Why I Like Being “Simple”

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Photo by Khai Sze Ong on Unsplash

It’s been over a month since I’ve last written and I just want to thank you all for giving me that time! My last post went up three days before I started my new job and then it was a whirlwind of travel and learning and bonding and total, absolute exhaustion. But I am happy to report I feel like I am settling in nicely and I am so excited to be challenging myself in new and interesting ways.

A younger version of me would have pushed myself to maintain the blog, the poetry, the novel, the social media presence all at once, even while trying to learn a new job. This time around I said no to overwhelming myself. I said no to setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I said no to torturing myself about “not being enough”. I wrote when I could, I slept when I needed to, and I took a break from obsessing about every little thing. I focused on my new work, I got to know my team instead of hiding away in my room to write (they made that easy) and I am so happy I did.

Maybe it’s because I am older and I’m finally learning a thing or two about life, or maybe I’ve changed for another reason, but I can tell you this: allowing myself to be simple kept me happy, healthy and sane these past six weeks.

I’ve never wanted to be simple. Simple was a sin in my book. If I wasn’t multi-talented, multi-tasking, multi-stressed out, then I was failing. A typical day would have been an intense weight workout, a full day of work, writing all night, responding to piled up texts, walking the dog, cleaning the apartment and then passing out totally exhausted. I got sick a lot. I wasn’t productive. My writing was… well… shitty.

Simple felt wrong, simple felt too easy, simple felt like I wasn’t doing my best.

What I’ve found is that SIMPLE allows me to excel. What I’ve come to realize is that my other talents, my other interests, and loves? They’ll still be there. This blog is still here. My poetry is still waiting for me to edit it and share it with the world. I’ve found other simpler workouts that don’t require me to travel to the gym every day. It’s all there and I will get to it. (When I can!) When I focus my attention to one or two things, I kill it. I sleep. I am not sick all the time. When I am simple I am a better, calmer, version of myself. It took a million and one tries, but I finally saw the pattern.

Now that the travel is done for a bit, now that I am finding my rhythm at work… now is when I can pick up the pen again. Write this blog post for you. Take some new photos for the IG. Make special plans with my friends. And when I do all of these things I will be more engaged because I won’t be tired, or worried, or thinking about the next task. I can simply be present.

I know there will be days when I want to go back to the way I was. When I want to pressure myself and push myself and overwhelm myself. And maybe I’ll need the extra encouragement. But knowing that it’s ok to take a step back and breathe is going to make all the difference. I mean, how often do you let yourself be simple?

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Why Write Poetry?

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Photo by Tom Holmes on Unsplash

Ever since I started sharing my shorter poems publicly on Instagram I get a lot of questions and comments surrounding the process, my desire to write it, what it all means. My favorite is “Why write poetry?” I think for some of these people, poetry is a dated or far too academic form of expression. It seems out of touch with our technology-driven communities and the current trend of connecting superficially. But if the rather recent revival of poetry using social media has taught us anything (Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur) it’s that we are hungry for art… because art strives to make sense of that which overwhelms us.

Poetry often worries people. The fear of not “getting it” sends them into a panic and they’d rather not try at all. I understand this, I too remember the requirements of what you must know about poetry for the AP English exam. It can seem overwhelming and weirdly mathematical at times. But to me, the joy of reading poetry comes from your personal experience with it. You can get out as much or as little out of it as you’d like. If you want to read it and feel something–awesome. If you want to read it and then try to understand the author’s intent behind certain word choices–awesome, part two. Poetry can be a bit more malleable than other forms of written word, meanings can change based on when and where you read them. A poem’s affect can vary. This is what I love.

And that’s why I write poetry. I like to capture specific memories, places, and feelings of my own and then put them into a format that can speak to others. My intention with every poem is to make sure someone else doesn’t feel alone. I want readers to engage with each piece and say, “I feel this too” or “I know this”. I want them to love a poem but not be able to tell why. I want them to love a poem and know exactly why.

I want poetry to be more accessible. There are certainly poets and schools out there that do not share this enthusiasm for making poetry for “public” consumption. But I am okay with that. They can have their degrees and robes and scepters (I just threw that in there but I am sure some of them do indeed have scepters). I will play with words and feelings, try new things, learn new skills. I will put my poems out there for anyone who’d like to give poetry a try. Both reading and writing their own.

I’d also love to teach those who are new to it all about it’s history. I want to teach someone about meter and then show them how to break the rules. Nothing would please me more than breaking all the rules someone learned about poetry for the AP English exam. (I do seem haunted by the AP exam today, but I assure I am totally normal and hold no hard feelings…)

There are so many people out there writing poetry right and trying it for the first time! I want to encourage everyone to try it at least once and to forget any rules. Just let the pen move across a page and see what comes up. Come up with your own why for writing poetry… It’s a great healer.

Why do I write poetry? Because humans like to make sense of the world around them, and what better way to make sense of this world by creating other beautiful ones?

 

January Book Round-Up

Hey everyone! I have always wanted to share book reviews on here but I never really felt like I had place or voice to do so. Then I realized that’s all bullshit and any of us can do whatever we want as long as what we’re putting out in the world is honest, coming from a place of love, and the best work we can possibly do.

Yes! I am finally starting to embrace what this blog is all about. Only took me like 3 years.

So starting now I’ll be sharing brief reviews and synopses from the books I read every month. I am warning you now– I never stick to one genre, author, or theme. I read all over the place, all the time. There MAY be an uptick of Western stuff in the coming months as I research a project of mine, but that’s about it.

BNBlue Nights – Joan Didion

Blue Nights picks up where The Year of Magical Thinking left off. Both are memoirs of grief that Didion captures with heartfelt honesty and clarity. In Blue Nights Didion floods light into every dark memory and turns over each happy memory again and again like a stone. We are very much in her mind, rattling through her thoughts with her, no matter how repetitive or meditative. Personally, I love The Year of Magical Thinking more because of its depth and narrative, but it is easy to do that. To enjoy Blue Nights you must be willing to do the work alongside her. It’s tough but rewarding.

 

bedWomen in Bed: Nine Stories – Jessica Keener

Lately I’ve been giving short stories a whirl. After buying Roxanne Gay’s recent collection, I remembered the things I loved about the form and have decided to return. (I left because they reminded me of poorly structured school assignments…) Jessica Keener’s collection of stories follows women of all walks facing changes both in their control and not. The first of my favorite stories, “Boarders”, tells the story of a college-aged woman living in a boarding house with elderly men while sorting out her dating life. It highlights how we often seek shelter in the wrong places. My other favorite, “Recovery”, is the heartbreaking tale of sudden death and survival and how we don’t always have the answers we need. The depth of pain in this story is contrasted against the stark hospital surroundings and left me deeply moved. Some of the characters lose depth from time to time, but overall it was an engaging read.

 

Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmithstrangers

How I missed this one until now is it’s own mystery. (See what I did there?) Many of you will know this story from Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name. I also haven’t seen the movie so being able to read the book prior to doing so (I am definitely going to now) was a real treat. At first I felt like the story started out slow and I was getting a tiny bit frustrated with the sedate and steady unfolding. How wrong I was! Highsmith builds a wild, important world and all that slow sharing really pays off in the end. This is a crime novel like nothing I’ve read and really focuses on how ordinary people can be driven to commit crimes they never imagined they could. I am obsessed with how Highsmith weaves this story and keeps you on board until the end. Incredible book to pick up ASAP.

 

elephant-vanishesThe Elephant Vanishes – Haruki Murakami (Translated by Jay Rubin & Alfred Birnbaum)

Before this collection of short stories the only book by Murakami I had read was his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running which I read during my giant memoir phase. At this time, I was also super interested in writer’s working schedules and routines and how they incorporated fitness. I loved the ease with which he wrote that story and was interested to see how it would play into fiction. Fast forward a couple years to now–I’m on my short story kick and the boyfriend owns this one. Win! Murakami’s stories are enticing, and weird, and sexy all at the same time. No two stories are the same, though there are lots of reoccurring themes, and I didn’t have trouble getting on board with the more sci-fi level stuff. However, there are few female characters I identify with, and a couple times questioned how he represents women in his work, but overall the language and storytelling were unique and powerful.

Can’t wait to share new books with you next month. Let me know what you think of this new section and you can keep up with my reading list DAILY by following me on Goodreads! CLICK HERE.

 

Poet Interview – Arthur Perez Junior -@apjpoetry

Stop by every other month for extensive interviews with my favorite up and coming poets. First up in this new series is Arthur Perez Junior. I met Arthur on Instagram and was blown away by his words and depth of feeling. And full disclosure, I was super intrigued to hear and learn more from him because he has accomplished the goal I am now working toward–publishing a book of poetry. (You can buy his book Wandering here.) On to the interview…! 

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Arthur Perez Junior

1. When did you start writing poetry?
I started writing at a very young age, around 10 or so. I had always been interested in stories, story telling and adventure and it really came to life when my father got a word processor (new school typewriter). From that point I wrote shorts stories and poems daily.

2. Since that time, how has your work changed/grown/evolved?
I developed a love of reading and found myself finding influence in the books I read and movies I watched. I have tried to remain true to my feelings and ideas. My style has evolved into something I would categorize as my own, my own style per se, and the ease at which words come has increased over the years.
3. What themes do you find yourself coming back to and why?
Love. It is always love. I have grown into somewhat of a hopeless romantic. I adore the melancholy of love and loss and the theme continues to carry through into my writing consistently.
4. Can you remember one of they very first poems you read?
I remember reading Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, for the very first time and being so profoundly moved. Even at a young age the idea of forging my own way, resisting the urge to do the ordinary and venture out into the world without certainty. That poem has been ingrained in my mind, a reminder of the value in struggle and persistence.
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One of my favorites from Arthur’s IG Feed
5. There are so many forms of writing. Why poetry for you?
I love rhyme, and although a lot comes through as prose, I have always been drawn to the whimsical nature of poetry. I have been very influenced by late 80s and early 90s hip hop. The flow of the words was intoxicating, and prompted me to get into spoken word and eventually recording and releasing 2 hip hop albums.
6. Who are your favorite “established” poets? 
I love Frost, Rumi, Shakespere, Dickinson, TS Elliot, and scores of others. I love classic literature, and there is no shortage of brilliance.
7. Any up and coming poets you enjoy?
In this age of social media, I am amazed at the sheer amount of talent. There are so many gifted writers with a platform to present there work on a daily basis. I have found several people that move me and if I take the time to follow, have something worthwhile to say.
8. What was it like putting a book of poetry together?
Nerve wrecking and exhilarating. Going through revisions, deciding what gets removed or added and learning the intricacies of publishing were all exciting. I loved the process of it all and hope to take what I’ve learned and make the next release even better.
9. What are your plans for the future with your work?
I am in the process of completing my next release, Star Sailors. I am shooting for an April release. It is all about self exploration and discovery with a space theme. I am very excited about this book and am working tirelessly to ensure that it gets the proper promotion.
10. What’s some advice/motivation you could give to other poets?
First of all, don’t wait. Do it. Release your book and don’t look back. Learn through the process and grow!
Second, have a plan. Do your homework and figure out what works for you.
Thirdly, I would say its your world. Don;t conform. Write what you like, release what you want, and enjoy the ride. 🙂 If you are copying someone’s style, the world has already seen it. Perfect your craft and be the original!
You can connect with Arthur here:

Instagram: @apjpoetry
Are you or do you know an up and coming poet I should feature? Drop me a note in the comments below or hit me up on IG!

Asking for Help Isn’t a Weakness

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Photo by Han-Hsing Tu on Unsplash

I blame my countryside upbringing for my fear of asking for help. Where I come from pulling yourself up from your bootstraps is the ultimate goal. Nothing is worth having if you haven’t completely busted your ass trying. I still feel guilty when something comes to me too easily. Without exhaustion, hard work, pain, or even, tears some things just don’t feel like an accomplishment.

It’s not the worst way to live–my ability to work non-stop, to press through pain, to forget my ego to get a task done, has always served me well– but it’s not the only way to live. In fact, there was this whole concept of asking for help that I didn’t discover until I was an embarrassingly old age.

I am hesitant to name the concept “nepotism” because of the many negative connotations for the word, especially now with Trump as President and his kids skipping along to political careers too despite their lack of, well, any civic engagement whatsoever. While I don’t find that nepotism is an inherently bad thing, it is the cause and root of many troubling things so I must instead look to define the concept I really care about, which is “asking for help.”

I always thought I had to do everything on my own. In high school, it wasn’t until my junior year that I took teachers up on their office hours. There seemed to be a trick to what they were doing. They were going to stick around after class to teach me one-on-one? It seemed too easy. In college I never went to the Writing Center because I was convinced there was going to be some sort of plagiarism going on because, other students were going to edit my work and help me? It seemed like cheating. And when I graduated I had family friends and family members who worked in publishing or TV or journalism, and I pretended not to know them, or  to ask for introductions because I wanted to earn it. 

In other circles, using every single resource given to you is a way of life. I saw it as making things too easy, but other kids (often from privileged backgrounds) saw this process as more work and a chance to get ahead. I was afraid to get ahead. My whole middle class life I had been taught to care for others, to stay in my lane, to not get too greedy for a life I clearly wanted. Again, not a bad way to live. But without the balance of asking for help, I was lost well into adulthood.

Enter New York City. A place where everybody knows somebody and asking for help is part of your day-to-day. Nothing is a favor because more often then not, you have something to offer in return the same day, same week, same month. New York City can be very lonely but in a lot of ways its very tribal… if you find the right tribe. I can get friends discounted hotel rooms, they get me theater tickets, another friend always has an open bar to attend. Ideally, if you work your connections well enough, there’s not very much you actually have to pay for, or line up for. I haven’t perfected that, but I see people who have.

The easiest way to get a job here is to ask your friends who they know. Ask for introductions. Have someone send a resume through. Of course, the job market is still tough, interviews still suck, and you have to rely on your own talents after the introduction, but a good introduction can be 25 or 50% of the work. Even as I write this my country background is firing off: “You sound sleazy! This is gross!” It’s ringing all the bells in my head.

But I’ll say this. When done graciously and with purpose, asking for help doesn’t have to be sleazy. Grabbing on to opportunity isn’t gross. Everything in this life is hard enough, why do you want to make it harder on yourself? You will still have failures and you’re still going to feel lost and lonely. I promise you. So don’t feel bad if, this time, it was a little easy. And yeah, there are people who abuse it, exploit it, use the system for “evil” but that’s just about every system there is. Don’t let that fear keep you out of the game.