[DR] Monday, Oct. 28th

by Giorgia (’14)

On Monday we returned to the classroom from our annual camping camping trip at Kirby Cove sleepy and smoke-smelling with fresh faces and new stories. Among which Heather learned to play snaps, Giorgia (’14) tried to teach samba, Justus (’15) was a sexy bookcase, the freshmen underwent forceful (and ultimately unsuccessful) segregation, the Schott-Rosenfield (’14, ’17) sibling rivalry went crashing into the sea, and Colin (’16) finally took down Jules (’14), our own departmental kraken, during our traditional beach romp. Mostly, it was just, as the young ones say “cold as balls.”

Obviously, we had a lot to discuss on Monday. We did this eating delicious peanut butter chocolate cookies Noa (’16) made for her writing buddy, Lizzie (’14) (happy 17th birthday lizz!), and leftover croissants, potato chips, and izzes from the trip. We talked about our favorite moments, what went well and what didn’t.

After our Kirby Cove debrief, the freshmen went off to the dark cavern they call “Freshmen Seminar” with Maia, and the rest of CW settled down with Sarah Fontaine (<3) for umläut. It’s early on in the year, so we are currently lying out preliminary framework, along with rebooting umläut‘s online presence and overall mission statement.

That evening, five seniors– Midori Chen, Mykel Mogg, Giorgia Peckman, Frances Saux, and Abigail Schott-Rosenfield —read at the Book Club of California (of which Abigail is a member). We were asked to the Book Club by Abigail’s grandmother, Kathy, earlier this year. Each of us read through a section of the Club’s collection (the club specializes in fine print press), mostly Tangram books, and each selected one or two works from which to write from. Our response poems focused on California history, and the relation of landscape and the individual. It was quite exciting to read our work outside of the school community, especially in such a rich and resonant environment full of so many monumental works.

We also sold a full set of umläut to the Book Club!

God Has Left the Building

by Giorgia Peckman (’14)
From the Sarah Fontaine Unit

“And that’s what I saw when I looked out the window that day. All these words were living.” — Eileen Myles

Picture 31

Frances said, “I want to be God/Bring me good news.” That is the role I possess, desire and aspire to as a writer— possibly not even that, merely just one who makes writing. Call me a heretic, praise me so: I want to be a god. I want to take myself and by extension you, the reader, the apostle, disciple, preacher, pray-er, somewhere else. I want to write about all the good in us, and how painful and grotesque it is in the fact that it is so singular and so beautiful and at the same time it is universal and renders all who breathe these “living words” un-unique.

That is the problem I face in making writing: it is impossible to be the kind of god I want to be— possibly because we are all gods in our own right and possibly because none of us are. God has left the building and we are left here to pick up the pieces and dissect them with the blunt knives we call words. They are not enough. I want to live outside.

I want to fill pages that are the equivalent of screaming very loud in the middle of a lot of wind with your hair flying into your mouth and trying to choke you. But oh, my voice is so hoarse. I was born hoarse, never quite loud enough. We all are— disgusting, coughing mess of a species, of a mind, of a thought.

The problem with ruling an empire, as gods tend to do, is that everything is alive, in its own context, not just the one we perceive it in, that we use to write about it— and the harder you try to present living things as they are, the father away you keep yourself from doing so. Only when you stop trying to be literal, factual, honest, do you produce something that is any of these things. When you’re telling the truth you always end up lying a little, but when you know you’re lying…well, things end up being a lot more honest than you expect. You end up clutching little morsels of truths in your palms and think, maybe even exclaim to whoever is keeping you company today, “What is this! This is true! But I swear I was lying through my teeth!” That is how all good writing is written— by lying and finding something true at the end of that fishing line of fallacy.

I want to write about the things that are stuck inside of everything and everyone and I want to make the things, the living words maybe, that live in veins beside the platelets, into things everyone can hold and see and love. Everyone wants to be loved, even gods, even me (especially gods, especially me). It seems that I hope in some way that in presenting what they hate to them, like a cat returning prey to its people, they will love it, and by extension me, for bringing it, mangled and dripping blood, to their doorstep.

But I can only do this a little bit, just like you can only see in the dark a little bit, or when you smash a bug it only dies a little bit, and keeps moving across your coffee table. You can only make things that don’t exist, or no longer exist, into things that do exist, in the here and now and present tense, a little bit. You can only do this a little bit, because no one is all god, everyone is just a little bit of god.

The thing about writing is that you always have to be slightly uncomfortable, a bit ill at ease with the world. This trait is found in many forms in nearly all writers I have met. For me, it’s like wearing a dress. I hate wearing dresses and on the days I decide to for some reason unbeknownst to my better judgment wear a dress, I feel like I am constantly writing a poem, convinced the world is out to get me and that more importantly, that I deserve it. None of this is true, of course, or it is mostly untrue. What is true about it is that I am constantly writing a poem. Being a writer is not so much about the fact of writing as it is about a state of being, a state of constantly swimming through the living words that clog up the air. The fact of the matter is that everything that is ever going to be written is already written, it just hasn’t been put on paper yet. When I truly make a piece of writing, I do not feel as if I have just created something, I feel as if something that has existed in the ether of the places in people that no one can reach has moved through me and now resides on the paper. Writing is tampering with forces of the mind, a weird amalgamation of godliness and collective consciousness that uses people as a vessel of meaning, not the other way around.

A lot of the writing I do is merely an exercise in articulation and discipline: preparation for the living words to travel through me. Training me as a preacher and maker of words, which brings me back to the ultimate trial and tribulation: I am no god nor will I ever be, and all I do is a Sisyphian attempt. Yet, it’s the attempt I truly love, not the ultimate goal. I only covet the good and try to render it so because it must be solidified into lights we can hold in the dark, amongst the bloody, messy mass of weakness and tissue we surround ourselves in. If I were the type to pray to something other than my own volition, I would pray to words, all of them, all of the living words, alive and well.

The Story of How I Changed Abigail’s Life Forever

by Giorgia (’14)

I dragged Abigail up top to Mollie Stones with me last week, with the promise of a pompelmo San Pellegrino soda, because I wanted company and she was thirsty.

(Now, you see, Abigail and I have a very unique kind of relationship where I wipe flour on her shirt and call her at 10pm in hysterics and she makes decisions for me and does everything generally 20 points better.)

So we went up top and in a surprising turn of events we were not soaked by water falling from the trees at the edge of campus, as in it was a nice day– the sun was even out! We arrived at Mollie Stones remarkably unfrozen and dry.

I decided that in celebration of the actually something resembling springtime weather, I should purchase ice cream, and much to my delight, Mollie Stones was not only carrying quarter pints of Häagen Dazs, but chocolate peanut butter quarter pints.

There, in the middle of the frozen foods aisle in Mollie Stones, occurred a prime vignette of Abigail “Light O’ My Life” Schott-Rosenfield and my friendship: I cried and screamed and raged, deliberated on quantity, and finally purchased two quarter pints for Abigail and myself, proclaiming “THIS WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.”

We ate our ice cream on the way back down to the Creative Writing room, not wanting to face the “EXTRA FOOD!?!?” barrage if we arrived in the room with the ice cream. Now, I am not sure when Abigail is humoring me or not, but she most certainly agreed that I had changed her life by having her sample this most miraculous of ice cream flavors.

(ngl i’m probs just gonna get lines of abigail’s poetry tattooed all over my body when i go to college)

(I Wanna Take You to a) Play (Bar)

‘Aight, here are the long-awaited behind-the-scenes photos.

The Girl Who Cried Tortoise

Now there’s a guy that looks good on his hands and knees.

Mommy Hazel with Hammer Baby

Maxine and Johnny (and Jonathan)

Constructive Criticism

My Favorite Raccoon

Raccoon ft. Giorgia

Raccoon ft. Giorgia

Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes videos, for an in-depth look at CW’s creative process and waffles.


Gallifrey One 2013: The Twenty-Four Hours of Gallifrey One

by Giorgia (’14)

In February I attended Gallifrey One, one of the largest Doctor Who conventions in the country, for my fifth consecutive year. This year, Gallifrey crept up on me, drowned out by the chaos of Junior year, instead of the months of preparation, from hotel room to costumes and ribbons (a tradable tradition at the con). While Gally is far from the biggest or most active con I attend all year, it has been and most likely always will be my favorite, and the week before was wrought with excitement and nervous energy, checking the days off on my finger each morning at school.

Still, it didn’t feel like it was truly time for Gally until Olivia (A, of Creative Writing, my partner in crime at Gallifrey One) and I were walking to our gate in the airport, and saw a couple in front of us, one in a replica of the Tenth Doctor’s coat. We couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the time in the airport, even with our flight delayed for an hour. The time was upon us; LobbyCon awaited.

There’s nothing like the smell of Los Angeles air when you step outside of the airport and into the neon and scream of taxis and bewildered, jet lagged travelers. For me, I associate this thick, slightly toxic smell with Gallifrey, with “my people,” and my home away from home. Gallifrey is merely three days out of the entire year, but for those of us who return again and again, it truly is home. I said to my friend, Alannah, in our sleep-deprived delirium and sadness of closing ceremonies on Sunday night, “I grew up at this con!” and I did! Not as much as some of the children, such as Patrick (now an adult!), but I did. A lot of growing takes place between 7th grade (my first Gally) and 11th. My friends, much of whom are older, and have changed much less drastically, remark on this each year with affection and jokes about their own “elderly” ages. This year, I was missing sixteen inches of hair and sporting a hot pink beanie, and it often took me stating my name for people to recognize me, much to both of our chagrin.

As I spoke to people throughout the weekend, some Gallifrey veterans, other first-timers, some who had been watching the show since the sixties and some who had only joined the Doctor on his most recent travels, everyone was amazed at the environment of the con, that it felt like home, a family. As a staff member of the convention (Costume Repair) and long-time attendee, I have seen the department heads and chairpeople of the convention struggle with maintaining this sense of community despite its growth from ~800 (2009) to over 3,000 (2013). While last year was a struggle, this year they easily accomplished this, and everyone walked around the con with a smile on their face.

Gallifrey isn’t just about meeting people involved in making Doctor Who, or dressing up in silly costumes. It’s about seeing friends you see once a year, about Champions, the daleks roaming the halls, Tony Lee, late night karaoke and the faux-casino themed-Gala; it’s about ribbons. Gally isn’t just about what we love, it’s about how we love it, and sharing that with one another.

ABADÁ Capoeira’s Batizado 2012

by Giorgia (’14)

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts that was created by African slaves during the colonial era. It ties together dance, music, and martial arts, as well as containing a strong life philosophy. Individual capoeira practices vary from school to school. I’ve been playing capoeira since I was six years old, at summer camp, and began training at ABADÁ with Instrutores Estrela Vesper, Sereia, and Corrente, and Mestranda Marcia Cigarra. Capoeira has been important to me since I was small, and has had a massive influence on my life, and in the last year I have entered the adult system and it has become one of my strongest passions (Find out more about ABADÁ Capoeira here).

The sudden rush of hot air, muffled voices, and the smell of hardwood and sweat hits me as I climb the last step of the flight leading up to the studio. It’s Thursday night, T – 3 days until the Batizado and the studio is flooded with white pants; at least eighty people are gathered on the floor, all in the uniform, a wider array of cord levels than I have seen in my entire life at ABADÁ, natural to orange, a full spectrum of graduados, instrutores, professores, and at the top of it all, Mestre Camisa himself, the founder of our school, based in Rio de Janeiro.

I could give a play by play of our three days of workshops, a description of our menu each day, bogged down with Portuguese vocabulary and technical descriptions that would mean nothing to you, the reader, and leave you confused and weary of ever trying capoeira or much less reading my contributions to this blog.

So I won’t.

Rather, I will talk about my feelings, or my experience, or what I have learned, because that’s what blogs are for, right? Feelings?

Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for capoeira, for ABADÁ. As much as my temporary departure from 2010-2011 pains me, I needed to leave for that time to be where I am now, to truly understand and be aware of how much it matters to me, and the role it is meant to take in my life—fellow CDubs I am sure would laughingly respond to this with “You mean all of it!” —but that wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Capoeira is my life, and many times I am made to feel irrational or insane for saying that, or thinking it, and that is what our four days of workshops and Batizado taught me the most, I think, more than benguela techniques, or entradas, or new songs. It taught me, truly, from the catch in Marcia’s voice when she introduced the Batizado and Mestre Camisa, “This is my life”; to the way we all say the word “family” effortlessly to and about one another; the abundance of food and smiles and overabundance of warmth the entire weekend; the meaning of the phrase “Capoeira is life,” because it is.

On Thursday night, when the first workshop was over, Mestre Camisa beckoned us with the berimbau, and we sat, all almost-hundred of us, in a cluster at his feet, and for a moment I could feel the legacy tangible in the air, in the rasp of his voice shaping around the rolling consonants and vowels of Portuguese, in Professor Furaçao’s NYC-thick translation. He spoke about life and capoeira interchangeably, his answers to questions about capoeira were about his own life, and his answers to questions about life were about capoeira, his and that of others. We all sat, steeped in awe, and listened to his words, and took them with us, back to our own cities and homes and lives, when the weekend came to an end with a night of songs and candlelit dinner.

His words, already resonant in the brimming caverns of my chest, became real to me on Sunday afternoon, prickling at the corners of my eyes before being wiped away as Mestranda called out my name, “Amendoim,” a freshly dyed blue-yellow cord in her hand. I got to my feet and did my del mundos, palm to palm around the circle, meeting the smiles of the people I call my family with my own, the special grin I reserve for them, for the bright, sparking light of the roda, for my home, my life, my always. I could write infinitely about this, and never say anything close to what I mean, so I will stop now, while the length is bearable, and keep going, full of questions and of hope, of capoeira and of life, all one and the same, because its motion is my articulation of what I mean.

The RAY Project Teen and Youth Students with ABADÁ Capoeira founder, Mestre Camisa

photos courtesy of Samambaya of ABADÁ Capoeira

Of Poetry Movements

by Giorgia (’14)

(Last year, when the class of ’14 were sophomores, CWI studied groups of Movements throughout history, and on top of writing responses to each Movement, reflected on each group’s causes, characteristics, and effects in the poetry of the modern world.)

In creative writing I find we often have a very narrow view of poetry, accepting it only as one type of writing that conveys a very limited message using constrained images and form. While most of the poetry we read and discussed from our anthology last week are not poems that resonate on a personal level with me, I found that they greatly broadened my appreciation for poetry as a massive body of work with many genres inside, rather than one genre in itself.

Especially with my group, the Vienna Group, I realized the incredibly fluid definition of poetry, and how tied it is to the language it is being written in and the language’s and region it is being written in’s dialects. One thing might resonate as the “truest” words ever written with one person and it might seem contrived and shallow to another. That said, one does not have to speak the language or be a part of the culture in which a poem was written for it to resonate. This ties to the essay we also read last week in which the woman being interviewed discussed the idea of a collective consciousness—of poetry from one place reaching deep into the heart of a person from another; African women who had been forced to run away from their villages under fear of death marveled at a white American woman’s ability to communicate their own experiences, but her poem was a response to an entirely different experience and image, and yet, poetry tied the two of them together unconsciously.

This allows us to proceed to the idea of the “musilanguage” discussed in that same essay—the idea that there was a language of sounds charged with emotions that existed before the concept of structured spoken language we have today, and grammar. The idea that one can glean emotion and meaning from something even if they do not understand what it says or if it has no words is derived from this. I can connect these ideas to those found in visual art and classical and instrumental music, as well as other languages the audience or “experiencer” does not speak. For example, I attend capoeira and in the Rhoda we sing in Portuguese. I only understand a handful of words (mostly nouns) in Portuguese and yet I glean a particular meaning and resonance from these songs. Often when we discuss what they mean or their history, I will find my personal interpretations free from their literal, Portuguese-to-English translations will not be so different.

In my own writing however, I have found that the schools of poetry we studied and the essay did not have a great effect. They have effected my thinking and the way in which I see and read (which I’m sure indirectly effect my writing), but I have found that Thomas Hardy, a poet I have always carried close, whom I have chosen for the Ponder-a-Poet project and have been reading him intensely and exclusively, is having a profound effect on my writing. In the poems I wrote over the weekend and workshopped, I saw the way in which his work has enhanced my voice and effected my word choice and image refinement, allowing me to communicate ideas with a precision I never have before. It is, quite frankly, remarkable, and makes me glad I chose Hardy rather than any of the other poets I have been considering. The simplicity of his verse cuts deep into one’s own personal sentiments (some one might not even be aware of) and traverse his era in an astonishing way. This way I have connected (and learned by heart) several of his poems although they were written in the late nineteenth century goes back to the idea from the interview of a collected consciousness. It makes me ponder even further the idea of the musilanguage and consider something even beyond that. People often say psychic energy connects people, that animals have it, etc. that we are linked through the mind in channels of emotion, and reading something, pausing, and thinking “How did they know?” just as the African woman asked of the white woman’s poem, demonstrates the fact that poetry is a basis of humanity, a language within a language that transverses what we identify as spoken word and encompasses both music and visual art and unifies us all, across culture, time, and place.

I Don’t Have to Write About the Field

by Giorgia (’14)

One of the main things Creative Writing has taught me, through a constant struggle of tears and rage and wailing (“But I’m not good enough!”) is that I have opinions and think things. And, even more shocking, is that I am allowed to do that: that is why I write–– and it is okay for me to have more to say than describing a field. Describing a field is great, and I love fields, but sometimes a field is just a field and sometimes a field is a metaphor, but then a lot of times a field becomes this yucky in between thing when you’re trying to say something that you are blatantly not saying which results in a massive portfolio full of dead dogs. My last two years in Creative Writing has taught me that it is okay to just write about a field if I am in a field-y mood that day, and that it is okay to make the field a metaphor–– as long as I make it into a metaphor and everyone is aware that it is a metaphor and are then able to think about what it means. But also that the meaning of the metaphor does not always have to be a metaphor, that sometimes I can just write what I mean and add the bells and whistles later or maybe the point is that it doesn’t have any bells and whistles, and that that is good writing as well, often better writing. Because maybe my writing wasn’t meant to be a field. People like Alex (’12), their writing can be the field and the field is a field and a metaphor and everything a poem-field should be, filled with little imagery flowers and sensory detail birds and bees, but my writing is not a poem-field. And my writing is not “warm snow covering my house of sticks,” or “changed by your optimism,” or a “bad case of American society,” or my “serpentine, turpentine valentine” or “a bramble of briars beneath my coat,” or “hey you with the astrolabe eyes,” or “as he walks he soars.”

My writing is a little bit of all of these things because these amazing people have helped me realize that my writing is my writing, it is “curled in the crooked arms of the tree,” and “pressing outwards towards some kind of heaven,” and “i shake when I speak and you say okay? okay,” and things I might not always be happy with and that is okay.

Usually my writing is things I’m not happy with because I’m not being honest. The point of writing is to be honest, to talk about things and try to explain them and mostly fail. And things that I think need explaining are different than what other people think need explaining and that is great, A-PLUS.

So I might not always write things I like and I am lifetimes away from being the best writer I can be or the writer I want to be, and hell, I probably won’t get anywhere close, but so far I’ve learned that the first step to any of that is being honest, if nothing else. Being honest about what I have to say and how I feel and the way words contort themselves in my brain and that sometimes they’ll trip and come out ugly and that is okay. It’s all okay. I am a writer and I’m just trying to make it okay and if I’m not okay right now, if I am sad and angry and betrayed by some of the people I loved most, I am allowed to feel that way and I am allowed to–– I should write about it. I can and should write about how sad I am, or how happy I am in the roda, or the sound buses make in the night and fog, and that these are the things I need to be writing and I don’t need to always write about the field.

(Midori) Over the summer, I had my own version of this revelation, though in a far more anticlimactic way. Caught up in writing my personal stories, I ran out of time to write the 10-page short story for Creative Writing, and I thought instead of coming up with a brilliant lightbulb idea of a plot, I’ll just play it short and safe by writing from personal experience instead.

Only, it wasn’t short, nor was it easy. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write, and the product, despite being assured over and over again by people that it is one of the best things I’ve ever written, is something I can read a hundred times and still just stare wryly at. Maybe, given time, I’ll grow to be fond of it, even proud of it, but at this point, I can only scrutinize it, wondering if this is really the best I can do, if this simple little thing that I got to experience is truly something people should awe and marvel at. One thing, though, is that I can’t bring myself to be ashamed of it in any way, as I do with most of my other pieces (the same “I’m not good enough!”). It’s a very subtle enlightenment that I’m still working my way through, but right now, I’m just infinitely glad that I don’t hate it.