Stimulate. Satisfaction. Incorporate. Binary. Contradiction. Language. Incite. Link. Obstacle. Diversion. Unsettle. Detour. Shadow. Create. Play. Defy. Go out your comfort zone. Imagine. Obsession. Rebel. Shake up. Do we have to do something? Can we…? Constraints. Limits. Freedom. Creativity. Modify. Incorporate. Draw from.
This are just some of the words that we used when we described our own process in writing our first poem. I like to write them down because I guess they could help me writing more and better. We thought about how our identity as people and writers is also affected and influence by our own memory and past. This is why we have ready a poem called Autobiography, by Safiya Sinclair.
The poem by Safiya Sinclais is amazing because it tells about a whole life in a few lines. It goes from the very beginning to the present, providing very small details which are significant to the meaning of the poems. The speaker killing the moths, the bruises their father provoked on them. The poem is composed by 4 quatrains (stanzas of four lines). The last stanza begins with the words and here i am, exactly as it happens in Autobiographia Literaria by Frank O’Hara, where the speaker tells about their childhood as a bullied child. The last stanza begins with And here I am, as the speaker says that even such an unhappy child has ended up writing poems, “at the centre of all beauty!”
These poems were a good inspirations for the second Obstruction. Professor told us to think about a moment or a memory of a moment when our perception of the world changed. He told us to think about this memory and to consider and to think about another person included in this moment, as many details as we could, and a great sense of space and place. I thought about me in the office of Carolyn Ferrell, my Professor at Sarah Lawrence College. It was at the top of a small tower. I was going to her office hours. I had snow on my boots, I was almost going to slip on the steps and break my neck.
I remember she told me to read Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, telling me my style was similar to it. She told me to read also The 3 A.M. Epiphany, a book of interesting creative writing exercises. I was at the beginning of my writing process. We were talking about a shitty story that I had written, probably it was the first piece I wrote in English.
This moment changed me because it was when I realized what I wanted to do with my life. She gave me a cup of tea, her desk was completely covered in sheets and short stories to correct and edit.
There was the first page of a newspaper pinned to her door, the day Obama won his 1st elections. The bookshelves were full of amazing books. I really saw it as a “writer’s office”.
She wore amazing amber jewels. She gave me advice about what to do in the future, how to do it and why. It changed my perceptions on my future.
What could you hear? Complete silence. I could see the snow from the window, maybe some students were going to the library and were talking outside (but more likely that they were in their rooms for the bad weather). Who does this person makes you think of? I think of my classmates, about my friends at SLC, Maurice, Cat, about the professors, such as Prema, Judith, Tim, James. I remember a classmate that told me my dialogue seemed a Tarantino dialogue (what????). What did this person say? Carolyn told me to read Jesus’ Son. It was the moment I realised everything was changing and would never be the same. I really could be what I wanted. I sipped my tea but it was too hot, so in the end I brought it up with me to finish it in my room. I felt happy and encouraged. I felt like my life had changed completely.
What stands out about that moment? Carolyn telling me about her life and how she was encouraging me to go on, to achieve my objectives. I remember the contrast of the warmth of her office and the outside world, where ice and snow would make me slip on the steps. Say something very specific about the place. Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, US. Tower on the way to the library. Now change one of the details. Maybe Carolyn’s jewels weren’t made out of amber, something of a “warm” colour, yellow, orange or red. Ethnic. I don’t know.
These questions brought us to Obstruction #2.
– First line must be “when I was a child”, as in Autobiographia Literaria and Autobiography.
– Last stanza should start with “And here I am”.
– Sensory language, images, sounds.
– Very last word must rhyme with star.
– Place/geography/ topography
Other instructions that Ron gave us:
1) Write the place of this memory. 2) Focus, zoom in on the thing that stands out, what is happening. 3) Who are you with? 4) This person reminds you of someone or something else; relate this person to a person, image, object, sense, place, &c. 5) You hear something. 6) Someone says something. 7) You do something. What do you do? 8) Zoom in on what stands out. 9) Name the country or city or street name or town or place that comes to mind. 10) Change, revise, or refine one of the details of your memory.
This is my attempt.
When I was a child
I would read my neverending
to my brother, who was (fortunately enough)
and would play videogames
in silence, as mechanical voices
talked to him about the match
And it was pretty evident
he didn’t give a shit
(fortunately enough, again
given how terrible
those stories were).
He would say “go on”
as pixelled soccers run
all over the screen.
So I went on, filling notebooks
and piling them up on the desk
until that day in College
when an African American teacher from NY
Told me I could do even more.
Attending writing workshops
writing and writing and writing.
“It will be hard but amazing.”
Her office was warm
only paces hushing on the snow outside
she gave me a cup of tea
after my walk into the cold.
I had nearly slipped on ice on the steps to her room
and looked at Obama’s smiling face
on a newspaper cutting pinned on her door
From the day he had won the elections.
And here I am
Writing as strawberry insence
burns on the white walls of the pages
I started in Bronxville, NY, and took me this far.