Pillow vs. Shelf Poetry


Poet Marilyn Chin

When I first started writing the only genre I enjoyed was Fiction. I liked making up stories and being placed in worlds greater then our own. I thought Poetry was what you see on
the back of milk cartons and what my sister hides under her pillows. Poems about romantic love and heartbreak, both of which I have yet to experience. I continuously tried to write “poems” but I always ended up gagging and throwing away the paper. I was afraid of poetry until I was shown the work of writers like Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Chin, and Billy Collins, new writing that introduced me to words and images I had never thought of before. They also had different points of view and I really loved exploring each writer’s likes and dislikes. Reading some contemporary poets helped me understand that poetry is not only about love. After reading and realizing that it isn’t something to be afraid of, I started looking for more poets and wanting to learn more about the art form. The first poem I wrote is about Vesuvius and Pompeii and children being caught in the dark smoke. I think the idea was really original, but my execution sounded more like prose then poetry. What I had yet to learn was how to use poetic language.

Diction and the way it’s placed in poetry is something that I struggled with when I first
started. It was something entirely new that I had yet to experiment within my fiction. The
specific choices writers make with every word isn’t something I learned until I studied poetry. Poetry, although fiction does this too, relies on the word to give context to a specific meaning or tone that leads the reader into believing something that’s going on in the poem. With fiction the writer can rely on a lot more words and actual scenes. Having this type of structure forced upon me was extremely hard because I had yet to think that every single thing in the story can have meaning, even the placement of the word “they.” It taught me to go deeper into vivid details. For example, when someone is talking about a paper cut they’ll say, “This papercut stings.” But using more poetic structure would be “My papercut sizzles like it was placed on a stove.” Or something along those lines. Really thinking of how to describe something in a completely unique and descriptive way can give the reader a new view into the mind of the writer and the story. Without these combined genre techniques my imagery would not nearly be as well developed as it is today. What I challenge myself to do is to have an original idea and describe it in a way that no other would. Being different and not fully following the patterns is what I enjoy doing, so I’m hoping to move forward with my ideas.

-McKenzie Fox, Social Media Editor


A Bridge Between Genres


Writer Lee-Ann Roripaugh

Writer’s festival my junior year I had the wonderful honor of meeting poet Lee-Ann Roripaugh. I not only respected her for her commentary on culture and identity, but I had always admired her for her unique form that her poetry takes, specifically in her novel Dandarians. Dandarians is a unique poetry novel in that if you open it to certain pages you may believe that you’ve bought a novel of very short stories. This form that Roripaugh plays with is considered hybrid writing. Though her writing reads much like poetry in some lines, and even breaks in places as if it was a poem, she often sets up a very vivid setting and sometimes characters throughout the pieces. Though not all her pieces play with this form, Roripaugh is very familiar with it. In her workshop, Cracks: hybrid/mixed genre writing, she said something that particularly stuck with me; “hybrid writing bridges the gap between fiction and poetry, it allows for the two forms to exist in one plane.”

For me, a chronically narrative poet, I viewed this as a safe haven of sorts. I love poetry, I love the language of poetry and with work I can create this language, but too often do I find the need to create a concrete place and characters, so much to the point that it begins to sound like fiction. When I read some of Roripaugh’s work along with the examples she brought to the workshop, I connected with the form almost immediately. Hybrid writing allows for a writer to write with all the fluidity and language of a poet, even make the same stylistic choices like line breaks sometimes, but also lets you flesh our characters more, lets you maybe explain more than a regular free-verse poem might. Though I never personally used this form after I connected with it, I think back to it often and think of the possibilities it would afford me if I do ever choose to play with it.

An example of this writing can be seen in Roripaugh’s poem entitled “Skywriting.” The outward appearance of this poem is a piece of short fiction with very short paragraphs. But, if you were to read it, it is scattered with beautiful poetic language like “sometimes she coils herself up into a neat, tight spiral of pin curl,/and then, for a moment, she’s a moon-green yoyo…” This poem perfectly exemplifies hybrid writing because it does have poetic language as seen above but it also can be read as a narrative of sorts, following the narrative of a caterpillar, of all things.

Hybrid writing is not only a new emerging form that is beginning to get more recognition as edging the boundaries between genre’s, but is also a useful and unique tool for writers to experiment with their writing.

-Zac Carter, Art Editor

On Writing the Truth

logan-january I didn’t walk into Creative Nonfiction at the start of sophomore year expecting to hate the class, but I didn’t expect to love it either. My main concern was that my life didn’t offer enough experiences to write about; inspiration for wild fictional stories is endless, but my own life is finite. I didn’t know what I would write after the second or third essay.

What I didn’t realize is that while I have limited experiences, there are unlimited ways to tell those experiences. I can write about my parents’ divorce from the perspective of myself when I broke my arm while they were arguing, or I can write about standing in front of the front door with Mom’s suitcases on the night that we left. Even in those specific moments, there is more to tell; with the broken arm, do I write on the realization of the fact that my parents weren’t “alright,” or do I write on the duality of pain I felt in that instant? I have written none of the experiences that I have described so far, but recognizing the possibilities in that I can write on these things is the most important part.

Creative nonfiction opened doors for me in respect to both its secular genre, and in respect to all other genres, because what is more applicable to writing than the truth? Creative nonfiction was the first time that I felt it was okay to write the truth in the same ways I had written stories, and it was the first time that I realized that truth is essential to all writing. My current tactic on writing poetry is drawing from my own life, because there is nothing that I can write better than what I have already experienced. My fiction now includes pieces of me, whether a character is dealing with loss or visiting a setting that I am familiar with. In general, I have felt a lot better about all of my writing since I took Creative Nonfiction class, because it has allowed me to know more about my own writing. I can take a situation familiar to me and alter it in the name of fiction without sacrificing the fact that I know enough about the situation itself to write about it in a pseudo-personal manner.

Even more integral to my writing is the fact that creative nonfiction has allowed me to look at my own life experiences from a different perspective and gain from the writing process. I can learn from what I have already gone through in a new way, each time I create a new piece, each time I redraft. The beauty in writing what has already passed is that I can continue to learn from the moment long after it is gone, because in writing, it continues to happen, over and over and over again.

-Logan Monds, Social Media Editor