Happy 2019! Here’s hoping the year’s better than the one just ended but not as good as future ones. Here at the AAA (that sounds like the Miami Heat home—the American Airlines Arena!) we’re starting the new year the way same we did the last one: a poetry special.
We’ll kick it off with GA’s poet laurate and the man I get more questions for than anyone else: @AC Benus
Your poetry is so good, and you so willingly share your knowledge with anyone who's interested, how did you get so into poetry? Have you ever thought about teaching?
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Thank you for the question. Since I first read it, I've been wondering when my interest in poetry began. I think it started early, so early I can't really say when I wasn't. Nursery rhymes are with most of us as kids, and Puss in Boots is one I had in book form. I'd read it happily to myself.
But on TV at the time were also great poems: Dr. Seuss' Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who; Disney's Casey at the Bat (the 'No joy in Mudville' poem); and also Kipling's Rikki-tikki-tavi. These all played at least once a year.
Our school readers had poetry too. I particularly remember our 8th grade book had a selection of WW1 poems in one section.
But it was in high school where I first thought about writing poetry for myself. In 9th grade, one of our English books had Keats' Ode to a Grecian Urn in the back, and it changed me. So, since the age of 15 I have tried my hand at verse.
As for teaching, I am rather proud of my 20 Poetry Prompts, as they form a course on teaching one's self how to write, lesson by lesson (as one builds on the other). I would like to publish them in book form one day. It'd be a sort of Poetry Writing for Dummies, and the kind of book I could have used back when I was just starting.
Thanks again for the interesting question.
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Next, we have @Dolores Esteban making her maiden voyage into Ask an Author waters. The prolific Signature Author may be better known for her science fiction stories, but her poetry obviously captured the interest of at least one reader.
Your work is very original and different from a lot of poetry we see on GA. What inspires you? Do you feel your work is experimental?
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Thanks for your question. I thought long about it. What is experimental poetry? Is it a category, like we have free verse, traditional poetry, and everything else is experimental? I don’t think so. I think all poetry is experimental, because poets experiment with thoughts and ideas, words and form. I think, however, the approach to and the experience of writing traditional poetry and experimental poetry is different, at least to me. Traditional poetry is a mental challenge. It can take hours, days, even weeks, to get the words, rhymes and syllable counts right. Mastering the form is rewarding, even if the resulting poem is not a masterwork in itself. It’s a joyous but often draining process. It’s about accomplishment, closing and ending. Experimental poetry, like found poetry, is quite the opposite. Poets are looking, hunting for words. It’s an adventurous process and has an element of surprise. The found results are often mediocre, sometimes utterly meaningless, but sometimes they open a door to new thoughts and ideas. They can spur imagination and thus start a whole new process of writing, a traditional poem perhaps, a short story, a novella even. I rarely write free verse, so can’t talk about it.
What inspires me? I’m not a people person, not the romantic type. I always prefer a scientific article to a love story. Hence, I’m inspired by topics and the questions that arise from them. For instance, when I read an article about Ancient Egypt, I ask myself: Who built the pyramids, how and why? When I read about an exoplanet, I ask myself: Is it inhabited? What are the aliens like? I also like words that sound good to me. I once stumbled across the word ‘opalescent’. (English is not my first language.) The word stuck with me. There are other words and phrases that I like for their sound, regardless of meaning. They inspire me, too.
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@Juan Manuel Sandoval is another AAA rookie and I’m loving having all these Spanish names show up. Clear indication of GA’s international and multicultural membership.
Can you tell us about the anime connection to your poetry persona? And if you’ve reached out to others on GA with similar Japanese-style interests? If not, I suggest looking through the images people post to see who you might befriend
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I would be more than happy to answer this question. The connection of anime to my poetry persona is actually something that developed in tangent with my growing fascination with pop culture particularly things like anime, manga, video games, and music as well as my general concerns with the individual and larger society. When I watch anime like Recovery of an MMO Junkie or Sailor Moon, I see a glossy, sparkly layer of artistry that covers characters who are genuinely flawed and fearful of themselves and the world around them.
Pop music is an overload of sugar tinged lyrics and sound that sometimes detrimentally detach the humanity of the artist behind them. Video games sensationalize out of this world narratives and characters that, at the end of the day, are revealed to be just as human as us. I was fascinated by how we use the glossy, the pretty, the escapism of fantasy to hide the ugly corners of our own identities while still trying to be different and human. In a way, I saw a lot of myself within all these small worlds. Anime plenty of times creates characters that are ruled by a singular trait, stereotype, emotion, or idea and so my poetry itself began to mimic that as wel.
My poetic persona shifted drastically with that realization and discovery from something generic and superficial to a style of self confession and exploration. I took singular emotions, events, tragedies, ideas, people and I sensationalized all of them. In a sense, each of my poems is a living and breathing character built off of real human fears and dreams. The Baker, for example, takes something many would take for granted or overlook, baking a cake with my mother, and sensationalizes it so that people can feel the importance of it, they can feel what I feel. When my mother explained to me that sadness was a part of life I had to accept with happiness, the act of baking a cake transformed into something more than the glossy sweetness I had seen it as before. Now this cake was a culmination of a story. It was sadness mixed with happiness all sprinkled with tragedy and hope. I also counter the sweetness of the idea of making a cake by subverting it, describing it as a long and bitter struggle to figure out the recipe. I often take these images, ideas, or concepts that I think seem “glossy, anime perfect” and subvert a readers expectation by denying them that sweetness and perfection and instead presenting the raw and human truth. Me and my writing are also strangely separate in people’s eyes. People see me as myself and it’s difficult for them to attach the melancholic and cautionary tones of my writing to me, almost as if my writing was one character and I another. In a sad way, that’s just part of us as human beings. It’s easier to accept the glossy presentation than venture into the uncomfortable truth. To finish, I’d say my poetic persona adopts the glossy and beautiful surface of anime, but it ultimately shatters any hope of real life mimicking such. I ant people to really see the vulnerability of us being human and not just act and treat each other like passing extras in an episode or scene.
As for reaching out to others with similar Japanese influenced styles, I have not. I’m still relatively new and I do suffer from social anxiety. It’s extremely difficult for me to talk to others, even on online platforms, without breaking down into nervous fits over if I said what I wanted the right way or if people like me or just tolerate me. It’s something I try to work on everyday and I will definitely reach out. I just like taking things a step at a time! Thank you so much for the question if I enjoy anything more than writing it’s getting to talk about it.
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New year, new authors. @Ivric is our third consecutive rookie this month. If you want to find his offerings, do not search under authors, my fellow Floridian is listed under EDITORS on GA.
Your book of poetry is marked complete. You mention in your description that poetry helped you become a better writer. How has it done this? Do you think you’ll write any more poetry?
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Poetry helped me become a better writer by first helping me say more in less words. I was not one to express myself out loud when I was younger and moving away to college I found myself experiencing life however I could not convey how I felt. I remembered that listening to music helped me also. When I combined music with my emotions I could create, with my own voice, my poems. Second, poetry helped me put my thoughts in a logical order. My mind bounces all over with different thoughts and ideas, so with poetry I had to organize for a purpose and have rhythm and life. Lastly, I could free the stresses of my past and focus on today.
I am always writing more poetry! I have never stopped. I am focused on the story that I have been writing for a few years. Also, I am expanding on the prompt that I wrote for Christmas.
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I’ll close this month’s feature with one of my favorite GA authors: @Parker Owens Why didn’t I have cool high school teachers like him? Adept at writing fiction and poetry, Parker never fails to reach his audience with his writing.
What was an early inspiration for your poetry? And you seem to be interested in a strict pattern of traditional meter. Why do you think that’s so? Does it relate to your early exposure?
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Music was my earliest inspiration for poetry. I wish I could say it was great music, but my parents and grandparents taught us all an odd assortment of college songs, silly folk songs and popular tunes from their own childhoods. Most had easy-to-grasp rhyme schemes, and regular metre, as one might expect. Many of these still stick in my memory (Passengers will please refrain / from using toilets while the train / is standing in the station, I love you…). There are times when I have my pen in hand, and I can hear my father reciting Wordsworth, and echoes of my grandmother singing bad temperance songs, all the while holding onto her bourbon and water.
Perhaps it is because of this that regular, traditional metre appeals to me. There is a song in the lines one writes, but the music has yet to be written. Regular metre works for me also because it concentrates language, in the same way that syllable-count poetry does. One has to choose words carefully and structure them so that they sing. I studied both mathematics and music as an undergraduate, and continue to compose justifiably neglected pieces from time to time. This seems to be an extension of that.
I rediscovered poetry upon joining GA. I found authors like @Mikiesboy, @AC Benus, @Headstall and @Valkyrie to be supportive and constructive without being pretentious. Without people like these, I should never have gone back to poetry, which I largely abandoned in high school. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll try free verse again.
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That’s it for this round. Remember to send me any questions you may have, may not feel comfortable asking yourself, or wish to share with the community. See you next month.