#NaPoWriMo

In preparation for the inception of NaPoWriMo–an intense thirty-day poetry binge for those of us paralyzed by fears of audience, topic, detail, and ourselves–we discuss why anyone would put themselves through the torturous process of writing a bad poem draft every single day. The answer? Lots of wine.

It’s almost April, which means baby animals, Earth Day, sunshine, and poetry.

(If this list isn’t gritty enough for you, try October, month of blindness awareness, pizza, opals, and pagan celebrations.)

April is a good month for poets. We can sit on the porch, wear sunglasses, and write.

Winter gets me into the bad habits of watching lots of (good!) television in my bed, sleeping late, and not writing as much as I would like. This is partially because it is expensive to heat my apartment, so staying in bed is the best warmth option; but it also because everything is the same grey color for three solid months. Grey trees, grey sky, grey asphalt. Grey is lovely, but my poetry relies heavily on color as fodder, fuel for its verse. Consequently, my winter poems are mostly about death and rainstorms.

The response to many months of not-so-brilliant poetics? The 30-day challenge of National Poetry Writing Month (otherwise known as NaPoWriMo). Similar to NaNoWriMo (wherein writers work on a novel draft to polish and wrestle the remaining 11 months), NaPo challenges poetry nerds to write a poem every day in April. Many poets defer to writing several in a sitting, then skipping a day or three (ahem), but the 30-poem challenge remains (that’s a whole chapbook, folks).

These poems don’t have to be complete, or even near complete, or even real poems. Half the time, I end up writing “ugh I hate working at the grocery store before a rainstorm. Everyone is batshit crazy and forgets their canvas bags,” before abandoning my computer in favor of drinking tea and looking out the window. But from this small moment in the time between other things, I begin to consider my myriad food service jobs, making lists of weird customers and co-workers, and remembering stories. I make lists of images, brainstorm titles on the backs of grocery receipts, think in meter.

Poetry is always in the back of my mind, even while I am busy writing consulting, bagging natural groceries, or running errands. With NaPoWriMo, poetry takes a more central space in my brain, becoming an undercurrent, a benevolent riptide of thoughts, pulling and pulling. The fragments that I puzzle together are not unlike seashells: often fragmented, sharp, and duller when dry, but they are poetic bookmarks. As of now, I have 14 scalloped edges of things that may or may not become poems. This is certainly better than nothing.

A side note for the curious: Some NaPoets post their pieces on the internet. I am saving mine for my inevitable collected works.

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Success

My post-internship contemplation has solidified my long-held suspicion that I cannot be an intern–least of all when my supervisors have less work experience combined than I do myself.

Alexandra Kimball’s brilliant, sad essay touches on the anguish felt by those of us who are realizing that the job we always wanted is reserved for rich folks, and that we have little else to do besides worry about bills.

How to Succeed in Journalism when You Can’t Afford an Internship | Hazlitt.

Grad

So as you know if you follow my every move via social media, I got a big fat rejection email from the grad program I applied to at the University of Washington.

While part of me is surprised–the honors-graduating, essay-planning, highlighter-toting part of me–in many ways, I expected it. My application was viciously progressive, and for a department conservative in any way, my style of scholarship would be off-putting.

(Not to mention that UW accepts less than 5% of applicants for this particular program and offers less than half of them assistantships or financial support.)

When I received the email, I was just about to leave my tutoring job on my second-to-last day before my unplanned three week vacation. Between the stress I had acquired via the palpable anxiety of students in the throes of finals and the general what-am-I-doing freakout that comes and goes once a week, I was overcome; I went home and wept.

However, after a good cry and a bout of cursing & politicking with one of my favorite UNCA professors, his two engaging comrades, and my wonderful partner, I felt better. I always make fun of people for needing institutional validation, but–as in everything–I am really poking fun at that need within myself.

I texted my extended support system: the writing center director at UNCA, my two professors who wrote recommendations for me, the UWC staff who helped me polish and polish and anguish over my personal statement and writing sample, my mother. True to form, they bolstered my spirit immensely.

I spent the weekend no longer worried about the rejection; I stayed up until 2am dancing and talking, I cooked and played with Octavia Butler (the cat, not the author), I went out to eat three different times, I drank some bourbon.

And yesterday I had an epiphany: if the institution doesn’t want me, then I don’t want it either. If UW’s conservatism caused them to select other, more deferential, students, then I wouldn’t be the right fit there anyway.

Further, without the influence of academic professionals who have drank the Ivory Tower Kool-Aid, I can really focus my academic energies on whatever sorts of independent projects I feel inclined towards. Thus, the second epiphany: I’m working on creating reading lists and syllabi for my own independent courses, focusing on subjects that I have always wanted to tackle but have never had access to within the academy.

Who needs tuition, athletics fees, and bossy research advisors when you have the library, a notebook, and…drumroll please…the internet? Independent scholarship, here I come.

5 Words to NEVER Use in Poetry

Another in the JBAC series–this time, gearing up for NaPoWriMo. I’m still considering if I will participate, but I’m leaning yes. I need something to rev my poetry into high gear, and last time I participated (in 2012), I ended up with half of my creative writing thesis.

There are many things worthy of a poem: the weather, an especially delicious cupcake, the erotic whoosh of a freshly laundered cotton dress, dreams. In truth, the realm of the poetic is wide open to discovery and exploration (of the non-colonizing variety, please).

However, there do remain things that should never be touched by the long fingers of poetry. These things may be tantalizing, omnipresent, and even inescapable; yet this does not mean that they belong in a poem. This is a list of five words that should never under any circumstances find their way into a poem.

Continue reading “5 Words to NEVER Use in Poetry”

Hibiscus

Purple HibiscusPurple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yowza. This novel is electric. Narrator Kambili is at once intuitive, observant, and silenced, leaving the reader with sparse, sensory descriptions that defy time. The language shifts with Kambili’s awakening to a world larger than Mass, prayer, and obedience, revealing a level of insight unexpected in such a passive narrator.

First-person POVs can either frustrate readers or open an entire world to them; Adichie does the latter by creating body languages, undercurrents of specific images, and a simple narrative style driven by dialogue and effective, understated characterization.

For fans of Toni Morrison, the bildungsroman genre, or for anyone looking to get into Nigerian fiction, Purple Hibiscus should not be missed.

View all my reviews

Video available:: Afrocentrism, vegan methodology of the racially oppressed, and revolutionary black feminism

Read an amazing interview with Dr. A. Breeze Harper (aka Sistah Vegan) and found her fabulous blog. This article features video of a talk she gave at UC Berkeley about Afrocentric Veganism–a decolonial understanding of food geography and imperialist politics. Brilliant! Read and share.

Last night I spoke at UC Berkeley, and explained the Afrocentric approach to veganism that is race-gender conscious, decolonial, and revolutionary black feminist. I did this because I wanted to explain that there are more than just Eurocentric philosophical ‘ethics’ behind why some people choose veganism. By Eurocentrism, I mean the philosophical canon of ‘ethics and animals’ that dominate the mainstream academic literature in the USA. While Eurocentric philosophy focuses on the ‘ethics’ of non-human animal consumption and non-human animal exploitation, Afrocentric veganism (through Queen Afua) focuses on how veganism becomes a decolonial tool against the unethical abduction and enslavement of Africans and the institutional of chattel slavery; an unethical institution that took away their original plant-centered dietary philosophy and “forcing” them to eat a carnicentric diet. This is what a vegan methodology of the racially oppressed can look like! Video of talk and Q&A :

Part II

If you…

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