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Poetry Begets More Poetry

Actually, I find any-kind-of-writing begets more any-kind-of-writing. Unless you go and strain a writing-muscle through stress from over-exertion. And yes, that muscle is located in your head not in your hand (trust me, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this kind of science. I’m an English major.) But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start just over a year ago — we could go back two years, or even ten years, but you aren’t here for my life history, and besides, I’d need more than just one blog post for that*.

So anyways, about a year ago, high school was just winding down and my life was a flurry of essays, exams and endless excuses to avoid writing. Including this disaster. But, amidst this madness, I had to think about an end-of-the-year-teacher’s-gift to end all end-of- the-year-teacher’s-gifts for the English teacher who changed my life. I was maybe going to write her a poem or something, like I used to do for my parents’ and grandparents’ birthdays, but… That would be lame. And what kind of present is that? Gosh, that would make me seem rather full of myself. And she wouldn’t even like it. And. And. And. Excuses, excuses. Anything not to write. You know, despite all my well thought out plans to write so much that summer.

But then I found myself bored one weekend, so I took out a book of poetry, a collection of villanelles, and read way more poems in one sitting than is recommended by most doctors. Because doctors are science people. So they don’t like poetry. William Carlos Williams excepted, of course. Anyways. Poetry. So I had villanelles on my mind. And I had this teacher who I needed a gift for on my mind. And my mind is very good at making connections. So I thought of a villanelle for this teacher. And I wrote it down. And I rewrote it and tested how the words tasted in my mouth and I rewrote some more. Finally I loved it. I showed it to my mom and she loved it. I showed it to my grandfather and he loved it. Okay. Great. I figured it out. I was going to write a little, mini poetry collection for this teacher. I’d write three more poems, which would get me to four — see, this English major can even do math!

So I wrote and revised and wrote and revised, and I loved it and hated it, and it was impossibly easy and impossibly hard. You know, just your standard creative process. And I finally finished this project (or at least got it to a point where it was hand-in-able) around two a.m. the night before I planned on giving it to her. I was really proud of that collection of poems. And it was the greatest teacher’s gift she’s ever received in twelve years of teaching. At least that’s what she told me. Or maybe I just told myself that. Hmm. It was a whole year ago, cut me some slack.

So, okay, reading that collection of poetry that one wild weekend was the joyous conception of the poems I later labouriously birthed. So to speak. And then the cuddly, precious new poems I now had were supposed to convince me that I needed to write even more poems because, aw, just look how soft and pink they were! But that didn’t work out so well. Because I just couldn’t forget the hardship of bringing them into the world like I was supposedly supposed to.

Also, I believe that the ordeal had overworked my already-injured writing-muscle. Which, again, is located in the cranium. (That means head. I think.)

And then, being myself, I jumped head (and writing-muscle) first into a remarkable act of stupidity. Shortly after the above mentioned incidents, it was three days after my last exam, a week or so before prom and graduation. And someone on my twitter feed informed me that Camp NaNoWriMo had started yesterday.

“Hey!” I thought. “How about I write a novel this month!? I could expand that fragmentary story that would work so well as a novel!”

“Hey!” one of the voices in my head should have shouted back. “How about you calm the #*@& down! Write ‘cuz it makes you happy, not cuz some dumb chart on a website tells you that you still have 1008 words left to write today! And calm down!”

Well that voice kept its mouth shut, so instead I dove in, ignoring the sign on the pool deck that clearly stated NO DIVING, and I hit my head on the bottom of the pool. I’m not really sure what the pool (or anything else, for that matter) is supposed to represent in that metaphor. Let me know if you figure it out.

So yeah. I kind of did some serious damage to my writing-muscle. So writing wasn’t really begetting more writing for a while. It was begetting frustration. Not writing was also begetting frustration. Because it’s no fun to be a writer (at an artsy school where my writing was supposed to flourish, no less) who doesn’t write.

And you know what helped? Not writing. Not forcing it. Forced and enforced writing and writing habits made writing a chore, and a painful one at that. So for a while I didn’t write much. And while I wasn’t writing much, I was reading books that I thought would make me smarter, more literary, more inclined to write. Then I came home from being away at school and I stopped that nonsense. I started reading stuff that I wanted to read. Mostly fun, light collections of essays from the humour section by the likes of Nora Ephron and Mindy Kaling.

And then I read a whole collection of poetry by Bronwen Wallace in one sitting, maybe two. She’s a brilliant Canadian poet, and it just occurred to me it was one of her poems which I based my “masterpiece” on a year ago. It’s rather fitting too, because a day or two after reading her poems, a poem of my own flew through my head. And I caught on to it and wrote it down. This was only two or three weeks ago, but since then, lines from poems that want to be written keep coming to me and I keep writing them and more and more poems continue to fill up my notebooks.

And they don’t have to be good and they don’t have to be about important things. They just have to be and just by being, they will even more poems to be. And the more poems filling my notebooks the better, right?

Hey there! You, yeah, you in the corner! What inspires you to write? What kind of writing are you doing these days? Do you see much of a connection between what you read and what you write?

*But if you wanted to know where I’d start that story, it would be here, at the ripe young age of eight.

Why I’ve Never Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Stone of Secrets

For some reason, many of my friends seem to believe that I’ve read all the Harry Potter books. For the most part I play along, not wanting to get into any confrontational situations. I don’t want to step on my friends dainty toes and I don’t want them stomping all over mine.

Kids these days…. Credit:

In truth, I once tried to read the first book, but didn’t get to far. I must have been around ten years old. I’d seen the first (and possibly the second?) movie, but for some reason I had assumed that the book would be way too smart, and boyish and difficult for me to handle. Then one day, my  younger brother’s (probably unread) copy was lying around, so I picked up and started reading. I was actually pretty impressed. It wasn’t above my reading level. And I actually liked it.

But then an unforeseen predicament arose. I got bored. Reading it felt too easy. I’m not really sure what this means, or what it meant to ten-year-old me, but I distinctly remember feeling unchallenged and putting it down and never picking it up again. I don’t even know where this copy is to date. My family does not (and has never) owned any of the other Harry Potter books. My siblings and I are perhaps the only products of our generation, living in North America, who have not read this cultural phenomenon of a series.

I am very entertained by the fact that, because I’m ‘a reader’ and a future English major, my peers assume I commiserate in their love and admiration for Harry Potter. I think that our interpretation of these facts about me are a little off base. The way see it, the facts that I’m ‘a reader’ and a future English major are why I have still snobbishly avoided reading this series. I also I have better books to spend quality time with.

Along the same lines is this little scenario: Knowing that I read, a girl in my gap year program asked me if I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey. She was literally aghast when I told her I hadn’t and made a general inquisition to those in the lunchroom, beginning with the question, “Okay, who here’s a reader”.

Really, this was the cutest thing I’ve ever witnessed. I’m sorry — very, very sorry — but the term ‘books’ is not synonymous with the term ‘literature’. The fact that someone reads a lot means nothing in my highly pretentious mind. And to me, Harry Potter is not literature. (Although, I will be the first to admit that Anne of Green Gables, i.e. my most favouritest book in the world, is not really literature either. But that’s entirely different. Obviously.)

Anyways, going back to “HP”, I find it very entertaining to think about how far back my snobbery goes. Even as a little kid I was pretentious with regards to reading material. Sorry, the little hipster in me seemed to say, this is just too mainstream. This was before I was conditioned to be pretentious and judgmental in order to feel good about myself and my life-choices. This was before I even started reading real literature — what already was I reading back then? Junie B. Jones? Little House on the Prairie? And yet, I closed Harry Potter and the Something or Other a few pages in, already thinking that it was just not good enough for me.

Of course, it’s not like I’ve ever read the books, so I can’t truly comment on this without coming off and kind of ignorant — and seeming ignorant is something I try to avoid when possible. Which is why I’m choosing this forum to make my somewhat pointless point. Real life conversations about such things freak me out. I don’t know how to think on the spot and then make my mouth say the things it should. I’m terribly afraid to offend people and spit all over their personal preferences and tastes when we’re face to face. And they tend to respond to my points, because apparently that’s how conversations work.

Also, I try not to ruin my friends’ illusions about my commiseration in their fandom. And I’m pretty good at playing along. I think my brother and I had a marathon of all the movies a few years ago (although I really can’t recall how the series ends, maybe I didn’t make it to the end) so I do know enough to keep up. One of my good friends even sends me Mean Girls/Harry Potter mash-ups on a regular basis, knowing how much I love the former and probably assuming I feel the same about the latter.

So, to be very open with you, this post is in response to situations I keep finding myself in. My friends (and teachers and teachers’ children) here keep finding out that I’ve never read these darned books and they are always being so shocked about it. So this is my crummy rebuttal that the people to whom this response is directed probably won’t even get. But those of you on my side will get it. And I much prefer preaching to the choir over preaching to the ignorant masses anyways.

Word Choice and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Random people (i.e. my various relatives) often give me suggestions for blog posts. Something funny happens while we’re on vacation together — “you should write about this”. Some other fiasco occurs several seconds later — “add this to the story!” they squeal.

I recently received one such suggestion (though we were just out for dinner, not jet-setting around the world). I brushed it off, as I tend to — “please, I have plenty to write about without your help, thank you very much,” I thought. Then I got home and realized that while I do have plenty of ideas, I haven’t really gotten around to sharing them with you so much lately, dear people of the internet. And so, I bring to you to my dinner conversation from two weeks ago.

We were discussing a person whom I… dislike and want to avoid seeing. I believe these sentiments surfaced around the same time I was born — he is not a pleasant person to be around. (And no, not in a Mr.-Darcy-at-the-beginning-of-P&P kind of way, more in an weird-annoying-obnoxious-but-pretty-much-harmless-uncle kind of way. Anyways.)

“You’re still afraid of him?” my Post-Suggesting Relative asked.

“Well, it isn’t that I’m afraid of spiders” I said, “I just don’t like them.”

He was awed and shocked and impressed with my retort (as I hope you were) and suggested I write a post about this altercation. Cue eye roll and the rest.

Then I thought about it and realized the profundity of my retort. The post-worthiness of it.

All of life, it occurs to me, is just semantics. Our of understanding of the world, of ourselves and of others comes from the words we use and choose to think about them with. Effective communication depends on shared vocabulary, with words that have the same denotations and connotations to all parties. Unlike Newspeak in George Orwell’s 1984, modern English has a plethora of synonyms and sayings to choose from when we clothe our ideas in the words we think, say, and write.

The words with which you choose to express an idea give that idea different meaning than if you had expressed it in other words.

Thus, when I decide against something, I’ve been trying lately to express my decision (to myself and others) it in a way that it is just that — a conscious decision. It isn’t that I can’t clean my room — it’s that I choose not to. It isn’t that I can’t write at a given moment — I’m choosing not to. It isn’t that I can’t break school rules — I choose not to.

The effect is the same, but the cause becomes different. And by identifying and naming the true cause, I gain accountability and responsibility. It becomes a choice, because in the story I tell myself about my life, I am aware that it is a choice.

The same seems to hold true everywhere. My brother made a rude comment over the summer that I shouldn’t be afraid to go jet skiing. I tend to be one for irrational fears, and I was often teased for them in childhood. (Of course, it seems as though my siblings will never stop teasing me.)

But this time I had a rebuttal. I explained to my charming younger brother that I’m not afraid to jet ski. I’ve simply done it already and did not particularly enjoy it. Since it’s supposed to be for fun and I don’t find it to be such, why would I do it? So I choose not to.

Again, nothing actually changed, aside from the words through which I looked at the situation and therefore my entire perspective of the situation. And realizing this was so freeing. It took me from I can’t to I’m choosing not to. “And that,” as Robert Frost might say, “has made all the difference.”

Eating Up “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s The Waves is just a really long, complicated poem. By which I mean, I didn’t completely understand it, but it sounded really nice.

It follows six friends through their lives, from childhood until death, and is narrated by each of them in turn, in strange, trance-like streams of subconsciousness. These streams of sub-consciousness are told entirely using direct dialogue that does not seem as though it is actually being spoken. Breaking up chunks of this ‘dialogue’ are chunks of narration that describe the scenery, the waves and the sun on its journey through the sky, which mirrors our heroes’ and heroines’ journeys through life.

The words and sentences ebb and flow together like the streams of consciousness that Woolf alters between. But where waves can be messy, her tight prose weaved seamlessly together like the cotton threads in a gauzy, flowing scarf.

But, to write up another comparison, my experience with the book was kind of the opposite of how one views a pointillist painting. From far away, seeing it as a whole, it becomes a blur of metaphors and symbols that I can’t grasp. But up close, in one little sentence at the top of a page, a phrase a few paragraphs down, an excerpt later on, I bit into delicious morsels of truth.

Obviously there was a whole feast of truths and ideas, covered in brilliance sauce. But, for a little not-yet-an-English-major like me, the morsels were all I could get at. All I could appreciate. They were sweet champagne, bubbling over in seductive flutes, that anyone might sip. The rest was a deep red wine with notes of this and that, which my inexperienced palate couldn’t yet detect.

But I’m learning that that’s okay. I’m young, I don’t have to know and understand and appreciate every nuance in every piece of literature I read. I can take and enjoy my morsels and come back for a second plate of more substantial dishes later. Because the sumptuous spreads laid out in books never spoil. And you can come back later for seconds and thirds and even fourths. And what you gain from this kind of face-stuffing goes to your brain not your hips.

Thoughts on Time

In the style of The Waves by Virginia Woolf. Kind of.

Times plods on. It rushes, it streams onwards. An era, a year, a day that’s passed will never be again. Ever. Except for its shadowy vision that exists in the minds of its survivors, its victors. When they pass, when their memories are lost, it’s gone. Except for in the words that have attempted to capture it. But even it cannot fully live in those words as it lived in its time.

It is 6:03 pm on Tuesday March 5, 2013. It will never be this date and time again. Even as I write this, that moment disappears. Now it’s 6:05. And the hands of my watch move along, even as my fingers caress this keyboard. They’ll look the same in a mere twelve hours, but a different number will occupy the circle where the date resides. Everything — the rotation of the earth, the hue of the sky, my level of consciousness — will be changed. Except fo the position of the minute- and hour-hands on my dainty rose gold watch.

I will never have this moment in my head and hands and lungs again. There. It is gone. It has passed on to be hazed in the land of memory. It is replaced by a new moment, which will pass on in the next moment’s birth.

Every minute, every second a piece of my youth is buried without a eulogy. I am also reborn, each moment, older and wiser or younger and acting foolish. Just for the moment. And each moment is a choice. Often nothing changes between moments. They are fluid. They pass without informing me. But still, a piece of my life becomes the past, to make room for the present and future. If I learn from it, and release it, and let it.

And time slides on. It doesn’t notice this, any of this, because time cannot notice. It just slips and slides onwards, forwards, backwards. Into infinitude. Whatever that is.

And what about us. Me and you. Do we notice? We can, because we are not time. How do we spend these moments that we’ll never live through again? We choose how to spend each moment. And even when we do not choose, that is a choice. It is 6:28. 6:29. And now it’s dinnertime.

Twitter Poetry and a NYPL Contest

If you don’t know the premise of Twitter — posting micro-thoughts of up to 140 characters — you must be anciently old or infantile-y young.

There are obviously some polarized thoughts on this no-longer-new form of expression.

Blah, blah, deteriorating attention spans, darn lazy young people, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, new forms of expression, advancing society, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, social media marketing, brand-consumer interaction, blah, blah. Blah.

Was that quite enough blah’s to make your brain hurt? Okay then, moving on. I think that all those people with the polarized views are missing the point. As people with polarized opinions often. Yes, I think it’s a shame that people’s attention spans last about five seconds due to the constant stream of… whatever, but I read somewhere that decreasing attention spans has been a lamentation-du-jour for centuries.

And as a writer, Twitter’s limited space for expression is a great place to practice using language economically. “Brevity,” as we learn in Hamlet “is the the soul of wit.” I agree entirely with the sentiment, despite the irony of the fact that it comes from Shakespeare’s long-winded, dull Polonius. This is true whether we’re discussing humour, poetry or a novel. Why waste a paragraph on what can be said with more strength in one sentence?*

Really, twitter works with the same premise as poetry. I think my creative writing teacher from last year explained that poetry is prose distilled, and I think that in an ideal twitterverse, tweets are blog posts distilled.

They’re also a great medium for an up and coming form — Twitter Poetry! That’s right, poems composed of 140 characters or less. The New York Public Library has caught onto this trend and they are having a super cool poetry contest! You can find out all about it on their site and enter if you have a twitter account and live in The States (which I now do, so yay me!). The contest only runs until March 10, so get writing and check out my submissions at @asolitaryramble!

May the brief, witty, poetical forces be with you! (Whatever that’s in reference to…. Seriously. I have no idea what I’m referencing there. Something science-fiction-y?)

*Disclaimer: the only form that this does not hold true in is the academic high school (and possibly university) essay. In such pieces of writing, it is essential to be as redundant as possible, rephrasing the exact same idea using different words and examples as much as you can without absolutely dying of boredom. For some reason, teachers love this and will call your work things like “excellent” and give you mid- to high-nineties. There will be the occasional hundred-percent, but only if you say in five paragraphs what could have been summed up in one sentence.

Goodnight Room

Goodnight laptop. Goodnight iPhone.

Goodnight sleeping roommate.

Goodnight books

that I loved last year.

Goodnight books I’ve yet to read.

And to all those books I’m almost finished.


Good Lord! What have I done with my night?


Goodnight Facebook friends I’ve stalked,

I know it’s been five months since we’ve talked.

Goodnight Modcloth. Goodnight Anthro. I’ve had enough

of pinning you.

Goodnight to my school’s fun Facebook group

and to that post that-got-seven-hundred-comments-in-two-hours

all from the same seven girls.


Good Lord! What have I done with my night?


Goodnight to YouTube and

to the-poems-I’m-handing-in-tomorrow-


Goodnight to the blasted fan and its incessant fanning.

Goodnight to my dry contacts, now where’d I put those glasses?

Goodnight to my teddy bear, she’s lonely in my big bed at home.

And goodnight to my blankets here that keep me warm and snuggly.


This post is not so very long. I thought it would be fuller. Of reasons I am up so late.

I guess the blame can just be placed

on loud, fun, crazy housemates.

It seems as though someone stole my idea. Before I even had it. Whoa. Credit:

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