Katie Staten

Life through a Literary Lens

Of Something Else

It is a Tuesday night in North Carolina,
in my brother’s new apartment’s living room,
just past midnight, in a quiet town
at the edge of a suburb at the edge of an unimpressive city,
on a bright night on a brightly lit street
with a moon just out of my sight that must be full or almost full
forcing its way through the window
with enough light that I have just, by its almost holy grace,
finished reading Sylvia Plath for the first time,
convinced that I have truly found myself,
or maybe that I am about to find myself and I am scared.

It is a Tuesday night in North Carolina and tomorrow
I will put my feet in an ocean
for the first time since I was seven years old,
and I will spend the next ten years trying to find metaphors
for the vastness between the horizon and the sand at my feet,
or between the somewhere hovering soul of Sylvia Plath and the smell of ink,
or for how I think souls work,
or for how no one’s soul is real.

I have not yet learned how many selves
there are yet to discover. There are scars on my arms
that have almost faded completely,
that I have not mentioned to anyone since I was sixteen,
that I do not yet know will be replaced someday
when I think I am too old for such nonsense.
For now, there is a peace in me.
Finding myself means I have sat across a table
from myself in an empty room,
touched my own arms, my own hair,
my own face, reached through my chest and run my fingers
through all the uncertainty,
and decided I am content.

It is a Tuesday night in North Carolina,
or maybe it is a Saturday night or a Monday night,
and the only sound I can hear is the crickets,
and the wind, and my fingers gently caressing the pages,
and my breathing, and my parents next to me sleeping on cots,
and the dog snoring in the next room,
and the leaves outside rustling,
and the moonlight telling me something I can’t understand and I realize
how many sounds are in the quiet,
how many places are on the edge of something else.

NaPoWriMo 2017 Recap

A couple days late, but I did want to do a NaPoWriMo recap.

So, I did not complete National Poetry Writing Month this year. The idea was to write a poem every single day for 30 days. I completed it last year, but fell short this year.

Except I don’t really see it as falling short at this stage. I did exactly what I set out to do, and I feel I withdrew at the right time.

No, I didn’t write thirty poems in thirty days. However, I did write to the prompts each day that I completed, which gave me the chance to explore new angles for writing and try new things in my writing. I experimented with writing in new forms, new styles, poems based on art…I learned a lot. I taught myself to stretch my poetry beyond what I was comfortabe with. Just as I knew, in the discomfort was where I found some of my favorite poems.

I’m not sorry that I backed out. I started feeling too overwhelmed to wander into discomfort, and started instead writing poems for the sake of having written them. I wasn’t learning anything from them anymore. I wasn’t letting myself feel the discomfort enough to write something different. And of course, it wasn’t worth it to push myself to complete it just to say I could and I did. I did that last year.

So here I am, having written a fair bit of stuff I hated but also a few poems I’m quite proud of. I’ll link my favorite poems I wrote this month below, and let you all get back to your regularly scheduled programming. Some of them are my favorites becuase I just think they were good poems, some because I’m proud of having worked in an uncomfortable form or style, and others just because I had so much fun with them.

Moving On
Recipe for Executive Dysfunction
Ode to Elle Woods
Waiting
Current Events
Zeno’s Paradox
Nocturne
Grenades
Animals

NaPoWriMo XX – Backing Out

I’m a little bit bummed to say it, but I won’t be completing NaPoWriMo this year.

I had a lot of fun with it this year. I do feel I did what I set out to do, which was to experiment with new writing styles and learn new things by sticking to the NaPoWriMo.net daily prompt (even when it felt like something I wouldn’t be able to do).

But the last week or so I haven’t really felt I was experimenting or learning anything new. I’ve been really burnt out, and NaPoWriMo felt like an obligation looming over me all day rather than something I was excited to do like when it first started. And as a result I started churning out poems I didn’t like at all, for the sake of having written something for the day.

Which would be fine if my only goal had been to show that I could complete NaPoWriMo, but I did that last year. I KNOW I am capable of pushing myself to finish. I don’t want to make myself dread writing each day for the sake of churning out a poem I didn’t learn anything from.

So I feel no guilt in saying I’m backing out of NaPoWriMo this year. I made it most of the way through the month, and I did some things I can be proud of. On May 1, when I’ve had the chance to review my month’s work, I’ll still write up a month in review about some of the highlights of NaPoWriMo. In the meantime, I’ll let myself take it easy the rest of this month.

NaPoWriMo 24 – Animals

Everything seems to have the head
of something else. Everything else
thinks it’s human. Almost nothing
is human, and the human is more
animalistic, proud and shameless.
Here–a cowering stag holds the hand
of a starving nun, who holds the hand
of a pious hare, who holds the hand
of a ravenous boar. All reverential
in the face of a bard, bored,
listless. All standing on a ledge,
a precipice, just above the leaves,
just above where life starts.
Almost nothing is human. The nun,
she probably has hooves beneath
that dress. The bard, she probably
hides a tail. Everything else
thinks that it is human.

***

Today’s NaPoWriMo.net prompt can be found here. Easier read than described by me, I think.

I’m gonna hold off on recommendations because I’m posting this so late and feeling a little burnt out today. Less than a week left!

NaPoWriMo 23 – Cat

cat
snoozes softly
on the ottoman,
oblivious to life itself,
peaceful.

peace
is temporary
in this home.
spend it touching soft
things.

***

Today’s NaPoWriMo.net prompt is to write a “double elevenie,” explained here. I don’t think I executed the form in a particularly creative or unique way, but hey, it was a new form and trying new things is what I was shooting for this year!

Today’s first recommendation: “Traffic Line Romance” by my good friend over at To Form Ideas

Today’s fellow NaPoWriMo participant recommendation: “Elfchen” by Azuki Lynn

NaPoWriMo 22 – Soil

I, too, look at earth, clumped
and crumbling between my fingers,
and see life itself. As if this
is where I belong–in the soil.
As if this is where the soil
belongs, loose and damp, and
damn if it isn’t the cleanest thing
in the forest, damn if it isn’t
the purest thing I’ve touched today.

I know nothing of gardening
or agriculture or making things
grow. I know nothing, except
that where things grow is home.

***

Today’s NaPoWriMo.net prompt was to write a georgic, which is apparently a poem dealing with practical aspects of agriculture. I know literally nothing about agriculture, despite having grown up in farm country, so this is the closest to that I could get.

Recommendation for the day: “The Tragedy of Hats” by Clarinda Harriss

Fellow NaPoWriMo participant for the day: “Drinking the Sky” by Lindi-Ann Hewitt-Coleman

 

NaPoWriMo 21 – Grenades

We were talking about grenade launchers.
Which is to say, loosely, that we were talking
about ways in which things explode–
like sunset bursting into copper mist
over the river under a rusting steel bridge,
or the way the earth shatters
under handholds and footholds, leaving
behind filthy shoes and filthy palms.
We were talking about grenades,
which is to say, loosely, that there is so much
ready to explode as it’s leaving our grasp.

***

Today’s NaPoWriMo.net poem was to write a poem based on overheard dialogue, so my coworker shouting “We were talking about grenade launchers!” is what I decided to use.

Today’s first recommendation: “Beaches” by Rafael Casal (video)

Today’s fellow NaPoWriMo participant recommendation: “Accident” over at Arash’s Poetry

NaPoWriMo 20 – Checkers

Every man only
a hurdle. Each thinks he has
parts of me between
his teeth, thinks cornering me
is safest. I leap. King me.

***

I told myself I couldn’t play the game I downloaded from Steam unless I did NaPoWriMo today. Turns out that’s pretty good motivation.

Today’s NaPoWriMo.net prompt was to write a poem using terms from a game or sport. I know nothing about sports whatsoever, so game it was.

Today’s first recommendation: “The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar” by Danez Smith

Today’s fellow NaPoWriMo participant recommendation: “9-ball” by emangarduque

2/3 done!

NaPoWriMo 19 – Creation

In the beginning,
there was us.
Of course, so much
came before us–
explosions, formations,
everything being made
and everything moving away
from everything else,
a million other planets,
maybe, that created life first–
only we are at the beginning
of all of our stories,
so in the beginning
there was us,
exactly as we are now,
and we created so much
in our own image,
not least of which every god
who was ever supposed
to have made us.

***

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write about a creation myth. Again I’m not thrilled with how it came out and I’m gonna be taking it pretty easy (i.e. maybe not doing a daily recommendation for a little while or writing very short off-prompt poems) while I assess whether I want to finish NaPoWriMo. This is about when the burnout happened last year and I pushed through it, but I don’t want to keep on writing poems I’m not happy with and not learning anything from, which seems to be happening more the last few days. We’ll see, though. I’ll do my best to get myself back on track to finish, but regardless, I’ve already done a lot of what I set out to do and I can be proud of that.

NaPoWriMo18 – Haiku

They don’t come today.
I leave food for the wild ones
And wait ’til midnight.

***

Not following the NaPoWriMo prompt or doing recommendations today, unfortunately, as I waited until 11:40pm to start writing. Um. Oops. But at least I got something written and posted.