This Bank of America thing has become a total mess. #firstworldproblemsinfirstworldcountries
1) I lose my card in Istanbul, setting off a chain of events that is almost too absurd to be believed.
2) I call the very same day (costly call using my bf’s phone) to cancel the card and have a replacement sent to Norway for when we arrive. I am told to expect the card within 10-14 days and maybe some extra days for Norway’s postal service (Norway has a terrific postal service though, I am downright shocked at how quickly my international postcards arrive to Andreas). I repeat the address five or six times by letter.
3) I wait a month, checking the mailbox every day like a foolish little thing. I email and get a reply that indicates Bank of America has a system that is is a bit helpless when it comes to international addresses (they’ve just put extra zeros in everywhere to compensate)
4) exactly a month later (July 7) I call back and inform that my card has not arrived. Bank of America blames the postal service, confirms the address, and the country (after continually reverting back to asking ‘what state is that?’ and otherwise talking to me like I’m in the US), and they offer to expedite the card for a fee. I ask them why they aren’t paying for the fee since I’ve waited a month. They don’t do that, I am told. I agree to pay the fee, they agree to charge my (now somewhat flush due to complete inability to spend in spite of continued payments of Zell bucks) account and do a three day (give or take) delivery of the card.
5) 9 days later I frustratedly tweet about my awesome BofA experience and their twitter account picks up on it and offers to call me. More international calls on my bf’s dime, woohoo! They call and I speak to an extremely nice man who offers to dive in and see what’s up, tells me they haven’t even put the card order in yet, there is no card order on file, confirms the address and offers to send a new card, and given the amount and accounts I have, also is going to wave the fee for expediting this time. Hooray for class privilege?
6) I receive a call the next day at a random time (though I’ve asked them not to call without warning since I am using my bf’s phone). After the missed call they tweet me to see when is a good time to call. I let them know, they call, I rattle off the security questions I now know by heart, peachy keen and the nice man has checked the account again just to look after me (and I’m thinking what awesome service at this point) and it turns out the woman I agreed to pay a fee toward sent the card non-expedited. So that card will need to be cancelled when it arrives and he’ll send me a new one right away, no fee. Okay, great, except that now it’s been an entire month and a half of me freeloading over here without being able to spend my Zell bucks. (Again, #firstworldproblems but I would like to take my boyfriend out to dinner and stop freeloading)
7) I received another unannounced call at 1:50am last night from the same number as the other calls from the social media team which I assume is either confirming the sending of the card or another disaster. I receive this call despite asking and confirming several times over the past two calls that I want to be contacted via twitter DM or email so as not to keep using my bf’s phone — they won’t be able to tell me classified information via twitter, but there is a message center on the website where similar information has already been shared. I’ll find out what the phone call was about when they respond to my (now completely frustrated again after all the social media team’s good service) DMs. I’m in Norway. They sent the card to Norway, the address on file is Norway (because I can’t list a temp address I have to actually change the address of my entire account every time I need a new card), and they call at 2 in the morning on my poor boyfriend’s phone because reasons. BF doesn’t leave the ringer on thank goodness.
8) I receive a confirmation email at 5am (no big deal because emails I can receive on my own phone and can answer them whenever) that the card has been sent and providing a tracking number (which is only provided when a card is expedited). Eventually I notice the address is now completely wrong, in both the street address misspellings and listing the city as “TROMPUIN.” There are not so many large cities in Norway, you can basically count them on one hand. “Trompuin” is not one of them. The address was correct on the first card that was ‘sent’ so I have no idea why instead of just confirming the address on file they decided to start over every time (but not also confirm spelling).
9) Andreas assures me the postal service here in TRONDHEIM is very used to dealing with doofery and the card will probably get delivered anyway. But that with UPS I will likely need to be around to sign for it. We will try leaving a note, because the card is scheduled to arrive Thursday evening and we are leaving for Berlin on Thursday morning (one month and a half after trying to resolve this, and plenty of time since first ordering ‘expedited shipping’).
When I think about all the international fees that would have been racked up in the time since ordering the replacement, and in the time since ordering the second and third cards, and this weekend in Berlin as well, it makes me a tiny bit sad for Bank of America in all this. But I’ll be transferring what I can to another account and they can reap the benefit/fees until this is resolved. If I do ever move to “Trompuin” I guess I’ll try to find a local bank. (I’ve been told international friendly banks don’t really exist, however, and that it’s difficult for domestic banks to deal with global issues.)
TLDR; #really? And once again, #firstworldproblems and i know money problems of this nature aren’t horrible problems to have. It would be extremely cool to have a system where I could input my address and have it stick. Took three years for them to finally get my address change right after I moved from NYC. :( (Every time I updated my address with them in person, for those three years, it had reverted to a previous address by the time I returned to the bank.) I know they’re trying to handle this. The biggest frustration has been the calls in Istanbul, and the long conversation with about the expediting fee resulting in a non-expedited card.
Update: 10) The boyfriend just received his phone bill, and the three calls it took to get a replacement card sent in Istanbul cost $85. No way to set up a free way of calling (see update below), no way to call back. The first phone call took 10 minutes to get a replacement card sent and the address input into the system (no facilitating adding the address myself online because of security and while the online system has a link to “order a card replacement,” it is disabled — for security reasons). That call was almost completed when the call was cut off, so I was forced to call back (no ability to return the call and just confirm — I think the system doesn’t allow them to call back?). The second call had me waiting on hold for an extended time. The third call could not confirm the address input from the first call, and we had to do the entire thing over again, which took 15 minutes of repeating the problem, the address, the operator repeating information over and over, and finally confirming the card would be sent (and further time instructing me of things that were available via the website). Again, the total cost for the three calls: $85. We still have not received the bill for the other calls, the follow-up call to Bank of America to request a replacement for the card that never arrived, or the calls from the social media team (which I hope aren’t charge to the recipient…?). I have made copies of the bills. The first card never arrived (it would have by now), the second card replacement was not ordered expedited as requested and confirmed, and we have cancelled and replaced cards three times now.
So now I have not only been cost the ability to purchase and use the money I have been earning for the past month and a half, it is actually costing further money because of a) Bank of America’s inability to confirm information from the first call (and go ahead and finish things off even if the phone call gets cut off before they can say “Thank you for calling,”) and b) Bank of America’s system (or lack) for inputting international addresses. And c) not completing the first two replacements correctly.
The operators I originally spoke to were not particularly efficient. In addition, they were confused with regards to their own policies on the first call, the second call, the third call, the follow up call requesting another replacement be sent (insisting I would be charged a fee when the next call from social media team insisted I wouldn’t due to my status as a Bank of America customer for 10+ years and having multiple accounts).
Update 2: Just got off the phone with the member of the social media team I’ve been in contact with, who, truly, has been patient and has worked very hard to resolve this issue. He double checked on the city and due to the correct zip code, card should still arrive, and he gave me an updated estimation of the time of arrival. He answered my questions with regards to how the automated system works, why debit replacements are disallowed in the system (for security reasons — though I’m not sure why this would still be a link in the “debit card” section of the online site), and why the calls can take longer than intended due to having to provide answers to security questions each time (again, a good security measure), and let me know that a team will be in contact with me in the next couple weeks to resolve the issues of the phone bills and the experience. I’m unable to update my address in the system without visiting a branch or calling on the phone, apparently, (again, security measures and I certainly would rather my account be secure) and since this began a friend has tipped me off to a way of calling the 800 number using a third party calling service. I’m still confused about the miscommunication of the original 4 phone calls (1-3 in Istanbul, and #4 to ask for a second replacement to be sent) as well as the lack of delivery of the first card (it would have arrived by now even if cancelled), and the Norwegian postal service is fairly amazing, and the second card being sent non-expedited. So we’ll see where this goes. Card should likely arrive by Friday evening — I’ll be in Berlin for the weekend so I’ll update on Monday.
Update 3: So far the tracking number provided has been showing quite an unusual history, one that’s difficult to decipher. After being assured that the package had been updated to be delivered to Trondheim (not “Trompuin”), either this update wasn’t successful or the tracking number is not linked to the new updates (which would render having a tracking number at all somewhat pointless), because the last known location has been Olso (delivered on Friday morning), and not Trondheim. At 10:35 on Friday morning it says “The post office was unable to deliver the UPS SurePost package as addressed and returned it to the sender.” Which would be really upsetting after having been assured the address mistakes were corrected with the corporate UPS account by Bank of America. Then at 11:55am on the same day, it reads “The post office attempted to deliver your UPS SurePost package and left a delivery notice with instructions.” Well, I’m back in Trondheim after my weekend in Berlin and there is no note, no mail, nothing, and I’m guessing my card never even made it to Trondheim after all, but got stuck in Oslo because of the faulty city listing as “Trompuin.” Turns out the zip code failsafe isn’t so safe after all. I messaged BofA and will see what they say and how they’re going to rectify this additional mess (and see if I will ever be able to spend my money again or if I’ll have to transfer all my funds to a different bank just to access them). I’ve stopped expecting things to go smoothly, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to see the package listed as only having gotten as far as Oslo, but… did my card ever make it to Trondheim or not? What is happening?
UPDATE 4: The card arrived!! I am holding it in my hands! A piece of plastic has never been so beautiful to me! I’m attempting to activate it through online banking etc, and the Social Media team contacted me today to check and were extremely caring about the situation and were calling UPS, but, as I understand it, because UPS only has one office in Norway (in Oslo), the delivery was sent through a local service to Trondheim, and thus arrived at the post office next to our apartment. I had the idea to check today while we were buying groceries, and was shocked to see it there (but the Norwegian Postal Service is top notch, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised). I sent a few messages back to the Social Media Team to thank them for their time and diligence, and I’m going to attempt to take my boyfriend out to dinner tonight to thank him for two months of funding me while this has been going on.
Only thing left to resolve is the phone charges incurred from the various times of needing to contact customer service to order each of the attempted replacement cards (the first round of which never did arrive), charges which are outlined above. Hoping the team in charge of that part of customer service for BofA has some kind of solution for that (there’s a way to call collect internationally but it wasn’t working at the time of my attempts), so that I am not out more money for having tried to get my card replaced and for the difficulty of inputting international addresses into their database (which resulted in fairly long calls). Grateful to have my card, access to my funds, and for the social media team’s care.
Just hanging in Trondheim with my dude. I’ve been staying up all night because, I guess, the ceaseless-sunlight is getting to me (but, unfortunately, I sleep half the day away while haugedal is at work). I have felt like I haven’t been writing much and yet for some reason poems keep cropping up in my brain around 5-6AM and lately they’ve been getting better (daily practice is always helpful). Makes me miss 30/30 and so I’m making use of my “Daily Poems” folder in my writing cache again.
Carrie Fountain gave us that tip when she visited Michigan: to try to write (or edit) a draft every day, and keep a folder you chuck them all into (to be dealt with later). Later, some of them make it into my “NotThesis” document, some don’t.
Here’s a bit of a draft. I’ll post more photos and some reports of my time in the land of the midnight sun, and my recent travels to Novi Sad and Istanbul, soon. It’s been a beautiful summer!
Whatever Is The Matter (excerpt)
… May polyphore find a flank to climb shadowed and north-facing. Wrists undamaged and strong ankles, free of any hurt. I regret not opening my
mouth, the down-lit cast of my glance where it studied that quality, sun- -runner, golden boy, how could I answer you with all this earth
piled in my throat, your limbs stripped of anger, how could I say yes, there is something on my mind, rushing up as river in a locked car…
About a year ago I decided I wanted to reinvent Tiger Lily, that historically misrepresentative, recently white-washed character, in an empowering (and appropriate) YA novel. By giving her a story of her own, treating her as a protagonist, and providing her a rich culture inspired by my own experience of reservation life, I hoped to enable young people to recognize the vibrant, community-oriented lives of tribal indigenous peoples, and to make an early impact through their reading.
But it’s been done before, though poorly. And even when I imagined my version, I ran into numerous ethical concerns. If my genre were the magical world-building type of Young Adult fiction (as is so popular these days), how could I avoid the mystical shaman Talks-With-Nature trope? If she had a sidekick, would she start to resemble a certain raccoon-and-hummingbird-accompanied princess? Could I even make her the daughter of a chief, as in the original? How much of a story steeped in 1900s racism could I ever hope to reinvent, anyway?
I wrote a piece on cultural appropriation from a writer’s perspective for Atticus Review's Dangerous Ideas column. Check it out to see how I deal with cultural appropriation in my own work, and for some tips on how to approach it yourself.
Most of my short stories have fallen into two categories: fabulism, and creepy westerns. I’ve been working (and by “working” I mean “not working”) on a collection of short stories inspired by West Texas that take place in a fictional town called Calamity. Lately I seem to end up writing novels (/YA novel attempts) more than short stories (gotta make dem bux). Shorts are hard, yo. But sometimes switching genres can be a relief.
Hi fellow poet who draws, do you use Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop, Painter or Manga Studio for your digital painting?
I use Photoshop primarily, but sometimes I like to throw it into some old school SAI. Right now I don’t use anything because WHAT we have to RENT Photoshop now NO SIR. :\
I also didn’t bring my old Intuos 2 Wacom to Serbia or Istanbul or Norway (yeah, I have some photos I need to post) because I was afraid it would fall apart (but it’s still going strong otherwise). So I just sit here pining for it. Did you know taxes are crazy in Norway? F’rulls, crazy taxes.
I put off drawing very much in the last couple years while I was pursuing my MFA, so most of my work has been pen drawings on napkins in bars. Fun tip: carry index cards with you. Easier than a drawing pad and I don’t have to keep tearing things out of notebooks.
Hi :) I wanted to know how you liked Stavanger? Thank you xx
I loved it! It was beautiful, and very relaxing. The community felt very warm, but also quiet while I was there (over Christmas), although the malls were bustling. The ocean was so beautiful, as was the farmland beside it—some very much needed time in the sun before returning to Trondheim.
Andreas’ parents live in Kleppe, so we spent most of our time there, and I can’t wait to go back! It’s also seeming to be the place that all his young friends are moving to when they start their families, so it seems to be becoming very hip! :) Thanks for asking! <3
Edit: haugedal says we need to spend more time in the city-city! We were mostly in the suburbs. :D
I’ll probably try to keep going after this, and there are some subjects related to writing and the teaching of writing that I’m hoping to blog about further, but this was a great exercise (/marathon) and I’m happy to have generated some new work and shared some great exercises with you all. Please feel free to share around (please link back here!), and also let me know how you found the exercises and which ones were the most helpful to you or suggestions for more to feature! :)
30/30: GRAB BAG OF EXERCISES // Cleopatra to the Scribe
Today’s exercise (okay fine, a bunch of exercises), in fact, the GRAB BAG OF EXERCISES.
1. Transliteration - Use transliteration to break out of your common language / vocabulary and to let go of / rely more nuanced-ly on grammar. Write a work of transliteration, with or without juxtaposing an overarching tone or concern. Try to let yourself get weird on this one. And try not to use languages you will easily recognize words from (go with Norwegian, hehe).
2. From Sam Milligan / Whittier Strong - Remove Punctuation / Line breaks - remove all punctuation, or remove all line breaks, and re-break/-punctuate. Recognize what is afforded by good line breaks / careful punctuation.
3. From Christi Lisk - Persona/Perspective - “I always try to write from the imagined perspective of someone I know. For me, it’s a lesson in writing and empathy. Jennifer Egan always emphasized the importance of empathy in writing.”
4. 1st memory - (a good CNF / fiction prompt as well as poetry) - Spend two minutes thinking back to your first memory. Freewrite for a few minutes in as much detail as you possibly can, everything you remember, get it down on paper. After this, go back and try to flesh out the details further, and see if a tone emerges. Use what is useful toward generating new material for a piece. Part II or a variation, juxtaposing a recent memory. Having written for a set amount of time about a first memory, next write for five minutes on a recent memory.
5. Exercises in Style - Using Raymond Queneau's “Exercises in Style" as a model, write a piece inspired by a certain "style" word, at will. You might begin this exercise by meditating on a painting, then applying the style word, then moving away from the visually cued subject. The visual cue at the start with help you access more unusual language than going straight to making things up on the fly. :D Sometimes parameters unlock things, in my experience with this exercise. (Examples: “mathematics,” “tangential,” “duality,” “red ripe”) - Thanks to Kerri Webster.
6. Exercise in personality.Write a piece in which every object in the piece has a personality. (further parameters if desired: perhaps the personality of the speaker or protagonist is not revealed except through interactions with these other personalities. Or perhaps not, you do you.)
7. Try writing a piece influenced by dramatic / playwriting.
9. Artifacts - gather a series of meaningful artifacts or objects you might make narrative out of. Similar to a meditation rock, consider and exist with these objects as you generate material, timed freewriting or what have you. Try to go much further than simply describing the object or the first memories it brings up, try to complicate your language and create spaces of opposition and nuance.
10. Inspired by some of the November PAD Chapbook challenges: Write a piece of birth. Write a villain piece. Write a piece that is the total opposite of a previous piece you have written (on this note, rewrite an older piece completely). Write a how-to piece. Write a stuck piece. Write about a piece of technology that doesn’t exist but should or that does exist but shouldn’t. Write a piece that scares you. Write a poem of protest.
11. What’s Been Untold - from Matthew Pascucci - “Here’s a very particular one I stumbled upon accidentally. Read “A Joke” by Anton Chekhov. After reading, write an interview with Nadya asking her to recall the incident and get her perspective. The exercise is partly about character creation but mostly about exploring what I call the negative spaces in a story. If you do this exercise in a group you end up realizing that there is a tremendous amount of space for Nadya to be almost any kind of person. That space is interesting to discuss. Here’s the story:http://classiclit.about.com/…/achekhov/bl-achek-joke.htm" (I’ve done this same type of thing for an entire chapbook with the character Kamala from Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. I also ended up indicting the writer a bit, in my case, Hesse, for the lack of her agency, and wondered what her enlightenment would have been.)
12. Write a poem/piece of dreams or from a dream journal (try writing down things as soon as you wake up or right before you drift off, keep the notebook near the bed for a week, etc). Or write a poem of voice.
13. Write down three men or women (pick gender for all three maybe) you’ve had conflicts with. Circle one and write to that person. You might try starting with the line ”You do not have to be good” after Mary Oliver (and as ever, you might remove that inciting line, later). Thanks to Laura Kasischke.
14. Write down three men or women (see above) you’ve lost touch with and still have something to settle. Circle one. Write to it. Thanks to Laura Kasischke.
15. Pick someone you don’t know and make an enemy of them. Write in first person (or don’t).
16. Try this as a daily thing for your notebook for a little while: write down three things in the last 24 hour period which you otherwise would forget about if you did not write them down.
" … Bluebird, we loved you when you still lead into desert, weren’t highway- bound trimmed with prim sidewalks. Our breath came fast as horses’ clouding over every cold glass by which we measured and let loose. Please calm down. Please be my city. I said gritted and you wrote down guttered. Why did you do that? …
…let me want to be crushed leaves in your teeth, let me demand a dowry. I want to hold you so hard you whimper and purple…”
(2.) Try applying form as a framing element (or another way to juxtapose two ideas and get really dynamite content that works on multiple levels). Try to combine form and content in new and interesting ways, maybe ways that might even clash a little bit. Example exercises: Write an advertisement for the house you grew up in. Write a travelogue to the land of the dead. Write an elegy for Pop Rocks.
(3.) It’s been argued that every poem is an elegy, and/or that every poem is an ars poetica, because the nature of poetry is to commemorate what is already past, and because a poem is the product of the art of poetry and every product somewhat comments on its production, etc etc. What do you think about this? What are you attempting to elegize in any one poem, and how could poems you have written also speak to the act of writing? Double-duty language? In your revision process or when generating some new pieces, reflect on these questions. Challenge what an elegy or an ars poetica should look or sound like, the same way as in the other exercises.
Consider poems like Mary Szybist’s “Invitation” (as a strange kind of elegy, and also as an example of a form from the second exercise here, an ‘invocation’); and the nature of grief.
29/30: In Which I Recall The Floor As Pink Lightning
"… To the boy who held me down, said Shh! Shh! It’s okay, and later, went blind for congenital defect, not for what he did, I have no complaints. I’ve looked for alone time, hours, and only found glib brambles in the mouth of the off road. I know your apartment letter but not which floor you live on. One time I climbed on top of my sweetheart, scooped in the seat of a white Ford gritted and worn, and I said Shhhhh and shit and we have to go get a backup plan. The sand turned cotton candy and felt roughly the same in my teeth. He’s got a Korean wife he brought back from Korea, these days, she gets to be in all the pictures. Every time I ask the elevators to stop on my floor, I press the buttons hard, thumbprints in a browned thigh, skin-memory ghosted in white like the numbness of my earlobe once alive. Everything on my body has been tested.
(This one I had as a title in my notebook for quite some time. Still not sure anything ever lives up to it but I’ve generated quite a bit from this title, and maybe I’ll put together all the little bits I’ve done from it into a better poem that does the title more justice, someday.)
Today’s exercise: Truth & Lies. Try this series of exercises and find different balances of “truth” and “lie" in your work. Remember Richard Hugo’s thoughts on Assumptions.
Write a piece in which every line in a lie. Write a piece in which every line is something that could be true for someone. Write a piece which balances lies and truths, or where one bleeds into the other. Trying varying degrees and approaches to this idea of “lies” and “truth.”
"Never with alcohol. Never more than one. Your heart headbangs its way out of every paper bag, your heart such an overzealous metronome, a mosh-pit shaker sweaty and bruised, so frantic they can’t, won’t take your blood.
It’s the nortriptyline, not a bad organ, but they won’t hear it. They feed you Teddy Grahams and send you out the glass doors with a whoosh of compressed air. You’re a twisted tin can that won’t fit in the compactor, you don’t diagnose easily, that’s why
the cocktail shifts so often. White film, palpitations, the strobe-light of oxygen at a shortage. …”
27/30: No Ideas, But In Things // Y'all Ain't From Here
Today’s exercise: No ideas, but in things. This one comes somewhat by the book “3 A.M. Epiphany” and is inspired by William Carlos Williams. “Write a brief [piece] told only in images—concrete, simple, visually efficient movements and details. This exercise does not ask you to eliminate people from your prose, just to watch what they do and what objects they crave and caress rather than what they say or think about these objects and actions.” No ideas, but in things.
This also plays into the idea of “negative space,” which I used with my creative writing students this semester. This is an approach in art in which the artist draws their lines based on the air around the object rather than trying to draw the outline of the object itself. Interpolate that out into writing, and you might attempt to portray what isn’t said by what is around the thing which isn’t said, the abstract by the concrete, etc, etc. So, for another exercise, attempt this method of negative space to describe both physical objects and conclusions or ideas—it might be a means to practice showing vs telling. :)
"… There was nowhere else to be alone but ten miles out of town, and even then you weren’t. Not enough wait staff at the restaurants, everyone voracious in their F-150s with their windows down. Even the sunset isn’t the same.
We don’t go up to the water tower anymore, we drink better beer and play pool and live bored and still. I used to be restless. I didn’t know I’d be always en route to a reunion or a wedding. …
26/30: Object Metaphor & Re-upholstering the Chair // Everyone Loves A Beautiful Ironing Board
Today’s exercise(s): Object Metaphors & Juxtaposed-Coloring or extended metaphor/conceit, two exercises which build into one another.
Part one is object metaphor, similar to the visual metaphor exercise, take your notebook with you and catalogue various objects, then below them jot down freewriting or notes about what that object could relate to or become an extended metaphor for. An example: a shelf (something that has things left upon it for use later, which must remain stable…), like a “secret girlfriend.” Etc.
The second is a technique I use frequently in my class and which I got from an exercise by my mentor Laura Kasischke, which is, Juxtaposition of Ideas, or, letting things color or tinge or bleed into each other in terms of influence and subject matter. You can begin to try it like this, for two to four minutes each, freewriting, in order, and don’t go on until you’ve done each: (1) Write a letter to someone you’re angry with or who broke your heart (yadda yadda) or perhaps a how-to not fall in love, and try to use as visceral language as you can. (2) write a how-to about how to upholster a chair (it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to upholster a chair, in fact, it’s great if you don’t), and let the previous exercise kindof tinge it. (3) Now for a variation, meditate on what might be “your mother’s secret” (or your father’s secret or your family secret or what have you), then, actually freewrite about a house you grew up in with as much visual and architechtural detail as you can (but tinged with the “secret”). Essentually you can juxtapose multiple ideas in this way, letting them bleed into one another, to get at extended metaphors or new conceits for generating work or honing metaphors of existing work. Sometimes I just refer to this as the “reupholstering the chair technique.”
Today’s exercise: Erasures, Auto-writing & Re-mixes. So, three exercises for the price of one, and you could also combine these with each other or anything else.
The erasures part of this goes like this: make an erasure poem from some found text, or even from one of your own texts printed out (prose or poetry texts, prose or poetry results, since you’re the one who ends up deciding how it’s represented—either as actual text ”blocked out,” or re-written into prose or poetry lines). Here’s a fun example by my friend Dillon J. Welch.
The pseudo-auto-writing exercise comes from Thomas Lux, from Robin Behn’s Practice of Poetry (which is full of writing exercises). Start writing in the upper left hand corner (or what have you) of you page, and don’t stop writing for exactly five minutes (or a set length of time). "Try to write concretely, sensorially, in images. Do not worry about "sense," do not think, pay no attention, at this point, to grammar, punctuation, etc." But do avoid clichés and canned language, and push yourself to follow through the end of a thought during that time limit. Don’t read it yet. Ideally you’ll do this more than once a day for a prolonged period, until you have roughly 5-10 pages of material. Print that out or look it over and highlight or circle anything that seems interesting or worthwhile, and paste that/type it out into a new document to draw from in generating new material. "Correct spelling, punctuation, etc. The fragments will probably range from single words to word couplings, to images, to passages running three to four lines long. Maybe you’ll have one to two pages of these fragments now, out of the ten with which you began." Then pare down again. (I keep everything in a document I call variations of "Musings.")
The re-mixes idea is great for editing or revision or just jumbling things up a bit, as well as playing with generated material. Take you own poem and jumble the lines (put them in backwards order, shuffle up the order, etc). Take out all the line breaks and put them back in differently. Take material from all over your notebook and juxtapose it together and see what multi-headed chimera emerges (then tame it back to a recognizable poem again, perhaps, in the editing stage). You might also take “found” material out in your pop cultural, observed world, your source material for a re-mix could be anything at all. Think about what re-mixing is meant to accomplish—turning something over again on its head. My favorite examples include Leigh Stein’s Bachelorette poems, as well as Leah Umansky’s Khaleesi Says.
"Bales of wire curled in the grass and the twisted cottonwood branches and brambles, and the agave spiking up through dappled shade, I’m taken with the prickly pear that’s taken over everything. We pull aside to let a cadmium yellow truck blaze past. 34 miles to Junction. Sky opens up but the low telephone wires are obscured by treetops. On one side, a barbed wire fence round thick natural branch posts, on the other a cage wire stapled to rusted slender steel stakes with the thinnest branches of mesquite between.
The occasional radio tower. Sometimes a windmill …”
Today’s exercise: Wikipedia Surfboart. Okay, I find quite a lot of my inspiration from cruising wikipedia like a waveboarder on a wavemachine. There are just too many things that lead from one thing to another. Try to start broad—type of crustaceans, candies, or Mary Queen of Scots, and click through links several times, writing down some little whatever-comes-to-you-in-four-solid-minutes-of-don’t-stop-writing freewrites along the way or in between clicking links. Put these together later in varying ways, generate more on a particular thread that emerges, etc etc. Do try to avoid a poem that gets list-y for the sake of being list-y.
"I’m supposed to talk abut something I’ve learned from airports, the infrastructure of a war, some wisdom from our approximate distance… … Tectonic plates and human increments, science and myth and the backyard fence. Houston always peeled us like mandarins, sunbleached and pigmented, flecked and sweating. You made me crave letters which avoid and don’t avoid. I tried to dip my fat neck into nothingness, I sold plane tickets for front row seats…”
Today’s exercise: Spectacular Vernacular. Similar to lexical sets, choose a vernacular. It can be things like “nautical terms,” “taxonomic names,” or “super jerky bro-iest of bros,” whatever vernacular you choose, which will come with its own vocabulary/buzzwords, turns of phrase/obsessions, dictions, and tones. Write several short pieces utilizing their own particular vernaculars and choose one to develop further. What are the limits of your chosen vernacular? What are its possibilities? Later, you might color the vernacular with another outside idea or influence, or let your piece drift away from the original inspiration, as always. One of my students did an amazing piece about a total creep / bro / homedude that inspired me to share this exercise with you. :)
"We mapped with salt shakers and blood oranges the best lovers this city ever gave us, but it was no help. Their lost voices howl reminders: everything amounts to pan-flashes, shutterbulbs, what we love is only a filament. I don’t even like cats, you said, when we finally found time for formalities.
When I was 13 my mother took me down to Venezuela to see where she was born and grew up, and we spent some time in a little hotel on Margarita Island, at the discotechs at night and in hammocks during the daylight hours.
22/30: Tip of the Iceberg, End of the Thread // Ann Arbor Venus Wakes On Sunday Morning
Today’s exercise: Tip of the Iceberg, End of the Thread. Choose an inciting incident, memory, image, observation, line, dialogue, item, a starting point. Now as you write/freewrite, imagine this as only the starting point, only the very tip of the iceberg, and remember that there is so much more submerged beneath the surface, the end of a long skein of thread all wound up and you are following it along. See how far you get, and try not to end this one in a neatly wrapped up conclusion (a “bow ending”), but do try to find an overall theme which might emerge from the material after you get it on the page and get a good look at it as a whole. What about each of the ends and each building line might encapsulate this whole?
21/30: I Ship Brangelina // They Named The Boat For The Son Who Died
Today’s exercise: I Ship Brangelina. Write a poem about—/inspired by/to/loosely colored by— your favorite literary, mythological, or achetypal “pairing,” turning the relationship on its head. Speaker, approach, style, diction, etc, are up to you, but strategize this one a little bit to be the most effective at re-inventing or re-imagining the original relationship.
Yeats’ Leda & the Swan, and John Donne’s The Flea come to mind as extensions of this idea — but remember to write this poem in a more current, modern, (your own) vernacular! (That’s the trouble when we take older poetry and try to write that way—it’s like trying to rock bell-bottom pants, it’s just not gonna happen for 90% of us.) Remember to choose language carefully and avoid clichés or abstractions particularly for this (and any ‘love’ or ‘friendship’ -y prompt).
"It doesn’t change the facts, or the ocean if I kiss you. The sandy spit the same as that swim-away sea creature, waved off, waved. If your tide pulls, if we’d float away, if the far banks were known, sun-bathed, we’d hook the boat which is liable to sink us. …”
20/30: Visual Metaphor Scavenger Hunt // When Does That Happen
Today’s exercise: Visual Metaphor Scavenger Hunt. All day today, carry your notebook with you. Write down things you see or observe, and then right below that, what that thing you see also looks like/sounds like, etc. This is inspired by Kim Addonizio again, as a means of generating solid visual metaphors. Here are some examples a la Ezra Pound’s “In A Station of the Metro,” from Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius:
"Rows of pans hanging from kitchen hooks: ducks strung feetfirst in a Chinese market.
The clock keeps clicking, an obsessive conductor tapping a baton.
Laughter from the house next door: horses whinnying in the field while I stand in my stall.”
"My tumblers have shimmied from their locks, and this from the door, so the whole apparatus fails to open without some bodily shove. I am smaller than the man I live with. I throw my body against its flatness every morning, all day twisted knob in my hands, wrenched right, left, all china bull, all quick-breathing prey in the grass, all enlivened battering ram. …”
Today’s exercise: another from Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius — write a prose poem (or poem) with a fantastical premise.
For instance, any of Addonizio’s examples might get you started, or you might come up with your own starting line along this vein: “My father is growing wings.” “On the day my mother died, the faucet in the kitched began dripping milk.” “In the middle of the argument with my wife, the cat padded in and told us both to shut the fuck up.” “The horse on the balcony is getting to be a problem.” “One bright day in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight.” “My smile won’t come off, no matter how hard I scrub.” “One day all the trees in my neighborhood pulled themselves up by the roots and walked away.”
As ever, consider the things the poem might be concerning itself with, the double meanings of its premise, the “real story” that is framed or revealed by the premise. Often this is the crux of the story, rather than the fantastical (or framing) element, as in the tradition of fabulism (wherein the “fantastical element” or the “world-building” isn’t actually the focus of the story, but is a framing element to frame an underlying, realist fiction-style, human narrative or conflict; in contrast to genre fiction like fantasy and science fiction where the magic or world is the focus of the story and the purpose is action-packed entertainment moreso than tiny tragedies). Consider how you could move away from the original premise to more adequately highlight the underlying “real story.” Also notice what the elements of the story might reveal about the story/writer/speaker psychology.
”I would puncture your crooked mouth with silver, I want my spurs licking your cheeks. … Before I knew how to call for the taxi, after school if no one came for me, I spent my afternoons hushed by the dust of the Lady chapel, the soft clatter of rosewood beads turning hands in the prayers of the sisters. Their rhythm is still a heartbeat to our children. …”
I have about nine (or seven?) of these Meredith poems so far, written “to” and inspired by a dear friend who writes fiction. Hoping they become their own little chapbook someday, but they seem to do well as spacers for a larger manuscript. :)
18/30: Dead Metaphors & Waking Clichés // Presidio
Today’s exercise: based on a chapter from Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius on metaphor, here we will be attempting some exercises and tactics to revive or rebirth dead metaphors, and to wake up old tired clichés. Take a familiar metaphor, and extend it or literalize it in order to en-liven it again (my responses from Addonizio’s examples: “the conversation died” — “The conversation developed stage five terminal pancreatic cancer. Likelihood of survival, 9%. We’ve done all we could, I say to the man with the scalpel, who himself has no insurance against such things.”)(“Love stinks” - “Love as a fetid pond, a noxious pot boiling over, a sour septic tank rusted out and fishboned.”) — You can use existing common metaphors as a kind of jumping off point for a piece. The same with clichés; Addonizio’s example is here: “I’m free as a bird.” - “From the sky, the troubled world looks smallers. / My oiled wings, my muscles, my hollow bones— / I hardly feel them, they carry me so lightly.”
Remember not to use tired language or cliché in your own work, unless you’re doing much to revivify it (like altering its syntax or one or the other comparison, or literalizing it as this exercise does). “Literalizing the metaphor" is also a common tactic in fabulism (see the talk description by Kellie Wells).
18/30: Presidio (to be part of ‘I Wrote You Poems Across Texas’)
"Salt cedar plots and low grasses rounded by farm roads dust-cut in the earth, seems like home, or it’s the neon of a Whataburger dangling out the B Wing of Intercontinental that’s got me all bamboozled. … cut into cliff-face, the carved walls of a highway glut. Atroplex and still water. …”
I’m dead-set on finishing my 30/30 this year, and my Prompt A Day, but, of course, this comes during the end of the semester and, OMG, also the end of my MFA. I’m graduating this semester (and the stress freak out has commenced). I’m a few poems ahead of what I’ve posted but need to finish out the prompts. I won’t abandon it damnit! WE WILL OVERCOME.
Oddly I am still writing quite a bit. Like, why? Why would I keep doing that right now?
But tomorrow I turn in my thesis (and print and bind my thesis, too, prolly), and the Hopwood Awards are happening (yay I won some things) and then my a cappella concert with the GradTONES. On Thursday I’ll rehearse, do a tech runthrough, and help perform my short Facebook opera piece written with Dylan Baker. In amidst all of this I have meetings with my darling students as they try to finish their final portfolios for the semester. I am totally exhausted but must stay up tonight grading and working on the Facebook animation and, oh god, I guess going over my poor thesis one last time. It’s called “Firewater” and nowhere near it’s final book-self, but man, there’s some serious work in this monster. No one can say I didn’t earn this degree.
This has been one wild ride of an MFA, and after I get some breathing time I’m sure I’ll wax poetic (lol) all about it.
Thanks to those who have tuned in lately, thanks to my amazing students for their creativity and insight and fantastic writings, for really invigorating me in my own work and making me crave doing this teaching thing further. Working with both my classes this year really changed my life. :) and I appreciate this community as well, and my deep tumblr peeps, as the candle in the window on a cold night.
Today’s exercise: writing TO “someone.” This might be less of an exercise and more of a “way out” of writing block, an easy and cheap way to get going on generating material. Figure out to whom you are writing (what your relationship is to that figure, whether or not it is a single figure or even a concept or idea), and make an address. No cliched language, no sap, no simplicity, complicate your relationship within the poem, don’t be afraid to change direction, but, establish a scenario, an addressee, and don’t be vague about it.
I’ve done a series of these to one of my writer-friends, “Meredith,” and they’ve been very successful (and very weird). If you do get inspired by a real person, if it’s a friend and not, say, Marilyn Monroe, you might free yourself up to let the “character” version of that person expand or change beyond the original inspiration, just like when you do any exercise and you revise toward what the poem calls for and, perhaps, sometimes, away from the original idea in the first place. :) In other words, I think the Meredith poems might really creep my friend out if I were really the way the “speaker” is in those poems, and the “Meredith” in those poems is really a new invention.
One variation on this theme is to write an address to someone you totally hate, or to the last person/situation of confrontation/conflict that you encountered, or to old flames, and we’ve already looked at an address to God. You could also consider this to be how my “I Wrote You Poems Across Texas” project got started, and in fact, I wrote the first poems as weird anti-postcards to friends (where the postcard/poem wasn’t really addressing them or acting like a postcard at all), so consider the anti-address, or, the project of a series of things written “to” someone or something.
Today’s exercise: Oulipo. We talked about parameters for another of these exercises, but this is a call for an even further formal parameter, perhaps even a language parameter. This may involve generating a small series based on the parameter, or stanzas, or lines, or, in one prime oulipo example: replacing certain words (nouns? Verbs? all of the above?) with the dictionary entry that is seven entries below that word — the N+7 technique. As ever, you might want to tweak this one (don’t be afraid to edit away from any exercise, often a poem will quickly outstrip its inciting material), in the revision process, but it’s a good generative exercise. You choose the parameters.
The Highway Poems are part of “I Wrote You Poems Across Texas” (my mixed media chapbook) and their method is to take bits from previous poems in the series and remix them into meditative interludes. When you’re between one place and the other and traveling at high speed, perhaps this is what might come out of that experience, like road water evaporating. Some of these highways go all the way across the state, and some of them are short and sweet between two no-places. Highway 285 abuts Pecos at some point, so I’ll have to revisit and ensure I get to the exact feeling of it. There’s a refinery on the edge of I-20, on the way back to Midland from Abilene, that always tells me I’m almost home—a tiny city of lights beside the sharp turn of direction in the highway. I have loved this project and can’t wait to get back to it, and maybe send out the chapbook this summer.
"Today’s" exercise is very similar to “Three Names,” but essentially, attempt to write an evocative poem where all nouns are replaced by proper nouns (thus “whiskey” becomes “Johnny Walker Red” and “father” becomes “Oh Mighty Shameless One” and so on).
"My father never cared for grades, so long as the test scores were good. Your brain may be all you have someday. You are a scientist. It seemed reasonable currency for late Friday nights, crawling into truck beds to learn the right way around a bottle.”
Today’s exercise: emphasizing process itself, and/or generating exciting new material, using parameters. Parameters are part of any conceptual art, as well.
This works really well if you can go outside and be in the world, moving about a bit from one setting to another. Give yourself a particular parameter, one such that when you encounter it you will immediately stop what you are doing and start writing, influenced by your surroundings and observations, or even in mid-thought. Try to avoid the use of cliches and canned phrases, and don’t be afraid of spontaneous new directions and weirdness. One example that worked well for me when I was in an international space (Lisbon, last summer) was to write every time I heard an unfamiliar language. Your parameters could be interpreted loosely, or more strictly, this is your exercise for you to design. You might do it by time, things you encounter, the point is to have some organizing factor to when you start writing (and when you write, finish out thoughts to your liking and then move on to the next time that parameter happens). You might generate some interesting material to be edited away from the exercise, OR, the exercise, the parameter itself, might become part of the piece in terms of conceptual work. One of my responses to “when I heard a foreign language” was a bunch of lyrical lines, and the next one was just a long list of every color I saw, and the next was trying to describe a conversation I was witnessing. It’s up to you to name the parameters of your world and then navigate them. This can also be yet another way to get at the idea of an “organizing principle” or a “mode of inquiry” for the piece.
"… I couldn’t have gotten there without all the IRS rigamarole but once I got there I could export it as an excel file and work on it from my computer. This is the first good payoff. Tea-infused Titos vodka, mango puree, fresh O.J., agave nectar. All along they’ve said we want to know the real answer, not what the higher ups want to hear, but this data has nothing but science to back it up and we’re nervous.
13/30: Overheard Conversations // Sometimes the Dreams Make Me Angry
Today’s exercise / process suggestion: chronic over-listening. Find a coffee shop, public place, etc, any space wherein you might overhear a nearby conversation. Take notes. This is a good technique for honing dialogue (becoming attuned to the natural turns in conversation), attaining a particular / specific voice or diction, subject matter for stories, or just verbatim, mouth-blurted poetry.
As with any found poetry or found element, consider the ethics and your position within the work. Anonymize or change names, combine several observations into one, change some details, actually introduce yourself to the person and explain your project, depending on the situation and your own position within it, you might have to make some caveats, at your own discretion. With my recent Sorority Girl piece, I ended up deciding it was vague enough to leave everything intact, but I did consider the ramification and the ethics of what I was writing. You might be creepin’ a little, so don’t make anyone uncomfortable, and be generous toward your subjects and subject matter.
Becoming a keen observer of your surroundings is really the key to any artistic material based on human life. So take this exercise as an excuse to open those ears and that peripheral vision, for some elements of found poetry (/prose).
"so that I wake up hating the lump of you snoring and the covers you’ve thrown off. Sometimes a new man comes to me, says Can I kiss you now like if I said don’t he would anyway, and I let him, and he does.