The Perfectly Imperfect Home – Google Poem

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.


You are right now – Apostrophe Engine Poem

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

Talking with Andrew Bird

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.

Variant short-line: Favorite Words

A couple of months ago, when a friend told me that “I had his word” that he would meet me for coffee, I asked him what his word was. We jokingly exchanged favorite words, and promised not to use them until we met up with one another. Here are a collection of favorite words from different people I have interacted with recently. The list will continue to grow as I talk with more people.


Haiku: Quotation

I laughed my ass off
Fuck! Stop throwing food around.
I can’t handle it
– Emmett Wynn

American thing:
Eating goldfish everyday.
Hesketh says “Hello”.
– Christina Hesketh

“I am not alone.
I am not alone at all.”
He nods, not speaking.
– Andrew Bortvin

“Shut up, gypsy queen!”
I am talking to you now.
He has lovely eyes.
– Raghav Joshi

“A friend is staying,
and he will sleep on the couch.
Is that fine with you?”
– Saanya Ojha

“What are you doing
this summer?” she asks of me
over facebook chat.
– Jordan Baker

“Let’s do dinner soon,”
I ask my older brother.
He does not respond.
– Kristen Kelly

“Pasta fiesta!”
Martin declares. “This is great!
Chop chop chop chop chop.”
– Martin Falk

“Does anyone want
something to drink?” He comes back
with sparkling cider.
– Yingan Xu

Here are a couple of haiku that I have written from things that friends have said over the past few days. It was interesting to be analyzing the things that my friends were saying for the number of syllables their sentences had, rather than actively participating in conversation and contributing meaningfully. I think that in its own way, this practice is antithetical to the process of haiku, which are to me meditative and introspective. By repurposing this form to write something very surface level, I appropriate the meanings conveyed through traditional form to lend a tone of seriousness to otherwise unremarkable conversation.

Micro-poetics: short form poetry

This week’s assignments were using short poems – one consisting of one word lines, one of two word lines, and one of three-word lines. I’ve written these poems over the course of the week, and the context for each is presented after the poem. I do not believe that it is necessary to know the context in which it has been created.

In using experimental writing and experimental forms, I find that my own writing tend s to err on the side of the abstract. As I continue to increase the word limit in each line, I found that I was becoming closer to conveying literal meaning with each poem. This exercise helped me to recognize the value and impact of individual words on increasing (or decreasing) clarity.

film: a sound study


A friend has been preparing for a paper he is writing for his critical writing course here at Penn. His paper focuses on the role of sound and soundtrack in setting tones in film. We were working in an office space on our separate homework assignments, and he would occasionally read aloud from the source text. Several of the film scholars that were being mentioned were French, and he asked for my help in pronouncing their names. After a while, he began to only say single words at a time, which continued to reference what he had said earlier. I copied down some of the things that he said here.

micro-fiction: class critique

Wistful writing,
not beautiful,
genuine responses.
Similar vignettes.
Forgetting place:
easy endings
redundant tone
being precious
doesn’t help.

I am currently taking an advanced fiction writing class outside of my experimental writing course. In that class, we have to submit four different pieces of fiction throughout the semester to be considered for class critique. This week, I chose to experiment with a micro-fiction, and submitted a collection of ten 200 word stories. I got a lot of valuable responses from those critiques, from both my professor and classmates, and I’m looking forward to further editing the stories based on the responses I got. I summarized some of those critiques into the two word lines read above.

a season for shamrock shakes

parking garage roof
we look down
split shamrock shake
it was revolting
but I laughed.
conspicuous consumption? yes.
I don’t mind.
Relax a little –
You need rest.

Last spring, with the release of the Shamrock Shake at McDonalds, I hung out with one of my friends on the roof of the grocery store parking garage. I never want to eat another Shamrock Shake, although I wish I could spend more time with the friend.

Pop Quiz – Art Lecture, 101.

The following poem is written in the form of a quiz or examination. The poem seeks to deconstruct the construction of definitions of art. In defining art to be one thing or another, we frequently neglect different areas of art and artistic experiences. As I question my predispositions towards art more and more, I realize that my original assessments of what art can/should be, and the purposes that art fills, were deeply limited.

Art Lecture, 101.
• Short answer: what is art?
• True or false, everything is art.
• True or false, nothing is art.
• Multiple choice: the following influences the interpretation of art – an audience of scholars/professionals, the original artist’s intent, the historical and social context in which the art was created, the reception by the audience, the context in which art is displayed, all of the above, none of the above.
• True or false, plagiarism is an art form.
• True or false, plagiarism is an art form.
• Short answer: is art moral?
• Hypothetical: A performance artist makes a painting in a cave, and destroys it. No audience ever sees the painting. Is the painting art?
• Hypothetical: imagine that I am an artist.

Travel Guides

I wrote this poem thinking about both the process of traveling and the experience of reading and writing. I really enjoy traveling, and I think that experiencing new and different cultures is an integral component to understanding the world around us. When I travel, I enjoy being well informed about the areas that I am going to, and try to gather as much information about areas as I can. Although this provides me with the opportunity to learn a great deal about these areas, I often wonder if I privilege the information in these travel guides more than I ought to. Rather than going out and trying to experience something for myself, I rely on the information that is given to me about what are good places to see, good places to eat, etc. In many ways, I think this process becomes analogous to reading. While I genuinely enjoy reading and writing, I can find that analysis sometimes constricts the enjoyment of a piece of art. Finding a balance between personal interpretation and intellectually accepted analysis is interesting to me, although the process can be exhausting at times. The reference to dirigibles and submersibles relates to an interest that I had in science fiction and fantasy writing (especially of the steampunk persuasion) when I was younger. It is an area within writing/subculture that I no longer actively engage with, and I wonder sometimes about when I stopped enjoying it as much as I once did.

Travel Guides

Pick your trip based on the cheapest airfare. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it just matters that you’re going somewhere. Exploration is exciting. There is something to be said for trying new things. Buy your ticket, and plan your itinerary and course of action. There are a hundred ways to approach it.

Buy your tickets in shopping malls, in the bodega while getting a pack of cigarettes, in the used bookstores that smell like vanilla and dust. You are England. You are Romania. You are India. You are, you are, you are. Your travel guide charts the way around your body – know it intimately, and understand the sighs of pleasure and defeat. Your preferences for prose or poetry matter: do not discredit them. But do not discount the value of novelty in novels, newness in news. You are not tethered, but teething. Beginning to taste and tell when something is or isn’t working.

On certain days, there will be no airfare. There will be no exploring and no wondering and no wandering and no wanting or waiting. You will not have arrived, because there is no arriving. Your submersible has not reached the right depths, your dirigible not the right heights.

You will not travel today.

Excuses, Excuses

If one has ever been acquainted with the time crunch before an essay is due, I imagine one or all of these are familiar excuses. This exercise was to write a poem entirely out of excuses. Although I try to be on top of my writing in general, the relative ease with which this poem came to me makes me wonder if I am not more of a slacker than I think.

Excuse Me

Of course I did it – it’s sitting on my printer right now. I emailed it to you the other day, are you sure that you didn’t get it? I might have copied down your email address wrong, so let me double check that. I started it last week, and I don’t think that this reflects the work that I put into it. But I care a lot about this course, I am just not sure that I can manage this right now. I really admire your work, I was just so busy I couldn’t read it on time. There were a few other things I was doing, but I will put this at the top of my to-do list. I don’t mean that I prioritize other stuff above this one thing though, it’s sort of a complicated process to explain. But anyway, if you want to talk about it later on we can do that. Let me know if you have any follow up questions, I am happy to explain it all.

Table of Contents – Progress in Work

This poem is written in the form of a table of contents. I am very interested in this exercise, and would like to try it several more times. This short poem reflects a few of the things that I am thinking of and feeling at the moment. Over the past couple of days, I have spent a fair amount of time with friends that are in a club with me. One of the people I spent the most time with is my future housemate for next year. I am very excited to be living together, and I have really enjoyed becoming closer friends with one another over the past year.
In this table of contents poem, I reflect some of my personal uncertainty about the future. WIP, Work in Progress, is a bit of a funny way of phrasing things. I feel that we are never done working, so the progression or vocalization of that progression is humorous to me. I chose to have ten chapters, because of the evenness that multiples of ten give to me.

Progress in Work

Table of Contents:
Chapter One: Because when she set out to do something, she did it with great effort.
Chapter Two: However, there are times when her plans may go awry.
Chapter Three: She was glad to have a friend at a time like this.
Chapter Four: When they got hungry, they set of in search for food together.
Chapter Five: WIP
Chapter Six: WIP
Chapter Seven: WIP
Chapter Eight: WIP
Chapter Nine: WIP
Chapter Ten: WIP