humbled hellos

I haven’t written much in the past two years. This is a welcome to 2016, and a hope that I’ll do/make/write more that I can share here in the coming year. I don’t know if it’s a diary that I want, or some kind of accountability to create things that remind me of here & now.

Some changes since we last spoke: I’m 21, and in my senior year at university. I’m figuring out where I’ll be next year, and what I’ll be doing in the future. It’s exciting, but also sometimes scary.

More later.

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Day Two

I woke up pretty early, and made myself some tea for breakfast. I got out of the flat close to 9:30, and made the walk through Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. While the Guards officially start to change at 11:15, in order to get a good view near the gate you have to get there pretty far in advance. I… did not quite arrive that early. (In my defense, the parks are too beautiful to rush through. I really liked soaking in the beauty of everything, so I might have meandered there a little too long.) I could see everyone processing in, and saw snippets the exchanging of the keys over the heads of some people in front of me. While I was walking away in the end, the ceremony ended and the Palace Guards walked down the avenue right in front of me. So that was a very happy accident.

From Buckingham Palace, I stumbled across the ICA (Institute for Contemporary Art). Although it shares the name, it has no relationship to the ICA in Philadelphia, as I thought it might have. Entry was very inexpensive – only £1, but there was only one show up when I went in. Everything else in the house was in the process of being put up or taken down, but I’d have loved to spend more time there. The building was quite beautiful, from what few parts I saw.

After the ICA, I walked around to London’s Chinatown in search of lunch. Chinatowns are always exciting for me to find, especially after this past semester when I did an entire independent study focusing on Asian communities in the US, focusing on Philadelphia’s Chinatown in particular. I ate lunch at Baozi Inn, which was a substantial amount of food. I wasn’t particularly blown away by their bao, but their mapo dofu dish was very spicy and good.

Trafalgar Square was my next stop of the day, to see the National Gallery. I wandered into the museum and liked a lot of what I saw. It’s an incredible collection, and definitely has some real gems. There were some familiar faces there from the pages of my art history textbooks, and I really loved being able to see everything up close and in person. Although it isn’t fine art, I have to admit that some of the favorite things that I saw there were in the lower level, where the museum had highlighted children’s works from local elementary schools. Different arts classrooms shared their student pieces ad talked about what their projects were. It was a really endearing collection, and something that I wish I saw more museums back at home devoting space to.

From Trafalgar Square, I walked over Big Ben and to Westminster Abbey. (Fun fact: Big Ben refers to the clock inside of the tower, not the tower itself.) I didn’t take the tour of the Abbey, although I did sprawl out in the grass for and check out the exterior of the building. Someday, I’d really like to go inside and check out the stained glass rose window. For now, I was pretty contented to just hang out and relax, and not pay the somewhat hefty tour price. I saw the London Eye peeking out near Big Ben, and decided to walk across the Thames to check that out. I think that I’d love to see some of these sights at night, when they get illuminated, as I imagine it would be really striking.

I crossed back over the river and walked to Somerset House in order to check out the Courtauld Museum. The museum was one of many gallery spaces in Somerset House, but it was getting close to closing so it was the only thing that I actually tried to see. It was a private collection that has since been made public – admission is very inexpensive at £6, but with valid student ID I got in for free. Walking in, I was reminded of the Barnes Museum on the Parkway in Philadelphia. The building was very elaborate and ornate. There were a few van Gogh paintings which got most of my attention – he is one of my favorite artists.

One of the docents also struck up a conversation with me while I was there. He was a much older gentleman, and had asked where I was from. Thinking that he had heard my accent, I told him the US. He told me that he thought I “might have been an Oriental”, which is why he asked. (sigh.) Despite this, he was pretty polite, and I’m chalking it up to cultural/generational differences. Oriental is a pretty faux pas thing to say in the US, but not sure if that’s the same here and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Other than that, he talked about his vacation to the United States some years before, and asked me if I knew the place in Florida where he had stayed. (I found it endearing that he would give a cross-street somewhere in the US and expect me to know it.) We also talked about the US-Cuba relationship with embargo, although I don’t really remember how that came up.

After the Courtauld, I walked back to Trafalgar Square and took the Underground back to Notting Hill. It was pretty late by the time I got back, and I ate my leftover Chinese food for dinner and then just chilled out at the flat for the night. One thing that I hadn’t really thought of, but the London is very far north in comparison to Philadelphia. I think that it’s probably more in line with Nova Scotia than anything in the US. As a consequence, the days here in the summer stretch on far longer – the sun sets at 9:30pm, and it doesn’t really get dark until after 10. On the flip side of things, it makes the days in the winter so much shorter, but I’m very glad for the extended sunlight while I’m walking and wandering.

Day One

I arrived in London Heathrow airport close to 6am, after a fairly comfortable flight. I was lucky enough to have two young children sitting right in front of me who were incredibly well behaved – the parents were great and kept them very quiet. The in-flight movie selection had some nice recent films, including The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I watched right after takeoff. After we touched down, it was very easy to get through the plane, security, and baggage. (Good decision making: make your baggage distinctive. It saves time at the baggage carousel because you can grab and go, rather than having to inspect every black suitcase that comes around.) It took me a little bit to figure out how to make sense of the Underground, but I did eventually manage to buy an oyster card and get to Notting Hill in one piece.

I’m staying at the flat of a family friend who lived in Notting Hill, although she has since moved back to the United States. Her flatmate is still here, and he let me into the apartment on his way out to work. It’s a beautiful place, and very comfortable set-up. I am so glad to have a chance to stay here, as it puts me a lovely part of London and gives me a lot of flexibility/peace of mind when it comes to leaving my stuff when I am exploring the city.

I got a chance to shower and charge my phone and computer while I was at the flat, and get in touch with Jin, a friend who is staying in London. He is taking classes through a Penn specific program, which is coincidentally also centered in Notting Hill. Although his dorm room is only a mile away from the flat, I left a few hours before we were supposed to meet for lunch so that I would have plenty of time to wander the streets.

I came across Portobello Road when I was wandering. When it’s in full swing on the weekends, Portobello Market is the largest antiques markets in the world. Since I went on a Tuesday, only a few vendors had sidewalk stands set up, and there were very few people walking along the road. Even though it was smaller-scale, it was still a ton of fun to check out.

After Portobello, I really just wandered around for a good hour or two, checking out the different houses and passing by a few churches. The streets in Philadelphia are laid out as a grid, which made trying to navigate here a little bit more complicated. Although I never really had a set location in mind (besides arriving at my friend’s dorm when his classes let out) I kept finding myself doubling back around and arriving one or two streets past where I had thought I was going. A lot of the streets are variants on the same name, with distinctions made between roads, drives, crescents, places, alleys, etc. I am glad to have a map on my phone to be able to figure all of these things out.

After Jin’s class let out, we ate lunch together and then took the metro over to Harrods department store. My parents had recommended that I check it out – and I am glad that they did. I didn’t think that I would be one for a lot of window-shopping (and, trust me, with the prices at Harrods, that’s all I could afford to do) but it was a really strange experience. Each floor felt like a completely different set of stores – from the eateries, to the haute couture, to the children’s toy room, it was fabulous. Best part of the trip there was definitely the Egyptian elevator though – it was in the center of the store, although was not the entrance that we originally came into. We stumbled across it though, and took it back up to the top just to get a view. The shrine to Princess Diana and Dodi at the bottom was impressive, to say the least.

We walked back to Notting Hill after Harrods, going through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Once Jin and I had split up, I walked back to the flat. I found an Asian grocery store on the way back, and picked up a package of instant noodles (the international food of cheap students everywhere) for dinner. I also bought a pack of tapioca pearls, which had very simple instructions for cooking. I am chalking that purchase up as a necessity, because who knows what the bubble tea situation is going to be at Cambridge? And I definitely couldn’t go without it for two months. I spent the rest of the night at the flat, and fell asleep pretty early.

Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers Day!

2014-06-16 12.38.58 - Copy 20140616_153922 - Copy

it’s a little bit late, and now I am an ocean away, but I wanted a chance to share these pictures. To the left is a picture of my father and grandmother, at the airport before my dad went to study in England for a college junior year abroad. The red bag he’s holding contained everything that he needed for the next year. To the right is a picture of me and my father, taken less than 24 hours ago when I was checking in my luggage. The red bag that I’m holding contains everything that I’m needing for the next two months. (I’ll admit, I haven’t quite mastered the art of minimalist packing like Dad yet, but I’m hoping to learn!)

Thanks for seeing me off, and for encouraging me to go in the first place!

I’m now settled into the Notting Hill flat that I’ll be staying at for the next few days. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, and I’m excited to explore it. I am just recharging my batteries (in both senses: I’m plugging in my phone, and getting a change of clothes on) before heading out to go for a walk.

A quick update

This much neglected blog was originally made as part of an experimental poetry course I took in the spring semester. I am currently repurposing it to document some of my travels this summer. I will be taking classes at Cambridge this summer, and hopefully doing a fair bit of traveling while I am there. Before classes start, I am going to be exploring London, Frankfurt, and Venice. Posts from here on out will cover some of these trips, as well as other things relating to my traveling and studies.

A summer study abroad seemed like the perfect thing for me – I didn’t want to be away from campus during the school year, and taking the extra credits while away freed up some time in my schedule for the academic year. I think that I am going to have a busy year ahead of me, so I am using this opportunity to work out some of my wanderlust, and focus on relaxation.

While I am writing this brief update from the plane, it’s likely I won’t be able to post it until I actually touch down at London Heathrow airport. Here’s hoping that the rest of the flight is as peaceful as the first part was.

The journey begins!

Kristen

Visual Poetry – Spoon River Anthology

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.

Spoon River Anthology

PEER Mentoring Excitement!

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!

Class Notes – Attention

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.

Class Notes

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.

 

I see the boys of summer – Meaning Eater Poem

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.

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.

Arthur Rimbaud: On War – Cento Poem

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
Love-provoking light.
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.