2018-01-18 Poking the Panic Monster

I have just under two weeks to get my first set of assignments turned in for this semester of my masters program. The panic monster inside of me is still fast asleep. That’s probably not a good thing. I think part of me thinks it’s going to be easy and the other part thinks that since this is my very first submission, if it’s not quite right, my mentor will correct my mistakes, give me more direction, and then we’ll just move on to the next one.

There are basically three elements required for this first “packet”.

1. A sampling of my creative writing, either first drafts or revisions, with a minimum number of pages.

2. A set of critical essays written on subjects derived from my reading of the books on my reading list. Again, there are a minimum number of essays and pages.

3. A cover letter which is to serve as the main communication between my my mentor and myself. It’s the start of a semester long dialogue to discuss what I’ve done, problems I’m having, and any questions I might have.

This is all to be compiled in a single document and emailed to my mentor by the deadline, which is January 31st.

#1 is Cake! That’s money that is already in the bank. I’ve been writing everyday and revising everyday and inspired by things around me that naturally fall into words on a line on the page. It’s been quite magical actually.

#3 will also be a snap. An hour at the keyboard at most and everything I’ve been thinking about this process and my work and my reading will just simply appear. At least that’s what I’m thinking about it now anyway.

#2 is where it gets tough. I’ve got three texts and three collections of poems from three poets on my reading list. Week 1 was acquiring the books. ✅

Week 2 was beginning to read in order Of interest and also as directed by my mentor. ✅

But that’s where the train stops.

I read up a little on both Robert Creeley and Emily Dickinson on wiki and began reading poems from each. I haven’t yet started in on Wallace Stevens. I’m going to hold my comments for a minute on first impressions.

I also started my first text, “A Poets Guide to Poetry”. I’m still in the introductory section and have not made it to chapter 1. I will not hold my tongue on my initial thoughts where this is concerned. It’s confusing as hell.

Picture reading a novel where the subject matter is completely foreign and so the terms used to describe things are unknown and have to be looked up, one by one. Then, add in that the language itself is on a level above what one is accustomed to. This just means that not only is there a teminogy gap, but a language gap, and ordinary words also have to be ‘googled’.

As if that was not enough, it is also written with a cadence that someone who is used to reading and interpreting a poem might understand. The whole thing feels like a poem whose subject is not obvious without some diligent re-reading, analysis, and reflection.

In fact, it goes right into that very idea, even before chapter 1. Some analysis of lines with conclusions I never in my wildest dreams would have come to in my own. I wondered when reading if the author had some insider information from the poets themselves or interviews or explanations written after the fact. Is it common knowledge? Are these famous poems used time and again in lectures in universities to highlight the exact point she’s making? Is this the stuff I should know already? Shit.

It feels like I’m a pre-med or pre-pharmacy student who is taking organic chemistry for the first time. For those that are not aware, “orgo” is the class they use to weed students out of these programs who don’t belong. Sure, being a doctor sounds like a fantastic idea, so why not go for it? However, not everyone has the mental capacity to do that job. The system is designed with keepers of gates and checks and balances to make sure that when you go visit your PCP, you don’t end up talking to ‘“Biff” from Back to the Future. Orgo does that. It separates good candidates from those who will not be able to make it through the program.

But this is POETRY, not rocket science. I get that there’s a lot more to it than just words dancing on a page. I’m engaged with learning all those things and am committed and have my mind set, but I actually want to learn them. I don’t want to guess and pretend to learn them and end up spending every penny I ever saved for a piece of paper and a few letters. I want to grow as a person and come away knowing more than I did before and be able to talk about it intelligently and even perhaps even pass on what I have learned. Nobody’s life will hang in the balance if I mess up, for sure, but that does not mean I’m ok with fluffing my way through.

I recognize part of my problem is me, and the fact that I’m not classically trained in literature or poetry or art and that I’ve been out of school for 20 years. My brain is mush. I’ve fallen to reading young adult dystopian fiction and I hang out with teenagers in my spare time. My vocabulary has not advanced in adulthood and everything new I’ve learned is based on acronyms, systems of operation, and thought processes of software development. Not helpful, as it turns out, when reading poetry.

This is probably why I’m having no issues picking up all this AWS stuff. It’s all cake so far, and being fed to me with language an elementary student could understand. I’ve aced every practice test and have not yet come across a concept that didn’t make complete sense.

It’s as if instead of “Poetry for Poets”, I need to start with “Poetry for Dummies”. According to my mentor, that the one he assigned is the best reference book on the shelf today and the easiest of the three texts he assigned me to read. Damn. I shudder to imagine what the other two texts will be like.

Thinking about all of this is making the Panic Monster roll over in his bed, as if he were having a bad dream. I’m thinking he’s about to wake up.

Let the Chaos begin!

~Miss SugarCookie

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2017-10-09 Another Look at a Familiar Book

Over a year ago I was given a book called “Madness, Rack, and Honey”. It’s a collection of lectures from a famous poet who now teaches for an MFA program at Vermont College, Mary Ruefle’s. I started reading the book and then stopped. I then dumped the guy who gave it to me. In return, he broke my heart and I ended up shoving the book under some stuff in the the bottom drawer of my nightstand. I did not want any reminders of him or us. Until very recently, there was still too much grief associated with that break-up for me to entertain looking at the book. Things have changed now though, so I’m giving it another go.

Being a collection of lectures about poetry it is all at the same time fascinating and boring. I can read a page or two here and there, but it’s not the sort of thing you get engaged in from cover to cover. There are lots of little paragraphs of wisdom and enlightenment and lots of historical references to poems and authors.

The topic I started reading about tonight is Fear. Well, there is an entire chapter devoted to fear but the bit that I zoomed in on is more about poets and poetry and inspiration. Here a quote from Raymond Queueau.. “The poet is never inspired because he is the master of what others assume to be inspiration… He is never inspired because he is always inspired, because the powers of poetry are always at his disposal, obedient to his will, receptive to his guidance.”

In my statement of purpose (the original and more recently the one for the MFA application) I write about inspiration. That I am seeking inspiration and some spark that ignites the flame. Is this quite all wrong then? If I’m a true poet and the magic and mystery of life is at my will to command at all times, I can conjure poetry from nothing. I need no spark save the spark within me. I need no feeling or circumstance or grand gesture to assemble a masterpiece of words. I need only apply my own brand of genius and let my fingers do the dancing across the lighted keyboard.

If this is true, then I should not have any trouble with any given prompt or topic. I should be able to “roll off” without a worry or care or fear that the blank page will try and stare me down `till I back down. I have this skill within me. I’m certain that I do because I’ve not only got a poem about this very subject I wrote when I was a mere 17 years old, but I recall writing it on a day when absolutely nothing was going on and I was writing poetry on napkins at the restaurant I was a waitress for. I wonder if I still have those napkins?

The poem was called Rolling Off, and it must not be one I consider good enough because It’s not posted on my blog. But at the same time, it is at least memorable enough that I still recall writing it 27 years later. Time to go take a look at my archives (all paper you know because back then we didn’t not have PCs or Laptops or iPads or iPhones)…. I shall return shortly.

***

As it turns out I no longer have the napkins from the restaurant that I feverishly scrawled on a million years ago, but I did scribe a copy of that poem, “Rolling Off”, into the hardback book of musings I called “And then there was me”.

I was always big on titles and organization. Every journal had a name and every collection of poetry neatly compiled in separate notebooks which also had titles. That poem is garbage. I was hoping for something brilliant, but most of the things in that book are quite terrible. I’m not going to type it here either, because I have some respect for myself.

So one quote from that book, Madness, Rack and Honey led me down this path. I swear I can’t read a page from that book without going down a rabbit hole of thought or writing. It may take me a lifetime to get through the whole book. I at least have to get to the explanation of the title. Super curious about that.

Rack is Probably Not What You Think,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-09-01 The Daily Dose is Doing Me Wrong

I woke up at about 7 with a nasty crimp in my neck and am quick to take some over the counter (OTC) pain meds. At this point, I am finally getting around to reading that book I started in January about health and wellness and diet and and how the mind and body are connected. Many of the health problems women face today in society are diagnosed without enough analysis and doctors are quick to just prescribe “something” to help. The book I am reading is all about getting to the root cause of the problem to nip it at the source and remove the necessity for those drugs.

The chapter I just read yesterday was all about OTC pain meds and the negative affects those things have as well as other environmental factors we commonly use and don’t give a second thought to like lotions and even tap water. The author makes a good case for why people should not take acetaminophen or Ibuprofen or naproxen.

I’m guilty of regularly taking Tylenol (sometimes daily) for headaches and general pain and ibuprofen for cramps so when I read that chapter I was alarmed by what potential “silent” side effects I could have been inflicting on my body all these years. Sometimes I dismiss it when I read claims like these, but the thing I like about this book is that she backs all of it up with evidence from research studies and things that have been learned through years and years of scientific evaluation of how different aspects in the human body are connected.

Part of this book is making a case for alternative/natural medicines and the other part is a dietary plan to put someone on a path to good health. I have had a hard time getting through it because much of it reads like a reference guide and I historically don’t get through those kinds of books easily.

In fact, I started this one in January or February with the intent of getting through the first section so that I could employ the dietary plan in the second section sometime in the spring, but that never happened because I stopped reading.

In the last week, and now that I feel as though I’m meeting with success on the exercise front, I want to couple that with healthy eating and so I’ve picked it back up again with the intent to make September the starting point for making positive changes in my diet. I didn’t count on that including changing anything about my OTC pain med habit, but since reading that chapter yesterday I am totally rethinking that.

However, I have yet gotten to the real “alternate solution” chapter on what to do when you wake up with a headache or a sore neck and I will likely have to get to some store so that I actually have those alternates available when I need them. So this morning it was business as usual with the Tylenol. I’m getting ready to head to the gym now for some cardio on the elliptical and might just skim ahead to see if I can get the info I need on the subject.

Time to get after it!
Welcome to September,
~Miss SugarCookie

PS. The book is called “A Mind of Your Own” by Kelly Brogan, MD

2017-06-08 On Books and Reading

I’ve started reading a new book. Something that I picked up in Denver from Lance. It’s called “Love and Garbage” and was written by Ivan Klima. I cracked it open last Sunday when I took the kids to the pool and am really not that far into it, but already I am reminded how much I love to read.

I finished the last book I read back in January when I returned from my trip to Mexico and that was extremely satisfying. After that I attempted to read another book I downloaded randomly on my kindle which was more of a reference and “guide” if you will, to eating healthy. It was very much about the body mind connection and claimed that if you eat healthy, you mind mind will follow suit. While I agree with that somewhat, I just don’t have it in me to read such a thing. It’s apparently not in my nature.

I wrote a poem about it once. I have several books on my shelf that are “instructional” in some way. Everything from being happy, to raising children in a divorce situation, to harnessing the “Power of Now”. I have tried and failed to read all of these. They are wasted on me. But give me a good story about the end of the world and beyond, or some strange romance, or group of characters in a make believe world who have magical powers and I am all-in.

It may get to the point where I’m completely “unavailable” for a couple of days while I disconnect from my reality completely to become one with that world. Pretty soon now, that may be a more frequent occurrence and I am looking very forward to it. I miss reading books. That’s never a thing I thought I would say in my life, but that’s what has happened. Time to change that too.

Keep Reading On,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-01-17 Today is a Good Day to Start

Last night I slept over 9 hours with one break in the middle where I woke up at 5AM and finished the book I was reading. It was the end of the 5th Wave series and the story turned out to be really good. Good characters, plot, and ending. I’m no book or writing critic and so that is about all I have to say about it. It was very satisfying.

I am now using my Kindle a lot more and I think it took being on vacation and traveling to really get me into it. Each time I open the cover, there is some book suggestion. One of the last days of vacation, or perhaps I was already home, there was a book that was displayed with a title like “A Mind of Your Own”, or something like that and I began reading the short description under it. It was a blurb about women and depression and I immediately wanted to read more. So I clicked on it to read the long description. The book contains descriptions for the mind body connection and the science behind it. Actual science, which I appreciate. It highlights right away that drugs for depression now days are a norm and an unhealthy epidemic and that being healthy, mind and body, can be achieved without these drugs. I could not agree more. Further, the summary stated that it included a 4 week plan to get on the right track of alleviating depression. I was so intrigued that I clicked on the link to see the book in the store. Buy for $1.99. Seriously? 2 dollars and I can unlock all the answers to change my life right now. Without a second thought, I bought the book.

I had a target to finish reading “The Last Star” and like I stated, I wrapped that up in the 5AM hour this morning. Thankfully, I was able to get back to sleep and woke up around 7:45 AM. This is significant because last night is the first night in many, many weeks that I have not taken some drug or another to aid my sleep. Last night it was just me and my writing and my head hitting the pillow. I’m hoping for a repeat performance tonight. Until then, I have lots to get done today and really want to start in on this new book. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of “self help” books, but I already feel differently about this. If I am about to start something new.. Today is a good day to start.