Broken-down Poetry: February 2011


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Monday, February 28, 2011

Screaming alongside us

Eli, Eli

My God, my God,
why do I forsake you

while I hang on the cross
of my screw-you, my hell-no,

my let's-just-get-this-over-with,
my it-couldn’t-get-worse-than-this,

my lies, my leanings and inclinations
toward the better-for-me-worse-for-you?

You’re the only one who gets it.
You scream alongside me—

but I can’t hear you.


"Isn't it wonderful? It makes all the difference to know there's someone else screaming alongside you -- and that's the point of the incarnation. I can see that so clearly now. God came into the world and screamed alongside us." -- Drops Like Stars, p. 68

Sunday, February 27, 2011


So I write a lot -- go figure, I'm a writing major. But, I don't spend a lot of time writing for fun. As outlined in my last Scriptwriting blog post, I do a lot of everything for my classes, but I don't have a lot of time or energy to write for fun.

Last Sunday I got to. I got most of my homework done for Monday and Tuesday, so I spent the day writing poetry. Some of it turned out interesting.

I'm not entirely finished with the following poem. I think its metaphor was lost a little. But I'll let you read it. (You're welcome.) Ha.


Like the birds

You pointed up at a bird perched and
showed me how
its feathery neck moves in          jerks—
sharp, decisive
on a pivot
because its eyes are stationary
without periphery.

You pointed back at us and
said the same thing
about human eyes:
how they move like a bird’s neck, in          jerks—
always trying to focus.

I find this particularly entertaining
that as you tell me this,
I do whatever I can to avoid          you—
I look every which way in jerks,
sharply, decisively
to avoid your glance.

I dream of flying away.


As I began writing this post, I wanted to pose a goal for myself: write a poem a day. As I thought about it, I decided to shorten that to a poem a week. Then, I gave up on the goal completely. Do I have time?

I should make time.

Like anything else, writing gets better with practice. And like anything, variety is key. When you exercise your body, you don't spend all your energy on one set of muscles. Even those training for marathons cross-train.

I need to cross-train my writing. That may mean putting aside my homework to slave over a poem -- but that's okay. (I'd probably rather being doing that anyway.)


Scriptwriting Archive:
Broken-down Poetry, and what it means
The strenuous marriage of writing
Poetry as Therapy, pt. II
Sh*tty First Drafts

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sh*tty First Drafts

I’m learning the fruit of my creative effort often ripens instantly. I’ll sit down and get thousands of words, but then a week later, working with the same discipline, will have nothing. But my job is not to make the words come. Who am I to make the words come? My job is no different than a farmer. I till the land. I fertilize the soil. I plant the seeds. Unlike the farmer, though, I am surprised when the green shoots sprout in the spring. I think perhaps it is magic, and it will never happen for me again. But the farmer knows if he tills the land, and is blessed enough to get rain, the harvest will come. Don Miller via


Author Anne Lamott encourages what she calls "shitty first drafts." Sometimes you just have to write. You don't feel it. You don't think you're producing anything worthwhile. But it doesn't matter all that much. You just need to write.

I'm there right now. As a writing and journalism double major, I spend most of my life writing. I write commercial scripts. I write essays. I write memoirs. I write nonfiction, fiction, creative nonfiction. I write news articles. I write emails.

Sometimes I can't keep myself going. My writing seems so very forced. For the most part, that's okay. I've learned that for newswriting, there's a formula that I can follow. My stories on online registration or a student's creative writing prize may not be interesting, but they're written correctly. Sometimes my scriptwriting rough drafts truly are shitty.

I like Don Miller's metaphor. Writing is like farming. It's habitual, first of all. You don't get plants without the process of tilling, planting, watering. Sometimes you don't get anything. Sometimes you get lush vegetation.

So right now, when I could care less about writing, I will write. I will finish this blog post. I will finish the essay I've hardly started. I'll keep thinking about the memoir piece I'm starting.


Scriptwriting Archive:
Broken-down Poetry, and what it means
The strenuous marriage of writing
Poetry as Therapy, pt. II

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I hate when you smoke, a poem

How I hate when you smoke
Revised with a new title and everything. A special thanks to Mary Brown.

On the rare occasion I want to
stand outside with you
while you hold and light, inhale and exhale in puffs    puffs     puffs,
I stand close to you.
I breathe out slow, like you do.
I pretend the cold air’s my secondhand smoke,
while I inhale yours.

I’d never smoke.
D.A.R.E. taught me a thing or two about the tar, the nicotine
that addicts you,          traps you.           I wouldn’t even
dare try to light one. (You’ve seen me with one of those things.
I nearly burn my finger off letting
the butane out of its yellow, plastic trap.)
So most of the time I stay inside
while you find a friend to smoke with.

You ask me what’s wrong.
You think it’s the cigarette itself.
“I only smoke one a day, maybe less.”
I tell you I don’t care, and mean it.
Those surgeon general jokes I make are only meant for laughs.
Because the truth is             I think smoking’s hot.
You’re like Gatsby.

It’s the way you hold it,
the way your big hand handles something so small –
so delicate, so intimate.
Put to your mouth like a kiss.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


This weekend my friend Caitie and I went to see The Decemberists perform in Chicago. The Decemberists is one of my favorite bands, particularly because of lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy's imaginative writing.

I think Colin was probably like me as a child: instead of paying attention in class, he stared out the window and wrote stories in his head. An imagination like his has to develop over time. There's no way he became the writer he is now without having a childlike imagination, since being a child.

Not familiar with The Decemberists? You have no idea what I'm talking about? Well. Let's look at lyrics from "A Cautionary Tale."

There's a place your mother goes
When everybody else is soundly sleeping
Through the lights of Beacon Street
And if you listen you can hear her weeping
She's weeping because the gentlemen are calling
And the snow is softly falling on her petticoats
And she's standing in the harbor
And she's waiting for the sailors in the jolly boat
See how they approach?
With dirty hands and trousers torn
They grapple until she's safe within their keeping
A gag is placed between her lips
To keep her sorry tongue from any speaking, or screaming
And they row her out to packets
Where the sailor's sorry racket calls for maidenhead
And she's scarce above the gunwales
When her clothes fall to a bundle
And she's laid in bed on the upper deck
And so she goes from ship to ship
Her ankles clasped, her arms so rudely pinioned
Until at last she's satisfied
The lot of the marina's teaming minions
And their opinions
And they tell her not to say a thing
To cousin, kindred, kith, or kin, or she'll end up dead
And they throw her thirty dollars and return her to the harbor
Where she goes to bed, and this is how you're fed
So be kind to your mother
Though she may seem an awful bother
And the next time she tries to feed you collard greens
Remember what she does when you're asleep

This is one of the band's most bizarre songs lyrically, and for that reason, one of my favorites. I love the twist ending. You kind of forget the narrator's addressing someone's child, but you're reminded again at the end.

Whenever I hear this song, I imagine a kid eating dinner with wide-eyed shock, perhaps dropping his fork at the last beat of the song.

I think the key to being a good writer is having a broad imagination. No matter how good your mechanics are, if you can't think of an interesting idea or storyline, no one cares what you have to say. (Ah, I mean, in creative writing, not technical writing.)


Scriptwriting Archive:
Broken-down Poetry, and what it means
The strenuous marriage of writing
Poetry as Therapy, pt. II

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Losing, a poem


Sometimes I think I’m a sadist.
                I want change, even if
                                it means losing blood
                                                                                or sanity,
                even if it means
                taking my things back and
                                                leaving or
                telling you how I really feel—
                because that’s how I really feel
                (right now, anyway)—and leaving—leaving—


Emily Dickinson is known for using dashes in her poetry. I like Poe's use better. I've been spending some time with Poe (with his poetry, not his ghost...), which is how this poem came into being.