now] collegue—what an honor!—Lori Jakiela asked me to talk to

her blogging class about my job. During my full-mouthed spiel, I realized how incredible we are. Writers. Or: people who spend their time gushing, thinking about what people need/want/wish for. I know. Crazy to articulate, but just… some of the most incredible creatures I know are writers. Why? Because they have a greater understanding of things: the subtleties of culture, the depth of our interactions, colors and light and all the while, a meticulous eye on themselves.

Writers take big gulps of the world and hiccup beauty. Simply put. And seeing these young ones so open and excited about writing—well, that’s not something I get from my Comp gig. Most of my students are finding ways to dodge my two-and-a-half-hour night class. It’s obligatory, a required course, and so one might expect that they’d run flailing in the other direction.

But what is it about the aspiring that is so damn… inspiring? I’m by no means an expert; I mean, I’ve got oodles of experience now, writing and editing. But I never feel “complete.” Is that a writer thing? Maybe it’s like when I write the best poem in the whole-wide world, and then the next day, I read it again only to find it might be the worst poem in the world. Ha! It’s frustrating. To never be all-the-way good. But that’s why we keep going, right? It’s become some sort of a catalyst.

But that’s just it. You can never be too good at writing. Hell, you can never be too good at anything when it comes down to it. But since I was going on about lists and how to simplify for the reader, catch their attention, I thought I’d make one of my own.

Orwell gave me some of the greatest advice, and so this list is a mash-up of that and my own experience. While all of these tips aren’t relevant to every type of writing, I compiled a more encompassing list—one that I feel covers the basics, you know? I hope you enjoy! [And if you have any to add, leave me some words!]

TIPS FROM A SOMEWHAT SUCCESSFUL WRITER:

  1. Read. This is something I can say and say and say, have had profs say and say and say, and still… one must discover for his or herself—reading will inspire. But moreover, reading will help you to understand your own thoughts, style, voice more aptly. Good books or bad books, they will help. So just do it. Don’t argue!
  2. Find your big league. This kind of  goes along with the last one. Find the writer(s) that makes the hairs on your arm stand up. For me, Margaret Atwood embodies the very style that I’d hope to someday achieve; even her prose is poetic. Sometimes I carry her around with me in my pack for inspiration.
  3. Invent your own language. Don’t re-run tired words and phrases, those you hear every day. Make it new. Need a metaphor? An analogy? An image? Make up your own. This is an especially great way to introduce humor, but it isn’t necessary to be funny. Fresh words. Fresh thoughts. Uniqueness is key.
  4. Short & sweet. Don’t we all love to show off a little? Some of us have great honkin’ vocabularies, where we make sport of words like “loquacious” or “parsimonious“; no matter how seamless, words like these are off-putting to the average reader—use as few of them as possible. Keep things succinct, in general. Sentences, paragraphs, all of it. The world is impatient, but more than that—it will make you use more powerful words and constructions.
  5. Revisit aloud. Self-editing isn’t easy. My advice? Don’t just re-read your work, but read it OUT LOUD. That’s it. Open your mouth, say the words… does it sound right? Hide in a closet or a bathroom if you have to [but watch for that dastardly echo!] It also helps to give yourself a day or two in-between, an intermission. Like I told Jakiela’s class: imagine that mindset you have when you invite someone to your house for the first time. Make that an important “someone.” You know that feeling when they walk in for the first time and you sort of envision your home as he or she is seeing it, for the first time. Suddenly, every little spot on the carpet and every book covered in dust stands out like it’s been spotlighted. Get there.
  6. What you see is what you get. Let’s face it—the public has turned into a lusty-eyed pack of big cats, hungry for aesthetically pleasing visuals. It’s like we’ve suddenly snapped back to that age where we more apt to flip through a picture book than read. Look at how violently Pinterest has taken off! No one has to get TOO involved. Just play with pictures! The lesson in this: clean up your blogs; clean up your webpages; clean up your form on the page. People are more likely to read something that LOOKS good. Sad, but true. Inserting funny pictures helps. Ha!
  7. Stop. Drop. & Write. This little nugget is more like lifestyle advice. As I was saying above, inspiration isn’t always convenient. Because of this, I find myself jotting things down in parking lots, at stop signs and in coffeeshop queues. Keep paper and a pen handy at all times—stash some in your car if you have to—but don’t shut that thing up inside you that is urging you to expel. Even if it means being late to your friend’s wedding. [Oops!]
I’m going to end there. I could go on and on, but… [:
mt

Verse-fil & “Things”

Ever since the dawning, or near-dawning of Livejournal [y’all remember that one?] I’ve been following a Poem-A-Day blogger by the name of exceptindreams. While I don’t check-in every day, I catch myself going there for inspiration often. It’s always good to get a mix of words—words you might not find sifting through your typical venues. Get outside of your little world, you know?

What I love about this particular poetry blog is that most posted poems seem more modern than not, which, for a hep cat like myself, is sort of a breath of fresh air. It’s not that I don’t dig the classics, but it’s like music, you know? You want someone to show you something fresh, new. After you’ve had the same song on repeat for lifetimes, you want a new beat to dance to.

What prompted this post is my coming across a poem there. For my love of Mars and this simple, yet stunning, idea of looking from the outside in—I’m posting this nugget by Wyn Cooper. I’ve been fascinated with space for forever, but only within the last 5 years have I been so… consumed? Mars is one of my favorites. I fell in-love with Mars after happening upon a National Geographic photo: a tiny white sun setting in blue hues. How small the sun was! I promptly taped it to my wall, rising and falling near it for years.

But those aren’t the only reasons for this post. That poem stirred something in me for other reasons. About a week or more ago, I was having quite the conversation with a friend’s husband. We were all out to dinner waiting to stuff our yaps at Max & Erma’s when I asked:

“So, let’s say you didn’t have any kids or anyone dependent on you that way… would you travel the world’s first mission to Mars, knowing that you wouldn’t be coming back? You would be—hopefully—gleaning tons of insight about space and helping advance our knowledge and technology, but… it’s a suicide mission. You can’t come back when it’s all over.”

I got quite the look for this one.

“What, am I stupid?” he blasted from across the table. “What a stupid question! Why in the hell would I want to do that?!”

I tried to explain that it would probably be incredible, even just the experience: sites and sounds and feelings. Still, he had a pretty cross look on his face.

“Well, would you?” he asked, turning it around on me.

“Yes.” And then I mumbled something sarcastic about having a football field named after me or something.

This isn’t the only fight we’ve had over a dinnertime discussion. In fact, we spent days arguing, stopping then picking back up at our next encounter, about why “I don’t want to be rich.” Once more, I got the what-are-you-stupid? face.

“The only people you ever hear saying that they don’t want money are poor people!” he spat.

“Not true. There is more to life than money. Yeah, it would be nice to be more comfortable and less stressed come bill time, but I know myself well enough to know that kind of excess would depress me.”

“Then you buy drugs to make you happy! You can afford it!” was his answer.

I’ve got a whole diatribe in me. Trust me. And I want so badly to calm this indignant heat in me over his stereotypical “male” response, but just explaining it here has me all fiery again. Spare me the lecture about being an ignorant and sexist ass for blaming it on his “maleness,” because there are reasons that stereotypes are stereotypes, as my roommate would say.

Cliche as it is: there’s more to life than things. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy “things”; however, I know my limits. I know that my want of things—whether they are gadgets, careers or personal goals—keeps me determined and pushing. I need to have “want.”

That said, anyone who’d like to help pay for my mountain-sized debt from school, please find me on PayPal. I’ll repay in doodles and kisses.

Best,
mt

“Mars Poetica”
Wyn Cooper

Imagine you’re on Mars, looking at earth,
a swirl of colors in the distance.
Tell us what you miss most, or least.

Let your feelings rise to the surface.
Skim that surface with a tiny net.
Now you’re getting the hang of it.

Tell us your story slantwise,
streetwise, in the disguise
of an astronaut in his suit.

Tell us something we didn’t know
before: how words mean things
we didn’t know we knew.

Auto-Bio | Your Homework

One of the most difficult feats I have yet to really master as a writer is the bio. For most journals, both online and in-print, it’s typical to be asked for a “brief bio.” Shit, even if you aren’t a writer, how many social media sites these days are speckled with an array of text boxes that require some condensed verbiage of yourself. Likes and dislikes. Authors. Movies. Books. Music. Television show. Ice cream flavor. C’mon. Technology has not only allowed us to connect with the world, but in a way, define ourselves for the world. In words. Scary!

And so when people scoff at writing, in particular, English Composition, I have to wonder what in the hell world they live in. The Internet, smartphones included, has made life more interesting, certainly, and to the surprise of many: language both more important and somehow… it’s gotten worse, skill-wise?

I’m sure it began with the short snippets of text messages. U no txts r quick n make room 4 errors & short sloppy spellings 2. But when did we become so lax as to allow for this? I mean, I’m not sure I could even consider dating someone with a horrible vocabulary, much less a lazy language of text-speak and misspellings. LMAO! (;

I’m off topic.

What I wanted to speak to is the laborious task of summing up oneself. When was the last time you had to do this? Have you ever? What did you say?

For writing submissions, it’s easier. Really, any specialized venue in this way, at least, gives you some focus. But, for example, what does one do with the small info box at the top of his or her Pinterest page? Twitter? Facebook? I usually go about it randomly. Whatever pops into my head—which usually ends up being completely inane, you know?

My homework for you, those who dare attempt: write a general bio for yourself. Three to four sentences. Pretend your audience needs to really KNOW you. Not only is this a study in using language in a concise way, but really picking yourself apart to extract what you think it most important about you.

I want to know you! Go!

mt

A little inspiration from the Starbucks

Once in a while a little spark catches and the world feels brighter.

I haven’t been posting. I know, I know… I think I always say that in my posts, but mostly because I’m going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment. More like a briar patch, and it’s raining salt, and it’s 3 a.m. and I’m completely naked! O: If that wasn’t enough to frighten you out of your bones…

After nine years, I think it’s time to move on. It feels like a divorce. This time, I’m peacing grease and moving myself. I’ve been living here in this sweet old house in South Greensburg since senior year of undergrad, with a one-year exception. After a year, Tash and I moved to East Pittsburgh Street. We rented the third floor of a mammoth house. It wasn’t too bad, since we are the shorter type of girls. Ha. The shower’s ceiling was slanted, so that we had to bend over to get our heads under the water.

It was kind of like a nightmare, but that is another tale for another time.

Now for the goods…


Today at work, I got a tweet from a lovely fan of our company. She has her own blog and was inquiring about doing a giveaway with our product. This isn’t something super new or anything, but I had her shoot me an email with the deets—what she was looking to do, the web address of her blog, all that fun stuff. When she responded back with the info, it took me a while to get to her email.

It was near the end of the day when I did. I clicked the link to her blog and as I began to scroll, I came across a photo that intrigued me. It was my handwriting. On a piece of paper. But where? And was I just going nutty? I started to read and as I did—it clicked!

See, a while back, I got the sudden urge to be sweet. I was at my favorite hotspot—Starbucks—and taking a pee. (Don’t the strangest moments of enlightenment happen on or around the toilet? Ha!) As I was washing my hands, I gazed up at myself in the mirror. It’s no secret that I don’t look in the mirror often. My coworkers have commented, frequently, on the state of my hair, the uncoordinated colors and patterns of my clothing, the blotches of paint on my skin… I loathe it, in fact! There are, on the other end of the spectrum, times I’ve come home with a huge smudge of pen ink on my cheek or a bit of lunch between my front teeth. I don’t like looking!

Typically I’m a hot mess. See photo.

So in a maniac mode of sorts, I flew out of the bathroom (after I washed those hands, of course!) and ripped off a scrap of paper from my Moleskine, jotting down thehttp://bit.ly/NGBnUD words:

You’re beautiful. I promise. Look again.


And this wonderful local (Frugal Foodie Mama) snapped a picture of it. Read the story here!

Inspired by this, she started a little note-leaving herself. She found a great project going on calling Operation Beautiful, in the process.

Success! I want to digress with a note about how important the small things can be, but we know this. Even a smile can change a life. I beleeeedat. Now it’s time to move some boxes.

Leave some notes, people! (:

 

Advices

I’m in a bit of writing rut.

If you have known me in the last month or so, you’d say I’m crazy. I’ve been spending incredible amounts of time lost in my poems with a new manuscript in the works (perhaps!) and even the times when I’m not writing, I am thinking of it… but I guess that’s just it—lost.

During my time at both Pitt Greensburg and Chatham, I was faced with a lot of ideas about writing. Each professor had her (mostly her) own MO when it came to writing—everything from muses and inspiration to navigation within the poem via line breaks and internal rhyming… well, you get the idea. Strange, but sometimes their words stick in me even when I’m not reaching for guidance. I’ve got a little committee happening. The worst part is that much is conflicting and, at some level, I need to find my own methodology, you know?

Professor V said: “There is no such thing as Writer’s Block.”
J still makes good at setting aside a time, like a schedule, for writing.
Dr. M. told me it was okay to keep writing about the same thing, that sometimes you had to just write it out of you. Also: when you’re feeling it, like you need to write and you’re on a roll, the rest of the world comes second.
B always told me to “write the fucking poem.”

Just a brief snippet of what’s on my mind. These are all in encouraging in their own way, but never before have I felt so stifled by my subject.

No matter. I’m sure it will pass. Going to re-focus my energies in acrylic.

Getting a porch show tonight, like last. This night, though, it isn’t lightening, but UFO’s, which we have (for solace?) dubbed as paper lanterns. They seems to be on fire—something like a dying firework, but they float strangely then disappear. It’s a somber lullaby out here tonight, sung by the incessant, high-pitched snarls of neighborhood cats hunting each other.

I want another three-day weekend. Rightthissecond. I’m turning liquid again…
mpt

Something like Bieber Fever

While I have been toiling away at life matters—mostly teaching at this point, I have been immersing myself in Atwood. Her poetry is like magic to me. One night, being so inspired and honestly consoled by her words, I tweeted her, even. This is what crazy Bieber fans probably do, too, so I’m not shedding any positive light on myself here. I’m thisclose to screaming and waving my underwear around. But probably not.

Me: @MargaretAtwood Revisiting your poem today. Think your my word soulmate. (Picture of poem from book).


Atwood: Thank you…

C’mon, everyone. Clearly, I have an “infamous” reputation for mishaps—for those of you who do not know about my mistakenly using the word “infamous” on all things work-related/published, that was a treat. Yeah… I did that. But don’t be judgmental; many people I questioned didn’t know that “infamous” wasn’t, in fact, another way to describe something as “famous.” Unfortunately, the definition states: “Well known for some bad quality or deed.” Shit. I doubt my company minds too much that I described our products as such.


Imaginary Person #1: How about that infamous Italian pasta? 
Imaginary Person #2: Oh yeah! I heard about that a few years back—kidnapped a stick of pepperoni and was never seen again.

But even with my super obvious spelling issue, Atwood responded! Don’t you dare for one second think that I didn’t tweet her again to right my wrong, because I did. I had to. Margaret Atwood, don’t think I’m an idiot! (This is not exactly what I said.) It was late and I was gushing and obviously too concerned with how many times it took me to snap that photo without it being blurry or cut off. Truth.

For those of you who have no idea who Miss Atwood is, well shame on you! Haha. But even if you are avidly against poetry, do yourself a favor and read “Variation on the Word Sleep.” If that last stanza doesn’t gut you, you’re probably not awake.

I realize this entry is about to become all about poetry, but I’ve been on a roll here—grabbing inspiration where I find it. Recently, I read an interview from 1978. The interviewer being the infamous (kidding), the famous Joyce Carol Oates. So in this Q & A article found in The New York Times, “On Being a Poet: A Conversation With Margaret Atwood,” Atwood totally digs at the guts of being a poet. I wanted to highlight this one part, because it doesn’t just answer the “who” but the “why.” And I totally agree, though, I have never been able to say it so articulately.

Q. Who influenced you as a poet?


A. Poe was my earliest “influence” back in high school, when I was beginning to write poetry and before I’d heard of anyone after, say, 1910. I don’t think of poetry as a “rational” activity but as an aural one. My poems usually begin with words or phrases which appeal more because of their sound than their meaning, and the movement and phrasing of a poem are very important to me. But like many modern poets I tend to conceal rhymes by placing them in the middle of lines, and to avoid immediate alliteration and assonance in favor of echoes placed later in the poems. For me, every poem has a texture of sound which is at least as important to me as the “argument.” This is not to minimize “statement.” But it does annoy me when students, prompted by the approach of their teacher, ask, “What is the poet trying to say?” It implies that the poet is some sort of verbal cripple who can’t quite “say” what he “means” and has to resort to a lot of round-the-mulberry-bush, thereby putting the student to a great deal of trouble extracting his “meaning,” like a prize out of a box of Cracker Jacks.


You tell ’em, Atwood.

The Sestina

Who chooses it? What it is that they want, that is. I tap my brain for hours wanting and desiring, and then hours more wondering why it is that I want what I want. Pretty unproductive, no? It can be as simple as choosing the type of syrup you want in your Dunkin Donuts Latte Lite or as overwhelming as that horrible what-do-I-want-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life decision. As autonomous beings, we have the right to choose (most times) but why—that’s my question. And it’s “loaded.” And it “depends.” And some are just riskier in their choices than others, am I right? Musing here.

I think that’s the problem with thinkers—and by thinkers I’m not speaking about the cerebral type necessarily. I don’t mean SMART people. You don’t have to be smart to be a thinker, necessarily. Over-analytical. But yes, back to the problem. I’ve met so many people that spend more time in limbo (to be or not to be?) than actually doing anything. Now, I’m not going to come down on myself and say I don’t get shit done. Because trust me, I’m busy. I get lots done; however, I think I’d get more accomplished if I could be more definitive in my thought process.

Where is this going? Sestinas, of course. What is it in me that feels this great need to keep writing these stupid things? Do you know what a sestina is? Do you care? Probs not. I know most people don’t even perk up at the mention of poetry, let alone a lost form like the sestina. I mean, look at this chart, man. It’s scary enough to picture a 39-line poem in your head (with repeating end rhymes!) but to witness it as this monochrome maelstrom of lyrics… shit.

Here is the point in this nonsensical entry where you tell me about what you want… things that don’t make sense. Is it part of human nature to want what is seemingly unattainable? Better yet, are you decisive? How do you think you’ve come to be.

And if you’re a good person, you’ll respond to this guilt trip by filling me in. I need filled in.



sestina.png

Semicolon Happy: A Life Lesson

One of my favorite marks is the semicolon. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a pretentious little twit sometimes. Honestly, I’m not, you know, a world-class grammarian or anything, but one of my favorite things in life EVER, is the misuse of this little snot. Not only because I wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for grammatical/spelling errors, BUT because the semicolon is one of those extras. You need not use one. There is never a time when a period is completely unacceptable. Semicolon is stylish, flashy… he is like the fur lining on your hoodie, you know?

If you’ve ever wondered what in the #¢*! to do with a semicolon… I’ve got a few that I think are most important (or, at least, most common.)

*******

One.
The easiest: use a semicolon in place of a period between two separate sentences without the conjunction. (Conjunction is like “and,” “but,” and “because.”) These two “sentences,” can be considered independent clauses, meaning they could stand alone, you know, with their subject and verb; however, the semicolon here signifies a closer connection between them—closer than a period!

Stop by McDonald’s and get me a Rolo McFlurry; I’ll give you dollars when you get here.

I stopped going to class after the first two weeks; it put me right to sleep. 
 
Two.
While it’s not like GUN-TO-THE-FOOT* important, it is preferable to use semicolons before introductory words/phrases that introduce complete sentences. Some of these words are “however,” “therefore,” “besides,” and “for example.” (Remember the comma afterward!)


Lisa is notorious for sleeping around; therefore, I was hesitant to sit, raw-bottom, on her toilet.

I can’t wait to get into a good college; however, I’m dreading the loan repayment.

Three.
Now, this one is a wee bit tricky, but sort of necessary for clarity. Use a semicolon between items in a list, when the items contain commas. They call this type of list (with internal punctuation) a “complex series.” Haha.

Leah dated a lot of guys in the medical field, such as: Scott, the physical therapist; John, the doctor-in-training; Chad, the male nurse; and Bill, the pharmacist.


*******

Done with the banter! But hey, you get the idea. Common, everyday language is more prone to rule one, but trust me there are more rules! If nothing else, just don’t use them. Eff convention, throw in a period and be done with it.

Enough rules. Not so swiftly, I’m trying to focus my attention on something else other than that stupid Casey Anthony case; though, it appears to be everywhere right now. Stuff like that rots my brain out, makes me so sad.

HEY. What punctuation/grammar issue do you come across most? This might help me. I need some idea of what people are struggling with most. Share your funny/sad/angry stories about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. I’d love to hear them, honest.

*GUN-TO-THE-FOOT was just an un-clever way for me to say “gun-to-the-head” without such messy imagery!
** I hate footnotes!