A Poem to Remember by Nadja Goldberg

Over the summer, I hiked for three and a half weeks through the Sierra mountains with an enormous backpack and a group of friends. Our boots trekked over beds of crisp pine needles, on trails of sheer, jagged rock, and along muddy meadow paths. As I breathed the open air and felt a flood of sunlight on my cheeks, I longed to capture the feeling of being so deeply immersed in nature.

One evening, after we set up camp on a floor of rock beside a river and ate rehydrated rice for dinner, I slipped a notebook and pen into my jacket pocket and started to climb a nearby hill. I clambered over heaps of boulders, continuing up and up. When I turned around, the rest of my group, huddled around a chess board, appeared as a small, brightly colored patch in the valley. Behind them, a row of immense granite mountains towered toward the sky. For miles in every direction was the untouched beauty of Earth. I have never felt so simply like an animal connected to the wild. I tried to write about this expansive feeling but each word that I scrawled on the page seemed to carry meaning too limited for what I craved to express. I descended the mountain with pages full of pen strokes covering phrases that I deemed inadequate.

As I climbed Bear Mountain one afternoon some days later, I began to form a poem in my head. When it became too detailed to retain in my mind, I sat on a rock next to the trail and fished my notebook and pen out of my backpack. The poem was addressed to my future self. I planned to read it once I returned to the city in order not to forget the pure, blissful world that had absorbed me:

 

Remember the Sky

Remember the river?
Your toes curl over slippery rocks,
soft gush
twists through the valley
bound by sprouted grass,
thin strokes shivering in the breeze.

Remember the mountains?
Enormous bodies
of stagnant power,
draped in a pine robe.

You sit on a rock at the top,
take full breaths
and recall when this spot
was a distant rift
in the serrated ridge.

Remember the bird?
Chirping faint and sweet
on a springy aspen branch,
Canvas tree trunk etched with eyes,
a flurry of leaves.

Remember the lake?
Sun-glazed surface drifts slowly,
reflects blurred cliffs and trees.

You leap from a rock
plunge
into soothing depths.

Remember the sky?
An unhampered sheet,
wisps of clouds unfurl
in peachy morning hues
behind hilltops.

At night,
you are focused on stars and planets
radiant dust across darkness,
and you are a part of it.

Nadja Goldberg, class of 2021

Humor! by Kaia Hobson

As per Creative Writing custom, after the first show of the year, the department invites an artist in residence to teach a week long unit before we begin studying poetry. This year, Daniel Handler came in and taught a mini unit on humor. We had a similar lesson last year, taught by Sam Hamm, though it was much shorter, consisting of only two days. Handler taught us how to create the basis of a comedic piece of writing, as well as how connect seemingly unrelated works through the use of a grounding narrator or topic.

Handler began the lesson by distinguishing “boring” sentences from ones with comedic potential. All 30 creative writers were instructed to come up with a boring sentence. Some examples included: “I don’t want to go go outside because it is raining,” or “I have no energy.” We then came up with “funny” words that either had comedic connotations, or that produced funny sounds. We then added these words to our boring sentences to make them slightly more intriguing: “I don’t want to go outside because it is raining falafels.” While not intended to evoke a outburst of laughter, the simple addition of “falafel” not only grabs the reader by surprise, but provides an opportunity to expand on the sentence in a comedic fashion, if one so desires.

Part of the unit was to write a 2-3 page culminating project that uses a specific narrator, or connecting subject to create a cohesive piece of comic writing. I decided to write a collection of a short articles that lack any significance in today’s world.

Here is an excerpt of one, titled “Three Designers Make Yet Another Whale Out Of Trash.”

The unraveling ceremony of the sculpture took place yesterday in Boca Raton, Florida. It is said to stand at an impressive 5 feet, and is reported to have taken almost 3 days to complete. One of the creators, Melanie Tumford stated: “I think this is something people are going to see and go, ‘Wow. That’s really big.’”

Another one of the designers, Ian Mousk described the process of making the sculpture, calling it, “A really cool behind the scenes experience.” He spoke to the hungry crowd of at least 3 reporters: “We all kind of just sat down and wanted to create something that was so unique, people would see it and go: “Wow. That’s really tall.”

Throughout the unit, I learned the importance of having a grounding subject for the audience to come back to, as simple as a specific collection title, in order to give the comedy found in the piece meaning. I hope to learn more on the craft of comedy as my high school career progresses.

Kaia Hobson, Class of 2021

 

Freeze by Kenzo Fukuda

Back in October 2018, Creative Writing held our annual show where each of us recites a piece on stage, whether that be poetry, prose, or a short story. We also have skits in between parts of our show and our show’s title “La Cro-Ink” was for that. If you went to this past show you might know what is coming next.  

Getting past the basics, I had my poem detailed and planned out to the finest detail. I had adjusted the poem to fit a stage performance, found a clip of Tupac Shakur that meshed with my poem, had red lighting for my entrance and “Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin for my exit. I rehearsed and memorized my poem “We the People” to the point where hyperbole would be appropriate. I was going to kill it! I was supposed to kill it. So when I walked onto the platform in the center of the stage, in front of the whole theater, I opened my mouth and froze.

That Eminem song “Lose Yourself” has more meaning to me now than before that moment. My palms were sweaty, my knees were weak, the whole shabang. My guess to why the words would not come out (sorry last Eminem reference) is because I had been on stage for 30 seconds leading up to the reciting. I could see them because the red backlight was shining on their faces and not mine. So when the spotlight dropped, my subconscious started freaking out because now everyone could see me. My brain just shut off and left me flapping in the wind. I had “forgotten” the first lines. When I say forgotten I don’t feel like I actually forgot the words. They were there, somewhere, it was just that my voice and brain could not connect. Like along the way, the words got into a car accident but forgot to call and tell me that they would not make it. I stood on the stand alone and empty.  

I started stuttering and ummming and whispering, “No, no…” the one thing we are told not to do when your forget a line. My body felt like rigamortis, paralyzed by fear but still experiencing every ounce of pain from it. I had to step back from the mic for a moment. I heard people shouting from the audience, “You got this Kenzo!” Even Heather, our department head, was screaming, “Just relax! Go!” But when I stepped back towards the mic and opened my mouth, nothing. I realized I had to skip the entire first stanza and start with the second. I ended up jumbling a lot of the stanzas around to make the piece make sense without the intro, which I didn’t even realize until I watch the video my parents took. I got through the piece and walked off stage.

As soon as I stepped off stage, a rush of Creative Writers swarmed me. They started comforting me, patting my shoulder, and said things like, “You did so well,” “You were amazing”, “At least you finished your piece!” I appreciated everything they said, and it goes to show how close knit this department is, but I was in a fog. Their voices were echoing and I could barely hear them. All I heard the voice in my head, “That could not have just happened, that didn’t happen, right?” It was a surreal moment where I could not process what just happened, like denial was making me forget the experience. But suddenly it hit me and I had to get out of there, had to get some fresh air. I went outside into the parking lot and started screaming.

I was throwing rocks, cursing, kicking the wall, punching the wall, grabbing my head and just sobbing. It was that feeling of let down. It’s such a terrible feeling when you work so hard to make something perfect but in the end it all comes crashing down into rubble. Several people came and gave me their own pep talk. I love each and everyone of them for it. They worked but what snapped me out of my funk and self loathing was my family. They said, and I quote, “Get over it! Stop with this self pity. What’s done is done.” You really do need your family to say something so blunt and honest. I also learned that half of the audience thought my freeze up was intentional. So that was a consolation. That night was full of ups and downs but in the end I’m grateful that I had this experience. If I had to do it all over again, I would rather not choke, who would honestly want to experience that again?  But I’ll try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives and hopefully learn from it.

Kenzo Fukuda, class of 2020

Sophomore Year by Lauren Ainslie

Early in the semester we were given an article titled, “Is Literature Dead?” We then analyzed and discussed the points it brought up, which mostly centered around the rise of technology and the decline of literacy. It was old news, but I still became depressed when it mentioned cell phone addiction and the decrease of recreational reading, as I am afflicted with both. But just as I thought my mood would be ruined permanently, I remembered something that happened a few weeks before.

This was my first year with Mr. Slayton, a freshman/sophomore English teacher. Something he does as a warm up before starting class is pass out poetry, and then ask us to discuss and write about it. I won’t get too much into how I loathe the way he goes about this, but it usually doesn’t inspire much response from the class. We usually doodle until he tells us the answer and then we write it down and turn it in. This process is quite disheartening as a Creative Writing student, seeing the wonder of poetry be permanently corrupted in the eyes of my peers, but I learned to accept it.

This was true until the day we were given “Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning. It was one of the few poems he gave us that I actually liked, and I was happy to write about it. It was light and romantic, and used wonderful concise imagery. The discussion was livelier than usual, students giving personal opinions and guessing at the true meaning of the poem, especially one student, named Ben (His name was changed for privacy). I knew Ben was smart, we had physics together the year before, and he was quite outspoken. But in English he didn’t seem to possess the same passion or drive to participate, until now. When called on he spoke for a number of minutes on how perfect the language was, how he didn’t usually like poetry, but this was “crazy.” I watched him stare at his paper with uncharacteristic focus, hear him mutter “Wow,” and even shake his head in disbelief. “Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning had touched him, moved him, as cliché as it sounds, and it he looked astonished at his own reaction… Ben, the person I least expected, appreciated poetry, and it was wonderful to watch, funny, even.

So when asked the question “Is Literature Dead?” I say no. It’s lethargic, a little worn, but not dead. Ordinary people like me or Ben can be moved by it at any day and at any capacity, and from that experience, I know literature will live forever.  

Lauren Ainslie, class of 2021

PARKER APPRECIATION POST BY SOFI ORKIN

Look here’s the situation; Parker’s a Cool Kid, a smart kid, and a great friend. Not just that, but he’s been responsible for me meeting other people who have also become really close, great friends (I’m not going to even say their names though, because this is about Parker.)  SO with that out of the way, I’m going to begin by commenting on Parker’s music taste. Which is bomb. He’s not even that much of a music snob, he’s just really good at finding cool, sometimes underappreciated artists, which is also a benefit to me because then if I want music recommendations I know who to turn to. Also, big Beatles fan. Secondly, Parker just radiates confidence. Like, it’s not even fair. Think of it this way. Have you ever woken up one day and just not felt very confident and instead just kind of down? Well, Parker got that confidence, and when you meet him you’ll get that confidence back and more. That’s the glory of knowing Parker.

In my first week of school, I had very few friends. Thanks to Parker, I now have more.  Close friend Ivy Dubiner says “On the record, I love Parker. I mean really, he’s the best.” Ivy went on to explain that he’s just one of those people that can strike up a conversation with anyone. “He writes me limericks, it’s sick” Ivy said, concluding the interview. Ivy’s father, David Dubiner, A.K.A. The Dube, has the same opinion on Mr. Burrows, describing him as interesting, funny, and a nice guy. “I’m not accustomed to being around teenage boys who actually have something to say.” Mr. Dube comments.  

“Parker is someone who isn’t easily overwhelmed and he just really know how it be.” Zai says, one of Parkers friends and fellow Creative Writers. Benny says “Parker’s a man of principle, he would never stoop to the level of salmon poetry”. Our resident ghost JP says “He’s easy to make fun of but doesn’t take it too seriously. He’s a lovable guy who is very huggable.” And Award Winning Poet Jessica Schott-Rosenfield says “Ugg, Parker. What a frustratingly stand-up guy.”

Parker gained affection, and rare affection at that, from very aloof theatre kid Lau. “Tall hair.” she says. “He got it.” Clearly, Parker is well-liked dude. So well liked, in fact, that a senior has some high praise to speak of him. “He’s like the most earnest person I’ve ever met,” Huckleberry Shelf says, “and he’s shockingly cultured for someone just out of eight grade.”

Parker Burrows is a fun guy (but he’s not a mushroom) and you will be lucky if you ever meet him.

Sofi Orkin, class of 2022

Stagefright by Paloma Fernandez

Creative Writing is a department where you can’t get by without always participating. Everyday you are sharing your opinions and interpretations and your own pieces. For me coming into and environment like this was somewhat challenging. I have never been a big sharer in class. At my old schools I was able to get by without sharing as much, but that’s not the case for this department.

So by the time our Fall poetry and prose show came around I wasn’t ready. Throughout the show everyone in the department goes up and shares either a poetry or prose piece. Also, skits written by a few of the seniors in the department are performed. So naturally I was freaking out a little inside about this. But I somehow convinced myself to do a longer prose piece and to somewhat face my fear.

My piece was one of the longer ones in the show. So of course this made me nervous. I was thinking about changing my piece, but by the time we started rehearsal and staying at school till about 6:00 every night, I realized it was too late now.

The night of the show came around and I was absolutely terrified. Throughout the day there were just scenarios of ways I would mess up playing throughout my head and what the chances of me passing out on stage were. Luckily it was a small chance.

Once it was my turn I walked up and stood on the podium, trying to center myself and stand up straight. The whole time I was up their my legs were trembling, and it was out of my power. About half way through my piece I realized I had to stop worrying so much. So that’s what I did and I stopped thinking about pauses and looking up and just did them naturally. By the time I walked off stage I was so relieved. About the fact that it was over and I did not terribly fail, and that I got a good response from the audience. It was very reassuring when a couple days after people would tell me that they really liked my piece, and that made me believe my friends and family when they told me I did well and it wasn’t just them feeling obligated to tell me that.

Paloma Fernandez, class of 2022

Poetry Unit by Solange Baker

After the fall show, Creative Writing separates into CW I and CW II. Our first unit is poetry. The CW II artist in residence is a wonderful woman named Lara Coley. This unit will last until the end of the semester and to conclude it, we are having a reading in late December and are making chapbooks. We get to pick the cover color of our chapbook, the title, and design the cover if we so choose. These are small decisions, but they help make the process more personal. Being a Senior, at the end of the year I will have my thesis done and bound, so I’m thinking of this as a mini version of that. It’s exciting to have a project to be working up to, even within a unit. It encourages me to reflect on my work to help make a more cohesive chapbook.

Generally, poetry hasn’t been my genre of choice. I’m still not writing traditional poetry, it’s more of prose, but even that hasn’t been what I typically write. But that’s one of the most valuable aspects of the Creative Writing department, and SOTA as a whole: you’re constantly evolving as an artist. I don’t know a single person in Creative Writing who will say they are the same writer they entered the department as. When I started my thesis I planned on it being predominantly plays with some fiction, now I’m thinking about adding some of the work I’ve been doing this unit. It’s nice to see that even as a Senior having nearly completed the program there are still new aspects of myself as an artist I have yet to discover— it’s exciting. But maybe that’s naive to say, because I’m only in high school, and we are forever evolving, forever surprising ourselves throughout our lives. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this unit unfolds in my own writing, and that of my peers.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

My First Impressions of CW by Parker Burrows

It’s been about 12 weeks at SOTA, and looking back on it, I’ve realized it’s the most fun I’ve ever had going to a school. I came into this year with so many doubts, and I thought it would be impossible to make friends but I was fortunately proven wrong. Being in the Creative Writing department means I’m just surrounded by intelligent and friendly people at least 2 hours a day.

Plus, I’ve made such a strong connection with each of the freshmen, that it’s absolutely wonderful spending time with them. 7th and 8th grade were difficult years for me, and it was hard for me to enjoy school because of either people in my class or constant assignments. One of the biggest things driving me through 8th grade was the idea of the creative writing department, and the moment I found that I was accepted into the department, I pushed through the rest of the year.

Now that I’m here, I realize that being able to write something every day and having an entire community behind me is extremely therapeutic. Our discussions in creative writing are always filled with mature and thoughtful ideas, which is a drastic change from how lazy our religion discussions were in 8th grade. We are currently studying poetry, and as we have discussions about each poem we read, I always get to see a new side to the poem because of all of the insightful observations each person brings.

Our field trips are amazing. Compared to my two field trips in 8th grade, both of which were plays at Riordan, there have been so many great moments. The MOMA, The De Young, The Exploratorium, the bay, and the list goes on. One of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve ever had was the Kirby Cove field trip. It was an overnight camping trip that began with us freshmen getting dunked in the ocean and improved from there. I walked around the woods, I played midnight soccer with the department, I saw the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise and I had so many great moments there. Everyone seems to enjoy themselves on these field trips and there’s such an impossibly infectious energy.

I’ve fallen in love with Creative Writing, and it has just been nothing short of an absolutely amazing trip. I am so excited to see how the next four years will play out.

Parker Burrows, Class of 2022

My Relationship With Poetry by Nina Berggren

What is poetry? To some people it is irrelevant, impossible to comprehend. To others, it is a puzzle waiting to be solved, filled with deeper meanings and compelling language. To me, poetry has always been an enigma. In the process of applying to SOTA, I wrote several pages of ambiguous lines about nature, utilizing careless line breaks with no rationale for doing so. This writing was meaningless. How did I expect anyone to gain something from my work when it possessed absolutely no significance to me?

Since then, I have undergone two fulfilling years in Creative Writing, complete with reading and analyzing classic and contemporary poetry, yet I still struggle to understand poetry on a daily basis. Just when I feel as though I’ve grasped the extent to which poetry can evoke emotions and influence readers, something takes me by surprise. A word or image will resonate with me, and I’ll find myself dwelling on it for days. Or a poem will trigger a profound memory within me that inspires me to create more art.

I strive to write poems that resonate, but writing poetry does not come easily to me. Though I have written countless stanzas and rhymes, I can’t bring myself to call the work I generate “poetry,” because doing so, seems to invalidate what poems do stir people to make change. For instance, we recently watched Il Postino in class, a film regarding famous poet Pablo Neruda. In this film, he writes some poems that instigate critical political controversy and others that make enamored women flock to him. His words elicit such passionate reactions.

In a historical context, poems have inspired whole movements, and I feel as though my feeble attempts at writing substantial pieces, don’t deserve to be called “poetry” as Neruda’s evidently do. I’ve been told that I am hard on myself, but the reality is that my “poems” are mere skeletons. Such obstacles like excess words or questionable syntax prevent my pieces from exuding the power and closure I intend to attain. I sit and think, trying to write what comes from my mind, but the result never feels sufficient. I believe that one day I will write a real poem, one that I can be proud of. Until then, I am content with writing endless rough drafts, for Creative Writing has opened my eyes to the value of poetry. Poetry articulates the unexplainable in a combination of perfect words and I look forward to further exploring this daunting art form.

Nina Berggren, class of 2020

Keeping Up With School and Creative Writing by Emma Cooney

School work is stressful and hard enough to manage for some people, including me. So adding extra creative writing work with analytical responses and reflections, can be overwhelming. I tend to sit at my desk staring at my computer for up to an hour debating whether school is worth it or not. Even though I do have these thoughts, I know that in order to live a happy, successful life, I have to at least graduate high school. I also realized that in order to maintain my sanity while also keeping up with my school and creative writing work, I would have to reach out and change.

There is a stigma against asking for help if you’re struggling to complete work, even if you understand the material. Like most people, I have always had issues with procrastination. It became a habit, a system that is incredibly easy to fall into. To break out of it, it takes a lot of effort and sometimes I just don’t have that energy. So, if I wanted to succeed in creative writing and school, I had to push myself hard to not fall back into my slump.

As a highschooler, it is also normal to have mental health issues, which can contribute a lot to how well I do in school. So, being a procrastinator and dealing with mental health meant that I would have my work cut out for me. I started setting up a schedule for work, which may seem simple to other people, but for me it was a big step up from not even knowing what was due the next day. Little steps like talking to Heather Woodward, talking to my dad, creating a schedule that left relaxation time for myself, and really realizing that I need to get a grip on my life helped me turn a corner.

Although creative writing and school work can be a lot, it isn’t impossible if you have a drive and care for the classes. A lot of adults talk about how they “need to get their life together,” and I think even high schoolers shouldn’t be afraid to make changes and reach out, especially if they have an art discipline. It isn’t a bad thing to have issues with completing work, and the only way to overcome it is to realize that. In my case, Heather Woodward and my dad were the ones to help me and now I feel more successful.

Emma Cooney, Class of 2021