He came to me in such a way I had to keep turning to keep him in my vision. Walking in circles made him think clearer, he said. The night he came his thoughts and the sky were clear. He traced stars with his fingertips to tarry the time—maybe he was waiting for one to fall to speak for him—for it, instead, to tell me what I’d made him do—for me. It took a few more orbits to talk. In a way, he was a constellation himself, that arched across my sky. Orion, he pulled my wrist until my pointer finger laid on the belt, is best seen in January and is completely gone by June. I’d have to turn my head all winter to follow him. He must’ve thought hard those months—I felt dizzy.
Now, he is footprints in the snow on the roof leading up to my window; a blanket spread shoulders to shoulders across a sill; a light on in a girl’s bedroom and two lips meeting between the line of 60 watt bulb light and cold specks of starglow between the blackness. I’d open my window to him and gusts of tiny white ballerinas would twirl in and the whole world around us would be magnificent and invisible. All the heights above us, I couldn’t see: the shimmering shingles beneath the tangle of power lines—moonlight catching stitches of sparkles in snow flurries—and the laced branches of trees bundled up in coldness. A little west—the highway headlights move slowly. From up in the air the mismatched patches of lined farm field terrain flicker with small shapes of light from porches and billboards and shop signs and traffic signals. Even higher still, an airplane blinks red light, by blue light, by red light—and the clinks of soda cans on a flight attendant’s cart repeat softly as she passes by a sleeper—quietly. Quietly, the world breathes its unseen magnificence. Quietly, the unnoticed beauty is humble.
I see only from my height. I see only his eyes and feel only his trembling lips over chattering teeth.
Poetry is Vision
Poetry is universal. Even if you do not write it—you inspire it. How can you be so modest as to hate it? Probably none of your thoughts are original but it is somehow comforting to know the thinking patterns of life on this planet are shared throughout. You find your own thoughts in poetry—things you couldn’t make sense of on your own; lines of a poem, like picked up pieces of your own mind—like little lenses that make sense when compared to a different lens. A poet is an optometrist flipping lenses of the phoropter until you see clearly. A poem is an instrument to measure your refractive error and a prescription all in one. Poetry is necessary for vision.
When I come across a poem that reiterates a thought I’ve had in a more precise and articulate manner than I ever could have expressed—when I come across a poem that is able to transcribe my own feelings so that I feel a burden lifted (people are always afraid of the unknown, but a poem can make an incomplete thought or feeling a solid object able to be held and inspected and seen) than that poem becomes a light. That poem becomes a light shining on the soul of the poet—a flame that spans from them to me and on the way leaps to light the lampposts of all those who have read it and connected with it. In this way, a poem lights the darkened areas of hearts and souls and minds across the world and when we are able to see what we hadn’t before—when our paths to others are lit—we become less alone, we become filled with courage to travel them.
Getting Inspired (Revised)
I’ve already addressed how I get my inspiration for my poetry—but since I get asked this question almost daily, I guess I haven’t said enough. (Or you all are too lazy to browse my writing advice page! Or I wrote too many paragraphs; who wants to read all that anyway?) This time I’ll keep my advice in list form:
How inspiration comes to me:
1. Writing everyday- even if you have nothing to say, inspiration will come to you if you just pick up the pen and keep your hand moving, writing whatever comes to mind.
2. Writing down bits and pieces of conversations that I find interesting.
3. Strong emotions. Anytime I’m feeling an extreme of any emotion—it’s time to write. (I don’t care if I can barely see the computer screen through my tears, I will write).
4. Reading other poetry. Watching slam poetry. Reading my peers’ poetry. Reading classical poetry. (If you write prose, do the same.) You cannot be a writer without first being a reader. Some of those old poets are boring. Read them. Become a critical reader—a good analyzer. If you can’t understand how poetry is written, you won’t be able to write it yourself. What other poets write about will spark your own ideas.
5. Eavesdropping. Writing it down.
6. Poetry/writing exercises. Highlight the first line or a random line in every article of your local newspaper or a magazine and use them to create a poem. Copy and paste text from other languages you don’t understand, Google translate them to English, mix and match phrases to create a poem. Do something crazy—it’ll inspire you.
7. Challenging myself. I’ll tell myself, “today I’ll write a concrete poem” or, “today I’ll write in a fixed form.” Sometimes the limitations of fixed form poetry can force you to craft an idea into that form. A sestina is a poem of 39-lines, 6-lines each stanza: the last words of the first stanza are rotated throughout the ends of each of the other stanzas. Pick 6 words. Write.
9. Thinking of a really cool line, and then crafting a poem around it.
10. Thinking of issues that are important to me and what I could say about them.
11. Going to a poetry reading.
12. Thinking of something that annoyed me, or something someone said that angered me and then writing about it.
13. Remembering that I am the poet of my poetry and not necessarily the narrator—not everything you write is going to be about you, nor does it have to be.
14. I don’t know why, but science always inspires me to write poetry.
15. Unique or cool sounding words make me want to incorporate them into my poetry, or write a poem that would include them.
16. If I’m not writing, I’m always thinking. I’m always paying attention to what people are saying—how they’re saying it—so I’m able to find poetry, rather than create it at times.
17. Looking at something basic and giving it a new meaning, or thinking about it in a new way. Like maybe looking at a bug zapper and making a comparison to something else—eventually creating a metaphor out of it.
18. Paying attention to the style of other poets and trying to copy that style. (Imitate styles you like. Combine styles you like. Make it your own. Find your poetic voice.)
19. Writing about memories.
Ask yourself questions. Who are you? What do you hate? What do you love? What do you want to tell the world—about yourself—about your generation—about your gender—about your ideals? Write about it.
I’ll keep adding to this.
Hey guys, I added a new “writing advice page” under “links” on my blog!
(Because all of my advice posts are from questions that get asked a lot and they get lost easily. So if you’re interested, you can check it out in case you missed any of my seriously long and rambling writing advice! Check back because I’ll keep adding to it whenever I think I answer someone’s question particularly thoroughly.)
If beauty made noise, it would sound like rain. I would walk the streets and let it hit me. I would carry pails and catch it by the bucketful.
At the crack of thunder, I’d grab my Herbal Essences and a loofah, strip my clothes, and bathe in the nude between 5th and Broadway.
I would come back inside looking like Beyonce.
But beauty doesn’t wear a collar of bells. You cannot hear it coming. Beauty rises silently with the sun. It stills itself in puddles on the fingertips of a heartbroken girl. It materializes in mirrors in front of those who do not see it.
If you’re real quiet you can almost catch it.
It’s like listening for hooves of reindeer on a rooftop. It sounds like Hachiko’s endless paw steps on his way to Shibuya Station. It sounds like the click of a camera. It sounds like a cloud walking. It sounds like blood running through veins. It sounds like a heartbeat of a lover an ocean away. It sounds like sand art. It sounds like the shake of a Magic 8 Ball. It sounds like a snowflake. It sounds like a breath.
He kisses my lips and says he can taste the lies in my teeth. I grab some Colgate and run my tongue over my molars but I cannot taste a thing, except the salt.
“Maybe it’s the tears you taste,” I say bitterly. He laughs a laugh that I don’t love for the first time.
If I broke him, I’ve spent these months molding him back with clay. I never said I was an artist. I never touched hands with Michelangelo.
I never made you David.
I was broken when you found me, young, naïve, but beautiful. Beauty is overrated; I never aspired to be a statue. I would’ve loved you both before and after a membership to Gold’s gym.
Maybe Bella wasn’t so stupid for loving a man a thousand years old. Maybe I was wrong for making fun of her. Edward must have it all figured out. He’d never make a mistake or hurt her because he’s had a thousand years to grow up. Just like that Christina Perri song. Unlike me. Unlike us.
You have hurt me everyday. I am built in pieces. I am a piñata—paper mache constructed from strips of newspaper and glue, so fragilely held around a balloon. I am a mosaic in the stained glass window of the church in town. I am the beauty stitched together by the broken. My face is now a Picasso, but still worth $100 million.
But you don’t see it’s worth.
But you tell me it’s I, that doesn’t see—
I have broken every mirror I’ve ever received, eyed my reflection and said,
“Look, now this is reality.”
But I’m kind of glad. It’s something like the lasagna in the Tour of Italy you always order at Olive Garden. You always yelled at me for picking off the cheese as I was tasting it. Left with the basic layers torn apart: tomato sauce, pasta, cheeses; I got to see myself down to the ingredients. I got to pick out the parts of myself that were flawed.
Now I pick up the pieces and toss them to the sun. If I am broken, I will glitter. I will be the rainbow. I will be colors come together. You broke me, and I can build myself up.
I am strong.
I will come to you shining.
I will set down my paints because I cannot capture the complexity of the colors in your eyes. It isn’t my responsibility to make you whole again.
It’s your responsibility to make art with the pieces.