This Be The Verse: Choose Your Favorite (version 2)

This is my second version of ‘This Be The Verse: Choose Your Favorite’. As the final piece for my blog, I workshopped with my professor and a fellow peer in order to make this post its absolute best. We added a little, deleted some things, and I think it has come a long way. It truly is a different version from the first, and I hope its improvements symbolize my advances across the semester. 

Choose your Favorite:

Last week, Mr. Denton assigned us a homework task that could result in the exhumation of pain, sweat, and tears. If taken seriously, this assignment had the potential to stress out its victims, cause them to break down like a downtrodden car, or perhaps cave in, like that old abandoned house tucked behind the woods. My classmates and I were given the outrageous task of discovering our favorite poem and reading it aloud, for the next scheduled class period. The hard-smack-sound I heard in the back of the classroom was the two athletes high-fiving; they must’ve thought this week’s project was a simple and laidback one; however, I knew the truth of the matter. My favorite poem… I think I would need a lifetime to uncover an opinion.

How does one who is only twenty years of age have a favorite poem? So many poems are colorful and beautiful, meaningful, and bold. But how can I choose one that I have discerned as my favorite? I can recall unearthing a Shell Silverstein poem, when I was in sitting in my elementary school library.

William tell, William tell,

Take your arrow, grip it well,

There’s the apple– – aim for the middle– –

Oh well … you just missed by a little.

For some reason, this poem has stuck with me through the years, and I treasured it because it was short (I could remember it), and the character in the poem was notably historic. But this only taught me that poetry can linger with you, speak to you, and even change your mood or your views on particular topics; however, there are many poems I have memorized and admired in the past, and this does not mean that they are my favorites. I love poetry; I am a fan of poetry. I have attended over a dozen poetry events where I listen to poets passionately recite their poems. Yet, as I continue to add more and more poems to my repertoire everyday, there has not been that one poem that glows in the dark. After Mr. Denton’s class that day, after the homework was given, I sat on my bed, and I pondered this assignment. I glanced to my right and spotted the first X on the map- a book of poems. This is where the adventure began.

I began this journey at my first destination, my book of Bill Knott poetry. Bill Knott has been one of my favorite poets for only a few months now, and I find his honest and somewhat dark language to be striking and attractive.

“DEATH”

Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.

They will place my hands like this.

It will look as though I am flying into myself.

He speaks of beauty, love, and death in the glummest terms- it’s fascinating and also unique. He’s an outsider who knows of his honest place in this world; he knows where he stands in the public eye, and he is not afraid to encompass this outcast role. When I decided I wanted to be a Bill Knott fan several months ago, I investigated his history and found a humorous fact. He once faked his own death, and this is not surprising if you appreciate his poetry. Afterwards, he wrote of himself: “my poetic career is nugatory … no editor will countenance my work; I’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; I am persona non grata and universally despised or ridiculed by everyone in the poetry world.” Knott commonly spoke of those who didn’t value him. Imaginably he found it difficult to believe that people, such as myself, really admired and embraced his irrational mind.

“TO X”

You’re like a scissors

Popsicle I don’t know to

Whether jump back

Or lick

Come on… who can’t admire and grasp such a brilliant four-lined poem?

I admire Bill Knott’s poetry, and I respect his talent for making the most absurd and entertaining titles for hit poems; however, I did not find a poem of his that I felt comfortable calling my favorite. The next poet I decided to research was the noteworthy poet, Jon Sands, and it felt like I was flying across the country. Sands and Knott are very different poets. They are similar in the fact that they talk about topics in an honest way; however, Sands does not have an outcast appearance or a desire to transform light topics into gloomy ones. In my humble opinion, Sands fits in with the crowd. In one of his poems, he talks of the rapper, Ludacris, and on his personal blog he mentions his love for tuna fish sandwiches. His poems include taboo subjects, and he speaks his mind, he says what we are all thinking, with confidence and contention. If you’ve scrolled through my own blog, you know that I have seen him perform live, and what an incredible occasion that was. Sands is beyond friendly, beyond vulgar, and beyond amusing. He is without a doubt one of my favorite modern poets; check out some of his videos on YouTube- they’re sensational. But, once again… his poetry is tremendous and spot-on, and I could not choose a favorite.

As I sat at my computer staring at the poetry of Knott and Sands, I fatefully answered a phone call from my grandmother. Being a fan of poetry herself, I asked her what her favorite poem was, and she mentioned the well-known Yeats. I think the sole reason she likes his poetry is because he is a fellow Irishmen (let’s keep that between us). Regardless, the phone call from my grandmother had me thinking about family, and like the rapid ignition of a candlewick, an idea was sparked in my mind.

Let me back digress for one moment. I have a mom, a dad, and two sisters. I love my family; we are a happy, solid-foundation-ed family, and truly, although we argue over thoughtless matter, I could not ask for a better family. Freshman year, I took an English class, and while I sat in this class, the homesickness I felt towards my home was commonly enflamed. For some uncovered reason, my emotions could not be suppressed while in this class, most likely because the poetry I wrote and read embodied my love for my parents and sisters. A similar homework assignment was given to us in this course, where we didn’t have to choose our favorite poem, but we had to pick a poem to memorize and recite to the class. I expectedly chose a poem about family, a poem that had a sense of Knott in it. Philip Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’ was my chosen poem freshman year, and now it was going to be the poem I declared as my favorite.

The initial stanza is:

‘They fuck you up your mum and dad… They may not mean to, but they do…. They fill you with the faults they had…. And add some extra just for you.” I love this poem because I find it to be honest. There’s a sense of comedy in it, and yet, like Sands and Knott’s style, it has truth, the kind that most parents and children probably deny. I appreciate my family more than many college students I know, and I do not believe in Larkin’s negative words in the slightest. However, I do embrace the fact that I am a product of my family’s fuck-ups (excuse me), and as Larkin says, I am who I am because of their faults. It’s very difficult to call a poem my favorite; however, this one will forever be one of my top five. Perhaps I enjoy it because I get to say fuck whenever I perform it, but there’s also something so frank about the meaning that I am required to embrace it. To me, my family is faultless even though we can be occasionally disorganized or obnoxious in public. We may be flamboyant, perhaps dysfunctional, but my parents’ fuck-ups don’t affect me in the most damaging of ways. I love my family, and I love Larkin’s words.

What’s your favorite poem?

 

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A Conversation with Jon Sands

I am pleased to be posting a long-time-in-coming and very special blog-entry in my blog. I have had the tremendous and exciting opportunity to correspond with The Jon Sands, and unsurprisingly, he has provided me with not only answers to my questions, but also words of wisdom. As this semester quickly comes to a close, I’ve had time to reflect on my grand assignment, the task of creating a blog about poems, poets, and everything poetry. At times, creating well-established posts has been difficult; however, I have always remained a fan of poetry. Post after post, alongside a tad bit of research, this blog has provided me with a new perspective for poets, e.g. Jon Sands. Prior to our email exchanges, I found his poetry to be intriguing and true. But now I can comprehend the origin of his themes, and I’m beyond excited to show you all what lies behind Jon Sands’ poems. Without further adieu:

1.) Tell me about your first successful poem… first of all, which poem of yours was this? And how did it make you feel knowing you had written something that contained power? At what age did you write this poem?
This is such a tricky question, because it calls into question what is a successful poem? There are many poems that I look back on now and can easily find their flaws, their weaknesses, the cliches that I did not know were cliches. But the satisfaction from writing them at the time was immeasurable, and I truly believe that the healthy artist (and maybe person) is one who learns but does not regret. It is impossible to find your successes without your lessons, so forward is the only way to move. My first poem that I felt proud of was all simple rhyming couplets and I wrote it in a small leather journal while traveling with my older brother Jacob. I was 21 at the time. It was a metaphor comparing a relationship to a garden and how there is no way for the flowers to bloom if you don’t plant and care for them. Objectively, not the sharpest poem, but I nervously and excitedly read it to Jacob, and he really got it. It was the first time I had intentionally attempted to make sense of something that had only been characterized by emotion, and someone I loved understoodI don’t know that I ever came down from that high. It also teaches me to never rule out that each moment or poem can be a starting point. So it doesn’t bare the responsibility of success, only motion. That’s one I have to learn over and over again.
2.) What did you want to be when you were growing up? I don’t usually hear little children say, I want to a be an awesome poet. How did you transition from ___ to poet?
I was afraid of change, and “graceful transition” is a skill that I am slowly learning to acquire as I age. I always wanted to be a teacher, but when I was in first grade I was sure I would be a first grade teacher, and the same for second grade, and so on, so it wasn’t a surprise that I went to college and majored in education, but gradually felt that I’d rather teach at the university level. I never in earnest pursued a full-time high school teaching position. By the time I graduated I had fully caught the creative writing bug (which is maybe in some ways an adult teacher) and moved to New York City, where I took a job as a paralegal, and sought out all poetry venues I could find. That was in 2006, and by the end of 2007 after a packed year of ups and downs, and the firm realization that what I was actually seeking was a creative community that I could have pride and residency in, I left my paralegal job to tour the country, and I’ve been a working poet and educator ever since. That was where I was at, but that paralegal job was excellent, and I could definitely still see a future for me that merges the writing and the political/legal world.
3.) Currently, I am in a creative writing class, and we are writing our own poetry. Personally, I love to write poetry, but I have trouble really locating the words that best suit the poem. What piece of advice would you give to a group of struggling poets? In my class at Georgia Tech., we are all either engineering or science majors, and we are all in our early twenties. What piece of advice would be most advantageous to us?
Poetry is there to serve you, not the other way around. I would say two great pieces of advice I’ve received from many different mediums are to pursue knowledge (and this includes creative influences, as well as information about the world around you), and then to sound like yourself. You need not adjust your basic voice or individuality for your art. Or simplify your complicated heart. It can feel like you’re doing it wrong, because you don’t see anyone else writing like you are. But in actuality that is the root of your strength.
4.) Tell me about one of your role models in life… a friend, a parent, a sibling. I find it interesting to see where someone finds inspiration, and since your poems are so straightforward and real, I am very curious to see who has been one of your greatest fans, assuming, your role model is also a fan of yours. 
I am blessed to have a mother and father that together have modeled a dynamic love of people, communication, and the world. I am also truly grateful that they are fans of mine. My poems often have a tendency to unpack stories that are rooted in the complicated dynamics of family, and I don’t know whether it would be possible for me to write those poems without a base knowledge of their support, and it is truly a privilege to not have to find out. There’s way more unpacking of the answer to this question in this essay.

 

 

This Be The Verse

Choose your Favorite:

Last week, I was assigned a task for homework that I thought could result in the exhumation of pain, sweat, and tears. If taken seriously, this assignment had the potential to stress out its victims, cause them to break down like a downtrodden car, or perhaps cave in, like that old abandoned house tucked behind the woods. My classmates and I were given the outrageous task of finding our favorite poem and reading it aloud, for the next scheduled class period. I suppose the hard smack sound I heard in the back of the classroom was the two athletes high-fiving- they must’ve thought this week’s project was a simple and laidback one; however, I knew the truth of the matter. My favorite poem… I think I would need a lifetime to uncover an opinion.

How does one who is only twenty years of age have a favorite poem? So many poems are colorful and beautiful, meaningful, and bold. But how can I choose one that I have discerned as my favorite? Poetry can speak to you, linger with you, and perhaps even change your mood or your views on particular topics; however, how could there be just one poem that appears more powerful than the others? I love poetry; I am a fan of poetry, and yet, as I continue to add more and more poems to my repertoire everyday, there has not been that one poem that glows in the dark. After class that day, after the homework was given, I sat on my bed, and I pondered this assignment. I glanced to my right and spotted the first X on the map. This is where the adventure began.

I began this journey at my first destination, my book of Bill Knott poetry. Bill Knott has been one of my favorite poets for only a few months now, and I find his honest and somewhat dark language to be striking and attractive. He speaks of beauty and love in the most glum terms- it’s fascinating and also unique. He’s an outsider who knows of his honest place in this world; he knows where he stands in the public eye, and he is not afraid to encompass this outcast role. When I decided I wanted to be a Bill Knott fan several months ago, I did a little research and found a humorous fact. He once faked his own death, and this is not surprising if you know his poetry. Afterwards, he wrote of himself: “my poetic career is nugatory … no editor will countenance my work; I’ve been forced to self-publish my poetry in vanity volumes; I am persona non grata and universally despised or ridiculed by everyone in the poetry world.”

I admire Bill Knott’s poetry and his talent for making the most absurd and entertaining titles for hit poems; however, I did not find a poem of his that I felt comfortable calling my favorite. The next poet I decided to research was Jon Sands, and it almost felt like I was flying across the country. Sands and Knott are very different poets. They are similar in the fact that they talk about topics in an honest way; however, Sands does not have an outcast appearance or a desire to transform light topics into gloomy ones. In my humble opinion, Sands fits in with the crowd. In fact, he says everything everyone is afraid to say- he speaks his mind, he says what we are all thinking, and he does it with confidence and contention. If you’ve scrolled through this blog, you know that I have seen him perform live, and what an incredible occasion that was. Sands is beyond friendly, beyond vulgar, and beyond amusing. He is without a doubt one of my favorite modern poets, but once again… his poetry is tremendous and spot-on, and I could not choose a favorite.

As I sat at my computer staring at the poetry of Knott and Sands, I fatefully answered a phone call from my grandmother. Being a fan of poetry herself, I asked her what her favorite poem was, and she mentioned the well-known Yates. I think she likes his poetry because he is a fellow Irishmen; however, let’s keep that between us. Regardless, the phone call from my grandmother had me thinking about family, and like the rapid ignition of a candlewick, an idea was sparked in my mind. Freshman year, I took an English class where a similar homework assignment was given to us. We didn’t have to necessarily choose our favorite poem, but we had to pick a poem to memorize and recite to the class. I chose a poem about family, a poem that had a sense of Knott in it… family fucks you up. Philip Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’ was the poem I had chose freshman year, and it was going to be the poem I declared as my favorite.

The initial stanza is:

‘They fuck you up your mum and dad… They may not mean to, but they do…. They fill you with the faults they had…. And add some extra just for you.”

I love this poem because I find it to be honest. There’s a sense of comedy in it, and yet, like Sands and Knott’s style, it has truth, truth that most parents and children probably deny. I appreciate my family more than many other college students I know; however, I know I am a product of my family’s fuck-ups (excuse me), and as Larkin says, I am who I am because of their faults. It’s very difficult to call a poem my favorite; however, this one will forever be one of my top five. Perhaps I enjoy it because I get to say fuck whenever I perform it, but there’s also something so frank about the meaning that I am required to embrace it.

So… what’s your favorite poem?

 

Poetry@Tech

Poetry@Tech

            Last Thursday night I attended a Poetry@Tech event. This is a poetry event held at Georgia Tech where three poets read some of their work over the course of an hour and a half. The event is held in the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum, an interesting building, located on the edge of Georgia Tech’s campus. Over the course of my three years at Georgia Tech, I have been to many of these events. However, not until the readings last week did I truly take notice of the environment in which these readings are held. I’ll be honest, it’s not the most beautiful space, but its casual qualities make the Poetry events spontaneous and relaxed.

            It’s no Broadway Theater, and for those who live in Georgia, it is nothing close to the Fox. As I am sitting here, typing away this piece, I cannot recall the wall colors of the Museum or the carpet texture, the pattern on the material of the seats, or the height of the small stage in front. This tells me it is nothing special or glamorous; certainly it isn’t memorable. Nevertheless, I can tell you about the poems read the evening of April 3rd, and I am sure the poets would agree when I say, this is probably the point of a poetry reading.

            The seats were comfortable, at the least. I didn’t get up from my seat after the evening and rub my back trying to ease pain. I can recall that there are mini desks at each seat, and personally, I enjoy this, for it makes taking notes an easier task. I take notes in order to remember the topics of each poem, and I do this because it is a requirement for my Creative Writing course. In all sincerity, I detest the fact that I have to take notes, for I think it distracts me from the poems. However, surely the décor of the Museum doesn’t distract me, and this is also important to a poetry reading, I am sure.

            How elegant would a Poetry@Tech event be if it were to be held at the Fox Theater? One special event where everyone dressed up, including the poets, and cocktails were served in white-gloved men dressed in tuxedoes. Perhaps I should suggest this to the committee…. However, I wonder if the poets would enjoy such a setting? Do poets prefer calm soothing settings? Or would they enjoy a night filled with elegance and sheen. What does a poet consider to be a distraction? I am sure this answer differs for every poet; however, it’s an interesting question to survey.