Maia’s Back!

After a veritable forever of Maia being sick and gone, she’s finally less-sick and more-back!

We welcomed her with a sign:

photo 1

We also expressed our fondness and love for Maia in form of algebraic graphs:

photo 2

(This one describes the exponential increase in the level of suckiness of Maia’s illness over the time that Maia’s gone.)

photo 3

(This one describes the general upward trend of the department’s mean “Missing Maia” value with a blip in it over time.)

photo 4

(This one has a Z-axis? I don’t frickin’ know.)

photo 5

(This one describes CW’s functionality and productivity in all its varying stages, with the asymptotes representing Maia’s absence from our department. We approach levels of productivity, but never manage to reach it with Maia gone.)

Found Poetry

CWII had been with Maia Ipp for our poetry unit (recently ended), during which we studied Jack Spicer and his whole thing with Federico Garcia Lorca. There were a lot of bewildered questions and exasperated exclaims: “So Spicer just claimed that Lorca wrote everything in After Lorca? Even the ‘translations’ of other people’s poems? Even the poems Spicer himself wrote?” We studied the concept of translation, as well as Spicer’s “transmissions” from Lorca (who is, of course, dead at the time Spicer wrote in his name).

One topic that particularly gripped me was found poetry. Of course I’ve known of them– my fellow senior Giorgia loves them (and I the way she does them, by cutting out the lines in strips and manually rearranging them)– but I’ve never had much interest in the form. Maia’s class, however, and what my fellow CDubs were doing with found poetry, made me think twice.

The first exercise we did was to make found poetry from Spicer’s Vancouver Lectures. I’ve always been a categorical thinker, so the stuff I pulled out of the text belonged in certain categories, so my poem read more like a list than anything else. However, as my classmates began sharing their constructs, I realized how linear the poetry could be. My thoughts and intent had more freedom than I had initially thought; the original text is not a constraint, but a guide.

(As it happens, I like my poem enough to throw it on here– so maybe this entire blogpost had just been an excuse to show it off.)

After Spicer’s Vancouver Lectures

Tonight, Eliot on one hand and Duncan on the other, you know, nice poetry
hang it onto metaphors
emotion machines in perpetual motion

Infinitely small:

One-eighth of the struggle
FIve dollars from Ten dollars
First step, step Two, Third stage
Two or Three years later

I prefer more the unknown

the furniture in the room
children’s blocks
Oscar Wilde

nonsense you have to avoid
Or you are stuck with
screwed up
being inside you

Some of my best friends are dying in loony bins
Some of m friends are dying in loony bins
Some are dying in loony bins
Some are dying
Some are loony bins

On found poetry, says: “Many poets have also chosen to incorporate snippets of found texts into larger poems, most significantly Ezra Pound. His Cantos includes letters written by presidents and popes, as well as an array of official documents from governments and banks. The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot, uses many different texts, including Wagnerian opera, Shakespearian theater, and Greek mythology. Other poets who combined found elements with their poetry are William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, and Louis Zukofsky.” I had never thought that including lines from other texts could count as found (though now that I think about it, duh). That’s one of my favorite kinds of allusions– referencing not only the content, but also the style and form of another piece of writing.

The Found Poetry Review came up in my brief research for this post. It looks sleek and awesome, and I’m definitely checking it out. (Let’s end on a random plug.)

Operative Word: Creative

There always has been lots of talk about how Creative Writing and our operations are vaguely cultish. This is completely untrue, if we understand the purpose of a cult to be veneration for a perceived idol. This is completely true if we base the label on actions alone— small, inclusive, apparently secluded. So for the sake of transparency, here’s a glimpse at one of my favorite aspects of CW:

Creative Writing, when the emphasis is on Creative.

Not in a bipartisan way where it means anti-writing (we try our hardest not to be “us and them,” here). Needless to say, I love writing— love it so much it seems completely inadequate to state it outright like that. I can write a full showing-not-telling discourse on my love for writing on a later date (maybe I’ll use it as a college essay, ooh), but for now, take my claim in good faith. Writing is so entrenched in me that I don’t even need to specifically mention it— it’s become part and parcel of me as a person.

(Consider cooking as an analogy. You get a new wooden spoon, a spatula, a panini press, whatever untensiland it’s the coolest thing ever. You explore all avenues of its use— the slight indents, the sleek metal that provide numerous functions, whatever you can think up. You do everything— stir fry, whisk, spread butter— with it. But once you get used to holding it in your hand, it becomes a tool, something to help you get to an end. What’s fresh and new become the ingredients, the recipes. It doesn’t mean you lose your love for the utensil, and it becomes so essential to your process that it’s completely unperceivable, the thought that you’d have to fry eggs without your spatula.)

So here in CW, Creative is as much of our content as the writing. My favorite example is that one time in freshman year when we went ice skating. For creativity. And it sounds like a nudge-nudge-wink joke (it most definitely 50% is), but we’re serious about it. To write takes knowledge in both its form and content, obviously, and we can’t write about or with knowledge we don’t have, obviously. So part of CW is supplying us with a large bank of knowledge we can draw from.

And here’s another thing that I absolutely love— the fact that we’re so judicial about what sticks and what doesn’t. We know that ice skating isn’t for everybody as much as we know that sonnets and rhyme schemes are not for everybody. We get that some people can do parkour or capoeira, and respect them as much as we respect us folks that lie on a sunny patch of carpet every chance we get (that is most definitely not just me). If our unit is on Beat poetry, no one will take it personally if that style doesn’t particularly resonate with you (appreciating the topic in context and seeing its value in its time is another story— one that I personally think should most definitely be a requirement). We get and respect that other people have opinions. Whoa.

This leaves us with a lot of freedom to pursue anything we wish. In case it hasn’t been hammer-over-the-head obvious yet, I’ve discovered a heavy fascination with the psychosocial effects of war. For other people, I know there are authors, styles they are enamoured with, or other topics of discussion (social welfare, the prison system) they explore and explore and always come up with something fresh for. It seems a bit counterintuitive, but honestly, in my experience, I think the more you write about a topic and the more you explore/research it, the more you have to write about. It’s all the different perspectives, see— the 7 billion in the entire world, and I’m not even counting the artsy interpretations of the POV of a molecule or something (but seriously, science poems are the best). And should you ever find yourself done with a topic… teach it, I guess. Impart that knowledge onto someone else who wants to know everything about the world (the entire CW department comes to mind).

I don’t know; I don’t really have a thesis. I just love to be around people who love to learn, I guess. That candle-lighting analogy might work here— that lighting another candle is not a detriment to your own, that the more candles there are, the more light there is.

Let’s Talk Petrarch

I’ve been reading Petrarch— Scott, my Euro Lit teacher, introduced him to me (well, introduced him to the class, but I took major interest and asked to borrow some books). Prior to this, I’ve known Petrarch only as that one Big Deal Poet Laureate who got the crown from the Pope who wrote love poems to a Lady Laura. Y’know, the standard famous poet stuff.

Now, I know he had never met Laura, and suffered from a crippling depression that I’m surprisingly familiar with.

It’s just weird, y’know, to consider that this figure of practically-myth is actually such a familiar character. He glorified Laura to frightening heights and longed to reach that height, but obviously never could. The funny part though? Is that he knew exactly what he was doing. He was making Laura unobtainable, and hated himself all the more for not being able to obtain her love. This self-crippling cycle seems a very modern thing— we rarely think of figures from Back In The Days suffering from anxiety and depression.

Self-doubt is a very familiar feeling for me, and… Well, I don’t know if it’s comforting to know that Petrarch also had it, but it is somewhat easier to forgive myself when I remember that. It’s such a funny thing, see— just being told that your anxiety is all in your head doesn’t really help, because if it’s all in my head, it’s all on me, and I’m making a big deal out of something that doesn’t matter at all, isn’t that embarrassing? It just makes me more anxious, if anything. Reading famous poetry that many people studied and liked and empathized with reminds me that it’s not just me. Other people are people too; I am not living in a world of perfect Lauras. I shouldn’t hoist the greatness I perceive in everyone else above myself, because that’s not fair to me or to them.

This has been a little life advice, to myself more than others. Just ease up, man. Make like Petrarch and write through the sadness. Frances should make that into a motivational poster.

A Self-Contained Explosion

I love entertaining the thought of stars aligning– I always envision it to be like Hercules, where these giant planets just kinda sidle up against each other with the arrogance of frat boys and collectively build up this awesome mega sonic beam of power that pews down to Earth.

…And then something blows up, but in this Hollywood day and age? That’s practically a prerogative, even for non-film-tastic grand celestial phenomena. All ye beware, here there be C4.

So, there’s that whole thing about planets in orbit and electrons in orbit, which means it only stands to reason (actually, it really doesn’t, but whatever) that the alignment of stars is graphically comparable to the alignment of thoughts.

I googled “pretty picture of neurons,” which is something I’ll have to live with forever

(Tangent Anecdote: Photoshop is one of the things many middle school master Escapists learn to do in their spare time, and as a devout Anti-Realist of that time, I dedicated hours of my life learning to simulate those sparkles (which are, of course, just dots with the glow effect) on a hipster non-Photoshop program. It involved too many layers and manual dotting to count, and I soon gave in and used my father’s ancient Photoshop 5, which was a very decent step up. I now have family pictures buried in USBs all sparkle-tastic and color-balanced.)

In the scatterplot of life, how awesome would it be to be able to derive the the perfect linear function? Instead of completely random events and happenstances, I can say my life is f(x) = 12x + 11. Like, not even quadratic– we’re talking seventh grade-vanilla math. How awesome would it be for my writing to just be input-output simple and correct? Perfect in content and easy in execution. It’s so dreamy.

I’m dreaming and dreaming, and all of a sudden I hear Heather’s voice in my head, all excited-like:

But it’s not perfect or easy. Life’s not perfect, writing’s not easy, and that’s what makes it all so worth going through.

And yeah, snaps to that. I mean, why else would everyone get bored in math class? It’s all so predictable after a while, like eating exquisite European banquets every day and crying with feelings over fried rice (my entire family has a Chinese food complex, I don’t even want to talk about it, oh my god). It’s kind of the entire point of writing, y’know?

(The non-perfection, not Chinese food.)

(Though it’s debatable.)

If I had to identify my life philosophy, I’d probably say Absurdist (yes that’s a perfectly legitimate philosophy shush), which, to rehash sort of all my previous posts, is the notion that Life seems to mean so much when it really means so little, and that’s the joke. Absurdism easily turns to a kind of bitter nihilism once you lose the humor, so you can sprinkle in a bit of existentialism there too, that nothing matters unless you make it matter. It’s why I write, to assign meaning to things so I can better maintain my brain-filing system (just call me Radar O’Reilly, bugle under B, clipboard under K).

So this filing, most of the time done with intention, but sometimes, things just line up, y’know? Jules (’14) tells me that someone told him that things come in waves– the happy wave, the sad wave, the people-getting-the-wrong-orders-at-random-cafés wave– and maybe, maybe. It’s a fun thought to entertain, but a bit too unsubstantial for me (which is strange, because I’m certainly not above superstition and strange beliefs, like whistling at night or untying friendship bracelets). Though there was the time with the Connecticut school shooting happening right after CinéClub showed Elephant, and the intruder alert practice at SOTA soon after. Maybe I don’t consider three “a wave,” just connections. Perhaps if five or six folks in my life all gave birth at the same time or something I’ll consider it a wave (of babies, so many babies), but it’s too big a unit of measure for me to consider viable.

Well anyways, things happen, big surprise there, and when things happen, other things happen, and though correlation is not causation, correlation is correlation. When things happen that I feel connect, the stars align. Stars move fast in my world, all this hyperactive spinning, and sometimes, I get three in a row, or an apple, a pile of gold, and the Taj Mahal. It’s all very motion sickness-inducing, but also awesome when I find the connections and draw a straight line.

I like bookend endings, so I often scroll up to reread what I’ve written and find the one thing to nicely tie things up (though Maia Ipp has told me to refrain from that urge, because it’s not necessary). Now, though, I can’t think of anything to tie back into Hollywood explosions, except maybe that they’re unnecessary, but is kind of necessary (c’mon, Pacific Rim was awesome)? Just like life. Alright there we go, ending tied up, life is unnecessary, but also kind of necessary. You know what I mean.

Day [5]

I do the “I can’t believe it’s already/only been the first week of school!” thing only ’cause it’s true. Both ways.

It’s already been the first week of school: five whole days passed, memories of it were not a blur and can be willed easily into definition, my relative time has changed.

It’s only been the first week of school: what?? Have I not already been here for five whole days? Whaddaya mean only five days? How many more to go??

Warning! Warning! It’s not a binary! They are not opposites, do not have to exist with or without each other, my feelings of relief and longing are in no way contradictory. Trust me. Please.

I don’t know– it’s been so strange. It’s not like I stopped thinking over the summer or anything, but now I’m back I have to make the conscious effort to flip my brain back on. Maybe it’s more like switching tabs on your choice of internet browser– I’ve got to function through a different scope.

Allow me to pull another cliché and share a word of wisdom. Not my word of wisdom, which either makes it better or worse. It’s the words of my Psych and Human Geo teacher, the ever-wise Ms. Coghlan:


Yes it’s on my wall.

And, for such a simple thought, it’s surprisingly esoteric. Procrastination has always been the norm for me, and there’s always a reason why– I’m in the middle of a page in the middle of a book, I’m knitting a scarf for my father’s birthday, I was just about to cook pasta. It’s never really occurred to me to actually consider my actions in a more objective perspective, where there’s this set amount of time in which I can get things done, I am in that block of time, why not do it?

Why do it? is a loaded question. Why not do it? is a flippant one. I like my attitude flippant, the operational definition of “flippant” being completely positive and not rude in any way.

And do the things you put off because it actually doesn’t make sense not to.

The first week has passed and is settling slowly around me, and I must sleep it off. More next time on senior-ism. Man that’ll be a long post.

A Balancing Act on Slackwire, Part I

Which came first, the summer or the lethargy?

The easy connection to make is, school’s out, it’s vacation time, hence the desperate urge to do absolutely nothing. But it can also stand to reason that the urge to do nothing during the summer is some sort of universal truth of humanity, so instead of trudging through a forced-work ethic, we just give everyone three months off.

This is all rhetorical reasoning. I just wanted to think about the summer.

Or not. The do nothing-urge is quite all-encompassing.

…Ten minutes have passed since I typed the last sentence. I’ve gotten myself a glass of orange juice, and am congratulating myself on making the effort.

The way I see it, we (in general) function on a trial-and-error basis. As in, the way we figure out what we want to do when we grow up is through first figuring out what we absolutelyewgrossgetthatawayfromme not want to do. Maybe that’s what mandatory K-12 education is for (or has morphed into, for bizarre, tragic reasons). Throughout the school year, there’s a constant undercurrent of dissatisfaction, perhaps on account that we’re not strictly there by choice, and because school is all about workworkwork (if you’re lucky, not of the tedious sort), the natural rebellion is to not workworkwork. Of course, it takes some rumination to understand that not all work is the same (some work are just more equal than others) and further contemplation and self-reflection etc.etc. to figure out what work one is okay with doing. Just okay, as in, my tolerance level for this is decent enough. Then we take that as a starting point, move forward to find work that perhaps we actually– god forbid– like doing.

Or, you make like me and find ways to appreciate all of the workworkwork, convince yourself all work are created equal and smile ’em all to death. All in a day’s work in Stockholm.

So maybe summer serves a function. Just throwing it out there: it’s either a rehab, or a re-envisioning.

Rehab in the sense that you finally get to breathe without a bunch of grunt work on your shoulders, you quit every facet of school you can, and you come back in the fall with hastily-done work and regret/irritation that you didn’t space out your workload over all your free time (I speak with too much experience); it rehabilitates you for another year at school, where your teacher builds and schedules your learning for you, and by the end of the school year, you do feel accomplished, but in that awkward way when someone compliments you on store-bought pie-filling, rather than a cake which you made from scratch.

Re-envisioning in the sense that you have ruminated and contemplated and reflected, have combed through your school year’s learning with grains of salt relative to your care for them, how they matter to you. In the summer, you have the barest infrastructure to keep you conscious of school as an entity (summer reading, writing), and at this point you know how you best fit in (or out) of the school’s system. Once you are comfortable with that, you start doing work on your own, and moving forward on your own, and school becomes the extra jacket you keep slung over your arm that you don’t mind carrying around, per se, but would most definitely put down, put on, put into some kind of use at any given chance.

I’d like to be re-envisioning, especially seeing as it seems terribly convenient for the process of writing a senior thesis. I was so excited about writing the thesis for the past year, O woe be naive me. Nah, I’m still excited, just excited in that jump-up-and-down-and-cry-and-puke way. It’s only June, and the panic’s already settling in. Relatively unwarranted panic, but when has that ever stopped anything?

I’d like for my summer to be re-envisioning, but for now, I might be better off working the rehab. Just a month– I think I deserved it (Junior Year was exhausting in the best way, which is the worst way, ’cause you like that feeling of accomplished exhaustion). In July, I’ll get back on my feet, hopefully rejuvenated in a September way, and move forth with awesome work ethic.

For now, I think I’ll settle for another glass of orange juice.

Modern-Day Absurdism

Lately I’ve been pondering war. They’re political, they hurt like hell to think about– I’ve carried this morbid fascination with the topic since Modern World last year. That’s probably where this got started, learning about World War One and reading All Quiet On The Western Front. WWI was the last of the Romantic wars, trench warfare the disillusionment, the mass murder of innocence and honor. I have a book of WWI poetry sitting on my desk:

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
it is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, ‘They are dead.’ Then add thereto,
‘Yet many a better one has died before.’
Then, scanning all the o’ercrowded mass, should you
perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
it is a spoke. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

–Charles Hamilton Sorley

–and that’s just one poem. This is the consequence of dividing soldiers in war from a bigger political agenda, I think, when even the people know not what they are fighting for. We see this again in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq. Why do we fight?

But that’s a digression– I’d like to focus on the act of war itself, fighting on a battlefield, fighting for your life. Today we hear about PTSD, flashbacks, blackout episodes in veterans, how they are unable to reintegrate into civilization. We don’t hear about that happening after World War Two, it was more of a post-Korea thing. Post-Vietnam thing. Apocalypse Now, Mr. Kurtz and the horror the horror, that was the first Art&Film movie I walked away from shaking and sobbing in fear and distress. Line that up side by side with Paul from All Quiet, the soldier he killed in a trench, and we see a theme. These men aren’t fighting for a greater cause, they’re fighting for their lives. They’re fighting to survive in a situation the Great Civilization dumped them in, and they’re coming out– fast as new cars in an assembly line– disappointed. Disillusioned– the great lie of politics and society, we make it so much more than it actually is, Governor Smoke and President Mirrors. This is the type of hopelessness that spreads, a pervasive undercurrent of thought already worming through the American consciousness, the great distrust in power. Watergate just made it official.

Bringing it back home, I’ve found a similar morbid fascination with Absurdist writings– maybe it’s related, maybe it’s not. All I know is I get the same big swallow in my throat, breathing hard the wrong way down my esophagus so my stomach gets bloated on emptiness. Let’s go. We can’t. Why not? We’re waiting for Godot. Ah! This hilarious sadness for something we’ve blown way out of proportions, we care so deeply for and mourn its lost– it’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. Civilization is a method for bookkeeping, its entire purpose to ordain and streamline modes of interaction between humans, and we’ve let the plaque build up in guise of Romanticism. We’re festering. We’re self-destructing. What the hell, hero, America, you weren’t supposed to let these ideals get out of hand. You weren’t supposed to idly stand by and believe anything with a federal stamp of approval over it. How little we want to care, it’s crass. It’s utterly, completely absurd.

Re: Social Media

Okay, I totally get it when people judge and poke fun at social media: Facebook cuts down actual face-to-face communication, Twitter is for twits, Tumblr’s just plain weird.

Instagram is Twitter for people who can’t read/write (the joke being– Twitter posts have a 140 character-limit).

And then the less mean one: Instagram just makes photos look old, what the hell’s the point.

…The point is, I like photos. I like taking them, composing shots, editing them.

The cliché is that people who use Instagram just post pictures of Starbucks, what they’re eating, selfies, and the sky.

(A cliché that is actually true to a definite percent on a piechart.)

But there are also tons of respectable photographers and photo-editors self-publishing on Instagram.

I like photos a lot.

Instagram is a quick auto-editor, with enough options for filters and blurring etc. that I feel like I have a say in my composition.

Most ridiculous; don’t write me off as a person for using Instagram.

Depression, Angle of

Without even getting into the whole ugly mess of “Asian kids are good at math!” I’m going to say that I recently received a 70% on a Pre-Calculus test. Those that are familiar with PreCalc concepts will know that this:

is an angle of depression. I am neither the hot air balloon nor the bag of money; I am the angle itself, the oft-calculated, exasperated angle of depression fanning out from my initial angle, spreading more and more, but never getting anywhere, because no matter how long the sight line is, the angle is still the same.

Or, in shorter terms, I am angry. As hell.

Hear me out: I’m not looking for consolation, merely a source to vent at. I know that a C won’t break me (even though tests are weighted to measure as 50% of our overall grade, gross), I know that there are ups and downs to everything. Trust me when I say I’m not being a snob about grades. I don’t need anyone to tell me, “But Midori! C’s aren’t failing!” I know that, I know that.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed. Embarrassed because I was pretty damn confident about this test, confident that I knew the concepts well– and then all of a sudden, a goddamn C. It’s humiliating, I think, not so much that I was arrogant, but that I needed to reminder to see my own arrogance. At least Icarus was pure of heart, y’know, sensibility lost in a moment of excitement. I’m just somewhat of a snooty toerag, believing I have something and to screw it up so completely as to get a C.

Okay, yes, I’m blowing it way out of proportion, but the longer I linger on being angry, the more angry I become, and if I’m not angry, I can only be sad, and if I’m sad I only get sadder, so to avoid that I just get angry and more angry and–

So, what really is the purpose of this post? Venting, okay, but also a bonus package deal of moral while you’re here (for just $5.99!). I know this is often said again and again, that you shouldn’t care so much about grades, and honestly, I disagree. But that’s on a case-to-case basis– I personally want to get good grades because for one, I have excellent teachers I feel personally responsible toward, which drives me to work hard in response, and for another, I like to be recognized as good at what others challenge me to do. In the case of this math test, however, let’s take a look at the context:

  • it was one test, worth a lot, sure, but there will be more
  • the teacher does not offer extra credit
  • the teacher does not do test corrections

Given this, even if I do weep and mope about, it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever, and as much as admitting that makes me bitter, there’s nothing I can do but accept it. And move on. What’s the point of staying upset and upsetting others? Just for the sake of my pride? The best I can do is learn where I made a mistake and reprimand myself to never do it again.

So, it’s not don’t care, but also realize that there’s such thing as caring too much, on irrelevant levels. I’d like to claim that I’m over the test, but evidently I’m still bitter enough to write an entire blogpost about it, so I still need to take my own advice. But hey, I’m trying– I can fault me for ultimately failing the test, but I can’t fault me for trying.