The Burning Barn by Anna Geiger

As May 1 draws closer, the imminent final thesis deadline for Creative Writing seniors is rapidly approaching. This final manuscript should be the culmination of everything we have created as part of this department and during our time at SOTA, a reflection of how we have matured as writers and as people. Though I have spent hours, weeks, months to ensure I am presenting my proudest work to the audience who will read it and to my future self when I look back on it, this is a lofty goal. In a perfect world, I would have had time to produce stories of all of my most blissful experiences, my most beautiful days, my most memorable memorable moments, and I would have had months to spend on each to do them justice. This is not my reality. In my reality, I am spread thin across the pages of my thesis. I exist in each of my stories, I am imbued with life within them, but the passion I have for the subjects I write upon is not bursting from the pages as it should be. I am subdued in some verses where my voice should startle. However, there are still some pieces where I come through strongly, where my words ripple through the pages. Below is one such piece, one that I am proud inhabits my final thesis, passionate, pulsing with energy.


The Burning Barn

She’s licking the oak body like I used to lick crimson lollipops on sugar-saturated summer afternoons, tongue writhing over its burnt candied paint that peels and falls like dead skin. I can’t remember how the earth looked when it wasn’t smoking like the end of a hand-rolled cigarette, caught between those flushed cherry lips. The wind smells of tree sap and charcoal. Ash settles with my tongue deep in my throat, but she’s kissing my skin with such a delicate warmth… All the glass windows seem to have shattered. They rest on the charred grass where she concludes her devourment, reflecting the cool blue sky in a way that is almost comically naive.

How did we get here? We can wonder. I thought I killed her when I left her on dirt, rubbed raw and cold with the sole of my shoe. She caught that sweltering spark of life again, probably somewhere in the wind, and it carried her back to me. I was always told about the revenge of women, how their wrath could blaze you blistering even in the dead of winter, how they would raze a whole village in their rage. I can feel that now as she holds the old oak structure between her yellowed teeth, when she bites down, and with a scream, it falls.


Anna Geiger, class of 2018

On the Senior Thesis by Anna Geiger

As I near the end of my four years in the Creative Writing department at School of the Arts, I have begun writing my senior thesis that will embody everything I have accomplished here, from the development of my writing skill to the development of my understanding of myself and the world around me. neatly bound together in print for my friends and family to enjoy, file away, and forget about, as I will most of my memories of high school. What I will take with me are recollections of my years in the Creative Writing department, the tightest-knit and most fruitful community I have ever been a part of. As small a community as the department is, I have learned the writing style and voice of every other student, and realized how much I can discover about others through understanding their perspectives. Having spent hundreds of pages pouring over the junctures of other students, I have empathy for the unique experiences of every individual, and each of their time-worthy moments that has amounted to their present experience. Never before in my life has a community made me feel so safe, confident, or excited to discover the stories of a myriad of new people upon leaving high school.

In addition to taking the time to understand the thoughts and experiences of other people, Creative Writing has led me to do the same with myself. Learning to translate into writing years of watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge and dreaming of fog signals, dancing down neon Bourbon Street and swaying to the jazz of Congo Square, getting lost in the reels of the Internet Archive, has allowed me to appreciate and reflect upon my time as a teenage to an extent that I couldn’t otherwise. Taking every night to relive a new experience through writing has molded me into someone who takes no experience for granted. If I had not spent hours in a tent under lantern light scribing the sound of Aspen tree leaves in breeze or the quiet peace of my childhood home, I would never remember to appreciate them in times less tranquil.

Reading my thesis in its pristine, printed final form, there is a symbiosis between the richness of my language and the richness of my experience; each year they grow together. In studying metonymy and synecdoche, in memorizing the meter of a sestina, in reading Sappho and Hemingway, I learned the significance of every moment, and the detail that it deserves. Because of this education, I have felt the elation of hearing my words performed on a stage and reading my poems in the pages of a literary magazine. It has never ceased to awe me that the thoughtfulness which undercurrents my writing could inspire someone else to view life through the same open and optimistic lens. It is my hope that my thesis will be that catalyst. So when I am next asked “What do you even do in Creative Writing?” I will laugh and say “I have examined and interpreted a thousand moments, found the joy and lessons in each of them,” and hand them a copy of my senior thesis.

Anna Geiger, class of 2018

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

Red Indian Road West Reading by Anna Geiger

“Gears Turning Poetry Series” at Modern Times Bookstore

In Creative Writing, once every six­-week period, each student attends a literary reading
that they then write a reflection about. Typically, I go to smaller readings at local bookstores that allow the audience to feel intimate and close with the writer who is being featured. On January 10th, I attended a reading at Modern Times Bookstore that focused around the experiences and ancestry of Native American poets and the recently published poetry anthology Red Indian Road West. I assumed that the reading would be similar to those I have usually attended, with a similar atmosphere. However, I am writing this post on the event because it was altogether the most enlightening, entertaining, and personally influential readings I have been to.

I had never been to Modern Times previously, and upon joining the crowd for the reading, I was immediately introduced to what seemed to be a whole literary community. Each poet and audience member knew one another, which contributed to an atmosphere of security and enthusiasm for every reader. The event began with readings from three Native American poets who had work in Red Indian Road West, primarily stories about their family and ancestral roots. Because I am not knowledgeable about many aspects of Native American culture, and I have come to realize that my favorite way to learn about different communities is through the deeply personal context of poetry and other writing, this aspect of the reading was fascinating. The other artist at the reading was a guitar player. He sang three songs that he wrote and composed himself, that were all a combination of alternative and country sounds. His songs were entertaining and witty, one about how he was doing assigned reading for college and realized that Jack Kerouac was “kind of a dick,” one written in 2012 about eating in a diner when people believed the world was going to end, and the last one of finding a giant squid. Listening to his music was one of my favorite parts of the event because his songs combined skill, good acoustics, and lyrics that were a balanced combination of funny and unique.

Up until this point, I already felt as if I was becoming immersed in this rich community that apparently regularly congregates at Modern Times readings; however, the most important part of the night would still be an entirely new experience for me. At the end of the reading, people in the audience began to encourage me to read one of my poems, as they had asked earlier whether I was a writer, and I reluctantly accepted. I am typically awkward, uncomfortable, and nervous when faced with reading my work in front of a crowd, even when I have rehearsed doing so. It took quite a lot of willpower to talk myself into going onstage, but I am glad that I agreed to read one of my pieces. The sense of reassurance and encouragement that came from the audience allowed me to come out of the reading feeling more confident about performing in front of strangers. I was not rehearsed, and as a result did not read entirely smoothly, but since I went to the event, I’ve realized that being confident about sharing your work is not about reading it perfectly; it is about putting yourself out there and trying new things, even if it seems daunting, In the future, I am going to seek out opportunities to read my work for people instead of being nervous about it, which is a tool that I believe will help every young writer to become more assured about their writing.

Anna Geiger, class of 2017

My Little Brother and Our Generation of Artists by Anna Geiger

I knew that I wanted to attend SOTA for creative writing after I seeing “The Nature of Offense,” the department’s 2013 poetry and fiction show. I was in the seventh grade. I know that for many people, their creative writing dream began years earlier. It seemed strange to me then, when I was meticulously planning my portfolio to audition for CW before most of my middle school peers had stopped to consider where they would move onto when those three years came to an end. I assumed that it was only me who planned so far ahead, but I have since come to realize that this is not at all uncommon for students who go on to attend SOTA.

Now I have a six year ­old brother who is taking lessons in swimming, dancing, art, and guitar practically since he could walk. He is incredibly creative, always bubbling over with enthusiasm to show me his latest projects and drawings and stories. He has already decided that he wants to go to SOTA, to be in the class of 2027, although he hasn’t decided what art he is most passionate about. To me, this sounds incredibly unusual, and yet if my brother is thinking about high school already, other children his age must be too. That being said, I have never met anyone below the age of 13 who has one school that they are already passionate about, unless that school is SOTA. So what is it about the School of the Arts that’s got little kids excited for secondary education? Really, it’s not complicated. What creative young kid wouldn’t be excited about getting to spend 2+ hours a day just doing what they love? For kids like my brother, who thrive in artistic settings, I can imagine that it would sound like tons of fun.

However, I think it’s important for everyone who wants to apply to SOTA, especially for creative writing, to remember that while every art department is fun, it also requires passion and determination. It’s easy to dream about going to SOTA and getting to explore an art form, but loving that art enough to practice it more than you ever will have before, and to find a balance between rigorous academic classes and that art is a challenge. Any student can thrive at SOTA with real motivation and love for what they do, but every department requires commitment.

Since I began at SOTA, I have known that this school was special. There is an artistic and lively atmosphere here that I never tire of, and opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else. I have not once regretted the workload that I took on in coming here to pursue writing, or that I was so quick to decide where I wanted to attend high school. Any school that inspires excitement in children as young as my brother is rare and unique, and I know what whether or not he ends up here, or any of the other kids his age who are already decided on it, SOTA will continue to have some of the most inspired and inspiring artists around.

Anna Geiger, class of 2018

Drawing Inspiration from the Bay Swim by Anna Geiger

On September 28th, the SOTA creative writing department visited the Dolphin Club, which is a private establishment bordering the San Francisco bay where members can swim in the ocean or spend time on the beach. The first two weeks of every creative writing year are dedicated to building community, and this outing is my favorite of the many that we do. Plunging into the frigid waters of the bay as a class always proves to be a bonding experience, as well as great inspiration for creative work. I have always been fascinated by the ocean, particularly the sensory experiences, including the smell of saline air, the texture of sand, sounds of waves breaking. After the trip this year, I sat on the bus on the way home listening to music and thinking about how I would creatively respond, when the song I was listening to ended, and Clair de Lune began to play. For those who are not familiar with the piece, it is a classical movement composed by Claude Debussy. It is slow-moving and elegant, reminiscent of a lullaby, and rhythmically reminded me of hearing waves crashing on the shore of the Dolphin Club. The piece primarily features sequences of light, high notes followed by a low note, which in my mind mirrored the sound of waves rising and falling evenly against the sand. I wrote a poem for my response, in which I have used rhyme, meter, and musical vocabulary to portray this aspect of the theme. The poem is included below:


Song of the Sea

My legs are swimming in heavy blue sheets,
head resting where a maternal hand meets;
whose hum sways to a movement floors below,
whose lithe fingers dance as chords ebb and flow.

Woodwinds whir through the month of November,
strings sing until the end of December;
my apricity each day that only fades
as sleep marks the close of cold winter days.

On my head, mother plays the Clair de Lune,
reclines in a bath of light of the moon.
Behind my closed eyelids, in darkness seeps,
and slowly I’m slipping, into the deeps.

After three breaths of cadence, one of rest,
I resurface to find that I’ve left the nest.
To a haven where song comes to run free,
I am cradled in the arms of the sea.

Into flowering seagrass my toes sink,
wading through schools of fish dotted with ink,
Leaping over anemone blowing
as the arm waves, flowing and reflowing.

As the tide rises, my limbs rise up too,
dancing as I bid the seastars adieu.
It’s been a short visit, but I’ll return soon
when my mother hums as I greet the moon.

There is a song found only in the sea,
that lives in the waves and is played for me.
A crescendo as the sea’s arm takes hold,
a cado as I succumb to its fold.