nothing to do with the Glee character.October 30, 2010
the entry i’m about to write seems skewed chronologically but i don’t really care. i wanted to get another entry (and one i’ve been meaning to write for some time) out before November starts. You see, when November starts so does NaNoWriMo and i’m participating for the first time. So throughout November you might only be reading frantic craziness about that adventure (including why i’m super nervous about it.) But you should still participate too and we can encourage each other and celebrate at the end.
But for now i thought i’d introduce myself a little and explain the name of my blog.
i’ve known i wanted to be a writer since i was little. Truthfully it was not the first choice occupation, i wanted to be a garbage collector for a bit there because i thought i could get really good at it and take over for Bruno on Sesame Street so i could meet Oscar and everyone else. From there it went to writing.
However, i had more than a few negative influences in my life and there have been multiple times when i listened to those negative voices saying that writing wasn’t worth my time, that it was a pointless pursuit, that i would never be good enough.
My senior year of college i was going through all of that big time because i was trying to figure out where i was going after i graduated. There aren’t many jobs that require people to sit and read poetry and novels and sit and discuss them and have writing workshops every day. (and if you have this job and aren’t a teacher please help me)
That year i was taking Poetry Workshop for the third time (okay actually i only took it once and the other two years i excitedly woke up early to sit in on the class and get as much feedback as i could, i never signed up to audit it, i just sort of showed up) and one day we read a poem in class that i loved and hated. It was My Confessional Sestina by Dana Gioia.
i don’t write form poetry. i like reading well written form poetry but writing it is most often a hysterical tear-filled struggle for me (i’m sure this means i should practice more and i most likely will) because – confession time- as a poet i have no sense of rhythm. Now there may be rhythmic qualities to my work but i assure you they are unintentional. i might be able to technically define things like iambic tetrameter, and even tell you examples of it (Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Emily Dickinson and the theme song from Gilligan’s Island – and yes you can sing the former to the tune of the latter with amusing results) but that doesn’t mean i get it. The examples i know are from memorizing the knowledge not fully comprehending it. Musically, i have rhythm but somehow poetically it doesn’t connect. Watching me try to complete the assignments that have students mark the meter and feet in poems is ridiculous. It consists of me sitting and no longer being able to speak with any sort of normalcy. i read each word out loud multiple times no longer remembering how to correctly pronounce it or figure out which syllable the accent is on. There is usually clapping and head bobbing and fist pounding involved.
Most form poetry requires that one be able to do those things. i know that you can play with it a little but it would be nice to not have comments like the ones i so often get. . . my senior year in high school my AP English teacher *waves enthusiastically because she is probably reading this* had us write form poems among other things. i wrote a villanelle. She really liked it and i was excited because it always feels good to have someone you respect like something you have written. There was, however, additional comments basically saying now that i understood the form i could keep working on it until i got the meter correct. Now that’s a perfectly honest and worthy comment but it broke my heart because i had spent hours writing that villanelle and saying words out loud and flipping through dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?) trying to find words that made what i was trying to say be in iambic pentameter and thought i had finally succeeded. Clearly i hadn’t.
But sitting there in my Poetry Workshop and reading this sestina (the first one i had ever read) and picking apart how it was written i felt like i had been issued a challenge. i wanted to write one but i didn’t want it to be easy with simple words ending each line. And i wanted it to work as a poem not just be an experiment in writing a form poem. Now i’m sure this is the same way lots of students feel when writing sestinas and that’s sort of where Gioia is coming from but i figured if hers worked maybe i could write one that worked too.
So i tried and failed and failed and failed and failed. Finally, months later i wrote one that i liked. And i took it into my workshop and they liked it too. And so did the other people i showed it to. And that poem energized me so so so much. It helped me focus and keep pushing at the Independent Study i was working on, it helped me realize how much i really did love writing and poetry because other people don’t completely geek out over that stuff but i did.
When i got out of college and would have those moments of doubt i would read that poem and feel better. It would energize me all over again. Now i’m not saying the poem is the most awesome poem ever but for me it was a big deal.
The name of the poem: Artie
Why? Because Artie is the name of my tummy and the poem is about tummies and other important things.
See, one day my senior year i was sitting in my room with some friends and one of them said something about her hamster in a sense that clearly did not really mean hamster. She explained she was talking about her tummy. We started discussing why her tummy might actually be a hamster based on characteristics of both. And that led to the rest of us trying to match characteristics of our tummies to the proper animal (this is a fun game you should all play) i figured out that my tummy is a baby brontosaurus- i know there have been scientists out there saying there never was a brontosaurus but my tummy would love to argue those facts.
Proof i have a baby brontosaurus for a tummy: i’m a vegetarian, it is very finicky and can’t make up its mind easily even though each decision it makes is definitely the one- and then changes two seconds later to the one that is actually the one- much like a toddler, it makes definite dinosaur noises when it gets hungry- it’s a roar but not like a bear growl more like this before puberty, there are also times when there is stomping going on but i remain unconvinced that it is intentional stomping it feels more like a large animal is a little clumsy while walking.
Oh yeah, and i love dinosaurs. Truths: i was and still am ecstatic about the the fact that the kids in elementary school realized they could call me twan-osaurus rex, i graduated from preschool in a dinosaur dress and i recently chose to go to Chicago on a mini-vacation because it meant i could go to the Field Museum and see Sue and other dinosaurs where i took about 200 pictures and clutched my Apatosaurus (that i’m calling a Brontosaurus) Mold-a-Rama like it was gold.
So basically, my tummy’s name is Artie and i wrote a poem about him and other tummies that really helped me and energized me so. . . Artie Is My Muse.
And with that here’s the poem:
lying on the floor, rolling in the comfort
of carpet, we contemplate what exactly
it might be that lived in our tummies
not stomachs or bellies (the difference between brontosaurus
and tyrannosaur in our minds a simple
distinction) and so hands on midsections we chewed
on what happened before and after we chewed
when strange rumblings disrupted class and comfort
with a language that was never simple
to understand but for me it was exactly
clear that nothing other than a young brontosaurus
could possibly perform the job of my tummy.
of course we understood the specificity needed for tummy
distinguishing. plants or animals chewed
a valuable question because i don’t want to upset a brontosaurus
who wants nothing more than food, warmth, and the comfort
of living in my ribcage stomping and bellowing exactly
when he wants. but overall we understand how exceedingly simple
the decision is. we ponder and wish other choices to be so simple
but we revel in the knowledge of our tummy
having an identity and the camaraderie that becomes exactly
cemented in the process. the laughter, the tears, and the chewed
lips that occur daily – jarring at first but soon settling in the comfort
of our reality just as among the jumble of organs settles a brontosaurus
or a snake, a weasel, a hamster, or a fox, but a young brontosaurus
whose particular-ness reflects directly on the simple
complexity of his host. the idea and his presence comforts
me in a confusing way. i’m not accustomed to using my tummy
to find friendship and laughter – ignoring all the chewed
fingernails and other idiosyncrasies in order to get to exactly
what is lying inside, only questioning what exactly
lives inside and the outside world that even a brontosaurus
can’t fix, but never who we are to each other. previously chewed
hearts can slow the process but nothing can be as simple
as the contemplation and the decision of tummy
identity and the overall lesson of comfort
we get so exactly from the others or a simple
brontosaurus who readily accepts chewed food to my tummy
whose oddities mirror and link to the cohorts and this world of self and comfort.
So there you have it. Enjoy my new picture up top that fits with this whole explanation and the name and leave me comments telling me about your dinosaur love and introducing me to your tummy.