On Our Trip To New Orleans Louisiana, by Liam Miyar-Mullan

Nowadays when I sit down to write anything, I can only tell a true story and more specifically one that has happened to me. And it is this that I’ve learned most importantly this year, that, for me, the best way to write a good story is to experience it. For that reason I am excited that the whole of the Creative Writing department will be going to New Orleans, Louisiana next month. It is important that a writer draws inspiration from certain aspects of the world and has something good to say about it or else it’s useless and the best way to practice this is by going into a different city or place and writing from what you see and learn there.

We have been talking a lot in class about this as preparation for the trip and in designing our itinerary, which has academic agendas like learning more about the literary history of the city, but also has other more random seeming adventures like boating in a swamp. And when I’ve sat here and thought about it I do think the most creative work I’ll be able to produce will be from these random excursions. It is a writer’s job to transcribe the weirdness of the world and to put it in a little text which I do think is a very hard job but it is suddenly made much easier when you find yourself in a much newer place and somewhere as crazy and Hellish as a damp Louisiana swamp!

I think it is important that we take this trip to New Orleans not only to learn about writers who have worked there but also so we can write about the boozers and ghosts and the broad majestic Mississippi river that are found in that part of the country. It isn’t stressed enough I don’t think how important it is that a writer gets out of his or her house and takes a look at something and uses it to write about. I went to Spain this summer which I find to be a very crazy and weird place (as is New Orleans!) and have in response written about 80 percent of this year’s work about the hills and villages of that area.

I did not realize how important it was to travel as a writer until I decided that it was just about impossible for me to sit at my desk and write a story completely pulled from the banks of my mind, because there’s nothing about a clean classroom that inspires me in any way or triggers any sort of crazy story like a big wooden steamboat might. And so I do think it is important to spend time reading the classics and the great writers of the history of the world but I also think it is equally important to find something new to look at and to use the world’s funniness as an inspiration for your writing and so I am pleased to be boarding a little plane this March and going down to the dirtiest swamps and rivers of Louisiana!

Liam Miyar-Mullan, class of 2018

A Literary Analysis on “Make America Great Again!” by Stella Pfahler

“Make America Great Again!TM” is an newer rendering of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again,” and was Donald Trump’s successful campaign slogan in 2016. Trump patented the phrase, so it technically bears a trademark. It has appeared on campaign posters, shirts, buttons, and most notably the iconic red trucker cap. The phrase has been repurposed for the sake of parody and satire, such as on political commentator John Oliver’s television show (“Make Donald Drumpf Again”). Activist movements and individuals have coined the phrases “Make America Think Again,” “Make America Gay Again,” and “America Was Never Great.” Donald Trump created a distinguished popular culture phenomenon by using hubris, nostalgia, and populist diction to raise the collective spirit of millions.

First and foremost, Trump uses hubris to create an impression of American dominance the world economy and political scene. The definition of hubris is “excessive pride or self-confidence.” Trump’s slogan contrasts that of Former President Obama’s campaign slogans “Hope,” “Yes We Can,” and “Change We Can Believe In” as well as Former President George W. Bush’s “Yes, America Can,” and “Moving America Forward.” Trump’s slogan is distinctive in that it lacks the ideas of change and forward movement, concepts that are central to most normal campaigns. Rather than suggest positive, modernist change, Trump is suggesting that America’s greatness lies in what it used to be, and that is what made him such a distinctive candidate. This idea of America having been “great” in the past reflects a certain amount of hubris on Trump’s part. Trump has pride in what his country used to be. He holds confidence in the perfection of Reagan’s trickle-down America and also believes that he is the only candidate that can achieve that sort of utopia. All candidates, regardless of ideology, have to hold themselves in some sort of high esteem in order to consider themselves worthy of office. Most, however, try to communicate a certain amount of humility in order to identify with the general public. Barack Obama, for instance, in using the slogan “Change,” bluntly admitted that America was flawed and had room to grow in many areas. He suggested himself as the best candidate to achieve that sort of growth but never acted like America had ever been perfect. George W. Bush was less humble in his use of “Moving America Forward” but still acknowledged that America could improve in a few respects. Trump, on the other hand, uses hubris by blatantly not admitting America’s problems, both past and present, instead promising to return the country to its former utopian state. The phrase also demonstrates Trump’s idealist notion that America should be the utmost dominant world power and deserves to be the ultimate decider of geopolitics, trade deals, and social change (or lack thereof).

Another vital device that Trump utilizes is populist diction. Each word in the phrase “Make America Great Again” appeals to those who feel as though America used to be great, has somehow wronged them in its lack of “greatness,” and is the only country that can and deserves to be so. The word “make” communicates assertiveness and duty. The message of the phrase is not up for debate- “make” demonstrates that Trump’s supporters are ready to change their America by any means necessary. It is a call to action, an obvious assertion that something has to be done, and now. That call to action points towards the most obvious course of action, which is electing Trump. The next two words “Great Again” especially attract working class whites who believe that their “greatness” has been stolen by immigrants and refugees. The idea of America having to be “great” entices patriots who believe in “America first” values-people who don’t believe in a global, symbiotic economy, but rather in one that involves America mostly exporting and not importing, an economy in which America reaps most of the benefits.

Lastly, Donald Trump utilizes a tone of nostalgia. He has been cited to point to the “late ’40s and ’50s,” during which “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do,” as America’s golden age. Trump, in saying “Make America Great Again!” is both admitting that America is currently in decline and proposing that he is the only candidate who can turn things around. Trump has raised controversy in believing that the ‘40s and ‘50s were a great time-while the economy was thriving, women and people of color were still being denied their basic human needs and rights as citizens. Trump champions the working white man. He plays on working class people’s ever-present insecurities and appeals to their sense of nostalgia. Most Trump supporters are working class whites who wonder why they work so hard and never achieve the American Dream promised to them. They wish to return to the Golden Age of their parents’ and grandparents’ lives, a time when the laboring white person was applauded for just being such; when people of color and working women hadn’t yet infiltrated their predetermined social strata. Trump plays on these insecurities, these “us versus them” ideals, by using the word “again” to connote an American golden age of white male supremacy.

Donald Trump used populist diction, a nostalgic tone, and aggressive hubris to create a popular culture phenomenon while simultaneously raising the collective spirit of millions. He uses diction and nostalgia to demonstrate that America must return to its former greatness, and that he is the only candidate who can achieve that. He also uses hubris to convince supporters that America is the only nation capable and worthy of becoming an almighty, reigning world power. His campaign threw out the rulebook of traditional politics and transformed the trade into a firebrand race to victory by way of “alternative facts;” ugly, uncivilized debate, and unfounded policymaking. Most impactful of all, perhaps, Donald Trump’s campaign successfully divided a country of 318.9 million people that had formerly prided itself on being “united.”

Stella Pfahler, class of 2019

Procrastination, by Kenzo Fukuda

I love procrastinating. I do it all the time. I bet that everyone does it, excluding those mutants who have the willpower to finish their project as soon as they get the assignment. Procrastination is the action of delaying or putting off with something. For example, waiting til the last day to start a five page story that you had two weeks to do.

The way I rationalize putting homework off is through deciding how easy/useless/tedious the homework is. If I think the homework is tedious and won’t help me in any sort of way, I procrastinate. If I think the homework is easy then I will either do it right away of it’s in front of me, or I’ll save it for later. For example, when I put off my spanish homework due the night before, I immediately start to think about when I would have the time to do it before I have that class. I start to think in my head things like: “Let’s see, I can do my homework at breakfast, no it’s too early for that. I can do it in Physics class because we’ll have a sub… Oh! I can do it at the break. Yeah, I’ll have twenty minutes to do it. Alright back to YouTube”

Procrastinating sprouts when people begin to rationalize the amount of time it takes to complete a certain task. And we normally think about the minimum amount of time it would take to accomplish this task. Knowing that the task we have to do takes a small amount of time, we end up choosing to do something we want to do, over what we have to do; thinking that we can do both.

Kenzo Fukuda, class of 2020

Bring The Noise For Martin Luther King Jr., by Solange Baker

Youth Speaks is an organization that works to raise the voices of young people in the form of spoken word on matters of importance to them. They put on different performances from Under 21 Open Mics to Brave New Voices. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Youth Speaks puts on a show on his birthday. This year was the twentieth anniversary of the show. It was inspired by Dr. King’s “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” speech. I had the privilege of celebrating Dr. King’s legacy by performing at the show. While I was beyond honored to be in it, I was terrified at the idea of performing in front of hundreds more people than I had in my entire life. But standing backstage listening to my fellow performers was powerful. After the show I was left feeling empowered, motivated, and awestruck by my peers talent with words. Especially with the current political climate, the world feels terrifying and unpredictable. As those who will one day inherit the world, it is important that we let our opinions be known, especially when we’re given so little voice in the outcome of political decisions.

Backstage I begun to panic. I have performed countless times, but I will never get over the stage fright that comes with putting on shows. But as soon as I stepped up to the microphone and the stage lights hit me, my instincts took over. I had poured my soul into writing this piece and spent hours at rehearsals making sure I portrayed it in the most effective way to get my message across. I forgot about all the people staring at me, and the words came naturally. I performed far better than I had expected. After exiting the stage, relief and joy that I didn’t mess up flooded my senses. The support I received from people a month ago I hadn’t known was overwhelming. And to receive that support from people my age whose work I admired and whose words will stick with me, is something I will always remember.

There has always been a lot of hate in this world. Recently people have been demonstrating that hate more. It’s terrifying, and as a person who will one day inherit this earth, it’s not what I want it to be like. That’s part of why this show was so important for people to hear. I will not sit idly by as hate consumes the world around me. I will not remain silent as people I know and love are jeered at and threatened for their gender, who they love, their skin color, or their religion. I was unjustly born with privilege due to my skin tone. Despite being part black, I will never truly understand what my father or black peers have gone through. Because of how people perceive me I will never be followed in stores by security, I will never be denied a job because of my skin. My experiences of getting treated differently after telling someone of my heritage cannot compare to the violence visibly people of color experience. But if I didn’t use my privilege to speak about racism and to raise the voices of people of color, I would be perpetuating it.

After the show I was met with praise from both my friends and strangers. Even blocks away from the venue the show was held at people stopped me to tell me how much they enjoyed my piece. Five days later at the women’s march someone would stop me and tell me they loved my poem. Knowing that my words touched and impacted so many people was an amazing feeling. It made all my nervousness and hard work worth it.

I will definitely do my best to continue working with Youth Speaks. Performing at Bring The Noise was an amazing experience and I will keep going to open mics and poetry slams. It’s an incredible and special thing to find a way to express yourself, so I’m lucky to have found how much I enjoy writing spoken word. After all, it combines two of my favorite things; performing and writing. But regardless of how many more times I’ll perform spoken word pieces, the fight for equality across race, gender, religion, and sexuality is far from over. I will continue to use my voice to fight to make the world a place I am happy to live in.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

Where I Get My Inspiration, by Max Chu

There’s something about holding a cold glass bottle that makes me feel sophisticated. When you pinch it by the rim with two fingers, how the glass on my finger somehow feels exactly like when I first perfected me card shuffle bridge. Suddenly I’m on the deck of an ancient house in the middle of the midwest (middle of the middle of the west) at sunset. Some jazz record is playing on the record player back in the house, and I can faintly hear it. I got one arm back on the railing, and you’re not afraid of splinters because I;m too cool for that. I got a cool bottle of something delicious in my hand. Nothing can flip my groove. Now I’m not talking about any alcoholic beverage here, folks. I’m talking about the pure stuff. The ginger ale at BiRite that costs $1 for ginger ale and $4 for feeling cool while I hold it. I’m talking about the cream soda that goes down like a freshly laminated comic book. I’m talking about the Trader Joe’s 100% Pineapple Juice, the acquired taste of acquired tastes.

One year at summer camp there was a girl with sunglasses that had reflective lenses. They shielded her eyes from the sun while at the same time concealed her motives. They had pastel blue frames with nearly perfect reflective lenses. She looked mysterious as she protected her eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun; the ultimate victory. At the time, my own glasses paled in comparison to hers (red wood frames with rainbow lenses) and so we traded. An hour later, I sat on mine. Four months later, she lost hers.

There’s a stall in a market in Bangkok that sells the most revolting shaved ice in the world. Shaved ice, for those who don’t know, is easier than scrambled eggs. Shave some ice into a bowl and throw some sickly sweet syrup on top and boom! Perfect shaved ice. The criteria for shaved ice is rather low, so a “perfect” shaved ice isn’t that difficult to come by. This place obviously didn’t get the memo, because their product tasted like greek yogurt, peach cough medicine, and a salty D- on a test you studied for. How they’re still in business is beyond quite frankly every living being above the mosquito. The locals obviously know to stay away, so they must have to apply even more goat intestinal fluid to attract the unsuspecting tourists with the colorful chemical green hue. Oh, “It’s a local delicacy” my ass! The omelette my sister forgot to eat but still put in the fridge five weeks ago has more culture and is more appealing.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that everything has a story, it just needs to be drawn out. And if drawing a story out means lying face first in a couch for twenty minutes to an hour listening to local news, then so be it (although my mom say the best way to draw something out is to soak it in hot salt water but I think she was talking about splinters).

Max Chu, class of 2020

Sophomore Appreciation Post, by Nina Berggren

As our Creative Writing 1 poetry unit comes to an end, I am beginning to feel nostalgic reflecting upon the content we have been studying, and the way it has been taught. Heather divided up the unit among the sophomores in our department. The sophomore class agreed to teach 1-2 day mini-units inspired by their diverse backgrounds and rich cultural histories. They came up with their lesson plans over the summer. Their lessons incorporated short videos, poetry, stories, songs, topics to discuss, and homework prompts.

These mini-units helped me get to know the sophomores and the cultures they come from. The sophomores impressed me with their ability to take advantage of the creative freedom they were given. They brought so many new artists to my attention. They also introduced new writing styles, political issues I was not previously aware of, and other elements of their cultures and religions. I left every class with a myriad of thoughts and ideas that inspired me to focus on the poetry I needed to write. I also came out of the unit appreciating many new styles of poetry that I had not been exposed to before.

The sophomores had no problem communicating their thoughts clearly while stimulating controversial discussions. The fact that they are only one year older than me feels intimidating because it sets a high standard for the freshman class, but it also makes me want to work harder and participate more. I am looking forward to next year when I am given the opportunity to set an admirable example for the incoming freshman, just as the current sophomores have done for us.

Nina Berggren, class of 2020

Why Everyone Should Reread Children’s Books, by Anna Geiger

In the last few months, I have endeavored to find and read all of my favorite childhood
books. This began on a family camping trip over a long weekend where I read my younger brother Matilda next to our campfire in the evenings. I enjoyed doing this so much that I continued to read to him after we’d come back home. We finished Matilda and then moved on to James and the Giant Peach, then A Series of Unfortunate Events, which we still have yet to finish.

After two and a half years of trying to broaden my horizons with literature, I’d read Austen and Tolstoy, Neruda and Dickens, Hemingway, Proust, and the Brontes. Those authors and their books stretched and molded my mind, rooted themselves firmly in my psyche. I believe in the power that great literature can have for emotional and academic intelligence, but I found myself wanting to escape from the rigid realism and convoluted language which I couldn’t escape from in the books on my bookshelf. I found a quote by Emerson printed on a bookmark in a bookstore one day reading “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” This idea he proposes, of the books he has read “making” him, stuck with me. I have come to the conclusion that I am not content with this idea; I want to remember the books that have made me.

I began finding and reading the books I loved from my childhood in linear order. I started with Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and his poems from my copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends. I read Stories from the Ballet and the entire Little House on the Prairie series, then Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, The Star of Kazan and The Dragonfly Pool. I am currently reading The Hobbit and am nowhere near the end of this journey, but already I have experienced a vivacity of language, freedom of plot, and idealism of life which I have found sorely lacking the books I have read in recent years, and the pieces I have been writing. It is my hope that reaching back into the past to rediscover, as Emerson wisely said, the books that have made me, will allow me to become more knowledgeable of my literary self and point my creative self in a new, uninhibited direction.

Anna Geiger, class of 2018

Julieta Roll reads onstage with California Poet Laureate

CW’s own Juli Roll, as San Francisco champion of the annual Poetry Out Loud competition, is appearing onstage tonight at the Mechanic’s Library with California’s Poet Laureate, Dana Gioia, at an event celebrating National Poetry Month.

From the Mechanic’s Library Website:

Mechanics’ Institute is honored to welcome consummate poet and arts advocate Dana Gioia as guest of honor to celebrate National Poetry Month. He will read and talk about his latest collection, 99 Poems: New and Selected. He will share his experiences traveling to communities and schools throughout California’s 58 counties to engage people of all ages in the pleasures and inspiration of poetry. Book sale and signing will follow the program.

Dana Gioia will be joined by Julieta Fuentes Roll, Poetry Out Loud Champion for San Francisco County and a student at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts; and Margo Perin, San Francisco County Poetry Out Loud Coordinator.

Poetry Reading Fundraiser at Alley Cat Bookstore

Join the Creative Writing Department on February 23rd at 6PM for a night of poetry and fiction at Alley Cat Bookshop in the Mission. We will be reading till we drop as we raise money to travel to New Orleans this spring and attend literary festivals while creating new artistic connections to NOLA’s writing community. But we need your help! Donations are encouraged, but the event is free! Refreshments will be served. Help get us on that plane!

syn·es·the·sia by Arin Vasquez

Written in response to the CW trip to the new SFMOMA

a confusion of the senses. the painting looks like a song called taxi cab, like the sound of metal clinking against teeth, like what I wish I looked like from the inside.

splattered. new. it’s art in its most basic form – as many colors as will fit onto a single canvas, smudged and smeared and blown together and apart, a paintball fight, someone shutting their eyes and relaxing. color is an exceptional thing.

I sometimes meet colors that are anxious, sometimes ones that are angry. I have noticed that colors on their own are never happy. I think, maybe, my brain is trying to tell me something in that confusion, in that sensory experience.

don’t let yourself be alone. you will be so much alone, but never quite happy. that’s what the colors say.
calm, yes, excited. but never joyful.

that comes in patterns, in the way the paint is splattered onto this canvas, in the way my imagination sees joy in one hundred complementary colors that dance together, in the way a hummingbird’s wings sound like the smell of baking brownies.

home lives in color. that’s what entrances me most about art.

in the end, all it is is music on a canvas

all it is is a place to live in brightness

all it is is childhood and paint-smeared fingers and color, color, color

color everywhere.

by Arin Vasquez