Finding Light

Mary Feimi Blog Post PictureWhen I was a high school freshman, I came to the Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival with pens packed in my pockets. With each step I took, the paper from my empty notebook clashed against my fingers. I remember rubbing my eyes because the night before I stayed up and re-read each authors bio over and over, re-read pieces I already analyzed because how could one choose a workshop to attend with such an abundance of good writers? I remember being beyond eager to take a “real” workshop from published writers and college professors.

Schedule in hand, I had messed up the times and ended up in a poetry workshop. I thought to myself, “Poetry. Yeah, right. The only thing I can do is write nonfiction.” My palms sweat, my stomach clenching, I sat down. This wasn’t any poetry workshop; this was the workshop of Patricia Smith, the woman who could make Hurricane Katrina beautiful, all through fresh lines packed with imagery and diction. Ms. Smith stood at the podium moving the hair out of her face. What I didn’t know at the time was that she was going to ask me to write the most difficult exercise I had ever done. To write a poem where the person you have had a difficult relationship with is dead in an empty room, laying on a marble slab, and you had to dress them.

For starters, at this point in my life I had never written a poem I was proud of, or even considered writing something this complex. Ms. Smith just kept telling us, all we had to do was try. By the end, I had dressed my father in an Armani suit and leather loafers. Towards the end of the workshop, a couple of people shared what they had written, a couple of people cried. I didn’t write a great poem, or something that would make anyone cry, but I did write something real, something packed with emotion, and thoughtful decisions on why I chose the words I did.

After the workshop I bought Patricia Smith’s book Blood Dazzler, and fell in love with the way her poems made me feel. She signed my book and, as I write this now, I look at it and am still as inspired as I was that day to become a poet. It reads: “Mary, I hope you find light here. I realized that it wasn’t poetry I was afraid of; I was afraid of the journey poetry would take me on. Two years later, with several portfolios of poetry I am proud to say I have written, I look back on that day and am thankful for the exposure it gave me, as well as the inspiration.

With the 2016 Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival line up full of amazing writers, I anyone who attends can have the same experience I did, if they just try. You too can find light here.

– Mary Feimi, Junior Editor-in-Chief

Fiction as Told By a Poet

Beautiful-Pool-with-Exotic-ViewThis year’s transition of genres was especially hard. Last year, I hardly noticed.  Moving from fiction into poetry was a prize at the end of the road. Junior year’s second semester opened the door for my voice. A voice, that in the first semester, I didn’t even know was there. And this year, I felt the hinges break off. Of course, beginning with the immersion of poetry gave me a taste I wasn’t ready to let go come January. I was scared that all of the progress I made in poetry would fall excruciatingly short in comparison to fiction.

I am unbelievably happy that I was wrong.

All that I’ve learned in since January has truly surprised me. And it hasn’t all been in the classroom either. Before this year, ideas for stories never came to mind like poems did. Whenever I go out now, I find a character in unintentional eavesdropping, a setting at a stop light, and conflict everywhere I turn. The pages in my journal now hold something other than line breaks.

Fiction, dare I say it, is beginning to feel natural.

The way I see it, poetry is a well leading to an underground reservoir. Each line plunges you farther and farther to the source, the intention, the purpose of the piece. Fiction, on the other hand, is an in-ground pool. Its depths and shallows are chosen very specifically. There’s room to swim around—even a patio to socialize and sunbathe. Fiction allows you to take your time. But in any sense, lazily. This room promotes emotional investment that poetry’s brevity sometimes prohibits.

Fiction is a second home that always reminds me of my first. The childhood house that felt like a fortress to get lost inside. Fiction is not wanting to find my way out.

-Mariah Abshire, Editor-in-Chief 

Becoming the Storyteller

jordan bp fictionWe learn the art of storytelling as children. We embellish our experiences, come up with new ones, more interesting stories to tell. This is not to be confused with lying, a not entirely separate art we master in the same time frame. Lying and storytelling serve different purposes, the latter definitely a more celebrated craft, and more enjoyable to be ensnared in.

The beauty of a story is that there is no one way to tell it, and it does not have to be your own. In reading and writing, I prefer the story behind a poem to a narrative in fiction. Longer pieces have more room to develop setting, characters, and so on through scenes. That can be done beautifully and uniquely with perspective, narrative voice, dialogue. But in poetry, the detail in describing a moment can tell a story just as vividly in a few words. I feel like there is more room for interpretation, and just enough is given to you to make the experience resonant. There is the opportunity to decide on backstory, character motivations, etc in either genre, but I feel like poetry allows the reader to feel more connected to the story. The reader becomes the storyteller to fill in the missing pieces.

I love the escapist quality of reading fiction, which is not always attainable with poetry, when the described experience becomes your own. Writing fiction remains a challenge for me since I’m so used to seeing the story in a moment. It’s hard to step back and create something full in a less confined space.

-Jordan Jacob, Junior Editor-in-Chief