When Wandering Within

The light will show your way, but beware,
it points not away, but back, where you belong.
To get out, search your darkness instead.

***

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Written in response to Ink in Thirds Three Line Thursday prompt: Anew

Featured image via Unsplash

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Short and Sweet Reviews // Small Ghost by Trista Mateer

because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing

but it takes an awful lot of work to be nothing sometimes

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

I’ve been following Trista Mateer on Tumblr for a while now, and when she announced that her newest chapbook Small Ghost was free on Amazon for a limited time, I dropped everything I was doing to download it. I was not disappointed. This little book is packed with a ton of raw and real emotion. It left me in tears, both the sad and the happy kind.

Small Ghost is a collection of poems that tell the story of a girl, Small Ghost, who is coping with depression and anxiety. Smal Ghost has an apartment she can’t keep clean. She has shopping she can’t get done. She has emotions she can’t process. Small Ghost struggles to feel real. She wants to get better, but she isn’t sure how. She isn’t even sure exactly what is wrong. She is sad, but she is also kind of funny, kind of cute, and deep down, maybe a little hopeful.

she does something close to pacing in the fruit juice aisle
starts crying next to the cranberry concentrate
doesn’t remember why

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

Throughout the story, you will recognize a lot of Small Ghost’s feelings and predicaments as your own. You’ll remember all the times you felt lost and alone, and you will cheer for Small Ghost. You will want to hug her and tell her it will be okay and by the end, you will realize you want to do that for yourself too. You won’t feel so lost or alone because Mateer will have you feeling hope for yourself too.

for anybody who feels like they’d rather
pull the sheet over their head and play dead
than get out of bed in the morning

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

***

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday // A. Davida Jane

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a bit too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the poet, A. Davida Jane.

A. Davida Jane is a queer, 19-year-old poet and aspiring novelist from Wellington, New Zealand. She studies English Literature and Classics at university. She spends most of her time around words, from poetry, novels and essays to working in a bookstore, and can’t imagine ever not writing.

In the past, she has had work published by The Rising Phoenix Review, -Ology Journal, and murmur. Her debut poetry collection, Every Dark Waning, is now available through Platypus Press.

The poet is the most
honest part of me.

A. Davida Jane, “An Attempt at an Explanation,” Every Dark Waning via Platypus Press

It’s hard to lie when you write a poem.

I think it has something to do with the fact that, with poetry, every single word matters. The way you arrange the words matter. Even the number of lines you write and where you place the commas matters. Everything in a poem is something. It’s hard to twist, exaggerate, or obscure when everything holds such weight.

To tell a lie with poetry feels like a very serious thing. It feels shameful in a deep way that there would be no excuse for.

Poetry reveals something in a way that no other writing form can. It says what needs to be said plainly. Not plainly as in simple and easy to understand but plainly as in it brings to the surface a feeling, a moment, a feature of a person, of all humans, and of some time, maybe all time.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the events in the poem happened the way the poet is saying they did, or that they happened at all. In fact, I am starting to wonder if it is a feature of writing poetry that the events must be written as if you are viewing them out of order and through a fun house mirror.

Time moves differently in poetry, and the memory of the perception of the event can’t be trusted.

The events might be made up, but the feeling is something real. The feeling actually happened to the poet and the feeling happened just the way the poet says it did. The poem tells a truth about what is happening inside the poet.No one can write a poem that doesn’t reveal themselves. That’s what make the craft so exciting and scary. That is what is drawing me to it.

Sometimes you tell a truth you didn’t know was true. Sometimes you end up telling a truth that you never meant to tell. Sometimes you tell a truth about yourself, and sometimes you tell a truth about every person. Usually, it’s both. Sometimes a poem feels confusing of hard to understand; that’s because feelings are so often confusing and hard to understand.

I suppose a poem is like a mirror. It reveals something but explains nothing. A poem reflects a true image and makes an honest person out of all who try to reflect something onto the world.

You can’t lie to a mirror, and you can’t lie through a poem.

***

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Trista Mateer

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a bit too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the poet Trista Mateer.

image
Fuck

Trista Mateer is a 25-year old writer currently based outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also is the author of three collections of poetry: HoneybeeThe Dogs I Have Kissed, and Small Ghost. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read.

She is currently working as a contributing editor at Words Dance literary magazine.

I stumbled across Mateer’s work while scrolling Tumblr; most user can’t scroll very far before coming upon her words on love and queerness.

Her metaphors are brilliant, and her writing is direct. Everything she says is relatable, universal, and she can tell a story and fill you with emotion in a very small amount of words.

She is my newest obsession and role model. She is the first poet contemporary poet who I have decided must grace my bookshelves and she has been a shining example of how self-publishing can lead to success.

“Write about what you need to write about even if it’s just love poems. The world could always use at least six more love poems. And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise”

— Trista Mateer on advice to aspiring writers in an interview at The Wild Ones Queer Lit Rag

It feels like everything has been said already, and that can be discouraging
I was born too late to say anything for the first time. Maybe I should just give up? Maybe we should all give up. I am positive you were born too late to say anything for the first time too.

Some things resist being said again and again while provoking the same response, but there is one thing for which I believe there is an infinite number of things to be said and perspectives to be shared. That thing is love.

That thing is love.

There are countless poems professing that love has been found, and the happily ever after is in sight or already grasped. Some love poems aren’t happy poems. So many of them are sad poems because for so many of us our love ends in pain and suffering. Even a love that endures experiences moments of hurt and doubt, all of which can be translated into words that capture our unique experience and transcend time.

Love improves us and brings out the worst in us, both of which make more some of the best writing motivation you will ever find.

The lack of love hurts us, and there is much to say on that too.

Like any good writing, a good love poem tells the truth about love. It captures the way love blinds, distracts, and consumes. It brings forth a remembered or hoped for passion in the reader. It translates the desperation of jealousy, the heart-clenching pain of abandonment, and the emptiness that comes with a love lost to death from one heart to another.

Even the love poems that tell sweet lies have their purpose.  The greatest epics on love have given us the most unrealistic expectations, and if you believe them, you will surely fail. But I can’t help but think that without their promise of happily ever after we might never have enough hope to brave the possibility of pain and loss time and again to find that perfect soul mate.

There is never enough that can be said about love. There is no end to the ways to say you love someone so much that it fills you with a kind of energy you’ve never felt. There is no end to the ways to say you love someone so much that it hurts. There is no end to the ways to say the sight of that person awakens your whole body and fills you with a passion that scares you.

So write some love poems and don’t for one moment think they are too cheesy or unnecessary. All love poems have a place, and this world needs them more than ever. In a time when the rise of hatred and loneliness threatens to push us past a point of no return, write a love poem and do your part to remind the world that love is beautiful and even in the pain it causes it will always be the greatest force for good and happiness in this world.

Write a love poem and remind yourself that the time of romanticism is not over.

I’ll write mine too and remember the same.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Zachary Schomburg

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the poet Zachary Schomburg.

***

zacharyschomburg1Zachary Schomburg was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Iowa. He earned a BA from the College of the Ozarks and a Ph.D. in creative writing-poetry from the University of Nebraska.

His books of poetry include The Man Suit, Scary, No Scary, and Fjords vol 1. He has said of his work, which is known for its absurd, tender humor, “Mostly I want my poems to generate their own energy through confusion. I want my poems to confuse the reader. Not a confusion in a cognitive or narrative sense, but in an emotional sense.”

Schomburg co-edits Octopus Books and lives in Portland, Oregon.

“If a poem doesn’t scare you, or doesn’t push your heart up into your throat, then don’t do it like that. You’re doing it wrong.”

// Zachary Schomburg, “Poetry as Violence,” published in Evening Will Come

I used to hate poetry. I hated reading it; I hated writing it, I hated feeling so stupid and inadequate when I came into contact with it in any form. I hated it, but I wanted to be a better writer, so I took on the challenge.

I tried a few poems out here and there, some of my own and some belonging to others, and now I hate it because I love it so much.

With poetry, it is nearly impossible for me to hide any part of myself but there are things I am not ready to bring into the light. I love that I am getting down to the real me, the raw parts of myself that live underneath what I think I am and what the world wishes for me to be. I hate that it is happening almost without my consent.

The words come from a place that doesn’t quite feel like me, and yet they are more me than the ones I chose deliberately. The process is mysterious, and I can’t even be sure I enjoy it. Yet, I can’t stop.

I haven’t written a lot of poetry, but I get the feeling that when I do—and maybe when other poets do too—I feel like I am trying to explain and heal the same wounds over and over again. Wounds I’m not always sure I am ready to show so plainly.

I try to beat around the bush. I try to skirt the actual saying of the thing I want to say, but the poem won’t allow it. The poem is doing the saying, and the poem is saying what hurts. I don’t always want to be so open but to contain what I am feeling when I am writing feels wrong. It feels fake and pointless.

So poetry has become something I enjoy, but also something that is both unpredictable and scary. Poetry fills me with excitement and anxiety, but I suppose that is a good thing. I imagine that any art that feels unpredictable and scary is the kind we should all be pursuing. I imagine that is how we can be sure we are saying something important, something that needs saying, something that is worth saying.

To say anything less would be to waste both the readers and the writer’s time.

And none of us have any to waste.

***

If you like this post, consider signing up for my newsletter. You’ll get a bit of experimental writing from me—something more emotional, more private—and some interesting reads from a few other people. All made with lots of love, every week ♥

Original image via digboston

Biographical information via the Poetry Foundation

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // James Wright

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes. My contribution is from the Australian novelist Peter Carey.

James_Wright_(poet)James Arlington Wright was born on December 13, 1927, in Martins Ferry, Ohio. His father worked for fifty years at a glass factory, and his mother left school at fourteen to work in a laundry; neither attended school beyond the eighth grade.

While in high school in 1943 Wright suffered a nervous breakdown and missed a year of school. When he graduated in 1946, a year late, he joined the Army and was stationed in Japan during the American occupation.

He then attended Kenyon College on the G.I. Bill, and studied under John Crowe Ransom. He graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1952, then married another Martins Ferry native, Liberty Kardules. The two traveled to Austria, where, on a Fulbright Fellowship, Wright studied the works of Theodor Storm and Georg Trakl at the University of Vienna.

He returned to the U.S. and earned master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Washington, studying with Theodore Roethke and Stanley Kunitz. He went on to teach at The University of Minnesota, Macalester College, and New York City’s Hunter College.

His poetry often deals with the disenfranchised, or the American outsider. Wright suffered from depression and bipolar mood disorders and also battled alcoholism his entire life. He experienced several nervous breakdowns, was hospitalized, and was subjected to electroshock therapy.

His dark moods and focus on emotional suffering were part of his life and often the focus of his poetry, although given the emotional turmoil he experienced personally, his poems can be optimistic in expressing a faith in life and human transcendence. In The Branch Will Not Break, the enduring human spirit becomes thematic. Nevertheless, the last line of his poem “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” famously ends, “I have wasted my life.”

Technically, Wright was an innovator, especially in the use of his titles, first lines, and last lines, which he used to great dramatic effect in defense of the lives of the disenfranchised. He is equally well known for his tender depictions of the bleak landscapes of the post-industrial American Midwest. Since his death, Wright has developed a cult following, transforming him into a seminal writer of significant influence. Hundreds of writers gathered annually for decades following his death to pay tribute at the James Wright Poetry Festival held from 1981 through 2007 in Martins Ferry.

His 1972 Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize. In addition to his other awards, Wright received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Human beings are unhappily part of nature, perhaps nature become conscious of itself. Oh, how I would love to be a chickadee! But I can’t be a chickadee, all I can be is what I am. I love the natural world and I’m conscious of the pain in it. So I’m a nature poet who writes about human beings in nature. I love Nietzsche, who called man “the sick animal.”

// James Wright, The Art of Poetry No. 19

Sometimes I read something and I know I identify with it, I know I agree with it, and I know that it is saying something I feel deeply, but I can’t articulate exactly why or how I know any of that.

I am fascinated by people. The way I see it, people are a part of nature that doesn’t know it is a part of nature. We live in a strange place between instinct and reasoning. We understand the order and laws of the universe, but we cannot control our emotions and act in unpredictable ways. We are a part of nature that has become lost but can’t ever find our way back. Instead, we have to make our own place and the search for harmony with Earth and the rest of the animal kingdom and in that search, there is a pain.

The specifics of this pain varies from person to person but there are similarities, and those similarities (and what pain is specific to me) is what I want to write about.

There is certain kind of writer we picture when we talk of a “nature writer”. We picture someone like a Henry David Thoreau type, a naturalist who pushes for simple living and natural surroundings, a change from our current course of action. I say that wherever humans are, there is nature also, and whatever we do is natural as well. We are a part of nature, and we take it with us wherever we go and express it in all that we do. To write of the human condition is to write about nature.

So I too am a “nature writer” who writes about the human’s place in the natural world and all the ways we express or forget that and how that gives us joy or causes our suffering.

***

Featured image via Unsplash

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

Margaret Atwood on Writing Poetry

Margaret Atwood on what it feels like to write poetry.

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes. My contribution is from the Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood.

mg_5527Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Because of her father’s work and research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of northern Quebec and traveling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was eight years old.

Atwood began writing plays and poems at the age of six and realized she wanted to write professionally by the time she was 16.

In 1957, she began studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where she published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in philosophy and French.

She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000.

She has also published fifteen books of poetry. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age. She has also published four collections of stories and three collections of unclassifiable short prose works.

Atwood is also the inventor, and developer, of the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate the remote robotic writing of documents.

She is a noted humanist, and, in 1987, she was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.

INTERVIEWER

How do the activities of writing poetry and writing prose differ for you?

ATWOOD

My theory is that they involve two different areas of the brain, with some overlap. When I am writing fiction, I believe I am much better organized, more methodical—one has to be when writing a novel. Writing poetry is a state of free float.

— Margaret Atwood, The Art of Fiction No. 121

My girlfriend asked me the other day why I don’t write poetry as much anymore. I told her I don’t like it. Then she asked me why I ever wrote it all if I don’t like it. I told her I write it because I like writing poetry. She was understandably confused.

The thing I hate about poetry is also the thing I love about it and Margaret Atwood put into words. Writing poetry is like free floating. You can’t hold on to any one thing. You can’t try too hard to stabilize yourself. You have to let yourself go and move freely from one thought or feeling to the next caring only about what the connections mean.

You have to let yourself slide back and forth along the piece tweaking here and there until you feel your feelings coming through in the words you have strung together. There is no research, there is no grounding topic or prompt, there is only a vast sea of time, and space, and emotion inside of you. You have to let the current take you where it will. You must passively ride the waves and eddies and concentrate only on documenting what you find there.

Sounds easy enough, right?

It would be if it weren’t for the pesky human need for control and the pesky human tendency to second guess everything.

Poetry is hard because you set out wanting to say a certain thing and you end up saying another thing entirely. You think you know how you feel until you start writing and words flow out of you that you didn’t set out to say. See, you want to swim through the sea rather that float. You want to reach a predetermined destination. You know what you want to say and you intend to say it!

Except that is not how poetry works. Poetry is all patience and free float. You can’t force it and you can’t fight it. When I feel like having a little control over what I write I try fiction. I will get a few surprises here and there but through editing, I can rein things in and stay on course. If I want a lot of control I switch to nonfiction. I think I am the type of writer who has to try all three. If I want a lot of control I switch to nonfiction. Where there is research and very strict steps to take. I like to know where I am going every step of the way.

I think I am the type of writer who has to try all three.

I love to swim but it feels damn good to free float too.

***

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Check out: Margaret Atwood on Existing in Two Places

Featured image via Unsplash

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

James Baldwin on What Artists Know

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes. My contribution is from the American novelist, poet, and social critic James Baldwin.

10427James Arthur Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, after his mother, Emma Berdis Jones, left his biological father because of his drug abuse and moved to Harlem, New York City. There, she married a preacher, David Baldwin. The family was very poor. His mother reportedly never told him the name of his biological father.

Baldwin spent much time caring for his several younger brothers and sisters. At the age of 10, he was teased and abused by two New York police officers, an instance of racist harassment by the NYPD that he would experience again as a teenager and document in his essays. His adoptive father, whom Baldwin in essays called simply his father, appears to have treated him — by comparison with his siblings — with great harshness.

Baldwin developed a passion for reading at an early age, and demonstrated a gift for writing during his school years. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he worked on the school’s magazine with future famous photographer Richard Avedon. He published numerous poems, short stories and plays in the magazine.

In 1953, Baldwin’s first and probably best-known novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, was published. His first collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son appeared two years later. He continued to experiment with literary forms throughout his career, publishing poetry and plays as well as the fiction and essays for which he was known. He garnered acclaim for his insights on race, spirituality, and humanity. Other novels included Giovanni’s Room,Another Country and Just Above My Head.

Baldwin’s novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration of not only blacks, but also of gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals’ quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, written in 1956 well before gay rights were widely espoused in America.

Having lived in France, he died on December 1, 1987, in Saint-Paul de Vence.

The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.

// James Baldwin

I got this quote from a beautiful talk Baldwin gave at New York City’s Community Church on creativity and what it costs to be a true artist. I found it on the Brain Pickings blog from a post titled James Baldwin on the Artist’s Struggle for Integrity and How It Illuminates the Universal Experience of What It Means to Be Human, whew! I urge you to listen to it, I have three times now and each time I feel more inspired and motivated.

In part of the talk, Baldwin tells us that most people live in darkness and it is the artists job to bring the to the light. The light is all the that makes us, us. It is the feeling of being encased in flesh and unbound in mind. It is all we easily forget we are and could be. You have to tell the truth of what it means to be a human being. It is an artist’s responsibility to do this and whether or not you asked for it, you must accept.

In a way, it made me think of Spiderman. You know, when Uncle ben told Peter that “with great power came great responsibility”. Peter didn’t ask for his powers, he didn’t ask to be a hero, but he was given the job all the same. All of a sudden his life he would be spent saving people and trying to make the word a better place. It wasn’t at all what he wanted to do. He wouldn’t be thanked, he would more than likely be hated, and he would never be normal again, but none of that mattered. He had to do it.

Artists, writer, poets, musician, we all see the world differently and we have the ability to share our insight. That is a superpower too, and whether we like it or not, whether we asked for it or not whether we even want to or not, we have to do it. We have to do it authentically and we have to do it with money and fame being only secondary goals. We have to do it because we love it. That is the only way to do it right.

We have to because without artists showing people the light we might all be lost to the darkness.

***

Please be sure to check out the post on Brainpickings and listen to the talk below.

Featured image via Christian Gonzalez

Biographical information via Wikipedia, Biography, and Goodreads

Because I Always Feel Like Running

I always feel like running.

I always feel tense, no matter where I am, or who I am with. Sometimes it is only a little, like when I am only hyper-aware of my surroundings. Sometimes it is worse, my hands are balled into fists, my jaw in cycles between clenched and unclenched, and my shoulders are raised. When it is really bad I start to twitch, first my right eye, then my shoulder, then the muscles in my thighs. I feel trapped, I feel surrounded, I feel as if I am on my way toward the danger even as I sit here perfectly still. I am in a constant state of worry, of fear, of fight or flight from death, and I need to get away.

But where do you run to escape the dangers around every corner. Cover and safety are illusions, do not be fooled. You cannot hide from Death, the only question is, is it running at you as fast as it can, or is it slowly stalking you, getting ever nearer, wearing you down for easier prey? Death could come in any form, a slip, a fall, an unknown heart condition. It could come in the form of a stray bullet, a four-car pile-up, or a burglar in the night. Death is approaching, of that, there is no doubt. No matter where you run, no matter where you hide, it is keeping pace. It watches always and it never rests.

Now I am tired. My heart beats hard, and I get the feeling it may stop. I cannot focus and I cannot just be. My mind races with all the things that can go wrong and even in my sleep I dream of being chased and threatened with violence and harm.

I am told to relax, to take it easy, to put my mind to work on other things, but it isn’t so easy. Can’t people see that staying put is what is dangerous? Can’t people see that through running I can save my life? Why does no one else run? Maybe no one sees the dangers that I do. Maybe the danger is in my head and no one else’s?

No one really cares when you are scared. You must always be strong and you must always appear relaxed. You can’t talk about it, you can’t look like it, and you definitely can’t act on it. So I sit here, tense and twitching, scared and worried, watchful and anxious, waiting for the danger I know is coming. I will sit here and plan and plot to escape and wait for a reason to run.

Because I always feel like running.

***

Inspired by the poem Running by the late, great Gil Scott-Heron.

Featured image by D Sharon Pruitt , CC BY 2.0, via Wikipedia