Saturday, January 4, 2014

Word Games

My friend Dina posted an article from The Atlantic called "This is Anxiety" on Facebook last night. You all should give it a read. I know from experience that it's difficult to explain my anxiety to people who do not experience anxiety, which I can understand; it must be like someone with preternatural athletic ability explaining to me how easy it is to throw a football. But I think this article, by letting people tell their own stories, does a good job highlighting just how varied the experiences of anxious people are, how most of them seem like good, normal, funny people. Because we are good, normal, funny people, I flatter myself to say. I feel fortunate that my anxiety is of the type where I don't get nervous about doing things--I just get nervous about things that probably aren't happening within my own body. I know they probably aren't happening, but it doesn't matter. Knowing has nothing to do with it. In a way I'm grateful for my anxiety; I panic less if I keep myself constantly busy, and because I keep myself constantly busy I end up doing so many amazing things. I sometimes feel like my anxiety forces me to live life more than other people do. Anyway, I won't say much more about it, except that if you're trying to understand my personal anxiety, read the section of the article written by J.W. Garrity of Massachusetts. That's basically me in a nutshell, right down to the scotch.

Anyway, on to writing-related things. Yesterday I looked at my novel for the first time in forever. I am pleased to report that it read very much like a real novel should. Sometimes it's hard to believe it came out of my head. I am resolved to keep working on it. If I can just get into the schedule of doing a few little sections a week, like I used to, it shouldn't be so bad.

I don't know if I'll ever workshop the novel in my program. It doesn't seem to fit, since it's targeted at a younger audience. (I'm aiming for the Harry Potter sort of audience--written for kids but potentially enjoyed by teens and adults as well.) It's not written to be the NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, all booze-soaked and depressed and insightful and psychological. It's just supposed to be an entertaining book--somewhat scary--for a younger audience that's written well. Books like the Harry Potter series meant so much to me growing up that I want to provide something similar for future generations, as sappy as that sounds. (Not that I anticipate ever experiencing the success of someone like J.K. Rowling.)

But all the fiction writers in the program write such serious adult pieces--which isn't a bad thing by any means. I like to write serious adult things, too, as should be obvious to those of you who read my gothic story. I just don't know if people here would be interested in critiquing it. Actually, I think some of them very much would--but I can think of a few who very much wouldn't. And I don't know how the fiction professors would feel about it, either.

I suppose I should write more of it and then decide. It's not in any shape to be submitted to workshop yet, anyway.

Now for poetry: I started writing a pantoum yesterday, but it wasn't working out at all. Frustrated, I wrote a Shakespearean sonnet instead, since it's a form I know off the top of my head, but it was godawful. I absolutely hated it. Fortunately, I later picked up the copy of the Postmodern American Poetry anthology that the lovely Gena loaned me. I borrowed it from her after she had me read Russell Edson's delightfully horrifying prose poem "Ape."

Speaking of which, what makes this a prose poem and not a piece of flash fiction? In the anthology it's printed differently than it is in the link I provided--the lines are closer together and in larger chunks, more like paragraphs. Is it simply the lack of quotation marks? Is it just because he decided to call it a poem? If you can call flash fiction poetry, HAVE I SECRETLY BEEN A POET THIS WHOLE TIME?!?! Seriously, though, if someone could explain to me the criteria that makes this a poem rather than a flash fiction piece, that would be great. I'm curious.

Russell Edson has nothing to do with the poem I wrote yesterday. The anthology is huge, so I'm mainly trying to read the poets that I've heard of--and there are a lot of those in this book. Since joining this program, I've heard the names of tons of poets tossed around, and I've never read any of them, and I feel like an uncultured cretin. I'm trying to remedy this.

Anyway, I was reading some of Charles Olson's poems, and right after Olson in the anthology comes John Cage. My eyes were immediately drawn to his poem "25 Mesostics Re and Not Re Mark Tobey," and I thought to myself this looks like so much fun! It's like a word game, getting everything to line up in interesting ways. I remember that when I asked Gena how to write poetry, she said to try to imitate poems that you liked, just for practice. So that is what I did. I don't know what it means--I literally just wrote down whatever came to mind. First thought best thought? Hardly. Here is my significantly shorter mimicry of a John Cage poem, appropriately titled:

Poetry Frustrates Me

(Sorry--I had to post it in a Google doc. I couldn't get it to line up right in this editor. Click the link to read!)


  1. I would like to read your gothic story if you're interested in sharing! I liked the Ape poem. It's kind of icky.


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