Monthly Archives: May 2014

Homemade Books – Elephant Edition

Last quarter in my colonial literature course, we had an abstract book project assignment and it was, by far, one of my favorite projects of the quarter.

We were to take a post-colonial theorist and apply it to a colonial or post-colonial text and arrange our analysis in the form of a book. This book could have been made from an existing book or we could make the book from scratch.

My group chose to make the book from scratch, and what we came up with was rather obscure, but hey, if you say “abstract” to me, I’m going to take abstract as literally as possible.

The cover.
The cover.

My group decided to take the four theorist we read in our post-colonial literature class along with four post-colonial stories we’ve read and analyze them alongside the colonial text, Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. The themes from the post-colonial stories in our class would match with the themes we pulled out of the story Shooting an Elephant. And, for the hell of it, we all decided to use found poetry as a way of appropriating the texts for our own purposes just as colonialism appropriated the goods, culture, and natives of the colony for their own purposes.

All of this analysis, of course, would take place in a hand-bound book that would fold out to look like an elephant.

I did say abstract, right?

From Amora to Zatanna: May


David Goyer imageOkay comic fans, fasten your seat belts for yet another comic junkie rant! A recent Podcast known as Scriptnotes released Episode 144: “The Summer Superhero Spectacular” on May 20, which showcased a extremely controversial comic-talk featuring David Goyer. David Goyer is both writer and producer of various DC movie titles like the recently named Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. This topic has been widely discussed by various bloggers and the conclusion many seem to agree on is one of pure outrage. However, there are still some out there who “don’t get what the big deal is” and felt that Goyer was merely joking. As a result, I thought it wise to explain WHY there was such an outrage with his comments throughout the interview and illustrate how he managed to offend just about everyone. Let’s get started:

1) She-Hulk as a Pornstar: Forget Feminism!

Shehulk1stComic fans who are also women were particularly outraged by this comment, and rightfully so. When it comes to strong women role models in the comic realm, it is fair to say that Wonder Woman for DC and She-Hulk for Marvel are likely the most cited. She-Hulk is the go to attorney for the Avengers and is wicked intelligent besides. As many bloggers have also cited, she is able to control her emotional state while in Hulk-mode, something her male counterpart still struggles with. The team depends on her intelligence just as much as her physical strength. So when Goyer remarks “let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck,” he strips away the power that was built into the character and has inspired so many women reading her comics. And this agency was built into the character, just ask Stan Lee: “I know I was looking for a new female superhero, and the idea of an intelligent Hulk-type grabbed me.” Furthermore, Goyer’s comments discourage women from entering the comic community, which is a problem we have been facing for quite some time now. We are either “a fake geek girl” because we do not yet know every minute detail about all superheroes, probably because we are constantly assaulted with tests of knowledge when we enter a comic store, or we are “sluts” because we accurately cosplay the heroines we enjoy, which is our fault not the illustrators. So for an iconic, and yes feminist, role model to be degraded to an “extension of the male power fantasy” just excludes the emerging women comic fans all the more. Let’s see what he does with Wonder Woman, right ladies?

2) You Like Martian Manhunter? Clearly You Are a Stereotypical Virgin.

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Literary Prints for the Home

Next week, I’m moving to a new studio in Downtown Portland, and because I can’t afford a Picasso, I decided to stick with some cheap prints that show off my love of words. Here are a few of my favorites:

Get it here.

If you know me at all, you know that I love Sylvia Plath and her one and only novel The Bell Jar. The Etsy shop Pomalia sells many prints with the black-and-white typography based book covers. You can get a few of your favorite titles and display them on a wall in your living room.


Get it here.

If you’re a Kurt Vonnegut fan, you may recognize this quote from Slaughterhouse-Five. This sentence in particular has been a favorite of many readers. It simultaneously accepts and dismisses everything. In other words, it gives zero fucks.


Get it here.

This famous Shakespearean line comes from Hamlet. It is the last piece of advice that Polonius gives to his son Laertes, who is itching to get to Paris. However, the phrase originally didn’t have such a new-agey meaning. Instead, it meant put yourself first, because then you will be in a better position to help others.


Get it here.

Story Shots: Shotgun


There’s something so Americana about the riding in the front passenger’s seat of a car. For me, movies like Grease pop into my head and I see all the greasers at the drive-in. For others, riding shotgun invokes memories of childhood, riding alongside their parents on road-trips or sitting alongside a friend during their first time driving as a licensed adult. Like our other pieces of short creative nonfiction, these stories are uniquely our own yet share a common theme. We invite you to read our tales, and add your own to the comments below.

“Shotgun!” She yelled. That meant that I was in the backseat. Her new boyfriend was driving. He was a friend of both of ours before they started dating; he was also a really nice guy. I had just gotten hired at my first job. We were all going out that night to celebrate. I got into the backseat, behind the passenger’s seat, and we were on our way. We were about a block from my house when we were rear ended in an intersection. It had happened so quickly and unexpectedly that not one of us looked back to see the car that had hit us pull back into the intersection, change directions, and drive away. No one pulled over to see if we were okay. I was dazed. “Are you guys alright?” the driver asked. “I think so,” his girlfriend replied. “I think I broke your passenger seat headrest with my head,” I replied as I looked at the damage. It was definitely bent in a way it shouldn’t have been bent. His girlfriend was leaning against the window instead of the headrest, at least, so I didn’t hurt her with my big, thick, seat-breaking skull. “Is your head okay?” he asked as he turned around to see if I were more damaged than his car. “Just a little stunned, I guess,” was my reply. We didn’t call the cops because we didn’t want his car insurance to go up. We were young and stupid and not sure how to proceed with these kinds of incidences. The only real damage to his car was a dented bumper, and the shock the three people inside the car were in didn’t register with any of us. We went to the mall that night and I spent my first paycheck on posters. Let me repeat that: I spent $75 on posters – really shitty posters from Spencers. I probably should have spent that money on an emergency room visit to make sure my head was okay. In the morning, we found that Mindy, the woman driving, had left an imprint of her vanity plate on my friend’s bumper – 5MINDY5. We called the cops then, but they told us because we didn’t report the hit and run at the scene of the accident, there was nothing we could do. We just had to live with our sore necks and the fact that Mindy is a bitch.

By Amanda Riggle

I called shotgun in case I had to take my shirt off. It seemed safer. The name of the game escapes me, but it involved risk and the removing of clothes—it screamed “I’m sixteen” and “Fuck you, Dad.” We watched the streetlights as the car neared the intersection, waiting for a flash of yellow. The boys waiting for the sight of bare skin and the girls waiting to be seen. I sat, spine leaning forward and hand clutching the door handle. The light turned. “Slow down,” it said. I slapped the ceiling with the back of my hand, hearing the loud thuds of the others who followed. I always had quick reflexes. Bunny rabbit girl.

A month earlier, we played battle of the sexes in health class. The girls lost in every category, except for reflex. The teacher dropped the yardstick above the empty space between my thumb and fingers. And the bunny rabbit girl closed her fist before she could remember to hold her breath. You had to move fast.

Stacy took off her top and threw it in my lap, the soft cotton brushing against my thigh. Her hand was the last to hit. And he draped his arm against the back of my seat, his fingers delicately wrapping around my shoulder. He was leaving tomorrow. To a college in another state. I figured, what better way to say goodbye.

By Melanie Figueroa

He looked nervous as he dropped me off at my car. He was twiddling his thumbs on his steering wheel. He unbuckled his seatbelt as I struggled to figure out a way to carry all my books. I like books, and I had bought too many from a used book store out in L.A. He offered to drive because I didn’t want to drive. We had had dinner together. It was a good night. I just didn’t know if it was a date. I can never tell. Do I make him too nervous to make a move or is he just not interested in me like that? I’m not pretty. I’m not skinny. I’m not quiet. I’m not the usual girl guys pursue. I know that. But I’m also a great friend. My default mode with everyone is to treat them like a new best friend. I smiled as I tried to jam another book into my bag. It wouldn’t fit. It looks as if my hands were pretty full. He looked over at me and shot me a nervous smile. I smiled yet again. We smile at each other a lot. Is that flirting? He made a motion like he was going to get out of his car, but I panicked. “You can give me an awkward car hug,” I offered. “Oh, okay,” he said, gave me another smile, and wrapped one arm around my shoulders as I sat in his passenger seat. I blew it. I think?

By Amanda Riggle


In Defense of Love Poems

People who know me might be confused by this post. I don’t come off as one overly sentimental, especially when it comes to love or love poems. But I think love is part of the human experience, and thus, like anything that makes us human, is ripe to be explored in poetry and art.

While I agree with Melanie that it is annoying for all people to assume when one says “I write poetry,” that it is mushy-love based flowery poetry, I still think love poetry is a valid and wonderful form of poetry. There are many kinds of love, and many ways of expressing that love through poetry.

Familial love is often celebrated in poems, such as W.B. Yeats’s poem A Prayer for my Daughter written about the birth of his daughter and his hopes for her in the future, or Dylan Thomas’s poem Do not go gentle into that good night written to his father to encourage his dad to fight against his death. Langston Hughes also wrote a poem titled Mother to Son, about a mother summing up her fight for equality and passing the fight and her fire onto her boy.

Brotherly love, or bromance (which is actually a word now, so I don’t feel bad using it), is another theme often explored in poetry. Shakespeare did it in the first 126 sonnets of his 154 sonnet sequence (although, these poems can also be read as being about more than platonic love but there are many subtle things, such as Shakespeare encouraging the youth he admires to procreate and marry so that Shakespeare and the world can admire his offspring, that point to a more platonic reading for me). The best example of brotherly love from Shakespeare’s sequence comes in the form of Sonnet 30, a sonnet that explores how Shakespeare would mourn for his friend in his friend’s death. Robert Frost wrote A Time to Talk about the values of slowing life down to appreciate a chat with friends. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote a poem The Arrow and the Song about how our actions, both physical in the way of an arrow and spiritual in the way of a song, take root in the world around us and are often carried by those we are close to when we feel that these things are lost.

Author Spotlight: Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman is a member of the rock band The High Strung, who have been spotlighted on NPR’s This American Life, and profiled on Their music has been featured on many movie and TV soundtracks, including the title and theme song for the Showtime series Shameless. BIRD BOX has been optioned by Universal Pictures with Andy Muschietti, known for the cult horror hit Mama, to direct.

BirdBox hc c
Buy the book here:

The Poetics Project: Describe your book in ten words or less.
Josh Malerman: A story about motherhood, and man’s inability to comprehend infinity.

TPP: What inspired you to write Bird Box?
JM: I went into the rough draft with two things in mind: one was “infinity” as a physical entity/monster, the other was a simple image of a woman rowing down a river blindfolded. I started writing the latter, and soon realized she was fleeing the former. From there, the details and the story blossomed. It was like filling a balloon with air, watching it expand. As far as any movies/books/etc that inspired it, my history with horror is so rich, that I’m not sure I can point to a single work and say this or that got me to write Bird Box. The genre just continues to propel me, all the time.

TPP: What was the most difficult aspect about writing your novel?
JM: The first draft was such a smooth experience. The only real speedbump was a part of the book I can’t talk about without giving things away! But it’s safe to say that having the lead character blindfolded for 80% of the novel proved to be a juggling act at times. Still, I loved that act.

TPP: What do you want readers to take away from your novel?
JM: I hope the colors of the story come through, more than I’m worried about how well written it is. I hope the spirit of the genre is somewhere between the front and back cover. I once heard that Berry Gordy decided if a Motown mix was finished when he saw the janitors tapping their toes to the music. I hope that happens with Bird Box. As they read the book, I hope the janitors are tapping their toes.

TPP: What advice can you give aspiring authors? What advice do you wish you would’ve been given?
JM: Do not wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a monster. The inverse of a monster; it haunts us when it’s not around. And don’t be afraid to write a bad rough draft. Fly through the thing, hate it if you must, but get that rough draft done, and from there you’ll be able to fix it, with the confidence of having finished a novel.

TPP: What was your experience with the process of getting your novel published and the film rights being picked up before it was released?
JM: My agent, Kristin Nelson, is absolutely wonderful. She walked me through the process step by step and made it all feel natural and fluid. That’s not to say I didn’t experience a few internal freak outs, but through Kristin I met a group of fantastic people, including all the staff at ECCO/HarperCollins. I’m constantly surprised at how nice everyone involved has been. I think a lot of us writers imagine that these mysterious editors, producers of films, and agents are coming from a harsh. anti-artistic place. But it’s just not true. My editor is every bit the artist I am.
TPP: Name 2-3 songs that would be on a playlist for Bird Box.
JM: Ooh! All of the soundtracks for the following three movies worked wonders while writing it: Creepshow (John Harrison), Vertigo (Bernard Herrmann), and Dressed to Kill (Pino Donaggio.)

The Ubiquitous Love Poem

On Friday, I went to the dentist for a cleaning, and amidst small talk, my dentist found out I’m a grad student in a publishing program.

“Have you ever published anything before?” he said.

“Well, I just had a few poems published in a journal,” I said. “But no, I’ve never published a book.” He stood there nodding his head in silence. He had only worked in the office for a few weeks. He had a habit of milling around, his hands awkwardly clasped at his waist, like he wasn’t quite sure where he belonged yet. The technician finished off the cleaning and told me I could rinse.

“So, what kind of poems?” he finally said. “Romance poems?” I laughed politely, muttered something about writing poetry that reflected life, and tried not to punch something.

I wasn’t angry at him. I was annoyed by the persisting school of thought that says poetry equals sappy love poems about longing and soul mates. That type of sentimentality has always bothered me. It’s Romeo and Juliet. Highschool. Roses are red, violets are blue. I’ll die without you crap that almost never reflects what love actually is.

It happens often. Just the other day, my coblogger Amanda was asked by a male friend to send him some poetry she thought he’d like, but “not romantic stuff,” he clarified. In both these cases, with Amanda and I, I wonder if romance came in to play because, well, we’re women. Love, romance, all of that is often considered feminine. Women are supposed to write about their hearts being crushed—love being all consuming. Men, like Shakespeare, are the ones who get down to the gritty heart of love. They are real. And unforgiving.


The First Poems of Famous Writers

Repost alert! If you’ve been following this blog since April 8th, 2013, skip this post. If you’re a more recent reader, here’s a great throwback to a past post I wrote about the first poems of famous writers. Everyone starts someplace when they write, right?

Below are some of our favorite writers and their very first poems ever written. What do you think? Which are your favorite? Can you see where their style started from? Do these poems inspire you? Let us know in the comments below!

William Shakespeare

“Untitled” (1582) (1 year before he had a poem published)

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breath’d forth the sound that said I hate
To me that languish’d for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come.
Chiding that tongue, that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom:
And taught it thus anew to greet:
‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And sav’d my life, saying ‘not you’


Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Ways to Upcycle Old, Beat Up Books

It’s time yet again for some cool DIY projects for the summer. If you have older, beat up books that you’d like to give new life to (or perhaps some old text books you weren’t able to sell back), we have some fun projects for you.

Paper and Wire Bead Tutorial

These beads can be used to make bookmarks, necklaces, earrings, or key-chains. The possibilities are really endless and the project looks pretty easy.

Re-purposed Expanding File Folder

I love this. I want this. I think this is one of my top to do projects for the summer. I use expanding file folders for school and research projects, so making my own super cute one is something I find highly appealing.

DIY Book Jars

These jars would make a nice edition to any room, office, or act as a fun centerpiece for an event.

Book Wallets

Um, these are awesome. I would not only want to make a variety of these for myself, but these would make great gifts for friends as well.


Books Save Lives – No, Seriously.

At work this week, the designers and I got into a philosophical discussion about, well, everything. It began with an article. A man in Texas was arrested for making a pot brownie and was now facing a possible life sentence.

“A pot brownie,” Coworker A said, laughing at the absurdity of it all. “Life in prison for a pot brownie. That’s ridiculous.”

“Why is that?” Coworker B said. “He broke the law.”

I left the room, escaping for a glass of water. Something I had grown up doing under two circumstances: 1. A discussion that had the potential to turn ugly. 2. Sex scenes. Because—awkward.

When I returned to my desk, I decided to join in on the conversation. Over the span of a half hour, we talked about laws. Their standing and ethics. We talked about humans, whether evil really existed. How life was a vicious cycle. How we were all hypocrites and part of the problem. We discussed the world. How it may just be possible that our entire universe exists in a speck on a giant’s skin. That humans are just old stars. The fabric of time. That millions of light years away, aliens could still see the dinosaurs dotting the earth’s surface.

Now, I realize this isn’t normal workplace discussion. In fact, some of it’s probably not even factual. Definitely isn’t factual. But it’s where our imaginations led us. Moments before, we had just arrived back from a meeting about the impending doom facing our office—that is, we’re all being laid off. School budget. Tough economy. Such and such. It’s not really the point, but there was the taste of change on our tongues.

When we began talking about time, I mentioned Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, how Mazer Rackham is kept alive because time moves slower in space. And later, when we talked about humans—our impact on the environment, the atrocities we commit as a species—I mentioned Margaret Atwood’s MadAddam Trilogy, how one human nearly wiped out the entire race, on purpose, because he believed it was the right thing to do. We had our chance. We lost it.