To the Trees

kiarras-blogpostThe earliest thing I remember writing and feeling distinctly attached to was a haiku I had written in the third grade about a panda that knits. Our class was learning about Japanese culture and each day of the week was revolving around some different aspect of the culture (food, kanji, etc). This was the first time I thoughtfully created a piece. I mean, I was in the first grade, and the subject matter wasn’t of course complex or earth shattering but I remember feeling good fitting into the syllable count, clapping out the sounds, and digging into my brain for the right words.

In elementary school I recall writing a lot about animals. I wrote poems about tigers and even a research paper about them in the second grade. I was compelled nature which makes sense as back then, watching Animal Planet and any documentary on the Discovery Channel was something I’d spent many weekends doing with my granddaddy. This carried into middle school, but I started also writing about things like race, and interpersonal relationships.

I find it interesting now, as I’ve noticed that who I am as a writer, revolved a lot around images that pull from nature. Last year, one of the more angry and intense poems I created was a political commentary on the state of the environment. When I write about race, I find myself gravitating towards earthy, strong, rich images as for the African American community, we are connected to the roots of the country, through blood and through innovation.

In a recent poem I’ve written about in an effort for self-exploration, I remember I created a scene with a wedding and images of butterflies and the jungle were the things I flushed out. I never thought about it, but it’s interesting that I’ve been using the natural world so long for inspiration.

I will say, in nature pandas aren’t exactly keen on knitting, but I think my point is made. I also in my writing, use a lot of colors to imply what I want to say. I notice that I use greens, blue, and yellows a lot. Colors that you immediately think of foliage, water, and light.

I think the reason I’ve always been attracted to nature in my writing, is because it always felt so much bigger than me and endless. Watching Meerkat Manor, and penguins migrate across the frozen worlds I know nothing of felt more out of this world to me than fairy tales or whatever. I notice that I subconsciously revert back to these tendencies even if I don’t mean it. Of course, the way I weave in nature inspired metaphors and images are more meaningful and are way less literal than reports on tigers or the poems I created in third grade about the beach. It’s more like in my poems about recalling childhood, the imagery of the sky and the metaphors of mountains always somehow come back to emphasizing a moment, and how small yet significant I felt in them or about the humanity and morality that is present in all of us.

-Kiara Ivey, Layout and Design Editor

Still Grotesque

seths-blogpostI started writing in first grade because it was fun. I can recall several times where my teacher would push back the beginning of Writers’ Workshop because the class preferred free time. I’d be the only one reminding her that writing time should’ve already started, and whoever was close enough to hear my nagging would groan and spread the news.

The earliest pieces I wrote were memoirs because I didn’t know how to do anything else. For most of first grade, I wrote about the trip to the Philippines I had the summer before. In a way that parallels youth, I see these pieces as untainted. Although my first work focused on eating at a Filipino McDonald’s (and enjoying spaghetti and chicken with rice) while a beggar stared from the other side of my family’s window seat, I didn’t know much to poverty. Instead my memoir focused on the uncomfortable experienced of being watched by a filthy man, and my mother’s decision to give him some money.

As I write this, I’m actually remembering his appearance again, and how heavy his eyes were. The skin around them swelled—muscle and crust layered with dumi. Spots decorated his wrinkles, and what shocked me most then and now is that his eyes were blue. Beneath the ragged hair and stained, tattered cloths, he was mestizo. Mixed people were especially desirable in the Philippines (not unlike other Asian countries), yet here he was, desperate enough to stare without shame.

It’s this type of disconnect and grotesque imagery that I feel carries my fiction today. Both fiction pieces I’ve written so far this year play with distance and disgust. The latest, “Dinuguan,” focuses on a woman with heart cancer, who—in increasing desperation—buys pork blood, spills it, and licks it off the sidewalk. That’s the gist of it. Trust me when I say it’s a lot deeper.

In particular, this piece uses heavy description of the pork blood (the main ingredient of the Filipino delicacy the piece is named after) to convey the hopelessness the woman refuses to accept. For example—“Cold slips through her lips—a coagulated mass sinks between teeth and spreads bitter, salty pangs over her tongue. Its grittiness sinks into her throat. She coughs ragged, old and fresh blood foaming together.”

I’ve noticed that both my first and most recent piece focus on my heritage, which is interesting. In all honesty, after the memoirs of elementary school, I didn’t revisit my heritage until my ninth grade personal essays. And even then, I didn’t utilize it again until this year. It’s actually my mission to use more personal details in my pieces this year. I’ve got a good grasp on emoting through imagery and diction, and that extra layer of vulnerability will leave a bigger emotional punch from writer to reader.

-Seth Gozar, Fiction Editor