All posts tagged: reading

On Reading Poetry and Poetry Readings

Do you read poetry out loud or in your head? Do you read so slowly you lose interest or so quickly you have motions sickness by the end of the poem? Is it okay to space-out during a reading? Are boredom and confusion acceptable experiences to have when, say, you read a poem that doesn’t stick, that slides right off your mind back onto the page? This semester, in Lisa Olstein’s seminar class on sixties poets, we’ve been reading a poetry collection weekly and discussing the effects they have on us as readers. Two poets we’ve read recently have taught me one thing: No one can tell you how to have an experience. My gratitude for this lesson goes out to John Ashbery and W.S. Merwin, and to their books, Rivers and Mountains and The Lice. Ashbery is notoriously difficult and polarizing in certain ways—a divide usually opening up between “I don’t get it” or “I don’t get why it matters.” I’ve loved Ashbery for years but also always felt myself space-out during his longer …

Want to learn how to write? Become an autodidact

Image: The Dark Veil If you’re familiar with the pros and cons of MFA programs in general, you’ve probably heard this advice before: an advanced degree in Creative Writing is not necessary for you to become a writer, but it can definitely help by giving you the time and validation you need to build confidence in your writing. I’ve now completed two terms of my M.A. in Creative Writing program (two quarters actually, but because there’s no summer term there are only three quarters in one school year– I’m guessing whoever invented that system didn’t major in math), and I have enough experience at this program to confirm that advice, but also to qualify it. In an MFA or MA Program, you will be treated seriously as a writer, and you will have more time than you otherwise would to write, especially if you’re coming back to school from the working world. However, if you are in a program that funds you via teaching assistantships or other university positions, you’re also going to have a …

Read, Write, Ruminate, Repeat

Image: Lynn Friedman In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, whenever Alice stumbles upon a bottle labeled “Drink Me” or “Eat Me,” she ingests them with the naïveté of a child who consumes everything in her path, unaware of how they may change her in ways she doesn’t expect. I was much like Alice as a child, only instead of consuming strange substances, I devoured books. Books had a magnetic pull for me, as if each cover said “Read Me” and I couldn’t resist. That’s why I started writing, after all: I wanted to recreate that sensation of irresistibility in the stories I made up to keep myself entertained. So it seems fitting then, in graduate school, to come full circle and reread books that I treasured as a child. This quarter I’m a TA for a class called Children’s Literature, and while I don’t have any teaching responsibilities for the course (instead I have grading and administrative duties), I still am reading all of the books for the course and attending the lectures. …

Kenzie Allen Introduction (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee PhD): Poetry as Ritual

Poetry as Ritual Image: Jan van de Velde II. Young witch. Engraving. 1626. I’m trying to explain the diastic method to Andreas. I’m pacing my spare apartment, drawing diagrams in the air with my fingers, and there’s no furniture to trip over and no other humans around to interrupt me so I ramble on for some time about algorithms and experimental production and Andreas tells me it sounds like a cauldron spell, which sounds about right. “Poetry as practiced, magickal ritual,” I say. “That’s what this whole thing is.” The workload for the PhD-as-magickal-working is pretty intense, but by this point so, surprisingly, are my reading skills. Without realising when this started, I’m finally able to get through a text pretty efficiently, which may help me keep up with the two or three books a week we’ll be assigned this semester. Of course, all the readings are fascinating and all relatable to a future dissertation, damn them. Every human here is fascinating and relatable to a future dissertation committee (or a coffee date). Even after just this first …

INCOMING…

INCOMING…. Every morning, I try to remember my dreams. Chicken-scratch them down. Henpecks on the grains of eternity. Ink bound in journals to carry. Everyday, I see people I want to be, but am not. Every night, I lay my head to count blessings. I’m reading and writing and teaching and more importantly, learning.  Stepping onto campus to face the second year is nothing like the first. This time last year, read it,  I was an anxious bundle of unfocused energy, still am, perhaps more so, but I now know what to expect and in some ways the pressure is more intense, one third done. Nudge. Nudge. It took one email to find another apartment. I know the names of all the streets and department members and buildings. Easier to get into the room on time, I know where to eat and when and what to order. My office desk and bookshelves welcomed my return, old mates, sisters-in-arms. I know the bike trails. Shucks, I’m second year, I know everything and can mentor the incoming …

Writing from the Outskirts

Image: matryosha I grew up in the town of Tujunga, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, nestled right up against the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s about 30 minutes by car from Downtown Los Angeles and about hour from the airport. Between Tujunga and the San Fernando Valley lies a series of hills called the Verdugo Mountains. It’s about as secluded as you can get and still be in Los Angeles, though it doesn’t feel like the city of surfers and starlets. No, if someone drugged and abandoned you there, you’d awaken thinking you’d landed in east Texas. There isn’t much going on. Along Foothill Blvd, the main drag, you’ll find some fast food chains and grocery stores, a dozen auto body shops, a run of boarded up storefronts, and a trio of biker bars, one of which opens at 6am.  There used to be an enormous K-Mart, but that’s gone. We got a Starbucks about ten years ago. That was big. There’s a small library but no bookstores. The closest one is in Glendale, about …