Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, children of all ages…
The first issue of Volume 7 is available for your viewing pleasure.
This is Danielle Colburn, Fortnight’s blogger for the 2015 school year.
If you’ve just stumbled upon this blog and are confused, curious, and a little afraid, I’m happy to clear some things up. Fortnight Literary Press publishes poetry, prose, and art by and for the students of the University of Michigan. We meet every Sunday at 5 pm at Elixir Vitae on Maynard Street.
Fun fact about us: we would be tickled pink if we got to read or see your art.
Another fun fact about us: we would be tickled pinker if we got to read or see your art and get to know you at our weekly meetings.
So, it’s your call. Whichever one seems more your speed, the first step is submitting to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Just so you know, you don’t have to submit work to come hang out with us. If you just want to talk about some awesome art created by your peers, we’d love to have you).
I’ll be posting on a biweekly basis (or that’s the hope). I’ll post about writing, art, upcoming issues, events that seem fun, or anything else that might fit in here.
The ‘Stupendous Staff’ page should be updated soon, in case you want to do a little research before committing to spending an hour of your Sunday with some neat people in a really cute coffee shop.
A few quick things about me: I’m a sophomore. I’m majoring in English and minoring in Definitely Something, We’ll See What. I love to read (poetry, prose, blogs, dramatic Facebook statuses, etc), watch Disney movies, eat peanut M&Ms, and obsess over my collection of seven and counting succulents (if you don’t know, they’re adorable, hardy plants).
I’ll leave you with a video from one of my favorite Spoken Word poets. Sarah Kay is the poet who introduced me to Spoken Word. I watch her videos whenever I’m searching for inspiration
or avoiding my homework. This is just one of many of her marvelous works, so if you, too, are searching for inspiration or avoiding your homework, check out her other videos. Let autoplay go on indefinitely. Click related videos until hours have passed without you realizing it. And once you’re inspired, submit your work to us.
I’ve never been a poetry person. I’ll write short stories, flash fiction, and the beginnings of novels, but never poetry on my own time. I do read it every once in a while, and I enjoy explicating poems in class, but whenever I’ve been asked to write it, I have always felt about as qualified as a fish specialist at Petco being asked to train the latest Shamu.
Fortunately, the poetry class I’m in this semester (with Professor Cody Walker) asks us to write capital “B” Bad Poetry just as often as it asks us to compose lines worthy of publication. We take perfectly wonderful poems and “de/compose” them, tweaking one or two of their best qualities and leaving laughably inadequate paraphrases behind. In the process, we are instructed to reflect upon why our changes make the poems so Bad. What is it about the originals that makes them so great?
I never would have guessed that writing Bad Poetry would make clearer the greater aspects of famous poets like Sylvia Plath or Emily Dickinson, but it has. And it has also made my attempts at good poetry, a lot better. It draws my attention to musicality, imagery, emotion, word choice, and voice, and in doing so has given me a better understanding of how to successfully manipulate the English language in all kinds writing. It forces me to look at what I’m doing wrong and what others are doing right.
So next time you feel stuck on your writing – whether it’s poetry or prose – try writing something really awful. Take a master author/poet’s writing and make it Bad. Take your own writing and make it worse. Figure out what it is that’s working for you, and what it is that’s working for them. Write a really Bad poem from scratch just to shake the writer’s block. And from there, turn the bad to good, the good to great. Make Bad Poetry work for you.
If I’m being honest, I never really know what to say when asked what my poetry is about. This is not because I don’t actually know what most of my poems are about or what compels me to write them. But when I am posed this question my palms begin to sweat and my mind reels through all the misguided conceptions that could possibly result if I answered with a “this poem is about breakfast/beaches/a bowl of fruit/the treacherous terrains of love.” Over the years, and even past months, I have tested out different answers, different ways of exploring the “aboutness” of my poems. A generalization like “coming of age” usually leaves me and, mostly likely, my questioner feeling empty-handed. The indirect “It’s still in progress but I am attempting to shatter form” has me feeling dishonest. So, the truth is, my poetry is about my obsessions – small ones and big ones. It is about the objects of my obsessions, the results and qualities of my obsessions and, the spaces my obsessions do and do not occupy. Because, so often, a poem is about both the thing its subject is and the thing that it’s subject is not.
On Thursday evening I attended a reading by Natalie Diaz through the Zell Visiting Writers Series. Diaz is the recipient of many honors and awards in poetry and is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec. Her poetry offers accounts of her Mojave-American upbringing that are both unflinching and tender. It was at the reading that I was brought to examine my own relationship with poetic subjects. This was scary and hard. I was also comforted to hear Diaz, a poet I look up to greatly, speak on her own search for poetic subject. She told the story of how she would visit crane sanctuaries in hopes to discover a new subject. Perhaps she would become a “nature poet”, she thought. Then, as she told the audience, she would always arrive back at the subject of her brother, and to the body, and to basketball, and to violence and tenderness, and to how violence and tenderness are implicit in one another. And after she said all this about her recurring subject, about violence, and about tenderness, I listened to her last poem, “Ode to the Beloved’s Hips” and heard all the absences and all the presences of her dark and joyful obsessions.
When I write poetry, I am afraid. That’s not the only emotion I feel, of course. If it was, I wouldn’t write it. On the whole, writing poetry is a thrilling experience for me. that’s why I do it. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little afraid, too. For me, poetry is an attempt to express and convey ideas that often seem a little too odd or difficult to be expressed in normal conversation. I always hope that, in writing the poem, I’ll find a way to make those ideas understandable, conveyable. But I’m always afraid that nobody will understand, that my ideas will prove too strange.
I was thinking about this yesterday as I was reading the poetry of Patricia Lockwood. Her poetry seems, at least to me, to be fearless. She writes boldly and brilliantly about bizarre, unusual, or taboo topics. In her poems She isn’t afraid to say unconventional things (one look at her brilliant twitter account, @TricialLockwood, will confirm this). When I write, I come nowhere close to tackling the strangeness of the topics that she writes about, and yet I find myself afraid that nobody will understand my poetry, that my poetry will accomplish nothing other than proving that I am alone. I find myself wishing that I could write with the seeming fearlessness that Lockwood does. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether or not she actually writes fearlessly. It is entirely possible that her writing isn’t the product of fearlessness, but the product of overcoming fear. Maybe that’s what I should take away from this—that I can’t avoid fear, but I can fight through it (I am reminded of the Green Lantern comics I used to read, in which Lanterns-to-be are selected on their ability to “overcome great fear”.) Perhaps I shouldn’t fear that nobody will understand the thoughts I try to express in my poetry. After all, Patricia Lockwood has written poetry about Animorphs, and her poetry reached so many people that she was profiled in the New York Times magazine. If that’s not proof that one shouldn’t fear being a little unusual, I don’t know what is.