posts tagged "prose"

Winter Constellation

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.

Hi Sydney! First of all you're incredibly stunning! Second, I really love your words. And your Advice page was SO helpful for me. So thank you for that! And third... I want to ask you something since I really love your work. The other day I heard someone say that if you write in your computer instead of writing in paper then your work isn't the same "quality" and it doesn't have the same "value" what do you think about it? ...

Writing is an art form that I believe develops, as other art forms do. For a painting to be considered a high form of art, one used to only be able to paint realism—like the Mona Lisa. But now pop art, once considered a low art form, by Andy Warhol and action paintings by Jackson Pollock have also become worth millions and are displayed in museums. Literature used to be recorded on clay tablets in Mesopotamia—should we all continue to write on clay because it is difficult and is one of the original means for recording? Most writers continue to upgrade their tools based on the current technology: paper, typewriters, electronic typewriters, word processors, computers. Each method has its benefits and downfalls but the means for writing should be left up to the writer’s preference. In the end, no one is really going to know how the piece was written. Even if a writer slaves over countless sheets of paper with notes in the margins and lines crossing out passages—if what he is writing is crap, it’s still going to be crap regardless of the tools he used to write it or the perseverance he showed by using such a time-consuming method. A typewriter generally forces a writer to choose words more carefully and precisely because of its permanent nature—but that doesn’t necessarily mean a writer will skillfully do so, nor does it mean a writer cannot choose the same words on a computer screen. Ultimately, the quality of your work is found in your skill as a writer and in your completed work—not in the way you choose to write that work.

Reblogging a really old post of mine for the seasonal relevance. ˆ

Reblogging a really old post of mine for the seasonal relevance. ˆ

(via taylorsumner)

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.
8. Dreams.
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.)

When do you know you've reached the end of a poem? And how do you keep yourself from hating everything you've ever written?

          Let me tell you, if you love what you’ve written, you’re not a writer.

          Writers are self-motivated learners who strive for perfection, despite never being able to attain it. No matter how many fans a writer may have, he/she will not be his/her own fan.  However, if you’ve seen Midnight in Paris, Ernest Hemingway’s character says, “If you are a writer, declare yourself the best writer.”

          Somehow, the film’s quote resonates with me as well. Writers need confidence to leave an impression. They cannot go around describing themselves as “aspiring.”

          In reality, there needs to be some kind of happy medium. Writers must be confident so that they can end a piece with confidence and convince readers that what they’ve written is good, meaningful, and most of all: a clean, finished piece of work. But at the same time, they must be able to understand the need to throw out bulky chunks of their precious work to start anew and rewrite when required.

          In the beginning, you are going to write crappy poems. Years down the line, you are going to write crappy poems (but probably not as often). It sounds depressing, but I mean it when I say that being able to find the end of a poem or a story takes practice. It takes a lot of reading.

          You need to read great poetry and works and memorize them. This gets a bunch of poetic rhythms in your head that (are stored subconsciously) and show when you write your own poetry. Poetry tends to be circular in shape—the ending brings back the beginning and the references within the poem should correlate to the central meaning.

          But really, it’s just practice. Practice and restraint. Because truthfully, to you, as the poet, that poem will never be finished. That one line could always be rewritten. Something will always be missing. It takes restraint to tell yourself that you’ve done all you can do with it at the moment, set the poem aside, and maybe come back to it down the line.  

Like Rain

         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. 

A Picasso

         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. 

I am an aspiring writer, and i was wondering, do you have any tips or suggestions? I really love your writing, it's a real inspiration to me. Thanks!

1. Don’t rhyme.

2. Please, please don’t rhyme.

3. I’m kidding, you can rhyme. But seriously, it is very, very difficult to create a meaningful and well-written piece that uses the common tail rhyme/end rhyme/couée (which rhymes the final syllables of a line). If you are a beginner, I suggest to avoid all rhyme—especially if it is what you use most already. If you simply cannot avoid rhyme all together, do not rhyme at the ends of your poems. Rhyme internally.

     a. Example: A few feet from the streetcar. (rhyme in the same line)
     b. As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door (Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”: rhyme in between lines)
     c. Use half or slant rhyme instead: soul/all, bodies/ladies (words nearly rhyme)

     a. Alliteration, assonance, consonance, personification, metaphor, simile, personification
     b. Look figures of speech up, memorize their definitions, use them, use them, use them

5. Remember what century you are writing in. Do not try to sound like Poe. Write for your generation and about your generation with words that you use. A poem captures your time. Use slang, use made up words of our generation: make your poem modern and fresh.

6. Avoid curse words. Use these for emphasis, sparingly, to get your point across even better. If you overuse these—their meaning is lost.

7. Be concrete. This is possibly the most crucial advice I can give you. Nothing abstract: (love, pain, depression, happiness). Use detail.

Progress of abstraction from Wiki:
  (1) a publication
    (2) a newspaper

      (3) The San Francisco Chronicle

        (4) the May 18 edition of the The San Francisco Chronicle
            (5) my copy of the May 18 edition of the The San Francisco Chronicle
              (6) my copy of the May 18 edition of the The San Francisco Chronicle as it was when I first picked it up (as contrasted with my copy as it was a few days later: in my fireplace, burning)

What kind of milk? Skim, 2%? What kind of owl? Snowy, barn? How many channels did you scroll through on what kind of TV? 385? 298? Which cartoon? Rugrats? Fairly Odd Parents? You’re traveling down a road? Which road? Which highway? Music was playing? What band? She’s searching her phone? What phone? An iPhone? A Samsung? You danced to what song?

8. Finally, if you’ve heard a metaphor or simile used ever in your life before: avoid it. His eyes better not be “icy-blue.” Nothing better be “like a dream.” You better not fit “like puzzle pieces.” Love shouldn’t be compared to addiction or a drug. Find a new way to describe how something makes you feel. Always, always be searching for something new and fresh and never been done before. Make it your own.

     Example: The second girl after you is a panther punched against the wall by the crack of lighting. A white light artery in the midnight’s arm. (Brian Omni Dillon, “No Gravity”)

9. Watch slam poetry. Read modern poems.

(This advice is based mainly on poetry, not prose)