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Talking Big Issues - On Demand

Updated on December 31, 2016
Rafini profile image

Ready or not was how I felt when I returned to school, after a very long absence, and submitted my work for grading. Turned out well.

I wanted to be a writer

Creative Writing Workshop

Going to college, no matter what your age, is a huge investment. When I decided to return to college, at the age of forty three, I actually had no idea what profession I wanted to pursue. Not because there were oh so many options, which there literally were, but because I was, and still am, recovering from a major depression and learning to live with PTSD. This means that, at that time in my life, I had some serious memory, concentration and focus issues that I felt would limit my ability to be seriously gainfully employed. I had no idea where my fractured life would take me or how it would get me there.

By the time I'd earned my Associates Degree I had already been accepted at the University of Wisconsin, but was still unsure why I was going to go there. I was interested in photography, which the UW didn't offer a degree in, English, and Photojournalism. In researching my options, I discovered the Photojournalism degree focused primarily on politics. Nope, not gonna happen, I realized. Politics was not my thing - I was interested in Documentary style Photojournalism. So, I chose to study English, but which option should I choose? Literature? Creative writing? Language and linguistics? Okay, definitely not the last one. I had absolutely no desire to learn linguistics, especially since an elementary school memory of "dipthongs, dipthongs all I ever hear is dipthongs" kept wanting to play over and over in my head whenever I thought about it. In the end I chose creative writing because, after all, I did want to write books at one time, didn't I?

For my first creative writing workshop at the UW I had Amy Quan Barry as my professor. I was very nervous. I was also twice the age of my fellow students. I had no idea what to expect and absolutely no idea what I would write.


Life is all about choices

My First Poem

On the first day of class we were informed that the semester would be divided into two - a fiction half and a poetry half. We were also informed that we would be required to write several weekly fiction assignments on top of a single short story during the fiction half of the class, and a poem for every week of the poetry half of the class. I didn't know what to do. I was there for fiction, not poetry. I didn't write poems - unless inspiration just happened to hit at a certain moment when I had pen and paper handy. What on earth was I going to do? Everyone majoring in creative writing had to take this beginning workshop of fiction and poetry - there was no way I could get out of it. I was simply going to have to muddle through and write a ridiculous poem that didn't make sense either to me, my professor, or my fellow students.

What I finally came up with, I titled "The Choice."



The Choice - Revised

Work. School. Play.

All there is to do today.

Read. Write. Read.

build upon a seed.

Think, swim, Reason.

There is no better season.

Come here, go there.

home is – where?

No need to stare; care if you dare.


Read. Write. Read.

To where does it lead?

Upstairs Downstairs is the choice.

Ensure – a solid voice?

Cook. Wash. Clean.

of the house a queen.

inside out, Just be fair.

No need to take a – chair?

a loving pair is oh so rare.


Cook. Wash. Clean.

Someone please explain, the scene.

Up or down, up or Down.

No more wearing – a frown.

Think. Reason. Read. Write.

Nothing left, to incite.

A new life beyond compare

As always, yet, always aware.

Inclinations impress. Memories beware.

The Choice (Subtext/Controlling Metaphor)

Work. School. Play.

All there is to do today

Read. Write. Read

build upon a seed

Think, take photos, Reason

There is no better season

Come here, go there

home is – where?

No need to stare; care if you dare


Read. Write. Read

To where does it lead?

Upstairs Downstairs is the choice

Ensure – a solid voice

Cook. Wash. Clean

of the house a queen

inside out, Just be fair

No need to take a – chair

a loving pair is oh so rare

I think I made the right choice

Poetry On Demand Wasn't Such a Bad Thing

On the day of my critique, Professor Quan Barry was out of town due to the fact that she was promoting one of her books. Disappointed that I wouldn't get to hear what she thought of my most pitiful and ridiculous poem, I settled in for the critique of a stranger instead. Quan Barry had asked Sean Bishop to step in for her that day.

To my surprise I was actually quite disappointed and even felt a little bit insulted when my fellow students critiqued my poem as being childish due to the rhyme. After thinking on it, though, I guess I agreed with them. Because when I wrote the poem I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I was writing. I'd simply been putting words on paper just so I had something to turn in, and, for some inexplicable reason, my mind had kept wandering off back to when I had been a child reading Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories. After the students had their say, though, Bishop had something he wanted to say.

Your poem reminds me of Emily Dickinson. You should get weirder with your images.

— Sean Bishop

Studying a Piece of Art

One week Quan Barry surprised the class by not giving us a written assignment. Instead, she told us to take some time to go to the Chazen and find a piece of art that spoke to us. We were to take pen and paper, and take notes on our observations and how the piece made us feel. Unsure what I would find or what I would think, I went to the museum as soon as possible after class so I could get started on the assignment - just in case I had to take a second trip.

On the one hand I was excited to have a reason to go to the museum. I'd always wanted to go, but hadn't because I'd never wanted to go alone and I hadn't yet found anyone willing to scratch my back in return for how often I'd scratched theirs. On the other hand, though, I was extremely nervous. How on earth was I going to write a poem in response to a piece of art???

The Inspirational Museum Piece

Fireside - Revised

Inspired by: Your House, Olafur Eliasson, 2006



Who could possibly live here – Without furniture;

no color on the walls or dinosaurs in the hall,

no clutter, no blooms; no heaven above or Hell below.

Open wide like teeth – clawing inside;

turn the page – Look the same.


How many branches, how many rooms

vacant stairs – each day resumes;

leaves reveal within the light

Belief that falters like a plight.

turn the page – Look the same.


When was the silence ordered,

following lines of idle space;

confined on its spine.

Echoes within like touch deprived of trace;

turn the page – Look the same.


What says the carpenter,

neat and tidy; lacking ivy

without sun, without rain. Everything is so plain.

Looking back tastes like innocent torture;

turn the page – Look the same.


Where to sleep, where to keep;

not a thing installed,

not a moment left for sprawl.

Repeat the lies, so much like a compromise;

turn the page – Look the same?

Fireside (Imagery)

Who lives there without furniture

no color on the walls or dinosaurs in the hall

no clutter, no blooms; no heaven above or Hell below

Open wide like teeth gnawing inside

turn the page, Look the same


How many branches, how many rooms

vacant, lonely – each day resumes

leaves reveal within the light

Belief that falters like a filter

turn the page, Look the same


When was the silence ordered

confined on its spine

follow the lines of idle space

Echoes within like touch deprived of trace

turn the page, Look the same


What says the carpenter

neat and tidy; lacking ivy

without sun, without rain

Eyes reach forward like innocent torture

turn the page, Look the same


Where to sleep, where to keep

not a thing installed

not a moment left for sprawl

Repeat the lies like a compromise

turn the page, Look the same?

Okay, Poetry on Demand Was Getting a Little Easier

But was my poetry getting better? I had no clue.

Before I wrote my next poem my daughter and I had managed to get into a bit of a disagreement. Not unusual for our rocky relationship, considering she was a daddy's girl and I had chosen to divorce him when she'd been only eight-years-old.

Needless to say, our argument was on my mind when i wrote the following poem, and it shows. To me, anyway. Not too sure if anyone else picked up on it though. Of course, I hadn't revealed my true age to my classmates. They may have thought I'd written the poem about my relationship with my own mother.

Eternity (Touché revised)

Always, always. All about you.

But, you say, all about me.

Can you, now, can you please

Deliver the best

Expect the test – present a mounted crest.

Fingers divide, echoes unite.

Growing snow covers grass, and

Hollow stings melt upon an image as

If the wars settle beneath your skin.

Jupiter swishes through your stage.

Keep the pain, keep the rain, or take it away in chains.

Little sister you might be – but never to me.

Mouth opens, door screams. Take away my dreams.

Never stop to care, think or dare.

One minute. One hour. One moment.

Please, now, can you

Quit

Reading the birds as they sing their tune,

Softening the sky as the crocodile skids through the grass.

Thoughts, inside my head

Upon your face

Verify misty mornings – or fantasy.

Will you, now, will you please

‘Xtend apologies, to accept

Youthful

Zeal, from within the heart, and within our sight.

Typical Mother-Daughter Argument

Touché (Lyric poem)

Why is it always you? Always, always, all about you.

Never stop to think, stop to care, think or dare.

Mouth opens, door screams. Take away my dreams.

Little sister you might be – but never to me.

Take the pain, take the rain – take it away in chains.

Forever in my heart, forever in my sight.


Will you, now, will you please

Listen to the snow grow, the sun’s visit upon your face, the rain

As it softens the sky.


Will you, now, will you please

Watch the birds sing their tune, the bees fly into night, the crocodile

As it skids through the grass.


Can you, now, can you please

Smell the words you say to me, the thoughts inside your head, the wars

As they settle beneath your skin.


Why is it always me? Always, always, all about me.

Never more than kind, ungrateful, unwelcome.

Fingers divide, echoes unite. Misty mornings slam into fantasy.

Mother, daughter, sister - one is all, all are one.

Deliver the best, expect the test - present a mounted crest.

Eternity lingers, eternity cinders.


Can you, now, can you please

Caress the sighs along your eyes, the shouts within your soul, the whispers

As they slip between your dreams.


Will you, now, will you please

Taste the center of the universe, the tears that melt upon an image, the hollow sting of Jupiter

As it swishes through your stage.


One minute. One hour. One moment. Forever in your heart, forever in your sight.

A Required Form

Eventually Quan Barry began talking about form in poetry, and how we would be required to write a paper about a particular form. Before we would get there, though, she required everyone to write a poem about writing poetry. In other words, a poem in the poetic form of Ars Poetica.

The Job of a Poet (revised)

It is so small

yet simple

deep and delicate

maybe

Brutal enough to cut

Strength sufficient to support.

A Poem About Writing a Poem

The Job of a Poet (Ars Poetica)

The job of a poet is never done until it is begun.

Thoughts and feelings, hidden beneath desire.

Understanding disposition – to acquire.

Seeing beneath two rocks, calling out the name of the one in red.

Seeking, finding – representing in dread.

Dreams and wishes. All are fishes.


Language.

Pure and simple, plain or tall.

Something small inside us all.

The winds of Jupiter

Knocking down walls. Tales, together spun.

Fragments. Compassionate or malicious.


Expression, experience. Take the time.

Sing it alone, or climb upon a dime.

Swim in the field, sunflower or daisy

Strike a match where there is none.

Maybe take a daily gravy.

Or release the moonlight – one by one.

Taking Sean's Advice

Okay, for the following poem I had to have taken Sean's advice to get weirder with my images, because, honestly, I have no idea what this poem is about, why it was written, or what it's supposed to mean. I simply have no clue.

Tomorrow's Freedom (revised)

Watch the night crumble

listening to air – silent, exhausted, indignant.

Do not fail to overlook, waiting – another hour.

Measure again, the distance home. Proceed

along the wall, control, manipulate.

Take once more what once was mine.

Look back to find – determine all, and erase.

Tomorrow's Freedom

After the previous generation

a name, a face, please try to remember.

Extend a hand, an arm, something else for

anyone to touch. Impress upon the

sky, a dream, a hope – determination.

Try to see above, beyond, behind. Watch

the night as it crumbles, respectfully

listening to the air as if it were

silent, exhausted, in antiquity.


Before the next initiation, take

results and cause another. Do not fail

to overlook, waiting, another hour.

Measure again the distance home. Proceed

along the wall, control, manipulate.

Influence, take once more what once was mine.

Do not regret. Look back to find – erase.

Heartache to sorrow and back again. Love

determines all – without deserves relief.


Reduce the pain, relive the anguish. Forgive

oppression, improve tomorrow’s freedom.

Let me know which poem you liked best!

Which poem did you like best?

See results

© 2013 Rafini

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