Month: July 2017

Politics and Poetry: Ezra Pound

In the last year, I’ve been giving a series of lectures titled Politics and Poetry for The Socialist Party USA. This is an excerpt from the Slam Poetry section of that lecture.


So we’re going to do things a little backwards for this one and look at the poet’s works first before jumping into his biography. This poem penned in 1926 is one Ezra Pound’s most famous poems, in part because of how short it is:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Pound was an American poet, born in 1885 and lived through both world wars and well into the cold war and the conflicts that prevailed during the time (and subsequently died in 1972). This next poem of his is titled “The Coming of War: Actaeon” written in 1917.

An image of Lethe,
and the fields
Full of faint light
but golden,
Gray cliffs,
and beneath them
A sea
Harsher than granite,
unstill, never ceasing;

High forms
with the movement of gods,
Perilous aspect;
And one said:
“This is Actæon.”
Actaeon of golden greaves!

Over fair meadows,
Over the cool face of that field,
Unstill, ever moving,
Host of an ancient people,
The silent cortège.

Ezra Pound is credited as being one of the creators of the Modernist poetry movement with his focus on imagery. He translated Chinese and Japanese poetry and in both his translated works and original works he pushed for clarity, precision, and economy of language. He founded not only several American literary magazines, but he is credited for discovering and shaping poets such as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost, and Ernest Hemingway.

Image of young Ezra Pound
Via Wikimedia.org

Then came Word War I.

3 Things Stephen King’s On Writing Taught Me

One of the problems beginning writers have is everything about creative writing seems so mysterious. There’s a blank page. You’re expected to put words on it so that your would-be reader has something to look at. That much is clear. That much we understand. A beginner may have a great premise—a scene they play on repeat in their head, an entire world they are filling with characters and adventures. Maybe they’ve even written it down.

But at some point, there seems to come the big question: what next?

How do you go from premise to story? How do you make a character relatable? How do you make sure that anyone will care? More to the point, how do you make sure that once the muse has arrived, she actually wants to stick around? How do you not start but finish a story?

Writing is hard. There are so many intricacies. Description. Dialogue. Narration. One scene alone does not make a story, and even the best premises can fall short when fleshed out.

Stephen King’s On Writing is one of those creative writing guides that tops nearly every reading list, but I only recently read the book. If you’re looking for a kick in the ass—someone who can pull back the curtain and reveal that it’s only old man Oz pulling the levers—then I recommend you stop putting King’s book off for another day. Crack open that spine and get ready for the world of creative writing to get a little less mysterious (but no less magical).

Here are just a few things the book has taught me.

Book Adaptations: Are Television Series the New Cinema?

American Gods

As many of you have probably noticed, there have been several book adaptations made into televisions series or miniseries of late and I am LIVING for them! In fact, I have noticed that overall fan reactions and critic reviews tend to look favorably on adapted television series. This has launched a property scramble among television stations and independent streaming services to create shows centered around the many books that we love. And while this is still a relatively new pop cultural trend, it does seem to be a profitable one. So what is it that causes serialized book adaptations to be more successful than their cinematic predecessors?

NOTE: There are some spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t binged or read American Gods, The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, or Anne with an E, be aware that I’m talking about them here and highly recommend you check them out.

1. Minor characters you secretly wanted more of are further developed:

Fan-fiction has often been devoted to the development of those side characters you were craving more of before they exited the story, either of their own violation or in a body bag. Series adaptations, however, are playing with this idea to elongate the show and keep the bucks flowing in. This is probably most noticeable in the American Gods and The Handmaid’s Tale series. Mad Sweeney, the down on his luck leprechaun, got more screen time than book time and was received incredibly well by fans and critics alike. He gets to go on his own road adventure with other minor characters, Laura Moon and Salim. And while I’m not a huge fan of Laura Moon’s fleshed out character in this series, some did find her likable. Critics, apparently, enjoyed her apathy.

Ofglen’s expanded storyline.

The second property has created quite the buzz given our current political climate and the additions made to this story have proven to be welcome ones as well, namely the development of the original “Ofglen” and her story. She is made a more complex character by being a lesbian, or “gender traitor,” in an environment that is incredibly homophobic and religiously influenced. Fans were stricken with grief to discover that Ofglen underwent female castration. The lines still haunt me to this day: “you cannot desire what you do not have.” Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, is also more colorful as the true antagonist of the show, helping to create the laws that currently oppress the women of Gilead. I find myself hating her more than I do the Commander at times.

How To Manage Being A Managing Editor

For those who don’t know me, I have a lot of little side gigs outside of being a master’s student and my work as an advisor on campus. Three of my multiple little side-ventures are in the world of editing. I am the co-founder and managing editor of this blog, The Poetics Project, as well as the managing editor for The Socialist, the Socialist Party USA’s national magazine. This summer I was also selected as the lead editor of the Editorial Board of Pomona Valley Review’s 11th issue.

So how do I do it? Am I some insane monster that never sleeps? Am I in it for the money? Wait, is there money? Hold on, I’m off track now with the hypothetical questions. Do I just half-ass all of my roles and call it a day? Do I have no life to speak of? Am I a lonely person? Do my academics suffer? Do I have no hobbies?

With the exception of the first question, all of the answers to the above are no. I’ve literally been asked these questions multiple times, so let me go into each one and elaborate a bit on my answer of no.

Am I some insane monster that never sleeps?

Okay, I totally sleep. I don’t know why this is always one of the first questions people ask when they find out that I’m a busy person (then again, maybe it’s the bags under my eyes. That’s just how I look!). Sleep is important and we all need it to function; in fact, when I don’t sleep, I get a terrible case of what I like to call homophones—i.e., I start writing in homophone (think they’re/their/there or your/you’re or new/knew, etc.). I need to sleep just like a normal person—although, as a grad student, eight solid hours is generally something I never get. I do get a good six to seven hours of sleep a night most of the time, and I enjoy strong coffee in the day time to make up for that extra hour I never seem to be able to manage (like, even on the weekends—I may just not be the kind of person that sleeps for eight hours at night).

Am I in it for the money? Wait, is there money?

I work as a managing editor because I want to, not for money. Even in my day job, I get to help a lot of people and that makes me happy. I could never just work for a paycheck—not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve done it in the past and I’ve been terribly unhappy doing it. Also, there’s no money in what I do on the side. The Poetics Project, The Socialist, and Pomona Valley Review are completely free to users and contain no ads, so we don’t generate any revenue. All of my projects are projects of passion. I know there are probably managing editor positions I could find that would pay me, but I don’t know if I’d love their content as much as I love the content at the other places I volunteer at, nor do I know if I want to make managing editing into a career over being a potential teacher in the future.

7 Ways To Use A Writing Journal

Most of the writers I know have a bit of a journal obsession. Like our love of books, our desire to bring a new one home with us doesn’t actually mean we don’t have a stack of journals waiting for us already, their pages blank and ready to be filled. It doesn’t always make any logical sense. In fact, all those blank pages taunt us. They serve as a reminder of all the words we’ve yet to write, and we may not even be able to imagine how we’ll fill them.

Certainly, the possibilities are endless, but below you’ll find a list of just a few ways to use your writing journals.

Writer’s Notebook

A “writer’s notebook” may sound a bit generic, but I couldn’t decide what else to call this. This notebook contains a little bit of everything: story ideas, brainstorming, free writing, outlines. To organize all of that, I suggest employing some sort of color coding/tab system or purchasing a notebook with dividers. Once you decide to run with a story, you can start a project-specific notebook where you write down all of your research, background information, character notes, and more for that particular project.

Pocket Notebook

This is a smaller version of a writer’s notebook. The point of a pocket notebook is that it be carried with you at all times, somewhere easily accessible. As you go about your day, you’ll likely hear conversations and witness human interactions. You’ll be in the grocery store or at an intersection and, suddenly, inspiration will strike—a scene, a premise, a passage of dialogue, a few lines of poetry.

You’ll tell yourself, “don’t be that pretentious fuck who pulls out their moleskin in the middle of the frozen food aisle to write a poem.” You’ll tell yourself, “I’ll remember it this time.” But you won’t. You never do. That’s not how this whole creativity thing works. So forget about what everyone else thinks or whether it’s any good or whether it will amount to anything in the end and write it all down.