Phoenix

I’m always writing about soil, and water, and trees, and places that revolve around these things. I never intend on the first go round with a first draft of prose or a poem to add those things, but it always seems to happen. One of my favorite poems I’ve written, is in which feminine perspective in regards to the loss of societal control over one’s body is shared. The voice that houses this perspective is encased in lotus flowers, as I offer up another version of the section of Homer’s Odyssey, where Odysseus comes across the island of the lotus eaters.

Ironically, I’m currently writing a short story in which a man loses his wife to the sea, and now he’s haunted by siren song that drives him to madness. I know both of these pieces seem mystical, and are based off of supernatural creatures and stories, but I suppose that’s because the natural elements that construct them feel supernatural themselves. That’s probably why all the great, old, and dead writers people study probably wrote about running around in the forest, being in awe of everything.

I think I’m always subconsciously adding the natural world into my work because I am subconsciously always trying to explain things bigger than myself. The thing that is bigger than me can be societal expectations and the span of time from which they grew, or it can be racial commentary, or a good old existential/spiritual questioning. This is easy for me to do, combining nature in my pieces, because nature is something that always has been and always will be bigger than people. Even though man manipulates the earth, the rocks, the water, and the trees, the Earth will still be here, regenerating itself long after people are gone. The natural world is like a phoenix. No matter how many times it comes to the brink, no matter what occurs within it and upon it, with time, it will heal itself. Nature is a balanced thing. Humans disrupt that balance. Then there’s chaos. So I think that juxtaposition itself too, draws me to use nature. It’s like the stories we’ve heard of people taking things from the land they aren’t supposed to, facing great consequences.

Humanity has built itself up to think that we are the best thing there is to offer, that we are all there is, when in reality, a hurricane can destroy us so simply, and with such ease. Earthquakes swallow us up like old gods waking up from a nap. It’s insane to think about, how perfectly constructed it all is. If you have nature and people at war with each other, man may seem to win, but there’s always the underlying knowledge that we are so temporary compared to everything else. The land only needs itself, it never ever needed us, and on the occasions it does, it’s only because we have compromised it in a way that makes our own conscious feel heavier.

Nature is all powerful. It is reliable. It is something that cannot be questioned. That is why I feel the need to incorporate it into my words, because I want my words to be like that, even if sometimes I don’t know it. It’s beautiful and unknown and an enigma we can see and cannot see at the same time. I think I crave the balance. That’s why there’s always rolling waves, or petals, or soil birthing new life in my words.

Kiara Ivey, Layout and Design Editor

A Prose Poem is a Bowl of Spaghetti That You can Read

ABC SoupIn most conversations about what makes a poem a poem, form is discussed. One of the seemingly defining factors of a poem is its line breaks. Whether it be sprawling free verse, or the strict nature of a sestina, a key identifying factor of poetry is its visual appearance. Line breaks are a key poetic tool to manipulate mood and to segment images—they are, in many ways, one of the few things poetry has no other genre does.

I’ve always considered myself someone who can express themselves better narratively than abstractly. Because of this, I have struggled with the more nebulous nature of poetry, particularly regarding telling a story within the form. Then, I discovered the prose poem.

Prose poems are the Weird Westerns of the writing world. Prose poems dip their French fries in milkshakes, and put Cheetos in their sandwiches. Prose poems pronounce milk “mulk”.

The ability to anchor my images within a prose-like structure in many ways enables me to let the images flower naturally, and my idea tend to follow a more natural progression when they aren’t being stuffed into visual tube tops. Don’t get me wrong—poetry is a majestic form, and line breaks are the stakes keeping the vine growing up. Take the stake away, the vine collapses into a bowl of spaghetti. A prose poem is a bowl of spaghetti that you can read.

For some reason, surrealism blooms in prose poems. But so does honesty, because the imagery and syntax of poetry bring emotion into the space that swells without form to keep it clean.

 

For a long time, I thought prose poems were not in fact poems, largely because of the aforementioned belief that line breaks are the foundation of poetry. Humans naturally reject things they can’t easily categorize, and prose poems trample on category. Some think they should be considered as a genre of their own—my previous self, included—which is fair. But genre, like so many other things, is only a set of rules meant to be broken.

However, the foundation of poetry is music—poems were originally meant to be sung. It is the sound of a poem that makes it a poem, which is why when you remove the line breaks of a poem, you can still tell it is one. It doesn’t matter to me if the prose poem is a poem, or something else entirely. What matters is that they are uniquely dynamic and engaging worms of writing that sometimes kick you in the face and tell you to like it.

 

PROMPT:

Take an experience within your life and explore it through a surreal prose poem. Use aliens, mythological figures, or any other fantastic images/language you can think of. Through the fantasy/sci-fi aspects, explore the emotional consequences of this experience.

-Zarra Marlowe, Managing Editor

Personal Truth is Required for an Evolution in Writing

ellas-blogpostJust thinking about my earliest writing elicits cringes and pained contortions from secondhand embarrassment. I remember being so proud of my audition portfolio, thought I was the next writer with God-given talent discovered at a young age. Perhaps immediate scoffs when reading my earliest writing isn’t the best reaction because that embarrassment and shame I feel when reading my clumsy prose and cliché poetry lets me know that I have evolved as a writer.

Early in my writing career, I believed fiction was completely divorced from the writer and poetry was always angry spoken word or dramatic Edgar Allen Poe rhyme. I didn’t understand that my personal truth could come into play with either of these genres because creative nonfiction itself was a genre and that’s only where I could let the reader know about my life. The result of trying to keep my prose and poetry sterile, free of personal information, was something safe and cliché, showing technical promise but no real depth. It was only after taking a speech/oral interpretation class I realized that one’s personality and experiences can come into play with poetry and by extension, fiction. That class gave me permission to take a published poem and make it my own with stylistic choices and intonation and most of all, relate to it, live inside the piece, let it live inside me for a while.

With this revelation and newfound confidence under my belt, my writing began improving. I began writing more consciously about things I was passionate about. My fiction held more clues to my personal life and my poetry became distinguished from usual teen poetry as I learned to become more comfortable in my skin. Oral interpretation broke my shell, and an advanced poetry class during my junior year gave me permission to ooze out. Junior poetry class forced me to be naked in front of my peers in a way normal critique groups didn’t- I now had to write from very personal places without the guise of fiction protecting me. My peers had to read the details about my life I couldn’t even previously utter, and then critique it, tell me what wasn’t working, but also, what was working, what they were interested in. Having this renewed confidence and nakedness oral interpretation class gave me, I’m now learning how to make my fiction as personal as my poetry. I’m writing thematically about things I never would’ve even given the time of day before and my voice as a writer has become infinitely stronger because of this. Diction and syntax that is unique to me has emerged. Fictionalizing my personal truth, my heart beating and bleeding on the page, is a process I’m still learning to create fiction that is still uniquely my own but easier to write about. Once I got a taste of personal truth permission, it was all I could write about, so much so my prose would veer into creative nonfiction, my poetry a diary, so now I’m reeling it back in and being more selective with my personal truth. My earliest writing was good for my age, but now it has improved in strides I’d never believed to be possible, and it’s still improving.

Gabriella Christenson, Poetry Editor