A recent assignment asked that we take poems by other authors, so I took a poem out of Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, and added visual components to it and play with the text. For this piece, I’ve changed the size of the page from a standard 8×11, making it a 5×7 size, changed the font, and added text.
I’m incredibly excited to be the Board Chair for the PEER next year! PEER (Promoting Enriching Experiences and Relationships) is a first-year mentoring program for Asian Pacific American students at UPenn, run through PAACH (the Pan-Asian American Community House). This year, I have been the Vice-Chair of Social Programming, and for the coming year I am going to be Chair. We recently had our board changeover process – the outgoing board met with the incoming board and discussed what each of the positions would entail, and talked about individual visions for what these roles could achieve moving forward.
Later on today, we’re going to have our first official meeting as a new board. There are a couple of logistical issues that we need to cover – discussing how we want to structure interviews for mentors, and planning for our End of Year banquet. I’m most excited to be having a conversation with the rest of the board about what our collective vision for the program is for the coming year. Having the ability to positively shape the PEER experience is something that I am really looking forward to. (At the same time, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am a little bit nervous! PEER has set consistently high standards over the past several years, and I really hope to be able to live up to these expectations!) I hope that we’re going to be able to form a cohesive idea of what we want to do with the program – it obviously doesn’t have to be something that gets done by this afternoon, but by the beginning of the fall semester, I really hope that we can set tangible goals for us to achieve.
As a multiracial individual, I haven’t always known where I fit in when it comes to racially specific categories. With my light hair and light eyes, I’m often seen as more “White” than “Asian”. And I realize that this bifurcated identity comes with a different set of privileges and problems. I identify most strongly with my Asian cultural heritage, although I know that my version of Asian American identity is vastly different than a lot of my friends. Becoming part of the APA community here at Penn has been a strange experience. I don’t know many other students at Penn who are Asian multiracial, and I know fewer who are active within PAACH. At any given point, I’m almost guaranteed to be the whitest person in the room, and that can be an alienating experience for me. However, I have to say that getting involved with PEER in my freshman year as a mentee really helped me to understand myself and know what my multiracial identity meant.
Over the past two years, PEER has been a deeply personal experience for me. I’ve made some of my closest friends at Penn through the program. My mentor from Freshman year is someone who I can talk to about anything – and (as clichéd as it might sound) I really consider her like an older sister. Although she graduated last year and is no longer in Philadelphia, she still finds so many ways to be present in my life. I am really inspired by how she values her friendships, and I hope that I can be as thoughtful and considerate as she is to me. This year, I was also able to be a mentor, along with my responsibilities as Social Chair, because of the number of mentees that we accepted into the program. Although my mentee and I don’t have many academic interests in common, I am so glad that we have found common ground on so many other levels, and I am so excited to have another two years on campus together to continue to strengthen our friendship.
Given all of this, I am cycling back to the sentiments I talked about at the very beginning. I really can’t express how excited I am for the upcoming year. The relationships that I have built through PEER have been so important to me, and especially in the last year as a co-chair, being able to see our mentees grow and succeed in different ways has really made me feel like I am able to have some kind of positive impact on other individuals.
Fingers crossed for the upcoming year!
Here’s my second take on the “Attention” poem – a collection of all of the things that I heard over the course of an hour. My first one was much more of an introspective process, while this piece is a collection of conversations that went on external to me. I took these notes during my Experimental Writing Seminar – which would explain the title of “Class Notes”. I tried not to differentiate between the people who were talking within this, although I imagine that some people might be able to identify themselves if they were to read over it.
And you read it actually in a similar intonation with the last one – even intonation with a very rapid clip. It’s like the sun fleeting on the water, very fleeting, the way you hear it in your head is very specific. And yeah, I don’t think it’s particular to the subject matter. Reading in a classroom setting, I try to read quickly – no, no, I don’t know. I guess, I guess. Not articulated in an explanatory way. It’s true that you’re reading fast but you don’t have too much time. It’s particular to reading poetry in a classroom setting, like I’m ambient noise. A transient flicker, deemphasizing what you’re doing to highlight – yeah, the specificity. Yeah. Creating something that is a highly jammed poem, I lost my train of thought. Coming in trains. Repetition and patterns come about you never would have come up with on your own – I like that I don’t think so. And that first line, that was one of the first things we were trying to get people to understand and maybe not intentional but reiterated, and which musical was this? At the actual musical, a lot of the more serious bits were laughed at by the audience. Really, yeah. It was funny to people and in these dark events there was this comic relief that they were searching for somewhere. People saying you have to die in another way, throwing shade insults. Telling you how you may have died, that it might have been what you wanted. See, I’m missing the point. I only get interested in these expressions when they’re no longer used ten or twelve years later, and it changes your reaction to it. Definitely really fascinated by the way that you interpret, different contextual does it relate to something you think could be in the poem? It’s a possibility and I didn’t see it that way but now I do. Context in context and it starts to take on its own meaning. Move it into something else and the metaphoric aspects of what’s being said because the original colloquial sense just disappears and it takes on this other life. It can also be understood as distance – when you are writing something it is always something else, disconnected and reconnecting to what’s being written instead of what it’s source is. Do you want to show another one? Poetry investigations are right up there with national security investigations. It’s not for the squeamish, if you want to be squeamish you should take up prose. There’s reasons why you have resistance and you might find that there are reasons for why in your own writing hidden or not or open or not in this environment but there’s another level in writing where these kind of stuff can’t be important. It doesn’t matter. The only thing I’m ever concerned about is writing, and the normal considerations of normal people – I wouldn’t hesitate to pursue other people’s thinking and be irreverent if it was something I wanted to create. I’m only interested in the aesthetic experience I am creating in writing a piece. No animals were harmed in creating this poem. Comfort levels in general produce blandness and most people want to read such things and exchange well thought out well appreciated thoughts but to me that’s not interesting. I think that’s the problem with popular lit – for me, I feel that if I write something, how well is it going to fit into the fabric of what we already have. And for me, I like pop culture. And movies and pop songs, they’re fantastic and it’s very difficult to do but this other stuff I’m talking about is hard to do but has an equal value. Do you like listening to your own voice? I’ve broken down this resistance, it doesn’t affect me one way or another. If I listen to a recording of me. There’s a lot of things I don’t like. And back in high school when I did debate training, we had to listen to recordings so we could perfect ourselves until he realized that people were quitting because of it. I could have stayed in Oklahoma, but I’m also not a vegetarian and that’s the price you have to pay. And so as I was saying, my coach used to make us listen. Three or four screens, seeing yourself in all directions. And like I was saying, we didn’t like to listen. So don’t you like seeing photographs? But studies have shown that people like how they look in mirrors more than pictures because of the way that light hits the face. I have to say, I refused to dissect the frog – I thought it would have been nice, and it’s probably against what I’m saying. It was probably a mistake, and it would have been better, but now I see that maybe I would have learned something about anatomy. I had to leave the room when we did it in high school, I was squeamish. It wasn’t that I was squeamish but I had to overcome it. I just didn’t think it was necessary to do. I dissected the cat, and I took the whole brain out in one go and I got extra credit. I did that too, and when we were done I cut off the head and held it up and my teacher thought I was disturbed. In terms of writing, you have to go beyond! As far as writing goes and in the context of this class perception and resistance to photography and self photography because it’s not true that you’re not photogenic and I’m sure that you think it but I can tell you it’s not true. Thank you. It has to do with how the photograph is taken but there’s nothing you can do to make yourself more susceptible to have a photograph taken. The reisistence just makes it more interesting in a sense and part of it is some sense you have of integrity and you’re seeing things inside and looking out and that’s why I mentioned dissection as if you were breaking your connection to the world as if you were doing that and it can be brutal but worthwhile and it’s just hard in terms of writing or in acting for that matter. You have to, what is it, channel your oppression. It’s often geared to breaking down a sense of self-consciousness and writing has to do a lot with acting and making do with whatever material you can, that’s what’s important. Whatever you can extract that is worthwhile if you are interested in writing. So, do you want to present any of these things? And I can talk about them. And actually that observation is worth the price of admission itself, the idea that thinking things and overhearing things is not an obvious relationship. Fifteen and calamities and quintessence and stories and then there are and there are Mobius strips and then there were and then the Dreaming and immortal coils. With the line breaks intended and I really have an idea in my mind like line breaks. And Milton could do that, and the issue of dictation is different than transcribing informal speech. I think that it’s possible to transcribe your own speech and you become more conscious of your own speech like scavenging that’s an interesting thing to do, like with a Geiger counter what are those things called, metal detectors, and what is the difference between dictation and what if you had written it down. See what you can do within the space of the spoken, what can’t be captured in writing and what could conform to the stanzaic and go into the other direction and see what you can do in the spoken and the talked and the performed that you can’t do in the other. Because volume is one example and you can’t convey pitch, rhythm, volume, and accent, you say you don’t like the sound of your voice but it’s a little like the look of your face. Hearing them read is part of the experience and to me that’s not any different to say if I like to read my work or like to perform it or that it exists. It’s all part of a connected system and it connects a different relationship to the work and you had just more and greater intentionality if not more intentionality when you are aware of what you’re saying. And I talk quite a lot and I’m very aware of how I sound and I talk quite a lot and it’s part of what I do and not to be aware of that would be not to be aware of what I’m doing. And to stay in Oklahoma and commune with non-human beings, the cattle, the plants, the dust, the surrounding. The cattle, the plants the dust, the pause – the big sky. When you enter a world when speaking is a social necessity, it seems necessary. It’s all self presentation in a way and if you want to disappear it seems most admirable to disappear if not practical. What is the difference, can you say anything interesting that comes out of it for you? It wasn’t a conscious choice and I said whatever came to mind and I just decided that I wanted to be filled with intuitive choices and not necessarily rational. And I liked the caucophony, and it’s very speech derived and I wouldn’t know, because if I approached this as a spontaneous writing and here you were very concerned with measure and I am as well. I am very aware of the pauses but it’s not just continuous prose either and you become more aware of the median and you can mold it and it’s the transformation between the spoken and the written. And the fact that these are all so carefully and clearly articulated -I don’t know where I was goig with that. More like short pieces and real speech is much more fragmented and much less driven by something that is driven. Girls are like McNuggets. Everything has quinoa in it these days, and she’s the queen of Trader Joes, so it’s healthy. I guess I said mist, instead of missed, but the point still stands. It’s kind of a whimsical aspect, and more of a narrative story. And when you transcribe something that you speak and then reread it it’s not like he ever rereads from a script because she’s really repreforming something that was perhaps spoken in composition and it takes on a different well different aspect when you read. I’ll make note of those that we missed and on this collaboration, someone who has not done something with one of these collaborations already. And you’ll set up a website and send it out and send it to them personally and then we can let her know and it can be added up-front. I just feel so much more constrained when it’s on the page because it’s on the page and the page is finite.
This poem was created using the “Meaning Eater” engine, with “I see the boys of summer” by Dylan Thomas as the source text. I think that this poem is an interesting experiment – I chose to only “eat” the word endings, so the beginnings of the words have remained unchanged. However, in changing the word endings, many words have become very different (see the first line, where ‘the’ became ‘theatricals’.) I think that some of the rhythm is still preserved in the new version, although the elongations of lines does tend to make it a little bit more cumbersome. I have only included the first of the three portions of the mutated poem.
I seeking theme boyfriends of summarizations in theatricals ruined
Layoff themselves golf title barnyard,
Settle no stork by harpy, freezer theodosian soiled;
Therapies in theatrical heaviest theorize winslow flop
Of frosty lovelace theorized fetter theorizer giraffes,
Andrea dropper thefts caracas approximating in theoreticians tidings.
Theatrically boycotted of lighthearted ares curtail in theorized follow,
Soulful therapeutic bois honeymooning;
Theft jacketed of frozenly thereabouts fingerings in theatricals hive;
Theorizations in therapeutic sunrise theorized frighteningly throttles
Of doubtful andrea darlings thea feeding theorization nerve;
Theorem sigma moorings is zeroing in theorizing voicers.
I seeing theatrically sum chinese in theatrical motions
Splinters up theorem bramble womb’s weaver,
Divorced theresa nigeria andersen daybreak withdrew failsoft thule;
Theoretical in thefts deep withdrawals quarterly shattering
Of suntanning andalusians moonlighter thermostats pained therapeutic damascus
As sunburnt painless thermal sheehan of therefore heads.
I seeing thawing frontiersman then boyle sharper mentalities of noteworthy
Stag by seeker shimmer,
Or lamed theories airways witchcraft leased frolics itself hearken;
These froth thereupon heaving therewith dogged pulping
Of lovelorn andrea liggett bury in themes thrush.
O seek theft pulping of summary in theories icebergs.
The assignment this week asked to create a cento, a poetry form that uses lines from other poems. The “stolen” lines, can come from any number of sources – I chose to use a the collected works of a single author, but others could also opt to use lines from any number of authors.
I had originally hoped to use a collection of Dylan Thomas poetry that I bought at my library, but realized that I had left it at my home. Instead, I looked around the library at Philo to find some books of poetry. I found a book of the complete poems of Arthur Rimbaud, which I decided to use. The book was donated to the library last year by a graduating member, and while I wished that I could read the inscription to write it out here, her handwriting was almost entirely illegible.
Arthur Rimbaud: On War
This man, pale, walks the flowering lawns,
Marvelously pale in the sun’s
Along the banks of yellowed ponds,
Across the infinite expanse of day
A small green valley where a slow stream runs.
While the red-stained mouths
Seeing the world through rosy-colored glasses.
As I put out a candle – softly, politely…
He sleeps in the sunlight, one hand on his breast,
In a dawn that was meant for us alone.
Have they crumpled flowers of gold?
The brilliance of these hands in love
The Poet speaks: “Great is the sight of your Beauty!”
This poem used lines selected from different poems about war. I wanted to rearrange the lines to make a semi-erotic poem, which emphasizes the romantic nature of Rimbaud’s language choice (and, additionally, the language choices made in the translation by Paul Schmidt). I find that Rimbaud’s poetry is incredibly beautiful, even when discussing complex and grotesque matters.
In high school, I religiously followed a lot of design blogs and websites online. One of my favorite sites was Design*Sponge, which was devoted to home remodeling and décor, as well as the occasional simple DIY project. Somewhat recently, they published their own book with a collection of their projects and posts. There’s something both very genuine and very clichéd to the lifestyle that I see in these design blogs now.
The appeal to the DIY movement, for me at least, is the draw of surrounding oneself with the handmade, and taking the time to invest in a piece of art or a piece of furniture that is going to become engrained with your daily life. There’s a fun nature to it also, harkening back to the arts and crafts of summer camps – simple projects just meant to occupy the time for an afternoon. On the other hand, the DIY movement (and this is my same criticism of the “Pinterest Perfectionist” lifestyle) can also sometimes present a very false image of domesticity and provide new impossible standards to live up to.
This week’s experiment is a google poem, based on M. Silem Mohammad’s Deer Head Nation. I used various search keywords relating to the Design*Sponge website (Design*Sponge DIY, Design*Sponge before and after, Design Sponge Entertainment) which brought up results on the website tagged under those headlines, as well as posts by several other blogs that referenced a Design*Sponge post. The poem is titled, “The Perfectly Imperfect Home”, after the Design Sponge book.
The Perfectly Imperfect Home
This spring I decided to tackle the dingy entryway of our 1910 row house in Brooklyn.
Finding the right white paint for a project can be surprisingly difficult because, much like black paint, the undertones of white paint can drastically change the way the paint feels on the wall.
I’d like to kick off Black History month with a recipe by Chicago-based humanities instructor
When I saw Lindsey Adelman’s You Make It Chandelier I knew it was a project I had to try.
When I came across a DIY on Design Sponge to create GIANT paper ruche flowers I got super excited and now you can begin to understand why this one caught my eye! The overall project doesn’t look terribly difficult, just time consuming I think.
Last week I had the pleasure of taking a food tour here in Rome led by food historian and food journalist
I’ve been ready for a little textile change at home, so I’ve been watching Etsy and Instagram for great new fabrics.
The house, on one hand, was a stately 1908 Victorian. The couple’s furniture was mid-century Modern. The kitchen, unfortunately, was neither.
I can’t tell you how many broken cane-seat chairs I’ve seen thrown out onto the curb in Brooklyn, but I can say that it’s a lot.
Portland’s Cori Kindred wanted to give her vintage typewriter a facelift so she covered it in a beautiful floral fabric.
I’m a big fan of quick makeovers – projects that take only a few minutes to make, but make a big difference.
This past weekend was like one giant smile.
The second I heard there was a spray that could turn clear surfaces into mirrors I was intrigued.
This poem was made with the Apostrophe Engine, the source for Apostrophe: The Book by Bill Kennedy and Darren Wersheler-Henry. The site begins with the text of Kennedy’s 1993 poem “apostrophe”, and turns each line into a hyperlink that then generates new material as you navigate through it. This poem, which is titled “You are right now”, after the third to last line, was incredibly fun to make. The organic growth of the poem from one line to the next was a fun progression to watch. While I made conscious choices in what I picked from the generated options, there were constraints in that I was not able to wholly invent what the lines were.
Although it is about to be Spring Fling on my campus (a time known for its laid back revelries), I can’t help but feel a little bit apprehensive about some of the school work that I am doing and the end of the semester. Seeing all of the options that were generated by the first line about weak arguments and the rabbit hole that it lead down hit pretty close to home. It was reassuring to have an “out” that moved the poem in a generally more positive direction. I hope I’ll find my own “out” soon.
You are right now:
you are the weak argument in an elaborate doctoral thesis
you are too close to your own graduate school anxieties to think critically about them, visit campus resources that can help you sort out your thinking on this difficult and important issue
you are stuck on campus all day every day, without access to your best work space
you are getting feedback on your work and you know you are on track with you are working on
you are canceling class
you are told otherwise, you should assume the tenured faculty members have not read and do not care about your work
you are at 28 hours
you are able to operate on seven hours of sleep doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed
you are excited and waiting for something good to happen the next day
you are such a wonderful human being
you are still bringing joy to everything around you
you are right now
you are a fly or a cricket
you are still, it’s a work in progress
This week’s assignment was to write down everything you overhear over the course of an hour. I don’t go exciting places and have things to drop eaves on though, so I spent the hour thinking about different sorts of conversations and sound, as well as the interplay between thought and silence. I ended up with something that is not really that much of an experimental piece of writing – instead, it reads much more like a short non-fiction essay.
Perhaps because non-fiction and essay writing is a familiar form to me, I found this to be a lot easier to work within as a means of conveying my own thoughts to myself. At other times in the semester, I’ve written in a stream-of-consciousness style of writing, and while I think that it helps to express a sense of excitement or of continuity, it doesn’t necessarily help to depict the concrete ideas that I try to capture. While I think that experimental forms can reflect multifaceted issues, I often feel that trying to force writing to adhere to one form over another (rather than organically moving into different forms) often makes the pieces of writing too opaque.
That being said, here is my not quite experimental piece of writing for the assignment. The original was significantly longer, because as I was writing it developed into something that was highly personal. This piece contains the beginning of the thought process, and I hope that you can enjoy reading it.
Talking with Andrew Bird
I’m in the lounge on my floor in the high-rise dorms on campus. I’ve not moved much in the past couple of hours – a few times to change the laundry in the machines across the hallway, and twice to refill my glass of water. I crack ice cubes out of the blue plastic tray and drop them into the cup. They roll like dice when I turn the faucet on, and things become quiet again when the glass is filled.
I wish that I had something exciting to overhear. To eavesdrop on a coffee shop conversation, and to take down everything that is said between people. That’s a genuine form of dialogue. Eavesdropping is now something I’ve been assigned to do twice for different English classes, so that I can better understand realistic human interactions in writing.
It’s close to my twentieth birthday, and I would have hoped I knew what realistic human interactions were at this point. Instead, I’m left in conversation with my washing machine, which ticks as the large plastic buttons on my long blue cardigan hit against the metallic inside. Click-click-whirrrr. My best friend uses this onomatopoeia to describe the sounds of his DSLR camera. I used to develop film, but the one by one click and twist was a slow process, and not something I had the patience for. It didn’t make the same type of music.
All evening, I have been listening to the same album on repeat. It’s Andrew Bird’s “Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs”, which contains only one song that I have known before today. “Skin is, My”, was put together on a mix cd that a friend made for me a couple of years ago. He called the mix ‘assorted audio comforts’, and wrote it in blue permanent marker across the face. Retrospectively, I realize that it was an incredibly romantic gesture.
While I’m sitting here, listening to all the different kinds of sounds that are being made by non-conversationalists, with the sounds of a vaguely familiar artist drifting in through the speakers at the sides of my computer, I start to think more and more about silence. I don’t spend much time being quiet anymore.