The “V” Word

Waterman Perspective Fountain Pen in Black

One thing that’s pounded into you in writing class is the importance of good description.

I remember a class I took my third semester of college. It was an online creative writing class, so it was a little odd. I never met my teacher or classmates face to face; in fact, I don’t think I ever found out what my teacher even looked like. Her name was Dr. Smart.

Dr. Smart became more of an essence, a presence, than a person to me. She lived in my computer and wrote messages on my work with one overarching theme, which soon became the bane of my existence:

You need to write more vividly. 

Dr. Smart didn’t just want to read my words. She wanted to touch, to taste, to see, to smell, to hear them. And to me it seemed like an awful lot to ask. “Use your imagination!” I often wanted to yell into the computer (where Dr. Smart lived, of course).

Vividly. Vivid. It was her favorite word. It soon became my least favorite.

That fateful online writing class was almost four years ago now. And now I get what Dr. Smart was trying to say. Now I think I’m better at writing vividly (although I still cringe at the word). I enjoy the challenge of arriving at a scene and figuring out ways to allow the reader to use her imagination, by giving her enough touching, tasting, seeing, smelling, hearing details she can pour her imagination into.

But a funny thing starts to happen when you get used to describing things: things start describing themselves for you.

In January I drove home for a few days to visit family. Oil City is about two hours away from Pittsburgh, and thankfully it didn’t snow on my way or it would’ve taken longer. It had stormed a few days before, and the fields and trees were still thick with six inches of snow, crisp like cream so cold it could be sliced and laid on top of the earth. The air was clear and sharp like a bundle of glass. As I drove, leaving the highways for back roads that took me higher into foothills and deeper into forests, the sun began to set, and the entire sky looked like an opal, all iridescent and smooth. The light got caught in the evergreen trees and made periwinkle shadows on the snow.

In short, it was gorgeous. Every new blink of my eyes was like bite of a feast.

How on earth can people hate winter? I thought, because people do. They choose to live in a place where they very well know it snows half the year, and they decide to hate it. Morons. (Sorry for the name calling.)

But to me, now, as I drove and probably wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the road, the slew of gorgeous little details seemed so glaringly obvious. How do you not see the patchwork of lichens on a tree, or the way the grasses in a field are all a slightly different shade of brown, or the magnificent opaline sky?

The answer, of course, is that I’m a pedant, and that I only notice these things because I was trained to. I only notice these vivid details because some essence of a professor in a computer told me to write more vividly! So I had to learn to see more vividly! so I can write down what I see.

And then, as I drove through the Allegheny foothills in the winter sunset, I realized that writing vividly isn’t so important as an end in itself. It’s important for exactly these kind of moments; the drives through the woods, the strolls on the beach, the walks in the city. We write vividly so people read vividly, so they see vividly, so they live vividly.

I’m starting to like the word now.

 

Writing News

Happy Thursday everyone!

I apologize for getting this out so late. My first week back at school has been quite busy, and of course I use the lovely excuses of “I have so much hooomework!” and “But I’m so tiiiired!” to put off blog posting. A grave character fault, I admit.

I don’t have any poetry today, but I do have some really good news! Which is that, hopefully over the course of this semester, I will be publishing a BOOK!

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Correction: I will be publishing a book in tandem with others (although I am of course not ruling out the possibility of going solo). I am in this really interesting and extensive Publishing class, and together we are going to put together a book and publish it. We are also each going to publish our own work separately. It’s a bit hard for me to wrap my head around (and really overwhelming: planning a wedding + publishing my work = ahhh!), but still quite fun! I’m going to use this blog as a bit of a journal for what’s going on week by week (in addition to my usual poetry and crafts), and I am so excited to keep you all updated on this sort of milestone! Stay posted for more news! And have a very happy Thursday. :o)

Black Hole

Hello everyone!

I’m sorry that I didn’t post over the weekend; the week was exhausting, days just slipped by and I needed a bit of a break by the time Saturday rolled around! But I hope you all had a relaxing weekend!

Today I wanted to share a rather unusual poem that came from another misunderstood class assignment (it happens to me a lot apparently) in which we were supposed to describe a black hole in metaphors. So naturally, I went and wrote a poem instead. It’s a little raw, but you know, all writing is a work in progress, so here is

 

Black Hole

 

A black hole

is not so much something

as it is

nothing.

 

It is a void

collapsing on itself

like a heart

full of fear.

 

It is gnawing

like an empty stomach

just before

breakfast.

 

It is black

(as its name does suggest);

an eye socket,

a snake’s nest.

 

It is empty,

yet filled to the brim with life

once lived,

with memories.

 

It is a window

with the glass knocked out, a

volcano, emptied

of magma.

 

It is the death

of birth, and the birth of death.

Such is that,

a black hole.

Death of a Christian

Hey all! Happy almost-weekend!

This poem I’m sharing today is one I wrote as part of a class assignment in which we were to describe the emotions of an elderly Christian fearing death despite his or her beliefs about life after death. An interesting concept, to be sure, but I misunderstood the assignment. We weren’t supposed to write whole poems about it, just jot down a few metaphors to describe the situation.

So this poem, which I actually really like the end result of, sits in my notebook never to see the light of my professor’s desk lamp (if he even has a desk lamp; I forget). To me this is a shame, because I really tapped into my inner Emily Dickinson for this one. So I thought I’d share. Without further ado, here is
 

Death of a Christian

 

I had a dream that Death had come

to steal me from my bed.

I fought it, kicked it, socked its brow;

I woke up drenched in sweat.

 

The dreadful thing is, Death is near,

and I who won dead souls

now shudder, wishing I’d more time

to fan to flame the coals.

 

I told them they were guaranteed

to taste the bread of life,

that sin was nailed to the cross

to never be revived.

 

But oh! what different tunes I sing,

me! shaking like the ground

when finally the freight train comes

and drowns us in its sound.

 

Death whispers to me like a friend,

assures me of my fate,

that I am yet a child of Him

Who’ll meet me at the Gate.

 

And I believe, yes, in my heart;

I know it in my brain.

But something in my bones still quakes

to hear Death’s drum refrain.

 

“No guilt in life, no fear in death”,

my favorite hymn does sing.

So why I am I still full of fear,

for I shall see my – “

 
 

The Ring

Happy Tuesday Folks!

Tomorrow I will be reading my creative work for the first time in public! Yipes! If you think of me, say a quick prayer. I am excited and terrified. That should really be a word, you know? Blend those two feelings together. Exiterrified.

In my poetry class we’ve been taking a lot of classic poems by well-known poets and using their styles to come up with something new. We’ve done several of these “parodies”, from writers as varied as Edgar Allen Poe to Taylor Swift (that was interesting!). These exercises are very helpful because we learn to take the tools that great writers used and use them ourselves to make something that is all us. It’s tons of fun!

Last week we studied “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams. It’s a really charming little poem, very small and intimate. I’d encourage you to look it up if you haven’t heard of it. This poem I have today is my “parody” of it. I call it “The Ring”. (Not to be confused with THE Ring :o)
 

The Ring

 

so much life

within

 

a gold jeweled

ring

 

dropped in flowing

water

 

lost to dusty

history

 
 

Thanks for reading! Have a great week

Hannah