2018-10-10 When the Situation Calls For Chaos (or Poetry, Take Your Pick)

Strange Times

Cats and cats getting along like republicans and democrats,
yeah just like that / scratches appear
across fingers crossed / keep your arms and legs inside the moving vehicle
at all times / it was the worst of times, it was the worst of times / I’m afraid
nobody will ever be nostalgic for 2018 except maybe yours truly.
It was the year that truth became a man, a myth, a legend / a story
you believe but the cake is a lie / Zoom out
to discover it doesn’t really matter / All matter and mass and energy expanding
in the vast universe is destined to go nova.
In Spanish “nova” means “it doesn’t go” / How appropriate.

***

Sometimes.. well.. most times I like things neat and organized. I want the day to be planned out. I want things to have nice and neat beginnings and endings that are clear cut. I don’t want a lot left to interpretation. I want defined processes and things that make logical sense. I like it when everything is buttoned up and tied with a neat bow. I prefer order to chaos. I think most people do. I think I’m very average and not out of the ordinary with regards to these preferences. I believe that very few people wake up most days saying, let’s just see how crazy I can make this day. I could be wrong. I mean, I’ve talked to such a small fraction of the people alive today. It doesn’t matter anyhow, my point is I operate a certain way and don’t ever drift very far from that because it makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve tried to approach this whole school thing very methodically. Last semester seemed to go fine, but then again, I had less going on. This semester I’ve procrastinated and then scrambled – twice now – to get things done. I don’t like it. I hate missing deadlines and I’m beginning to get very frustrated with the fact that I can’t seem to find 2 solid hours to work on stuff. I’ve also tried to approach revisions and essays methodically. It sounds absurd, but I actually made a checklist of things to cover with each poem to make sure I’m following some sort of set of pre-determined rules. “Ask the poem what its about”. Sure sure, because I established early on that the poem has a mind of its own and has something it wants to say. See there, I started to rant about one thing and ended up on a whole tangent topic. That’s not organized.

What I am trying very hard to say, and not doing a very good job of explaining, is that this approach is not working. This daily balancing act, this paint by numbers approach to revision, this logical application of process and procedure. It’s just failing me. As I sit here, well past when I normally go to sleep, pontificating about how organization is failing me I’m leaning toward the brilliant idea of embracing chaos and allowing the random forces in the universe to work their magic. I’m feeling like letting things just fall apart and be messy. I want to try nonsense on for size and see how that fits me.

Consequences will always be tip-toeing behind me, sneaky bastards. I can’t stop them from whispering in my ear but I can hum a tune real loud in my head to drown out their incessant demands. So what? The kids need to eat vegetables, “let them eat cake” I say. Sure I’m supposed to work 30 hours, but what happens if I don’t. What will happen if I ignore all the emails, and notifications, and text messages. What will happen if I don’t vote or renew my car registration or change my furnace filter. Nothing that will keep the world from turning around the sun. What will happen if I write a poem and it has no point? If it’s really just nonsense? If it’s a drunk dream about dancing around with black licorice in a devastated dystopia? What if?

I can ask the poem what it wants to be about.. who the speaker is.. who the audience is.. where.. and when.. and how – but I don’t have to if I don’t want to.
I want to throw the rules for contemporary poetry out the fucking window. My heart sings in rhyme and you can laugh at that if you want to, because I don’t care. This situation I’m in has resisted organization. It’s a math proof that is un-verifiable because the steps don’t ever lead to the answer. So what if my brain writes poetry that doesn’t fit the times. I always knew I should have been born in the 17th century. Well, I didn’t ALWAYS know that. Maybe it’s all just an excuse. A thick plot to enable me to continue living under a rock.

It sounds like a rant, but it’s really not. It’s just me trying to fit this square peg of a tired mind into the round hole of a meaningful life. What other answer could there be than Chaos.

Love Always,
~Miss SugarCookie

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2018-09-21 On Inspiration and Nostalgia

Some days I think about writing poetry and I’m all like “I got nothin”. Other days I start thinking about life and my history and the music in my ears and everything seems like a poem begging to be born. I’ve been around the block and I’ve experienced a lot of shit. Some of it you would not believe. My closest friends would not believe it. Stuff in my past that I never talk about with anyone. When people have events they never talk about, it’s typically something they are ashamed of and wanting to hide. Or sometimes it’s painful and they don’t talk about it because it stirs up too much heartache.

I’m no exception to that rule. At my last residency one of the faculty gave a lecture where he talked about nostalgia and the wavelength we are all on. It starts out as a flatline before we are born and the amplitude and frequency grows as we get older. Once we reach adulthood we can have wild swings up and down and life hands us a lot that we have to figure out how to deal with. We may have events that rock our world, and other where we feel like we just got “Rick Rolled”.

He talked about how, as writers, we gravitate toward exploring those events and often return back to them again and again for inspiration. He indicated that there are typically four or five things that we cycle through. Most of the time, it’s deep, tough stuff. I’ve definitely witnessed this phenomenon in my travels.

In the last few years I’ve been more active in my local writing community. I’ve attended readings and workshops and poetry slam contests. I’ve become somewhat familiar with the local artists and their work and also read books published by visiting poets. My observations validate what Jim Peterson talked about in his lecture.

People have had tough lives. Mental illness, drug addiction, suicide, abuse, poverty. I’ve listened to poets use their art to express what they have experienced in their lives. I’ve also witnessed the trend of individuals who use that circumstance over and over. A few times I’ve felt that it’s the same poem rewritten in a different way over and over. Perhaps I’ve just heard the same poems recited by the same person again and again, but in reading collections I do detect themes. It may be that that is what was intended with a particular book, but my mind keeps returning to the idea of nostalgia and artists accessing their past to create something beautiful.

In the lecture JP made a point about how nostalgia can happen with both positive and negative events. We can look back longingly at some previous time, wishing for things to be like that again. That’s the traditional thought invoked when people talk about nostalgia. He made a case that it’s also looking back at a difficult time which evokes a different set of emotions. Both can be a challenge to process. We have grief, longing, sadness, and regret but we can also have joy, peace, humor, and hope.

When I think about all of this I recognize I have a wealthy history of experiences to draw from, I may not be ready to face my demons, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sharpen my sword with some interesting peak-wavelength moments, or at the very least something more interesting than the hum-drum that most days are composed of.

I could tap into the time in my life I lived in Las Vegas or the time I traveled to the UK solo just to go to the Snow Patrol concert or my experiences traveling other places. I have written only scraps about those times. I’ve got tiny snippets from times when I was falling in love and magical moments with my babies (now teenagers).

In days like today I look around me and am inspired by everything. The sunrise is a different shade of amazing each and every day. I’m grateful for so much and want to express that in my poetry also. I’m sure most of it is just Fluff, but that’s no reason to hold back. If I want to celebrate the Man in Black on the treadmill next to me, then that’s what I’m going to do. I mean, Bird Girl is way more interesting but I haven’t seen her for months. So many possibilities.

On that note, it’s time to wrap here and go write a poem. Yeah, it’s as easy as that. What’s a girl to do?

Looking on the Bright Sides,

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-08-21 What Happens When You Ignore Poetry

On Sunday I was so hopped up on caffeine and quite inspired by everything that I had been reading. All I wanted to do was write poetry, all I needed to do was write an essay for school, all that came out instead was an overly dramatic blog post where I declared that in the end of two weeks time, I’d claim some imaginary title from the HBO sensation Game of Thrones. I would ask myself “what was I thinking?”, but it’s pretty clear when I go back and read that blog entry so I don’t have to ask.

I ignored the poetry, procrastinated the essay, and binged watched some “Colony” with Jim instead. Monday came and I continued to ignore the poetry plus I also ignored work. I wrote an essay, and went to a Concert instead. Tuesday arrived and having completed my first packet of the semester, I dove back into work.. continuing, of course, to ignore the poetry.

It’s the end of the day now and I’ve worked a full 8 hours, did all the parenting stuff, all the chores, and even had a quick call with Jim to round out my day. I figured I would settle in now and write a little poetry. But guess what? That is not how that works. Can I just sit down and choose a topic and write? Not tonight apparently. I think I might have snubbed poetry for so long that it decided not to stick around. Serious bummer.

So now I’m sitting in my bed, getting very sleepy typing. Perhaps I will fall asleep and dream the poetry back to my bedside? Perhaps in the morning when I wake it will be waiting for me, watching me hopeful that I’m in the mood… for poetry. In any case, when it does show back up, I’ll be ready and I won’t turn it away again. As the Universe is my witness “I vow to never, ever ignore Poetry again”.

Sweet Dreams Now and Always,
~Miss SugarCookie

2018-08-19 Crossing the Streams

When I said a week ago that the next two weeks were gonna be big, it was a statement largely guided by intuition and the knowledge that I’ve got a lot going on. It’s the confluence of all the fires of my life colliding into a massive pire. I’m either gonna walk out the other side, burnt to a crisp, my strawberry blonde waves smoldering on the top of a pile of ashes or ordained the newest Mother of Dragons, a crown of words stacked and trailing behind me, the most decorated woven wedding train that ever was.

My finely tuned spidey sense is tingling and the intensity of it grows bolder every day. I have inexactly four days left to submit my first packet of poetry and essays for review and criticism from my mentor. I set the bar high, reading books and trying to connect the dots to come up with something brilliant to showcase that I’ve actually learned a thing in the last month (when the last 3 days would be more accurate). In other words, I’m trying to pull something great out of my ass like that time hell froze over or maybe some pigs flew.

That makes me think about flying monkeys and the Oz somehow where I’m always the Wizard faking it behind the curtain but really quite a genius to have fooled everyone in some imaginary dream land for so long. I really wasn’t kidding when I wrote in my list of goals of the semester that I was trying to convince myself of r someone else that I wasn’t a fraud. The difference between last semester and this one is that Graham never made a comment about that goal and Teri urged me to take it out. That was my first clue that this semester was going to be very different.

Despite that, there are threads of the same color running between my experience, tying them together, weighing them down like a common denominator. The dominators of my personality.. high expectations and constant procrastinations.

So here I sit on the rainiest of rainy Sundays unable to complete the tasks at hand because all I want to do is write poetry. How ironic. I’ve already sacrificed, or more appropriately aborted about a dozen screaming babies begging for oxygen because, for the love of the universe, I need to write a critical essay about imagery. Hey does this blog post count? No.. I can’t work the crank and pull a few knobs behind my beautiful velvet curtain and turn that trick again. This time I have to authentically put in blood and sweat and push a different sort of beast out the birth canal.

Now I’ve retreated to the elliptical in the basement to try and force the faucet of sweat on. I’ve ingested my favorite drug of choice to inspire the kind of line of thinking that can get the job done (or rather started). Still, I’m having a hard time tearing myself away from the fire in my future to focus on now.

You can’t have confluence without equal streams of input. There’s Poetry now flowing like the Colorado river through the grand design of the mind of Natalie Diaz and there’s this beast of burden trying to get born. These two will not be bested by the clock ticking in my brain that is now reminding me hourly like a true born-again bell that “halfway day” is but a week away.

In seven short days, approximately 168 tolls, I will have traveled 45 times around the sun on this universally insignificant blue orb (shhh, let’s just keep that between us). I included it on a calendar list this past spring in an effort to plan for significant events happening this year. My darling daughter inquired (because she cares thank goodness), “halfway day?” And so I explained.

“I’ve taken pretty good care of myself for most of my life and I’ll likely live longer than my grandparents did and also all of yours (who are all in their 70s now and have already lived longer than their parents). By my estimation I’ll live to about 90. That means, my sweet pudding pie, when I’m 45 I’ll be halfway there.”

She frowned and furrowed her brow appropriately and replied “Gawd Mom”.

People choose to place significance on numbers that end in zero because our whole mathematical system is base-10 or, in other words, a decimal system. Incidentally machine language uses a base-2 system, or binary. Think of it, the entire compute capacity of the world is built on a pile of bits. Every last one of them a 1 or a 0. So what’s the significance of 45?

I guess I’m just a complicated girl in love with division, splitting that ultimate numerator in two. In hind site, it really was the logical thing to do. If Dorothy really was here, she would too.

I can’t settle on that note though, because bad things come in threes and these converging streams are no blood moon bad omen. They are a grand canyon of thoughts turned upside down and besides that there, are four. The last one is super hush-hush because I’m having a hard time trusting my instincts on it. Which means, that’s all I’m gonna say about it right now. Ask me sometime next week after I’ve successfully navigated my way through the crossing of the streams. If I get puffed up and blown to brown and white bits all over the city like Mr. Marshmallow, I’ll just shrug and say that “Egon Spengler made me do it”.

That’s enough for now. Time to go try dominate my denominators and pop another essay out of my twisted brain stem.

Is there an Anesthesiologist in the House?
~Miss SugarCookie

2018-08-18 Summer School Saturday – What it Looks Like

Yesterday I made the successful transition into school mode. I finished reading a bunch of definitions about imagery and metaphor and started digging into the first selection of poets I’ve elected to read this go-round.

I encountered a certain level of frustration because I’m not reading concept texts like I was last term. This time all I have to go on is a dictionary of terms and a huge collection of poems/poets to choose from. That’s a pretty wide net. It’s narrowed a little bit because my mentor wants me to focus on image, metaphor, and line.

That makes complete sense to me because image is apparently the thing I struggle with the most. My first residency I had a lot of feedback about my poems being too abstract. I needed to add more concrete detail and images to make the reader see what I am trying to say. I was unable to do a deep dive into trying to fix that because it wasn’t what I was focusing on learning about. At that time, I needed to really just start at the beginning and get a good foothold on some overarching terms and concepts and also the role that history has had in shaping the life of poetry. So that semester I never really got down deep in the weeds with imagery. This semester I can.

Incidentally this residency I had a lot of similar feedback about needing more images and details. It’s tough, my brain likes to think about the abstract. I’m all about the big picture and sometimes I find the details to be just fluff. Something you have to get past to get to what’s really interesting. I need to recognize that it’s not really about me, when it comes to writing a successful poem (as if one could define such a thing). It’s more about being able to connect with the audience, the reader, and have them feel what you are feeling or what you want them to feel. That’s presents some amount of complication because everyone may have a slightly different experience and therefore there is no one universal thing/noun/image that will work.

For example, If the goal is conveying heartbreak, my gut instinct is just come out and say that or even perhaps to wind around a bunch of abstract things that indirectly say it hoping that the reader infers what I want them to inver. Finding an image that conveys heartbreak and elicits specific thoughts about heartbreak is what I’m learning will be more effective? The part that I find myself getting stuck on is selecting exactly what images to use. What does heartbreak look like? Does it look like green broken bottle glass on the side of the highway? Does it look like crisp dried brown roses in a vase, emptied of water for weeks and years? Does it look like the reflection of an unused toothbrush in a bathroom mirror?

I’m not sure because the answer depends on the experiences of the reader. That makes the answer very subjective. Last term I worked considerably on a poem I had reviewed during workshop at my first residency. I’ve written about this once before. It was originally a piece inspired by the struggle of navigating through failed relationships. It had the natural musicality and rhythm I often gravitate toward because I’m attracted most to the way things sound. It was completely full of abstract ideas and almost void of actual “things” and truly never really came out and said what it was about – just danced around it. In the workshop session one of the facilitators zeroed in on the first stanza and the whole discussion of that poem became about that, which was the subject itself.

I reworked the poem after that and basically completely rewrote the entire thing focusing on the actual subject. I attempted to take a specific instance in my history that illustrated my point — the act of attempting to keep your heart open, starting again after another failure. The moment I tried to capture/utilize was the act of seeing the other persons toothbrush in the toothbrush holder and having to throw that away. It’s an experience I had recently had after having thrown away a toothbrush of a person I dated for almost six months. Exhausted of starting over, I looked at the toothbrush and in finding no other use for it, tossed it away.

As I stated, I’ve journaled about this once before and in my history of blogging I have had very little feedback from anyone I know about what I am writing. I wrote about this poem and had a woman I have never met, a mutual friend of Joshua, reach out to me saying that she liked reading my blog and that it helped her and how that specific poem, about the toothbrush, is something she could relate to. That occurrence validated that I was on the right track. This was essentially a stranger who I had connected with through our common feelings. It made me feel as if I had successfully accomplished the task I set out to accomplish. My challenge this semester is to dig really deep to understand more about image and how to utilize all the tools at my disposal to achieve more.

So I’m deep in the weeds now. It’s Saturday and I basically have the entire day open to explore all the new ideas that are coming to me as I am reading through poems by Louise Glück, Natalie Diez, and Yusef Komunyakaa. I don’t yet have enough to begin writing an actual critical essay on a specific topic that has to do with image or metaphor, but we’ll see if inspiration strikes as I wind my way through. What does that look like?..

You are wandering along a familiar paved trail —
a crisp breeze introduces you to the scent of newborn sage
and the sky is clearly pleased with being witness to that.
You discover an unexpected box on the side of the path
and when you open it, you find the thing you want most from life.
Yeah, it’s just like that.

Hopeful Heart Open,
~Miss SugarCookie

2018-07-20 MFA Day 6 – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

All I have time for is poetry today. Running short on time and feeling late and unprepared for the last thing and the next thing. I guess that’s one advantage to being a poet…

***

Morning rise, early after no sleep
sickness rising also, unrest in my stomach.
Push it down, down, preparing for a day long of pushing
past physical feelings to get deep into a sacred place.

But all the acute points, every individual sharp moment
is made blunt by the rise of something else.
Push it down, push it down, sick now
that the struggle of opposing forces is taking center stage.

The rest of it is more of the same —
exhausted, the exalted moment can’t be the breakthrough I need
until I get the thing I didn’t know I needed
The falling action
and giving in to gravity.

***

As Always,
~Miss SugarCookie

2018-07-14 MFA Day 0 – Sunset at the Lodge

I arrived last night at 5PM sharp and almost EVERYTHING in my life decided to converge at that moment. I ended up missing the window for the MFA check-in which was supposed to be 3-5PM and let that go because getting to my room became an incredible priority for multiple reasons.

First, I had a conference call from 5-5:30 and that was my bad, for telling my boss 5-6 would be my only window of opportunity to meet. I misjudged the time and had zero minutes and zero seconds to get checked into the hotel and get my stuff into the room and hooked up to wifi for the call. At the EXACT same time, (and mind you I had been running around all afternoon AND driving to get to Nebraska City), my body decided to open the floodgates on the whole monthly cycle thing. *Spoiler alert* – GROSS! I literally had blood dripping down my leg as I hit my room, if that had happened 5 minutes earlier in the lobby, It would have been a complete disaster.

I spent the first 10 minutes of my conference call in the bathroom trying to take care of that mess. It WAS a mess. Why oh why does this ALWAYS seem to happen? (That’s rhetorical of course). All I can say is thank the Universe for audio only conferencing and mute buttons.

Then I had another call at 5:30 which went straight up to the moment I was supposed to be downstairs for the first meeting, a somewhat mandatory intro/orientation for the entire group out here this session – faculty, students, administrators. So I had to get there and switch gears in my brain with a quickness. That’s no easy task. I was frazzled, but hopefully It wasn’t obvious.

Straight away after that, was dinner (with the entire group), which was the first of many dining room events that cause me a fair bit of anxiety. I followed Margaret in and sat at the end of the table next to her and tried to make myself seem as invisible as possible. I just wasn’t any mood to be social, but I had to eat. Whatever. After that, I was able to go back to my room and slow down.

I made a few trips back and forth to my car to get the rest of my things and then also walked around the grounds a bit as the sun was setting. It was a fabulous sunset and I didn’t want to miss it so I stayed outside. Incidentally, my room this time is on the third floor and faces the woods behind the lodge and it’s just gorgeous. I’ll never tire of watching the sunset. I probably take to many pictures, and looking at them today it’s hard to say which one is best.

In any case, time alone, and having a few moments to decompress and process the events of the afternoon, I successfully navigated my way back to my happy place. I even ended up writing two poems and finished preparing for the first workshop which is this morning. I’ve got to get ready for that soon. The schedule today is fairly packed and I have an interest in just about every session, so it’s going to be busy busy.

Cheers to the Start of Something Great!

~Miss SugarCookie