Poetry Helps Re-Write the Pandemic by Hazel Fry

My cursor glides over monotonous grey squares, each marked like a tombstone commemorating a missing face with a name my tongue never had to learn to pronounce, names the memory compartment of my brain has never registered with a face. I click the irritating red button at the bottom right of my screen. “Leave meeting.” Then a more prominent “leave meeting” button appears, as if Zoom doesn’t understand that the so-called class is over and I am ready to leave. I click it.

I click it every morning at 9:55, again at 10:55, and again at 11:55. Then I click “leave meeting” at 2 pm, and some days at 12:44. I was eager for high school, the dramatic wonderland almost every teenage movie is about. Eager to be the awkward new kid who makes unlikely friends, who trips and drops my books in front of my crush’s locker, and breaks into song un-ironically like they do in the movies. I was eager to sit in the Creative Writing classroom and be able to bump knees with whoever was sitting next to me. I was more than ready to leave behind the friendship “cliques” in middle school. But high school so far has been me sitting alone in my room surrounded only by computer “clicks.” My dad comes home late afternoon from a job where people can’t mute themselves when they’re bored of talking to him, or vanish into a grey square when they realize there’s food on their lip. I’m jealous of the luxury of conversations. 

Creative Writing is the only environment where I am able to have full conversations without random mid-sentence-muting. The community is close knit, and Heather leaves room for the freshman to get to know the people in the rest of the department. Being surrounded by all these incredible writers that I am envious of, has motivated me to write more and explore my creativity. Phrases I hear, insignificant interactions, one footed pigeons on the sidewalk, poetry I read, and major events in my life inspire me to write. One would think that the person deeply inspired by one footed pigeons must feel inspiration to write about the pandemic. One would be wrong. Starting my freshman year of high school sitting on the wooden kitchen chair that I moved into my room, in my house, is beginning to feel more real than I would like it to. The day ending by closing the Zoom tab on my computer, and clicking on the “Google Classroom” tab to begin homework from the same neck straining position I’ve sat in all day is beginning to feel more real than I would like it to. The simple, usual notion of my parents asking “How was school today?” sending me into tears every time is beginning to feel more real than I would like it to. 

Writing poetry allows me to escape into the unreal. Poetry is much too beautiful an art to be insulted with my worry that my family will get sick every time they leave the apartment, and my fear that I could kill my own grandparents by laughing with them, by hugging them. So, when I write, the pandemic feels like a short story I began but didn’t like and decided to rewrite.

Hazel Fry (Class of ’24)

The Escape From My Pandemonium by Tiarri Washington

This pandemic has molded my world into something I no longer recognize. A routine I follow through muscle memory while my mind is distanced from the surrounding chaos. Every day, my computer, the color of stewed cherries, is perched in front of me as I sit at my dining room table. My mind wanders and I struggle to find the clarity to care enough to take notes on formulas and upcoming assessments. From nine to twelve, my mind is as detached from my body, as I am from the rest of the world. 

It’s only at the slightly tardy stroke of 1:47 when the call connects to Creative Writing 1 that I begin to feel something. Creative Writing 1, is meant for us freshmen and sophomores to be introduced to the basics of CW: the literary critiques, poetry devices, and more that will aid us in our success as writers from then on. Taught by the department director, Heather Woodward, who has taken time, two weeks, thus far to teach us the process and thinking behind the analysis. Yes, our whole group discussions, reviews, and workshops can be unnerving and overwhelming, especially to newcomers. Yet, our teacher takes time from our classes to stray away from the technique and allow us to breathe and enjoy each other’s presence. 

In class, I hear Heather’s bright and joyous, “Hello Tiarri,” followed by random music from varying genres. We’ve heard the unforgettable lyrics of Billie Holiday to the shivering reeds and sensual voices of Soul Train. During this, the chat, filled with sass, compliments, humor, and bribery never fails to bring a smile to my face. These few minutes serve as a gradual transition into the class, followed by a warm-up, given by another student, that explores unique prompts that lean on poetic devices. 

One day out of the week, we’ll break away from all teaching and dance to Youtube videos so our sophomores can receive their PE credit. At the following dance session, we are graded on our performance before we start for the day. This serves as a great motivator and makes the dancing even more entertaining. I currently hold a solid 9.75/12, a decent score that I assure I will increase in the upcoming weeks. Despite the freshman not being required to do partake, most of us enjoy the break anyway. 

I must also note the casual flow of CW 1. This period from routine more often than not. Sometimes, an existential question may come up in the midst of a discussion, that grips everyone’s attention. We abandon the to-do list for the day and casually ponder our lives, desires, and even such a mundane topic like conversations we had with a hairdresser. Before we know it, it’s well past two and our time with each other is up. 

I say all of that to say that CW 1, is a pleasurable suspension from the mayhem of typical online classes. All of these activities, with these people, allow me to tune out the noise of my home, tether my mind with my body again, and connect with people outside the four white walls of my dining room.

Tiarri Washington (Class of ’24)

Why It’s Important to Struggle With Your Work Sometimes by Pascal Lockwood

Creative writing has always been somewhat of a “love-hate-but-mostly-love” situation for me.  I enjoy the community, I enjoy my classmates, The fun games we play, the interesting challenges that get posed for me, and I enjoy learning new ways to think about my writing, but there is one part of that system that I have not yet become accustomed to. This is the lit crit. Before I share my personal troubles with the lit crit, It’s important for me to explain what the lit crit is. A literary critique, in the Creative Writing Department, revolves around us Creative Writing students having a poem selected for us or having you select your own. We then write an essay about the poem based on how we understand it. Three paragraphs make up the body, along with a conclusion and a beginning, and you have your lit critique. 

 It is not necessarily that the main idea of a lit critique is troublesome to me, it is simply the most recent issues I’ve had to work through are among the most frustrating moments of my schooling days. The constant struggle of pushing around words on the paper and making them sound good is actually harder than it sounds, but I have faith that one day I will be able to look back on this and laugh. For the time being, however, I think it’s best if I vent my frustrations so you may understand what I’m going through. 

Back in marking period 4, I had written a literary critique about a poem written by William Carlos Williams entitled A Portrait in Greys. It wasn’t the best essay I had ever written, but it wasn’t half bad either.  Just like that, this meant I had to do it over again. The frustrating thing was, I knew I had written better essays, but I did not anticipate the feedback. While I had been writing about the ideas the poem presented, I was actually supposed to write about the literary devices. I know it sounds like I’m whining and moaning. After all, it was my fault! I had written three other lit critiques prior, and I had done them all in the style that was now getting called out over. None of my peers or my teachers ever explained that what I was doing in the lit crit was incorrect, or if they did, I didn’t get it. I wish I’d had the feedback I needed on each of those previous lit crits. If I’d let rip three of  my unearthly stinkers in class, I’m sure someone would have put me straight.

Determined to fix this, I decided to go back with the help of another student and tried to fix my previous essay in an attempt to get a better grade. It was hard at first, considering how stubborn a person I am (If you believe in that Horoscope malarkey, I’m a textbook Taurus) and unfortunately took to criticisms and new ideas on my work like a duck to acid. After a while, the other student and I finally found a rhythm. So what had to happen next? Another lit crit I’d forgotten about. I. Was. Livid. It was bad enough that I was worried about having to work on a completely new essay for this marking period, but I still hadn’t even finished the one from the last marking period. After starting again, and again, I’m stuck at paragraph 2 for the third time. A truckload of other work is also beginng to beat down on me. 

Moral of the story? Always ask about homework before leaving class with ‘no’ work. What that means is, if you’re unsure about something, like I was, you should never be afraid to ask your teachers (or even your peers!) for assistance. The consequences will really suck. Your writing buddy, who usually is a Junior or a Senior, will be a fantastic resource for helping you out when you need it. What I’m trying to say is, enjoy working with and alongside Creative Writing students on subjects you’re confused on. Not once, in any situation, should you ever neglect these resources that are right there for you. I messed up pretty badly with my work more than a few times, and even then, I was still able to get back up onto my feet thanks to the help of my other students and teachers. I know I have a lot to learn, but I really feel the support of the community of Creative Writing. To quote Steven McCranie, “The master has failed more times than the student has tried.” 

I’m learning the hard way; now is my time to fail.

I want to say to anyone looking to join the Creative Writing department: Please do not be discouraged from doing so because of what I wrote. Our department is a lovely place filled with lovely individuals that you should definitely get to know. What I have written, I intend to be a somewhat cautionary tale on why it is so important to not only get help when you’re struggling, but why it’s important to fail sometimes. We grow with each trip and bump in the road. That lit crit I’m re-writing is stronger and more put together than anything else I could have written first-time. 

We fall hard. 

We get back up harder.

Pascal Lockwood (Class of ’24)

The Mind of an Enclosed Writer by Tiffany Dong

If I were to describe Creative Writing as one of the new freshmen in six words, it’d be out-of-my-comfort-zone. The sixth word containing my internal scream when I am called on to read my writing out loud in front of others. There were two separate departments— one specifically designated for spoken arts, so my naivety gave me the idea that there would be no speaking or talking required. 

Before fully diving into the gist of Creative Writing, I had the opportunity to attend summer courses for poetry, fiction, autobiography, and more, where I met the upperclassmen prior to the start of the school year. This allowed me the chance to question them about what to expect, despite the given circumstances and differences they had when they experienced Creative Writing and my upcoming online distance learning experience. They warned me about the major requirements, of course– where the aspect of workshopping played into the part of what to expect. As a middle schooler who has freshly emerged out of the habit of blending in with the crowd and never taking the initiative to voice my ideas, Creative Writing was a scare. Therefore, I’m thankful to have something that prepared me for the upcoming monitory that I call “workshopping.” It is a knee-buckling, stomach-churning, and head-spinning sound. Though, nothing is worse than the word, “presenting.” Both workshopping and presenting enable you to showcase your personal work to others. That was a problem. Surely, writing is also quite personal to me where it was considered as my safe space. To have people claw into that space felt like an invasion of privacy or comfort. Of course, that’s what I used to think. I despised the simple idea of a pair of eyes scanning through my work, so it would make sense that I can’t possibly stand a group of people thoroughly analyzing them. Writing here is a crucial passion that lives in every one of us in this department, and we all have our own definition or sacred relationship with writing. 

Heather, the department head once said, “To show your writing is to show your vulnerability and open yourself up.” Even that took a lot of understanding and time to grasp that concept as someone who constantly struggles with the idea of opening up. Now, during this time of distance learning, I realized it is dire to be understanding of our given circumstances. I may not be meeting my upper-classmen face to face this year and that already sets a blockage between us. Through a screen, it is already difficult enough to communicate and genuinely become a part of this writing community, who’s always been supportive and patient regardless. 

It took a lot of mustering up the courage to fully become adjusted to this new environment with many new faces. But as of right now, I’ve decided this is a turning point to finally take a step out of this little bubble I’ve barricaded myself in.

Tiffany Dong (Class of ’24)

A 2020 Freshman by Esther Thomson

I’ve recently learned that if you travel to Pluto, you would see what the earth looked like 10 years ago. So basically, you would travel back in time. It would all look the same, because ten years isn’t long enough to change so wildly that you can see it from 3.197 billion miles away, but maybe if you looked hard enough you could see a difference, smaller clouds, bigger forests, etc. So I guess what you could get from this is that nothing is important, we’re only tiny beings in a huge universe, and everything we do doesn’t really matter. But, that isn’t true.

When I thought of socially distance learning, I thought of facetiming with my new cool SOTA friends while doing “cool SOTA things,” but of course that hasn’t happened. Our teachers did not give us any time to talk to each other, all of our classes are just lessons, with no time to talk to each other. Though the teachers are not the ones to blame since it isn’t anyone’s fault. When we are put into breakout rooms, we turn our cameras off, and mute ourselves. I mean, what are we supposed to do, talk to each other? Weird. 

It’s almost two months away from half way through the school year and I feel like it’s still the second week of school. We haven’t really gone anywhere with school, or so it feels like. I feel like I’m just sitting at my screen with someone talking to their screen, and I write things down for the next hour. We haven’t made any moments to be remembered, because everyday is endlessly repetitive—just listening all day. Occasionally getting to say something, even if it’s just a hello. I mean, it feels like the whole concept of time is just a social construct. Time has gone by so fast, it doesn’t seem real. It feels like someone is just lying to me on what day it is. How is it possible that almost 4 months have gone by?

So maybe time’s just a social construct that was just invented so we could plant food at the right time when we were cavemen, and now we can’t live without time. We can’t function without time. But if time is really just a social construct, why would we be able to see earth ten years ago from Pluto. I don’t think Pluto has a society, so maybe time has always existed, and we just labeled it time just like we label everything. Nothing feels real anymore, everything is digital, and usually I would love to be on my computer all day, but it’s been half a year, and I want this to be over. I want to be able to make memories with people. I want to be able to laugh with someone. 

Esther Barad Thomson (Class of ’24)