September 25, 2015

Poe Jam

What is the ideal way to spend a Friday evening in college?

Poe Jam! Poe Jam all the way.

My school has this awesome event where writers can go read poetry while a Pro Jazz band plays music to fit the poem. This event is incredible. As my professor said "when it doesn't work it sounds good. When it works it sounds surreal." Or maybe he said "phenomenal" or something else. I don't remember, but either way he was right. Poetry and Jazz mix crazy well sometimes.

This Friday the Jazz was awesome. My non-writing roommate comes just for the music because even without a deep appreciation of poetry the music sounds great.

It's a little hard to read to, for sure, because you kind of want to listen to the music but you also want to read the poem and you have to read louder and more precisely. I sometimes have issues enunciating so it's really good reading practice for me.

I read one poem, which sounded better on paper, but came out all right. I sat down feeling super proud that I managed to get through it without shakiness. I have this awful tendency to either get super shaky hands or voice or both and people think I'm really nervous or about to cry when I'm not really.

Then the end of the list came half hour before the event was supposed to end, so I jumped in to read a second poem. It was a spur of the moment kind of decisions. There's this poem I wrote five or so years ago and the first line is "I want to hit something. No someone." It's pretty emotional and captured a lot of feelings and thoughts I had been dealing with for a while. I've worked on it a bunch, and it was my go to for workshops with my mom's writer friends.

I love reading a poem about anger and revenge to a table of, uh, can I say old people?

So now I read it to a room of college students and professors and maybe some passers by who just happened to step into Speeder and Earl's coffee shop. I don't think anyone was quite expecting it, but man oh man did it sound so good with the music. I had to yell a little by the end, but those jazz players brought my poem to life and it felt so good.

(Also felt good to read the poem from an outside kind of perspective years after writing it. It's good to see that a lot of the feelings have changed or shrunk and there's just a lot less anger in me now. Healing at its finest. Or maybe just time and distance blurring the memories into less than they are. Either way, it's good to know I am not angry.)

I suppose in a post all about poetry it's only fair that I post a poem. I'm going to post the first poem I read because it's easier to access at the moment. I know I'm lazy. It's a problem but I'm kind of working on it.

The Cycle of Fading

Can you hear the heartbeat
of my silhouette?

One thousand and two
memories of you, of us, of me
fill this skeletal heart of mine
until I trick myself into believeing
the pieces are all one heart again.

I am all chaos and spattered paint,
I am the globe,
the sky,
the uneven ripples of the ocean,
the lines between stars
of the constellations.

I am the echo
of all the times you've stopped my breath
and the whispers of your voice
as it follows the wind.
My life is made up of remnants,
all the shadows I have loved,
until I too am a shadow soul.
A million pieces
slung across the skies
in search of a heartbeat.   

September 22, 2015

Dry Bones

Lately I have been writing a lot of poems about bones.

Don't ask me why. I'm just drawn to this image of dry bones baking in a desert sun. I can thank Ezekiel chapter 37 and the song Skeleton Bones by John Mark McMillan. I first heard this song the summer after tenth grade, which I like to say is the summer that changed my life. Turned my dry bones back into a living person, so to speak.

Anyway, there isn't really a point to this. I'm just reminding myself that even death can't stop the one who conquered death. When life gets tough, and even in these days of sunshine I know it will, I know that I can be brought back to life. I can be made new time and time again. It's reassuring. So here's one of my poems. No title for it yet, but here you have it. 

I am all dry bones in a desert
leftover carcus
baked by the sun
even my blood begins to splinter

rough dust provides a bed
cactus thorns my shelter
I am dead weight
you pretend not to notice
parched skull
unwanted view

even these dry bones of mine
have forgotten how to hope
my rib cage
can't remember how to breathe

I wait for the wind to blow
wait for the river to flood
the rain to decorate my rotted flesh
my bones will be rediscovered

living breath
will pump my heart to life
this skeletal soul will fill
until the desert is an ocean
and I am walking on the waves
fully fleshed
glowing out life you've restored

On a much different note, I've been playing with flash fiction for one of my classes and boy is this tough. I thought I was doing well until I checked the word count to see that I am fifty words over. How do people write in so little space? I may have to start over entirely because I can't find enough words to cut without making the whole thing sound horrible and choppy.

Also, tons of drama in my writing class. It's been a weird few weeks of trying to find ways to challenge myself in a class that was simply not geared toward my level of writing. How do you politely mention to a teacher that the class is easy and boring? You don't, but it seemed just as awful to say nothing and continue to put thousands of dollars to a class that isn't improving my writing. I mean, I can challenge myself on my own time through the homework assignments, but three hours listening to the basics of plot structure. Really?

After a workshop gone wrong, an accidental plea to the higher ups, and a sassy email, I think the class might get better next week. Only time will tell, but I have high hopes. In the meantime I'll try and get as much as I can out of my two ridiculously overlapping writing classes and try to stay on top of the suffocating lists of Japanese words and symbols.

September 18, 2015

Van Gogh's Stars

I want to talk about art today, and Easter Eggs and poetry about stars.

For almost two years now I've played with this idea that God hides little Easter Eggs for us to find. I know this isn't a literal thing and maybe not the best way of explaning what I mean, but I remember having a conversation with my boyfriend about how the moments of finding God or hearing something from Him are like Easter Eggs. Since then whenever something particularly meaningful happens or I discover some new truth I'll write him to say that I found an Easter Egg.

The second part is art- Van Gogh specifically. I need to start by admitting that until today I really didn't care much about art. My criteria was "do I like this at first glance?" I'm now taking an "Aesthetic Expressions" class specifically called "Street Art" and we've been talking a lot about what art means. To be totally honest it's still not something I had much interest in.

But today we started talking about Van Gogh and the other students were discussing why people like the Starry Night picture so much, and about what they thought the picture meant. And then all of a sudden my professor starts to talk about Van Gogh's life. Which I actually knew nothing about.

I don't know if I just never learned this or if I somehow managed to forget everything I had learned. All I know is that when I think of Van Gogh I think of the posters and puzzles and calendar hanging on my high school English teacher's wall. I thought the paintings were kind of pretty, but didn't quite understand why she liked them so much. I hope she isn't too disappointed if she reads this. But anyway, those puzzles were all I knew about Van Gogh, so when the teacher said something about a cut off ear I was kind of shocked.

The story goes on and I'm not going to try and repeat it because I know I would get something wrong and my friends who are fans would be quite disappointed. But if you don't know anything about this artist look him up. Artists seem to have this common theme of depression and insanity. Van Gogh was no different.

But what I didn't expect was the story of him experience as a missionary, living with the Moraivians the way they lived with the idea that he would be like Jesus coming as a human to live with us. Of course the church at the time didn't like that idea, and eventually Van Gogh rejected the church but never quite gave up on God. I think this is a common occurrence, sadly enough.

And then my professor started to talk about this letter from Van Gogh to his brother about the meaning of colors in his paintings. He said yellow was the color that represented Jesus, blue was God's presence in the world, green represented faith and black meant sin and death. Suddenly the famous swirly painting meant so much more to me.

Suddenly I saw a painting that showed God over everything and Jesus shining through house windows and it was so beautiful. Our professor said that Van Gogh talked about finding God in the stars when he had lost hope in religion. It makes sense to me. I see God so clearly in stars. In the sky.

I've wondered why I love poetry about stars so much. Lately all the poetry I write includes some line about stars or sky, and my favorite poems all include mention of the sky. I find God in the sky, Jesus in the moon and stars. I know I am not of this world and the sky is the closest I can come to imagine heaven. The stars speak to me, as does this newfound knowledge of Van Gogh.

The stars are an excellent Easter egg. A never ending source of poetry. 

September 10, 2015

Deeply Into Words

I am in the middle of homework listening to a Mexican radio station of praise songs online, and all of a sudden I have to stop writing about what makes a group project successful and I need to let my own words flow.

These two weeks of school have made me think a lot about words. Everything I'm doing here in college is words. I will write an average of twenty pages every week for school, not counting the poetry I am constantly pushing onto paper these days. I have only two classes that do not include "writing" in the title. The first is Street Art, and I have trouble expressing my opinions in a huge class. (26 students, biggest class I've had in college so far. They can't find a classroom big enough to fit us all.) Instead I've been jotting down poems to organize my thoughts. It's so much easier to think with line breaks and no people listening to my voice.

The other non-writing class is Japanese, and I cannot imagine a better class to remind me how crazy powerful words are. When you're sitting there and the teacher is staring at you and you know she asked you a question but your brain just won't grasp anything except the fact that the third story window offers the perfect view of Lake Champlain, suddenly you know that words are important. In Japanese culture everything seems to be so precise. They use the right word. The right kanji. Every word and symbol is specifically chosen to make a point, and often the kanji symbols say multiple things in just a few brush strokes.

It's like good writing. Every word counts, good words count more than once.

In my Fiction Writing Class the first day the teacher was talking about how we have this core idea of storytelling which has been around for all of time, and I can't help but think of the beginning of John. "In the beginning was the Word."

The Word.

These words are everywhere, and they're so strong. As I study language I watch how the use of a word will change, and how decreasing or increasing the frequency of specific words can impact the way the culture responds to the thing itself. It's crazy!

I may be a writer mostly because I just can't help it. I don't really think about who reads my writing or where my writing will take me. I just know that I need to write. It's part of who I am. The words were there in the beginning, and they were there in my beginning. I can't help it.

But this week I've been thinking more about words. About what they can do. About why I write. What am I saying? Am I reflecting light like this little Christian Radio Station in Mexico City? Am I giving the kinds of words that will make people want to come to a Christian Club here on campus? Am I giving words of truth?

If I'm not I don't want to write anything at all.

September 5, 2015

College Expectations

"We're like real college students now!" I told my roommate as we rode our bikes around a section of the lake just beneath our college. The temperature was perfect, barely hitting the 70s with a light breeze and enough remaining sunlight to still warm the insides of my body. I was so proud of myself for getting out and doing something, enjoying this Summer Vermont before it changes. We even managed to catch the sunset as if fell behind the lake, an amazing array of oranges and reds on top of all the shimmering blue.

Beautiful even with the swarms of gnats I kept biking through and the end stretch of uphill on crowded city roads. I like biking on the nifty bike trail. Biking in the city not so much. Burlington just has way too many hills.

Then Saturday morning we took the college's paddle boarding trip, which apparently also included kayaks. So we kayaked out across the lake to this little rock outcropping. I did jump off the rock, probably between ten and fifteen feet up, though I'm really bad at gauging distances and measurements. I'll tell you though, it was one of those moments I knew I would regret not jumping but really didn't want to jump.

I did jump, and had that moment in the air looking down at the water wondering "how in the world did I get here?" But it was awesome, and I'm glad I did jump even with a mouthful of lake water in my nose and ears.

We switched to paddle boards on the way back, which were a bit more difficult and I was starting to get tired out and sore, so by the end I would have to say I found kayaking more enjoyable. You don't have to think about it as much, and get more time to just sit still and look around without worrying that a wave will wipe you off your feet.

I got back from paddle boarding just in time to be swarmed by all my writing friends telling me they had all decided we would get together and work on our short story assignment. I had missed all the planning in the over fifty texts sent while I was on a lake and my phone was in a drawer back in my room.

But... I went with them and we talked a lot and laughed some and wrote a few sentences. Actually I wrote a full page while we were there, so, progress. It's just so cool to have friends who will sit in a room and write with me. The sound of four people frantically typing up an assignment we all hate but also all know we're actually enjoying is just so satisfying. It's kind of a sense of belonging, you know?

I concluded the day drinking Chai with my friends and Skyping my bestie. I know tonight I should be finishing that story, or applying for a second job, or something productive, but instead I just needed to write about this weekend. Document the fact that college isn't all bad, and so far this year I've had a lot of chances to enjoy the fun part of college and the beautiful part of Burlington. It's good. I have high hopes for this upcoming year.