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

Beginnings and Endings

Jacob's PictureIt’s the beginning of the new year and that means we at Elan have begun our preparations for the Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival. We’ve been collecting excerpts from our distinguished guest writers and posting these with their biographies on the Festival website, dawritersfest.com.

All of the reading I’ve been doing for the Festival excites me, as it does all of my peers, all of my teachers. Reading the work of a new writer is always exciting, but it’s even more exciting when you know that the writer is coming to your school and reading the same pieces to you, discussing how they were written and how you can write better. It reminds us that the Writers’ Festival is part of a great tradition that generations of Creative Writers have taken part in. Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol-Oates, Billy Collins, and Richard Ford have all been keynote speakers in past festivals, and now we have the privilege to hear from more amazing writers.

For the first time in Festival history, we have two keynote speakers—the nationally recognized educator and novelist Ron Carlson and President Obama’s own inaugural poet, Richard Blanco. We’ve entered a new era of the Festival, where we’re big enough to expand the stage for speakers.

I am reaching the end of my time at DA, but I am able to be part of the Writers’ Festival this one time, and being part of its beginning is almost enough to make up for the pain of leaving it all behind.

-Jacob Dvorak, Senior Fiction Editor

What Richard Blanco’s Looking for the Gulf Motel Taught Me About Identity

Aracely PictureAs I lay curled up in an armchair reading Richard Blanco’s third book Looking for the Gulf Motel, I was struck by his diversity and approach. In my personal life, when my writing suddenly shifted towards interactions with my father and references to Mexican culture- I housed a fear that I would be pigeon holed. Surely no one wanted to read ten poems all dealing with my father, and italicized Spanish words. However, words like chiles and tortilla popped up again and again, along with whole lines of dialogue in Spanish.

Somehow,- it wasn’t enough, just to talk about my father and discovering culture. There had to be something else, a layer or theme hiding from me I hadn’t explored yet. Blanco poetry showed me just that. Knowing he was a Cuban writer, I expected unbridled praise for his culture, imagery upon imagery of joyous family gatherings, and ethnic dishes. It wasn’t quite what I imagined.

Reading the poem for which the book is named, I realized there was so many other layers to exploring culture. In the poem he touches on the intricacies of poverty, shame and trying to exist in a society that is not completely forgiving. Amidst this, he celebrates, he creates the true immigrant experience of being out casted, a pariah, and in that humility rebuilding pride, but accepting the weight of practicing culture in different country.

Blanco also explores how his sexuality relates to his culture. He does this in a poem about his grandmother suspecting he was gay, and what the cultural implications of that were. Knowing how the LGBT community is viewed from the traditional Hispanic lens, I felt for him.

More than that, Blanco taught me that even though culture can be beautiful, and rich, you can walk the line of being an in-between, you can criticize it, and be fond of it.

Most recently, with this nugget of knowledge, I’ve been exploring the difficulties of having mixed heritage, being Irish American on my mother’s side and Mexican’s on my fathers.

For a long time I suppressed this desire to voice this confusion. Now I see I can, I have permission to celebrate, and express my identity and its intricacies.

Aracely Medina, Senior Poetry Editor