Kar Johnson by Angelica LaMarca

Kar Johnson In Creative Writing II, the juniors and seniors have recently completed a unit with artist in residence Kar Johnson, where we studied the “personal” and “political” and how these labels may become interchangeable in the context of poetry. Over the course of about two months, we studied various poets such as Solmaz Sharif, Ocean Vuong, and Carolyn Forche, and how their work pertains to our course aim. We spent much of class time discussing “-ism”s present in our society, and how poetry may be wielded as a vehicle through which to combat said injustices in an accessible, well-articulated form.

One of the first pieces Kar brought in was an article by Audre Lorde, entitled “Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”. Here, it is emphasized the importance of speaking out against injustices, even if it makes you afraid. Lorde begins the article by citing a cancer diagnosis as the provoker of a p deeperiod of self reflection, as it forced her to recognize her own mortality. It was during this time when Lorde realized the artificiality of silence; whether or not one chooses to combat injustice, injustice will always be there. This concept really impacted me. After being introduced to this article, I found myself, in small ways, explicitly attempting to defend myself in situations both personal and political. I learned that it is always worth a try.

In our country, there is a tendency to view “ism”s as impersonal, abstract concepts. Those who are privileged may view incidences of racism/sexism/etc as simply newspaper headlines because these injustices don’t intimately affect their lives, and hence, the experiences of marginalized people are needlessly politicized. The politicization of these topics is often used to dismiss those who speak out as those who are “concerned with politics” rather than those who are simply articulating their realities. I think it is important to acknowledge that what’s “political” is often also personal, especially for those who are marginalized and do not have the privilege of having their stories be the default narrative.

Here is a poem I wrote near the conclusion of our time with Kar, entitled:
“When The Ocean Decided To Investigate”.

When the ocean decided to investigate
there were albatross babes in the schoolyard
and the farmer
was arranging to wheel his grapefruits up to the town

so when

the tapered inns on the cliff-fringe suddenly began to
uncrease themselves
as the hazy manes

of ocean waves
surged in

I watched my cushions                             simply bloat up with salt
as otters filled my slippers and my stove

I maneuvered my way up the chimney
with porphyra in my mouth

only to find two swordfish gasping on the unsoused roof
the neighbors yowling out to God

the approaching yokes of sea foam!

Sometimes I am afraid I am this obvious.

In kelped vehicles
invaded women pinch the water out of their sleeves.

Look, there: the man is sprawled across a spinning minced mattress
he purrs
as the sea lifts him closer to the chandelier

and there: submerged

delicate boys cork sea shells into their ears
in hopes
the air in their heads
will help them float back up

Angelica LaMarca, class of 2018

The College Application Process by Angelica LaMarca

To put it frankly, the process of applying to college is an absolutely potent pain in the ass. It can be quite awkward having write about yourself for pages, and often, one is forced to adapt a clunky, awkward syntax in order to accommodate a strict, diminutive word count. Furthermore, if you are like me and you are prone to procrastination and a fully-flexed lack of motivation, you may find yourself on the day of the application deadline sleep-deprived and hyperventilating, scrambling to varnish essays which you in fact had months to work on.

Since I am applying mostly to UC’s, I spent the bulk of my application process generating my UC personal statements. The UC website provides eight prompts from which one must choose only four to respond to. Being forced to self-advertise extensively, I found that one must straddle a fine line between being too flaccid and being too arrogant. This was probably the most challenging part.

UC prompt #2 pertained to creativity, inquiring of the applicant, “ How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career?” Being an art school student, I had the most fun responding to this one. Because I feel that what I wrote was particularly authentic to my identity, here is the personal statement I wrote articulating my passion for writing.

“Writing is my greatest pursuit because there has always been a part of me who fears a wasted or forgotten thought. As someone with a poor memory, writing is a way to preserve my most unflexed fragments of ideas which I can later develop into fully thrumming pieces of art. Without the process of archive, I am simply a sanctum for a current of perpetually flowing ideas that are immediately forgotten and never fulfill a purpose.

For high school, I attended Ruth Asawa School Of The Arts, an art school located in San Francisco where I specialized in Creative Writing. In order to qualify for a place, applicants had to submit a portfolio which included three short stories, ten poems, and one play. The day I received my acceptance letter, my mother treated me to a fancy dinner to deliver the news, but I had already read the email, so I faked surprise over a bowl of hot soup.

I don’t know what I would’ve done without SOTA. Art school offered me an environment in which to groom my abilities; within my four years, I’ve earned multiple awards in poetry competitions such as the SFUSD Literary Art Festival, where, in sophomore year, I won first place. But most importantly, this artistic space is what nurtured my ability to handle criticism. In my writing class, we must participate in peer-editing workshops, and routinely putting myself in that state of vulnerability is what ultimately chiseled out my confidence. I have learned that artwork is separate from the artist; if one insists on viewing their artwork as an extension of themselves, constructive criticism becomes personal insult, and one will never improve.

My fiction pieces tend to lack plot, but I feel this more accurately reflects real life, which does not always channel the hyperbolic, frenzied momentum often depicted in literature. In the stories I write, I hold absolute control over what happens. I have learned to instill a similar control in my own life, treating my world as something malleable to be influenced rather than a body that has inflexible power over me.”

Angelica LaMarca, class of 2018

Kirby Cove by Angelica LaMarca

Having been a part of the SOTA Creative Writing department for two years now, I can gladly say that Kirby Cove is something that never fails to generate excitement in me. No matter how many times I will re­exhibit the cycle of sleep deprivation, matted hair, and sand in my ears, I still found myself enticed as I descended down the gravelly, sun­doused path which leads to the campsite. Located in Marin, at the cusp of the Golden Gate Bridge, Kirby Cove is where Creative Writing takes part in a camping trip every year, and is a distinct attribute to the Creative Writing experience. The campsite offers a surreal view of the bay — especially at night, when your hair smells vaguely singed, and the beach is fringed with black water, and you can look out and try to estimate how many breakups and robberies and phone calls are happening on that hulking, gold­speckled mass which is San Francisco. At least, that’s I did this year, along with some of my friends as we sat atop an old war bunker after a long night of s’mores, scary tales, and Hot Seat. This has always been my favorite part of Kirby Cove: the eerie feeling of detachment you get peering out at San Francisco from afar, all the while knowing that no one will get to experience that moment with you except for your closest, most cherished friends.

I know that in the years to come, Kirby Cove will anchor all the great memories I’ve attained from being in this department, and for this reason, I believe it’s been an essential part of my high school experience.

Thank you Creative Writing for being great!

Angelica LaMarca, class of 2018

History In Depth by Angelica LaMarca

This week in Creative Writing 1, the sophomores have been leading poetry discussions. A few weeks ago, each one of us was assigned a chapter from the book Poems of The Millennium by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, along with a poem (within our dedicated chapter) to really go in depth on. The chapter I was assigned was entitled “Neo-Avanguardia.” Harmony’s was “The Misty Poets,” Kayne’s was “Concrete Poetry,” Rose’s was “Postwar Japanese Poets,” Isi’s was “Oral Poets,” Anna’s was “The Tamuzi Poets,” and Liam’s was “The Cobra Group.” These were assigned to us based on our acute interests and writing styles. I think that not only has this assignment helped us develop basic poetic skills, but it has also highlighted the importance of context by having us analyze a poem as well as the literary movement that fueled it. For example, Harmony’s poem, entitled “The Crocodile” by Yang Lian, would have induced completely different interpretations if we hadn’t known it was written during the Chinese Communist Revolution. Being a sophomore in world history, it’s been fun learning more about literary history and how it connects with what we are learning in class. Similarly, in my English class we’ve been learning about Dada, cubism, and other art scenes that characterized modern art. As someone who goes to SoTA it’s been truly enriching to learn to comprehend art history as more of a “web” rather than the stream of spontaneous, isolated events that, in my experience, we are often taught in school.

Angelica LaMarca, class of 2018

On The Ocean by Angelica Joy LaMarca

Considering I am not a very good swimmer and I rarely visit the beach (despite having lived next to it all my life), I guess it’s quite surprising that the ocean is present in almost everything I write. I began to notice this last year, and it’s something I still exhibit subconsciously, whether it’s the central theme of a poem, or just a little simile. The ocean seems to invite itself onto my page. I don’t even like the ocean that much! I dislike how the cold slides around you when you step in, and that one time I had a pet hermit crab, he escaped his cage and a week later we found him kneading his way across the tub, probably suspecting of my contempt for sand. So, if the ocean isn’t necessarily a place of comfort for me, I thought, why are eels, sea­foam, and anemones so often laced in my writing?

When walking through a lively street, clotted with powerlines and cement, it is easy to forget that at any point on the San Francisco peninsula, you cannot be any more than roughly four miles away from water. In Pacifica, where I live, literally everything is named after the ocean (“Oceana High School” “High Tide Cafe” etc). I only noticed it when one of my SOTA friends pointed it out, and I realized that the ocean is such a consistent element in my life that sometimes, I may even take it for granted (as cliche as that sounds). But on another note, how can I forget something so vast, and when I see it’s name advertised on every street sign? Maybe this is where my original question comes in. It is compelling to think about how our environments influence our subconscious, and this can be both in a physical sense and in a place of mind. I noticed that I found it slightly difficult to write this past summer, cooped up in my bedroom with just my dog and a blank Word doc for company. It only took a few days into the school year to sync back, and I suspect it is because of the creative stimulants that SOTA offers. As writers I think it is vital we acknowledge our surroundings because in more ways than one, we are products of our environments, hence what we craft will reflect it.

Angelica Joy LaMarca, class of 2018