Friday, January 30, 2009

A nice beefy slab of poem!

I have a system. It involves flashcards, a nifty box, and a clipboard.

I think I'm the only person left in the whole world that still uses WordPerfect.

For days now I've left my computer running, WordPerfect open, and 5 poems displayed on the screen. There's a crucial moment in a poem's life when it reaches 'done' and is ready for the next step. Though a poem can be resonating for me, I'm not impulsive enough to throw it out into the world without first giving it some time to rest. A poem is like a roast, I guess. It looks amazing, all steamy and yummy, and makes your mouth water when it comes out of the oven! But you can't cut into it right away, can't sink your teeth into it yet, until it's sat on the counter being starred at for a really really long time. It smells really good during this time, too.

When a poem has rested enough, and I've read it a million times over and am done-done tweaking it, it is ready to be sliced (er, printed) and eaten (sent away). So I print a copy, and add it to the clipboard. This is a hard copy, in case my computer explodes. This provides me with a record of the state the poem was in when it was sent out, but... I guess if my computer exploded, these would all burn up too anyways, cuz they kinda live, er, very nearby. The clipboard is currently divided into 2 sections: animal poems, and, um, not animal poems, all alphabetical. When a poem has been printed, I make a flashcard for it, with its title at the top. Animal poems go on green cards, other poems go on white cards. I accidentally bought white flashcards that don't have lines on them. This kind of gets to me. On these flashcards I write where and when the poem has been sent, and whether or not it has been rejected. I should think of a nicer word for that. Rejected, boo. Every journal I send to also has a flashcard with their name on it. On this card, I note what and when poems were sent to it, and whether and when I've heard back. All these cards live in a nifty box. The box is divided into two sections. One for poems, and one for journals. All of these are also alphabetical, and the poems section has those little letter-tab-sticky-up bits so I can quickly find what I'm looking for. My partner (in crime) thinks Excel would be a lot easier, and I'm all like "gum?" but then again, he's a scientist, not an artist, and this organizationing has become an art form unto itself.

Three of these poems I'll print right now, and I guess I'll print the other one too, but that fifth one, I just don't know yet....

I think maybe I should spruce up my nifty box with stickers.

Organizationing! That's right! Ha!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A quick one to get back on track.

Let's throw in a quick mention of poetry. I've gotten side-tracked, in blogging, not writing. Er, writing-writing.

In the past two days I've written two poems. I quite like them. Some more tweaking, I'll rest them a bit, and tweak some more maybe, and they'll be done. They are excellent examples of a few of the ways poems come to me.

Goats Don't Want To Be Just Goats was inspired by a photo I saw in a National Geographic magazine. I saw it and said to my partner (in crime) "I'm inspired to write a poem about this." A couple of days later I did. It was the result, I suppose, of trying to figure out what these goats were doing in a tree. By the way, the photograph was of goats in a tree. While the words themselves began by describing the goats, the tree, the goats in the tree, they eventually led me to the story behind them. The poems doesn't tell the story. It touches on the background, motivation, and future plans of the goats. Of course, I kind of had a plan when I started the poem, but the poem had plans of its own, and I didn't try to hold it back or force it into a mold. Language and the dramatic molded this poem.

Hush The Trees Their Wintry Dreams began a bit differently. I try to keep notebooks handy, and as lines, ideas, idle words pop into my head, I jot them down. They are in themselves complete nonsense, and stringing them together would just be bad poetry. So I put them away. When I need inspiration, I'll flip through the pages until, well, I feel inspired. A few lines and words here and there... I type them up, and see what I can make of them. Sometimes nothing, and they remain a bad draft for a long long time. Other times they blossom, with a lot of work, love, and coaxing, into something more. It begins with just words, and I work them until a music forms, and play with that until the idea becomes planted. At that point there's a lot of weeding and transplanting, rearranging and adding, some long division, and viola! A poem has slowly sprung into being, and reaches that point where I just want to read it again and again. And again.

Are titles for poems hard? Sometimes. Because my poetry tends to be quite dense, I run the risk always of being too obscure for my readers. For my poetry, it's important that the title provide a definite signpost to guide readers in the right direction. I write short poems that need long titles.

This ranting entry stinks, but I tried to brighten it up at the end. And then it turned out really cheesy. Like a pizza.

My boyfriend is the only one who reads my blog, and he wonders why this is. I tried to explain to him that this is my 'writerly' blog, not some chatfest where friends and family can swing by and leave comments along the lines of "Oh hey, gurl! I'm in town next week, we should hang!!" or the obligatory proud mama comments. Always appreciated, but not terribly... er, professional? And this is what this is. A reach out to fellow writers: I don't know where you guys are, but I am here, and I'm talking about writing and stuff! Join me!

I miss school. I miss the community. I miss workshopping, critiques, and poetry readings, and the wise words of peers and professors. I don't know any serious writers around here with whom to talk writing. And for that matter, I don't have a lot of people around me with which to talk any kind of serious business. The world, the arts, discoveries in science and humanities, current theories and philosophies. I tried explaining to the BF that that was a part of what my last entry was about.

Yes, I am a bitch, a snob, and an elitist, but without spending time in my situation, you can't fully appreciate where I'm coming from. I spend up to 8 hours a day with people who lack drive and ambition, who would rather whine about life then actually do something about it. And while my last entry focused on university as a higher path in life, I am fully aware of other paths that exist, and support these as wise decisions for anyone and everyone. Any kind of post-secondary education, whether it is a trade or diploma or whatever, even taking the time and energy to be self-taught in something, anything, is better then relying on the sub par education you received in the public education system. Anyone who, relying on their experiences in that system postpones, insults, or otherwise resists the idea of further educating themselves, is being stupid. This is my belief. If that system were better organized and executed, I would change my mind, but as it stands, no one can expect to build a full life on those experiences and the limited knowledge gained in elementary and secondary school. A tertiary level is required. Required! if one is to learn any form of critical thinking.

No one leaves high school fully matured and ready to understand the world in a fully cognitive sense. In the past, when circumstances differed, and men left school to fight in the war, and lack of birth control chained people down with families that needed feeding, tertiary education was primarily achieved through hard-learned life lessons. But it's not like that anymore, mainly because it doesn't have to be like that anymore, but I think maybe that's an entirely different discussion.

So I guess here's the gist of this all, my message to the masses: Don't stop in the quest to grow and better yourself just because no one is asking you to or making you do so. Don't settle.

And if, like me, you currently spend you money-earning hours in a entry-level menial labour job, be sure to devote time to bettering the world in some other way. Enter a debate, paint a picture, write something, sing out loud, read a book and share it with someone, create a recipe, spread an idea. Serving coffee or handing out a burger doesn't have to be the end of your contribution to the world.

I write poems.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I need to hand out more resumes, I think.

My degree lives in a box, in a closet. I suppose it should be hanging on a wall somewhere, but frames are expensive. And if I hung it up for all to see, what would I be trying to tell them? I'm proud of what I achieved. I've accomplished more than others. I place more worth on myself than I do on others who've done less. It is a badge of my dedication and perseverance, a declaration of my world view, a sign proclaiming my ability to think critically, globally, beyond the limited horizons of the others, the uneducated. I'm a part of the club.

It was important to me to get my degree. In arts. In creative writing and the visual arts, of all things. Two things that so many people believe can be self taught. An easy degree. A good number of people, those with degrees of their own, feel that theirs is somehow worth more, that sciences, maths, humanities, etc take more out of you, require a greater level of intelligence/passion. This is far from the truth, and I don't need to argue it. No accredited university would hand out degrees in a field where the expectations didn't match or exceed the levels of work expected for other degrees. And I think that's a part of the reason for choosing my university's new name for my parchment. It went from being a university-college, to being just a university. And while my program was always a university program, and not some college night class where middle-aged mothers with empty-nest syndrome go to express themselves amongst angsty teens and veterans, it was important to me that there be no mistake of this.

I worked hard for my degree. I should hang it on the wall. But for all the reasons I know that my degree is equal to any other, I understand that those that didn't pursue higher education see themselves in a similar light. Especially when I work side by side with them. How can my education make me a better person, when we're in the same boat, living the same life? Hanging my degree, my piece of paper, for all to see, to admire, to ooh and ahh over, seems... boastful.
I guess I am just too humble. I am Canadian, after all.

A well dressed businessman came in for a coffee, chatted with my manager about whatever, and left commenting that all the baristas in Vancouver aren't nearly as friendly. "They're all sitting on their Fine Arts degrees, and are left bitter!"

"I am bitter," I tell my manager. Every. Single. Day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My head hates me.

I had the whole day off and it would have been a great day to write, but my head hurts. This is all too common an affliction, and definitely impedes. I wouldn't call it an entirely wasted day though.

I applied online for a job at a gallery. They are "currently accepting resumes for a future vacancy" so I guess we'll wait and see, it may mean I won't hear anything for some time.

I then walked in the cold cold cold to the post office to pick up my degree. I'd sent in the one awarded to me last spring and exchanged it for one with my university's new name. They'd been in the process of changing the name in my final year, and I was thus later given my choice of names to have on my degree. I chose the one that sounds ever so slightly more prestigious. Maybe I'll get into that another time though...

Afterwords, I stopped into a cafe for a muffin and latte to work some more on a journal. This is a journal detailing my trip through Europe last summer. It was an amazing journey, and one that didn't leave a lot of time to record everything. Upon arriving home I was left with about a third of the trip undocumented, but was thrown into such a funk that I couldn't bear to relive any of it. I've only just now managed to go through a scant few of the thousand photos I took, to jog my memory and make sense of the quickly scrawled notes I managed between adventures. It's hard to relive a time of your life that ended up being so short, and yet so so so everything you want everyday to be, but can't have... and everytime I want so much to turn back time, that line from "All Dogs Go To Heaven" runs through my mind "You can never go back...!" That movie had a monumental impact on my life as a child. But then again, so did the Fraggles.

I love radishes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I am a fan of short poems.

I like short poems. I read short poems. I write short poems. I will of course plod through a long poem, but I warn you, I will flip ahead to see exactly how long I have to read it for. Do I have a short attention span? Yes. But I think that most writers of longer poems do too. I don't speak so much for the book length poem, more the longer than one or two pages poem. Most of these... tend to wander around a lot, and then wander around too much. It is not a terribly bad thing, just my own personal observation fueling my own personal preference. These longer poems will touch on too many things, their metaphors will break down, their language falls out of key, the power of the piece is dispersed throughout it, watered down, thinned out. A well crafted short poem packs a punch. I guess I like it hard. Punch me, please.

I often ask the mister for inspiration. I tell him to pick an animal. Then I write a poem about the animal. It started as a self-imposed forced-inspiration exercise I used in university for a form poetry class, inspired by a couple brilliant pieces written in an earlier class (Tiger, Okapi), but this technique became the basis for my advanced poetry class's final project (A+ material), and I've stuck with it ever since. These are all shorter poems, usually just a page long, that use intense diction, extended metaphors, and often constrained meter and form to find, explore, and define the animal's created myth or niche. I love them. I've got a ton of them now, and while a few found homes in my university's literary magazine, a million of them are still wandering the postal system. And more keep coming.

I love to craft language. I don't need to write a moving poem that is personal to me or someone else. I don't need to feel touched by emotion or memory within my own poetry. For beginning writers, that's often their biggest mistake. When I've worked on a poem whose language I've molded every step of the way, but whose content I don't necessarily feel attached too in any way, I can still tell when it's done because it resonates for me, without having to illicit anything. I can read it again and again, and the mental tone it produces is right on key, and it vibrates my being. It sounds really cheesy, but, it's why I love my work, it brings an almost physical pleasure to have created a good, sometimes a damn good, poem. When I sit down to write, I always open the last poem written that I felt was finished, to read it again and know the power I can create. Maybe it's a reminder that I have it in me. Maybe I'm just my own biggest fan.

There are two ways a reader can enjoy a poem. It can be a carefully and superbly crafted poem about anything, where the language, form, metaphor, etc remains right on key, producing a resonance within the reader. Or it can be a well crafted piece on a subject, location, event, etc that illicits within the reader a profound connection to an emotion or memory, and I think maybe these are the poems that grow in length, trying through more, rather than more concise, language to reach their reader... I need to write an essay on this stuff, I'm very deep.

I just finished a poem. Fox. And I just read it over again. I am my own biggest fan; it's like I punch myself in the face.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chapstick, and my dream job.

I am a chapstick addict. I only have at any one time a single tube (Burt's Bees, baby!) and carry this with me everywhere, but never in my pocket. It would melt. It sits next to my keyboard, or beside my cup of tea on the coffeetable, or on top of my alarm clock, or tucked into my purse or wallet or boyfriend's wallet. But sometimes when I leave for work at 5:15 am, it gets left behind. And then my day is ruined. I hate that moment when I reach into my bag, my bag that I bring with me to work everyday and that has a very special little pocket just for my chapstick, and realize that my Burt's isn't there. My heart sinks, then shudders in a moment of panic. I survived this today, but... maybe not the next time. When my lips hurt, how can I possibly survive a day at work? I can't smile, or talk without my dry lips pulling tight and cracking, and those little bits of skin peel and I have to pull them off with teeth or fingers... I need my chapstick. Why don't I just buy another tube, and keep it forever and ever in that bag? Why?!

My bag is heavy. It carries my wallet, lunch, mug, and on a good day, my chapstick. It also has within it a book, of course. Right now I am reading Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, which is very heavy. It's my read-at-work-on-my-breaks book, and since it is from the library I don't dare leave it at work. So I cart this big big book back and forth with me. At the most, I can only ever read an hour's worth each day, so I'll be lugging it around for some time. My read-at-home-for-leisure book is currently Frank Herbert's Chapterhouse: Dune, because I am a scifi geek at heart, though I'll honestly read anything that comes along, and I am trying to read more classics, hence the Tolstoy. I always keep a book of poetry on the go too. Right now it's John Pass's The Hour's Acropolis, with Ovid's Metamorphoses lined up for next, which I'm very excited about. The latest issue of Writer's Digest is on my kitchen table, and this I flip through on those rare mornings I sit down for breakfast, or am eating lunch alone. Please pay me to read. This would make my life perfect.

In university I spent a year working on a literary magazine. It was for a class in which we took on every aspect of its publication, from design, to ad sales, to editing. Not all of it floated my boat, but I loved loved loved wading through the slush pile. Reading a million and one pages of other people's work, sweat and tears. It felt great to find a little jewel tucked in there, but even better to riffle through the stinkers. And most of it stunk. I'm not afraid to say it. Not everyone's got it; fact. And I hope this doesn't make me an awful person, but reading so much bad writing made me feel so much better about my own. There's nothing wrong with learning from other people's mistakes. At least that's how I justify the weird sense of satisfaction other people's bad poetry gives me. Reading submissions for a literary magazine is something I'd definitely love to do again, and for more reasons than just that one, honest!

If I had a job that paid better, or that I at least loved enough to want to work at it more, and not beg to go home early every shift, I think then I'd splurge on a second tube of the 'Bees. And that would be divine!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Writing about writing about writing.

Don't think this is some kind of new year's resolution. I don't really go for that sort of thing. Rather, it was just sort of... time. The stresses of graduating, travelling, moving, establishing, and of course the recent holidays have lessened. And since my schedule this week doesn't have me working past noon at all, what else would I do? Write! And clean... but my kitchen is still having 'issues' so I can't really get in there... honest! I'd love to dive into that mess, but I'm stuck doing writerly things!

Right now, this poet is waiting for her tea to steep and her toast to... toast. But other than that, my duties as a writer should include writing poems, revising poems, thinking up poems, sending out poems, reading poems, reading about poems, reading about poets, reading about writing poems, writing about poems, and writing about writing poems. That last one is what all this is about. So there you have it. That's what I should be spending my time doing when not at work or keeping house. It's my real job. And I actually enjoy all of it. Not like my real-real job where I get paid to be bored and hopeless...

So while I don't do the whole 'resolution' thing, I have made a conscious decision to focus more on being a writer. But that could have happened at any point in the year. Why do I feel the need to stress this?

I don't want to feel that little bit of embarrassment anymore when I tell people I'm a writer. I wonder if other writers, the established ones especially, ever felt this, and if so, when did it go away? The main character of "Californication", a writer of course, mentioned once that he doesn't throw around the title "writer" lightly; everyone calls themselves that, even if their writing could be easily considered subpar. I don't want people to assume I drift aimlessly among the masses of scribblers who lack passion and knowledge.

One of my main self-imposed tasks as a writer, of course, is to listen for the mailman to come... I love a rejection letter, but a letter from a journal that actually wants to publish some of my work? That could be the cure for this insecurity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wet kitchen floors, and a walk to the libary.

Our's and the neighbour's kitchen flooded yesterday. Tip: disconnect outdoor hoses for winter; if you live in a condo doublecheck that someone in the building has done so. Even if you, like us, never wash your car, that hose business will still become your problem... which kinda really sucked.

I live near a library. I love it. I also never pronounce that 'r'. I consciously do this. Every. Single. Time. There's effort involved. What does this say about me?

I write poetry. I like to tell my partner/boyfriend/whatever I feel like calling him when I've written these poems. I don't like to work at my job much, though I do end up doing so, and I tell him that this is so I can write more. And it is. So I stress the writing of a poem to him. So maybe he'll get it. He doesn't always get the poem. But he tries and that makes him awesome.

I told him I had thought up a poem on my walk to the library after a short shift at work. And that I had then written it down when I came home, and was working on it until he came by for lunch. I was being very productive, even if I was being very poor (where's the paycheck in poetry?) He asked if it was about the kitchen flooding. I told him no, it was about my walk to the library. He told me some people call that a "diary". Ugh, scientists!