Amanda Riggle

Amanda is the Managing Editor at The Poetics Project, The Socialist, and Pomona Valley Review. She graduated with a BA in English Education and a minor in Political Science. She is currently enrolled in an English MA program with an emphasis in Literature. During her free time, Amanda enjoys writing poetry, reading, traveling, crocheting, watching entire seasons of campy shows on Netflix, and, of course, writing blogs.

Four Women Discuss: Sherman Alexie, #MeToo, and Diversifying Publishing

The literary world is not insulated from the world outside. Recently, #metoo was used on Sherman Alexie, an author many of us at The Poetics Project are familiar with; in fact, Melanie Nichole Figueroa once met him at a conference when she was attending publishing school. Conversations around #metoo, Alexie, and harassment in general are difficult – especially for women …

Politics and Poetry: Slam Poetry

slam poetry

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.


For those of us that grew up as part of the MTV generation, we were taught that Slam Poetry is this:

If you couldn’t make it all the way through that ‘poem,’ don’t worry, I couldn’t either. That’s Joe Hernandez-Kolski performing “COOL” on Def Poetry back in 2007.

Poetry is also supposed to be about ‘feelings,’ so comedians like Nick Offerman have also put out their own idea of what slam poetry is. This video is from 2012:

Slam poetry is, actually, a competitive form of poetry in which artists perform original pieces of poetry and can be judged by a panel of up to five judges (which are usually random audience members selected from the audience before the performances begin) or winners can be selected from the audience’s response. The origins of Slam Poetry are credited to Marc Smith, a poet who performed in the Get Me High Lounge in Chicago in 1984, but scholars say that the history of Slam goes back much further to African oral traditions imported to America through slavery. And here’s four examples of what Slam poetry actually is.

First we’ll start with a slam poem by Amal Kassir from 2012, a native Syrian, who now resides in the United States in Denver:

Comparing what the perception of Slam Poetry is to an actual Slam Poem done in 2012 is, I feel, a great way to dispel the myths surrounding this art form.
(more…)

Politics and Poetry: The Occupy Wall Street Movement

robert haas

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.


A lot of what I’ve been covering for the modern era more focuses on the works themselves and not the poets direct ties to politics. For the Occupy poetry, we’re going to look at Robert Hass, who was the Poet Laureate (believe it or not – that means like the nation’s poet) for Bill Clinton from 1995 to 1997. The position itself is fairly a-political in nature. The poet gets an amount awarded and writes poems for milestones in the administration (swearing in, etc.).

That’s not really what I want to focus on – but know that Robert Hass has strong political ties to Democrats and Occupy happened under a Democrat (Obama). While he’s been part of “the system,” he’s also written poetry to critique wars and political decisions (made more by the Bush admin than Clinton’s or Obama’s however):

Between the Wars

When I ran, it rained. Late in the afternoon—
midsummer, upstate New York, mornings I wrote,
read Polish history, and there was a woman
whom I thought about; outside the moody, humid
American sublime—late in the afternoon,
toward sundown, just as the sky was darkening,
the light came up and redwings settled in the cattails.
They were death’s idea of twilight, the whole notes
of a requiem the massed clouds croaked
above the somber fields. Lady of eyelashes,
do you hear me? Whiteness, otter’s body,
coolness of the morning, rubbed amber
and the skin’s salt, do you hear me? This is Poland speaking,
“era of the dawn of freedom,” nineteen twenty-two.
When I ran, it rained. The blackbirds settled
their clannish squabbles in the reeds, and light came up.
First darkening, then light. And then pure fire.
Where does it come from? out of the impure
shining that rises from the soaked odor of the grass,
the levitating, Congregational, meadow-light-at-twilight
light that darkens the heavy-headed blossoms
of wild carrot, out of that, out of nothing
it boils up, pools on the horizon, fissures up,
igniting the undersides of clouds: pink flame,
red flame, vermilion, purple, deeper purple, dark.
You could wring the sourness of the sumac from the air,
the fescue sweetness from the grass, the slightly
maniacal cicadas tuning up to tear the fabric
of the silence into tatters, so that night,
if it wants to, comes as a beggar to the door
at which, if you do not offer milk and barley
to the maimed figure of the god, your well will foul,
your crops will wither in the fields. In the eastern marches
children know the story that the aspen quivers
because it failed to hide the Virgin and the Child
when Herod’s hunters were abroad. Think: night is the god
dressed as the beggar drinking the sweet milk.
Gray beard, thin shanks, the look in the eyes
idiot, unbearable, the wizened mouth agape,
like an infant’s that has cried and sucked and cried
and paused to catch its breath. The pink nubbin
of the nipple glistens. I’ll suckle at that breast,
the one in the song of the muttering illumination
of the fields before the sun goes down, before
the black train crosses the frontier from Prussia
into Poland in the age of the dawn of freedom.
Fifty freight cars from America, full of medicine
and the latest miracle, canned food.
The war is over. There are unburied bones
in the fields at sun-up, skylarks singing,
starved children begging chocolate on the tracks.


Robert Hass was also a teacher at Berkeley during the time of the protests taking place on campus. (more…)

Story Shots: Pumpkin

pumpkins

‘Tis the season – for pumpkins. Carving pumpkins is a long held American Halloween tradition that’s on par with, well, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. For those not already familiar with our Story Shots as a series, Story Shots are short creative nonfiction pieces (generally but not always in the form of a story) in which our writers all write with the same theme in mind and come up with vastly different stories for your enjoyment.


In college, I squatted between classes into a miniature chair—knees crammed to chest—and faced seven pairs of eyes.

“Tummies touching the table, please,” I said in the only place I said words like “tummy.”

I let Kyndal start the bread basket and passed a bowl to CJ, his hair as orange as a clownfish, as orange as a corn snake.

“Teacher, I don’t want those,” he said with a fantastic lisp, eyeing the willowy vegetables. “I just want ranch.”
“Just take a look-at-it bite, bro.”

CJ took the tiniest carrot with a martyred frown and shoved the bowl to Frankie. She took five slender sticks and blinked with the narrow eyes of a Cabbage Patch doll.

“I like carrots,” she said in that pious way so absurd for a four-year-old.

“Good.” I spoke slowly. “Carrots are healthy for us. They are good for our eyes.”

“And even milk!” CJ said.

I rubbed his buzzed head, his hair as orange as the leaf pile outside, as orange as the carrots he hated.

“Yes, milk makes us healthy too.”

“When my mom eats carrots, she even sees in the dark!” he said.
Lies.

“Oh, yeah?” I said anyway.

The wobbly rotation of dishes finished its first lap.

Frankie frowned. “I can’t see in the dark, even when I eat carrots.”

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“Hm.”

“But I see fog!”

“Well, that’s good.”

CJ’s meatball slipped from his fork and hit the floor with a splat. Goofy laughter erupted from the table, and every preschooler stabbed their own slippery globes of meat.

I put on my most dangerous Teacher Face before a dozen slick meatballs could fill the air.

“Hey! Where do our sillies belong?” They froze, rearranged their impish faces, and licked solemnly at the gravy instead, their round cheeks already smeared and brown as acorns. “Where, CJ?”

Sheepish, he pantomimed throwing something outside.

“Teacher, my sillies are in my pocket,” Frankie said and hugged my arm. I felt a rush of affection for her and kissed her forehead, bangs straight as a ruler.

“How’s that look-at-it bite coming?” I asked CJ. “What about what your mom can do?”

CJ pushed his carrot off his plate. Even his fingers were freckled. “I don’t want to eat a stupid carrot to see in the stupid dark.”

His head was so round, his hair was so orange, and he looked exactly like a pumpkin. I imagined lighting a candle in his mouth, flames shining out of his eyes so he could see in the stupid dark.

I bit my own orange, bendy vegetable. I didn’t like carrots either.

– Missy Lacock


(more…)

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

This is a concept I personally struggle with. I’ve been writing poetry for years, had my first poem published in 2013, and have had multiple piecing of writing published since. I’ve been a writer on this blog, as well as the managing editor, since its inception in 2012. I’ve been published in The Socialist before being asked to join the editorial board and becoming the managing editor for my political party’s magazine as well.

But when people ask me what I do, these are projects of passion in my mind. I don’t call myself a writer. Instead, I say I work at Cal Poly or that I’m a student. I say that poetry, writing, and editing are all hobbies.

I do them, I’m good at them, but because I’m not paid to do them, I don’t see myself as a writer first. I think part of my reluctance to call myself a writer does have to do with capitalistic ideals—you are your job, not your hobbies. When people ask what you do, after all, they want to assess your income and living.

That’s how it was when I was growing up. That’s how it was in movies. But times have changed, and I think my idea of when to call myself a writer should change too.

(more…)

Story Shots: Fall

The fall is a time of leaves changing colors, weather cooling down, harvest, pumpkin festivals, people going back to school, and so much more. Story Shots, our creative nonfiction series, has taken on this theme in our latest installment. Below we have four fall-themed pieces from different writers for your pleasure. A List: We fall… into bed. and asleep. in …