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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.

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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-

instead-of-the-short-story-my-teacher-asked-for.

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: ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com

Theatre’s Aesthetic Appeal

I like looking at pretty things. Nay, I love looking at pretty things. If I had to choose, I’d say ‘sight’ is my favourite and most essential sense (followed closely by hearing and touch). So, it follows that one of my favourite parts of theatre is how it adds up visually. Sometimes, I find it hard to concentrate on what the actors are saying, much less figure out what their character’s names are, because I’m so distracted by everything there is to see.

This is also true of films, but in movies the illusion holds up more. It’s easier not to notice the ‘inauthenticity’ of the sets and costumes and everything else that went into making it beautiful. They’re more seamlessly lifelike.

Whereas, in theatre, even when you get lost in the illusion — as I often do — it’s still pretty obvious that you’re looking at sets on a stage. But I actually adore this distinction between film and theatre. When it’s a play, I notice the aesthetics — and little makes me happier than a well-dressed stage and cast.

Furthermore, the costumes and sets say so much about the tone of the piece. In the past year I saw productions of Our Town and The Matchmaker, both by Thornton Wilder. Though they were by the same writer, they had different tones and therefore the costumes and sets were nothing alike. And because the visuals fit the content and tone perfectly, they were both stunning and added loads of depth.

Because the visuals are such an important part of my theatre-viewing experience, it really bothers me when the visuals don’t live up to my high standards and ideals. This has mostly happened in the Shakespeare productions I’ve seen. Oftentimes, the directors try to update Shakespeare’s plays, and their favourite way to do this is by modernizing the costumes. Period costumes are my favourite kind. And it bothers me when the costumes aren’t right. Either in tone, or geography or time period.

But, when I do see a play with costumes and sets that I adore, and approve of, it is euphoric. Last night I had one such experience. Our school took us to see the play 1776 last week and some of my friends and I liked it so much that we decided to see it again. It’s a ‘musical play’ about the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Despite how lame it sounds (and how lame I thought it would be) it was divine. Aesthetically speaking anyways. The set was somewhat simple, yet elegant — complete with a large turntable to accommodate both indoor and outdoor scenes.

What I also liked was that the ‘congressional janitors’ did all of the between-scene furniture moving, in charactor — so that scene changes were completely integrated into the play itself.

And then there were the actors. You’ll have to pardon me for a moment while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. The nearly all male cast was clad in beautiful, late 18th century attire — complete with pony-tailed wigs and white stockings. I’m aware that this might not sound too appealing, but you’ll have to take my word for it — my friends and I did go back for seconds.

And oh, the colours! Don’t even get me started on the colours. It was a beautiful mix between drab browns for the less haughty, less affluent state representatives and deep, bright hues for the more haughty, more affluent state representatives. And of course there were several shades in between. The two ladies in the play wore elegant, full-skirted, tightly-corseted dresses.

And the (younger) actors themselves aren’t half bad. My gap year program is girls only, so, being a group of male-deprived teenage girls, we were very interested in the actors behind the characters. After last week’s performance, there was much Facebook stalking of these young gentlemen. Also much violent, melodramatic fanning of ourselves. And last evening we waited around after the show to get some autographs. (Which, I must say, made the actors very happy — although it was a little awkward when they had to remind us who they had played because they looked a little different in their street clothes.)

You wouldn’t think it, but Thomas Jefferson is fine. He’s literally tall, dark and handsome. And he has beautiful eyes. Andashirtlesspictureonfacebook. And I MET him, in person, in real life and discovered what it is to swoon.

And then there’s the representative from South Carolina whose name I can’t recall — my friends and I refer to him simply as “South Carolina”. Blue eyes. Pretty face. Southern accent. Bonus: he’s really from New Zealand, so he even has a beautiful accent in real life.

When I swoonfully related all this to my bestest friend (who isn’t as insane as I am), she laughed at me (in a ‘with me’ kind of way) and questioned the point of all this. She’s right, of course. These actors are way older than I am and besides, a several of them are (presumably) a tad homosexual. But, in reality, neither of these facts have any practical effect on my life. It’s not as though anything would happen without these ‘hinderances’.

I generally don’t go mad like this over real people, just fictitious ones. And that’s exactly what these guys are, despite the fact that they’re theatre actors whom I actually met, not film actors who live in a faraway place I’ve dubbed Movieland. The emotional energy I expend on these guys is no less theoretical than the emotional energy I expend on the likes of Mr. Darcy or Gilbert Blythe.

Because, after all, there’s a great difference between actors and the characters they play. And the guys whom my friends and I have lately ‘fallen madly in love with’ are really nothing more than illusions. Visually pleasing illusions, that is.

More Posts to Come (Probably…)

I wonder what Elizabeth Anne’s been up to lately. We (my online persona — who is basically just me under a different name — and I) seem to have lost touch lately. I’m not sure what she’s been up to, but I’ve been pretty busy with my new school, new home, new friends and such.

I’ve been trying to write more, after an extended period of what one of my teachers calls “creative blockage”. So far I’m mostly working on poetry for my Creative Writing class and in my Screenwriting/Playwriting class I’m writing a screenplay about a psychopathic Math teacher I once had.

In Music class I discovered that I like playing piano. In Art class I found out that I’m capable of drawing. I’m singing in the school choir (probably just because the woman who leads choir is one of my favourite teachers here and she said I have a pretty singing voice). I’ve already gotten a reputation for playing five-year-olds in my Theatre class (not that playing a five-year-old requires much acting for me, despite my eighteen-and-a-half-and-and-a-quarter years). I’m learning what the duck a Plie is in Dance class. Then there’s Filmmaking and photography… I’m not really sure what I’m learning in those classes…

This is what I’m learning how to do in Art class. It’s my hand.

Our school is in a cute little building (that was seemingly once a house), tucked away in a cute little neighbourhood somewhere in The States. And it’s a very small school, so we can basically do whatever we want and it’s a very relaxed atmosphere. Some of my peers react to this by spending class socializing in the lunchroom. I choose to take off my shoes the moment I walk into the building and walk around in socks all day. I also bring a blankie to class and spend a lot of time cuddled on or beside the radiator during class (because adorable old buildings tend to come without central heating). That’s all the freedom I need. Well, that and coming to school twenty minutes late every day — at least I’m consistent…

I’ve also been learning how to wash dishes and do my own laundry and trade with a friend when I get stuck on garbage duty — I don’t mind washing dishes (especially with the help of rubber gloves), but for some reason dealing with garbage is where I draw the line.

Now that I’ve been in this crazy new place for a bit, I think I’m actually adjusting (as opposed to when I thought I was adjusted after being here for literally three days and then freaked out when I realized that I wasn’t adjusted a few days later) hopefully I’ll have some more time, energy, and ideas for posting more than once a month. I bet the internet’s been pretty quiet without my voice chiming in lately — just like they say my house has been since I moved away just over a month ago. Regardless, of the noise level on the internet, I do hope actually resume posting again — no more excuses!

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