Letting Go of All the Versions of Me to Reveal… Me

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.

All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.

Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.

I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.

By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.

It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.

 

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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?

 

Guest Post: Tiny Superstitions

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This is kind of a ghost story.

It’s about memories and magic, and it’s about all the ways my mother taught us to believe in small bits of wonder. It’s about hoping for the best while facing the worst, and it’s about pattern-seeking behavior. I lost my mother to cancer on December 29, 2017, after eight years of battling colon cancer. I have been trying to write this personal essay since March 2016.

This is for you, Mom. I will always leave the rocking chair rocking if you’d like to come and sit.

I have always been drawn to ghost stories. I have always been drawn to any strange or unusual story, any bump in the night that would have me. While this isn’t altogether unusual — who doesn’t love a mystery, or a sense in a world beyond what we see? — I have started to suspect I am drawn to them in a different way. So often, we are taught to be frightened of the unknown. Cautionary tales flourish in this genre, small words to protect us from our own darkest natures. Don’t go into the woods alone at night without a lantern. Don’t eat things a stranger gives you. Don’t give in to the desperation of these times.

I find in these stories solace, rather than terror. Not that we tell them, but that they exist at all. I think being drawn to the unknown comes not solely from a destructive urge to gaze into the abyss, but from the thrilling notion that we can challenge everything. Not every secret is known, and not every outcome is written in the stars. If there are things beyond what we can see, then there are things we see right in front of us that might be part of something big and mysterious, too.

The unknowable thing in my life for nearly a decade has been the cancer in my mom’s body. I have spent my adult life holding lantern in its wilderness, the shadows cast around me scattering fear and hope tangled endlessly into the brambles. I am not an expert in anything, not grief nor medicine nor other people’s stories. But I have clumsy hands and a clumsy heart, and if I can add a story to the string of tales that have brought me comfort, I might as well try.

We are, as humans, inclined to seek patterns in the day-to-day. My mom was no exception. Her combination of Biblical knowledge, a Farmer’s Almanac approach to weather, and allegorical stories of a childhood in the deep, deep South have created a bevy of tiny myths and superstitions in my family. It’s the kind of miniature magic you don’t think about very hard while it’s happening. A handful of these include:

1) Bubbles in your coffee mean money’s coming.

2) Eating greens, pork, and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day ensures a good year.

3) Leave your pumpkins lit all night on Halloween, and your Christmas lights lit all night on Christmas Eve.

4) Never rock an empty rocking chair, or you’ll invite a ghost to sit in it.

5) Seeing a cardinal is a sign of good fortune.

I told her all the time that she was superstitious. She laughed or rolled her eyes as I tempted fate a thousand times a day.

“It’s not superstition,” Mom said, “It’s wisdom. And at any rate, even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t hurt anybody.” This comment was often accompanied by coffee or prayer. Or both.

I often marveled at her quiet determination in all these tiny rituals. Even as I grew to be an adult, it seemed like she held the understanding of the universe in her long fingers, somehow. I realize, of course, that some of the things I consider rituals are just things she liked and did over and over, so now I revere them simply because my mother did them. Some of the things she did were precisely because she was a mother.

6) She served spaghetti and grapes on Halloween. “Brains” and “eyeballs” to spook us a little, but also a very sneaky way to carbo-load her children so they didn’t get sick on candy later in the evening.

7) She rang bells on Christmas morning to wake us up.

8) She did the laundry in a complicated array of batches based on color, water temperature, usage, size, and the weather.

9) She gathered us together before a big trip, no matter what time of day or night, to hold our hands and pray for our safety.

10) She pointed out fairy rings in the yard after hard rains.

I’ve developed my own superstitions here and there over the years, and I see signs and patterns in lots of things, too. I made my own kind of miniature magic, though it closely resembles hers. I have jewelry for good luck, and I have quiet mantras for certain days of the year. I try not to upset the order of the universe too gravely by trying to pretend I understand the future or second-guessing rainy days.

I guess this wasn’t a ghost story so much as it was a memory story. Though what’s a ghost but a memory so strong you can feel it moving through the world? It still stands as a cautionary tale, though. Don’t give in to the desperation of these times. Create your own tiny rituals, or borrow someone else’s until they feel real to you. Hold hope in your heart no matter what’s happening around you. If my mom hadn’t taught me that lesson, I am not sure how I’d carry on now without her.

I have one final bit of magic to share with you. It’s just a pattern, but that doesn’t mean it’s not big and mysterious in its own way. On the morning after I found out my mom had cancer, it snowed hard. It was early October in Iowa, and it hadn’t been in the forecast. I didn’t own a car in Iowa City since I lived downtown, so I trudged to work in knee-high boots and cried. I am convinced the snow was trying its damnedest to hide my sorrow as I crossed the last intersection to work.

Later that day, an old friend called me, and in the course of that conversation, we arranged for him to come visit from my hometown. He was an old boyfriend, another film school junkie who stayed up too late and worried too much, but he knew my mom and he knew me, so it was good to be able to share that time together.

The day before my mom passed away, it snowed. It was a light snow in late December, but the forecast had missed it by almost a week. That old friend was with me again — now my husband — as we held hands, because he knew my mom and he knew me, and it was good to be together.

 

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Sarah Caputo is an artist and teacher working in Oklahoma City. Her most recent creative focus has been on representations of memory, love, and folklore. Sarah posts her drawings, comics, and other misadventures frequently on Instagram (@tiny.revelations). You can also contact her at sarah.tinyrevelations@gmail.com.

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!

Why You Should Try Again (and Again) Romantically

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October is shaping up to be a pretty intense month for me. On top of a lot of travel and hard work coming my way, my boyfriend Frank is moving in with me. I’ve told a handful of people so far, and if the person doesn’t know me well they say “Oh wow! What a big step!” and “Good for you!” If they know me really well they say, “Oh wow are you ready?” And then there are the few that know me better than myself that say, “I’m really proud of you.”

Why all the different responses and why my need to write a blog about it? Well. Here’s a not so secret: I lived with someone before. And not just for a little bit. For four years. At 29 that’s kind of a big chunk of time. A BFD, if you will. It didn’t work out between us, clearly, and I’ve been living alone (and loving it) since.

Having someone move in with me, again, is scary and it took me some time to work through my fears and concerns with it. And if I am going to be real with you all, as I usually am on here, the biggest number one fear I had? What if it doesn’t work out again? I mean, how could it not be given my history? Don’t we ever learn from our pasts? Am I crazy?

Maybe, but not in this context. We cannot let the fear of something in the past (that happened when my partner was different, when the world was different, when I was very different) to negatively affect the now. If I lived in fear of another relationship failing, I’d never find love or support again in my life. Progress comes from confronting and getting over fear.

I was afraid people would judge me pretty harshly for throwing all my eggs into another basket, for truly going for it in another relationship, for dedicating my life to another again. Even when I was comfortable with my choice, I was nervous to share it because I was sure people were discussing it behind my back (“Is that really a good idea?” They’d say.) I was certain they would see the same fears I had early on and amplify them. Not only did I have to work through my own fear, but I had to tune out the opinions of others. Only we know what is right for ourselves. We need to learn to turn to our own hearts for advice, and trust it.

In this case my heart told me, “Trying again is worth it.”

Just like with a career, a novel, a fitness routine… trying again after a failure is part of the process. You get stronger. You know yourself better. You start to find the people you need to succeed. Relationships are no different. You get back what you put into them. Drafting and revising your romantic life is part of building your life story. Ignoring the amount of work and re-dos you’ll have to do to get it right is only hurting your growth. Try again. Try again. Revise. Try again.

Also, don’t forget that love is a weird thing that no one can really explain. They can try. They can get close. But your individual story and feelings are singular to you. Know the difference between trying again and beating yourself over the head with something that’s not working. Be brave, meditate to get closer to your heart, and when you do, listen to it. Ignore the sounds of the naysayers and go for what you want.

Maybe this move in will fail. And I am not afraid to write that anymore. I trust that it will work but I know that if it doesn’t, we’re going to be ok. The great thing about trying again is knowing you can survive it. Take care of yourself, dare a little, and get out there and make yourself happy. I know that’s what I am out here trying to do.