Exploring Poetry

marys-blogpost-picUntil my junior year of high school, I hadn’t given poetry a thought, or a chance. I decided that non fiction, was my first love, and felt it was my last. That’s the thing, I didn’t understand first loves, or last loves, and I’m not claiming I do now, but I do know that in order to love something, to love it hard, you, have to explore it, make the effort to understand it, and fully accept it for it’s truest form. Writing is no different.

I never expected poetry to so quickly grasp me in its arms, and shake some sense in to me. Before poetry I constantly doubted myself as a writer, I didn’t think I was deserving of that title. How did I know I was any good? Poetry on the other hand taught me, that its not always about being good; it’s about feeling. Non fiction allowed me to tell the truth, but only parts of the truth that I wanted to say, fiction allowed me to hide. I was surprised to find out that when writing a poem, every part of me fell on to the paper, and I didn’t know, until I was done, and there was no going back. Not only was I writing poetry, but I was exposed to so many great poets that year, Richard Blanco, Yusef Komunyakaa, Patricia Smith, Naomi Shihab Nye, just to name a few.  Exploring poetry, and realizing that every word counts, made me a better writer when it came to fiction, and non fiction. Thats what I mean, when saying that in order to love something you have to explore it, you have to understand the mechanics, and the rules, and the reasons.  Now I can’t imagine a life with out poetry. Poetry feels like writing in its purest form. Writing that can’t be harmed by too much emotion, and the slow meaningful process of revision. Poetry made me believe in humanity, and empathy more than I ever knew. Poetry is life through metaphors, too beautiful to ever be ugly, but powerful enough to hurt.

A writing prompt that I constantly go back to, is one recommended by Patricia Smith: imagine the  person you have had the hardest relationship with is dead, lying on a marble slab in an empty room. It is your job to dress them, describe each item of clothing that you place on their body, describe the room, describe what it feels like to touch that persons body. This prompt will bring up emotions, you may need to feel, and helped me let go of a lot of things I held on to. If you attempt this prompt, don’t over think it, just go with what you feel. You can always revise later, but you can’t revise words you never put down.

-Mary Feimi, Co-Editor in Chief

The Craft of Nye

naomi-shibab-nye

When I first came to Douglas Anderson I swore I would never write poetry. How could I?  Poetry was constructed of line breaks, and choices. Like fiction these choices were made with intention, but with poetry the intention was a hard technique to learn, a hard technique to master. When I look back and think of what scared me most, was how raw poetry allowed one to be. Every word gave away a personal detail. It feared me to know that in a few stanzas people could know aspects of myself I never shared with anyone other than myself.

My junior year I wrote my first real poem, what deemed it real is I had to share it with others, yet I didn’t hide my emotion, the emotion I was always scared of sharing. Of course it was the cliché poem about the death of my grandmother. Later that year I had to recite a poem of my choice, and I chose Naomi Shihab Nye. A poet crafted in detail, and symbolism. Metaphors that brought me to the sands of the Middle East, every word counted.  What brought me to Nye was how she respectfully wrote about her heritage half American, half middle eastern. I always had a hard time writing about my half Albanian heritage. I felt as if I didn’t have a right to those topics, because it was only half of my identity.  The poem I recited my junior year was titled Blood, a commentary on war, and a narrative about how it affected her father, symbolism for how it affects us all.

“Years before, a girl knocked, 

wanted to see the Arab. 

I said we didn’t have one. 

After that, my father told me who he was, 

“Shihab”—“shooting star”— 

a good name, borrowed from the sky. 

Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?” 

He said that’s what a true Arab would say.”

Yet Nye  wrote about this in the perspective of herself  an American, who is so torn by what is happening, torn because even though she is an American they are still her people.

Nye is the reason I can write about my own father, about my own heritage, and also why I can write about being an American. Because what does the word American really mean? Who gets to fit that description? Nye has made me consider how every detail counts, how a title can convey much more than it seems, and that displaying a picture in someone’s head is a gift that not many can master. Nye is the reason I have never felt that when it came to my heritage I had to choose.  

-Mary Feimi, Co-Editor in Chief