Poetry Intended

my bp picLately, all of my poetry has depended on prompts and lessons given in class. I think it’s good for a poet or just a writer to get their poetry from a classroom structure, but I also think too much structure can lead to less creativity. I’m guilty of not often taking time out of my personal day to write anything. But when I do find the time, I go to the bookshelf for inspiration. I only own a few poetry books. The one I go to most often is by Nikki Giovanni: “Black Feeling Black Talk Black Judgment.” What I find inspiring in this collection of poems is the speakers that Giovanni brings to light. They are some of the most unapologetic, emotionally vulnerable speakers I’ve ever seen in poetry. It’s something I think Giovanni has mastered in her poetry and I seek to create in my poetry as well.

I’m in Junior Poetry and we’ve learned about sound and meter and different forms of poetry such as ekphrastic and ars poetica. Understanding these elements of poetry causes me to look at it differently when I read and write. I can find different intents through the form on the surface or the sound beneath, underlying the contents of the poem. This inspires my poetry because it is the foundation for all poetry. I’m no Poe or Longfellow, I’m nowhere near to mastering these foundations, but I think it’s incredible the power that lies in the confines of poetry. It is one of the more compact forms of writing, but in that short time, short if you don’t count epic poetry, an entire story is delivered, narrator, conflict, resolution, or lack thereof, and the reader can make a connection, one I think can be even stronger than a full-length fiction piece.

What inspires me to write poetry most of all are experiences. When I’m lost for an idea, I go back in my mind and find a personal moment I can create a new speaker from. This can become overused as there are only so many prominent experiences one can access, but that’s another thing about being a writer. Experiences can be reshaped, seen through a different lens every time to create the freshest recounting. This also applies to experiences that aren’t personal, something I’ve seen on TV, in the news, or something I’ve watched someone else go through. I think these experiences are just as strong as personal ones and can create the most universality.

Lindsay Yarn, Creative Nonfiction/ Co-Web Editor

Andre Dubus III – The Cage Keeper

PICTURE Christina Auth. Stud.When I first ordered The Cage Keeper by Andre Dubus III, I wasn’t expecting what appeared on the first page. With a title such as this one, I expected the book to be a linear set of stories about human trials and tribulation. The book opens with a short story called “The Cage Keeper,” which I assumed would be a tale of finding a heart for criminals who were misinterpreted and prejudged. However, I was taken for a complex journey encompassing human interaction, violence, sorrow, loneliness, and desire.

Dubus has a gift for crafting short stories that embody multiple themes without crowding the piece. As an aspiring writer, I enjoy when an author has the ability to open a story and instantly put you into a setting or character mentality. Since Dubus uses strong, authentic imagery, I was fascinated to see this didn’t affect the pacing in a negative way. In my own writing, I typically have a challenge with adding imagery that adds to both pacing and theme. I admire the fact that he could utilize extended metaphors and symbolism to explain such dark and uncomfortable themes. He also uses flashbacks to expand on how or why a character has been placed into bizarre situations when you first start reading the piece. It adds depth and engagement to characters you may have assumed were simply protagonists or antagonists.

Another thing that interests me about Dubus is that his short stories are long, but still keep you invested through the dynamics of the characters he creates. I haven’t come across a character in his stories that is cliché or unforgettable, which is something I’m also attempting to work on as a writer. In the short stories “Mountains” and “The Cage Keeper,” first person narration is used. First person narration is usually a risky point of view to use since it can make your story sound cliché or overtly limited to the perspective of one character. However, in both short stories, this perspective guides the reader through the plot of the story and helps the reader care about every character in the story. In fact, I don’t know that these pieces would have worked in any other point of view since second person would have felt too inclusive, and third person would have felt distant and absurd. First person added a humorous take on the daunting situation of being held hostage in “The Cage Keeper,” and made you laugh even though you knew how serious and dangerous the situation actually was.

Ultimately, I applaud Dubus for the risks he incorporates in his writing. His writing is fluent with societal issues that many of us refuse to acknowledge or act on out of our own fears and guilt. As a reader you become challenged to think about the “what if’s” that are presented in his pieces, whether they are what society deems good or bad. I’m ecstatic to workshop with him during Writers’ Festival and learn about his writing process, how he creates characters that are both engaging and thought provoking.

During senior fiction, I wrote a portfolio from first person narration in hopes of stimulating the reader to engage alongside the character instead of as an observer or a character themselves. I hoped to mimic Dubus’s style of engaging the reader from the first minimal character description that he typically utilizes to set a tone for the story. I was surprised by the results, and anticipate that it’ll be fun learning how to perfect this craft even more.

-Christina Sumpter, Senior Creative Nonfiction Editor

Why I Read the Same Novels Over and Over Again as if That’s Normal

downloadMy mother cannot read the same book twice. She just can’t do it. She has made exceptions for franchises like Twilight and Hungry Games, but only as a refresher before she goes and sees the movies. She is constantly looking for new material to entertain her, new characters to meet and new plot lines to follow. I, on the other hand, can’t put a good book down.

The first time that I read “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was in sixth grade. It’s 1,024 pages long and I finished it in a weekend. Since then, I’ve consistently read it again once or twice every year. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day or am feeling entirely uninspired in my own writing, I’ll flip to the part where Rhett steals a horse for Scarlett, or where Frank Kennedy falls in love with a girl dressed in drapes as if that’s where I’d left off, and read on from there.

I’m not a fiction writer. I write fiction, sometimes, but it’s not how I identify. I am, however, a fiction reader. I love analyzing the same plot line over and over again; I love crying when my favorite character dies or losses love all  over again. I enjoy it just as much as I enjoy finding new literature to read.

I think, in part, it’s because I understand how much a writer has to go through to create something like this. To write a novel, or even a poem or a short story, a writer has to know their characters fully. We don’t usually make things up as we go along. We usually plan things out, we think about who our characters are; we think about how and why these things are happening to them. To a writer, their characters are real people. So to me, when I read about them, these characters are real people too.

The best part of writing is that it encapsulates humanity. I think that I read the same novels again and again because I can relate to them, even if the story does take place in Georgia during the Civil War or in a constant loop of reincarnation. I see myself in the characters and in the lessons they learn. I want to see their triumphs, to laugh at the funny things that happen in their lives and even to relive their heartbreak. Novels remind me that everything ends, but also that everything can begin again. It’s kind of hopeful. And so, I can’t ever really move on from a story that truly touches me.

Do you have any novels like that?

-Savannah Thanscheidt, Web Editor