First Field Trip as a CW Freshman by Isabella Hansen

On the first Wednesday of the school year, Creative Writing takes a trip to the Asian Art Museum. This being my first field trip as part of the CW community was a bit daunting. It started with me trying to work the terrible evil MUNI machines to try and get a ticket and having to hurry after the rest of CW. But after that, the trip turned out to be quite fun. We were all assigned a writing prompt and spread out around the many exhibits that inhabited the quiet space. One thing that I noticed was how easy it was for everyone to pull out their notebooks and write. I chose an interesting painting and sat down to examine it. Then I started writing. After we all finished with the prompt, we assembled down in the main entrance. A few other freshmen and I took the elevator with someone already in it to get down. One of my fellow freshmen was wearing a SOTA hoodie, so the guy asked us if we went to SOTA. And at that moment, packed into a tiny box, I realized that I go to SOTA for CW, and all the work that I put into my application paid off. And I was very pleased with my younger 8th-grade self for not giving up while writing another poem for the application. The poem I have written while gazing at that painting is one I treasure because it’s what I call my first “official” creative writing poem.

Naked

Their naked bodies glistened with sweat,
Squirming as the hot flames licked their smooth backs.
The putrid stink that flew out of the shell they pressed their ruby-red lips to
Drifted and landed on the shiny colorless beads that adorned their long beetle shell black hair.
A long white shell necklace that hung well past their quaking knees,
Swayed with the slight breeze they lapped up like a dehydrated dog.

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder
But only a lucky few can stare at the two dancing creatures
And dive deeper
Past the scars
Past the hideous smiles
And descend into the lair
Of the kindness that landed the creatures there
Forever dancing with the fire.

Their eyes are flat as stiff paper
From the decades they have spent up
In the red sky of lit flames
Twirling with the embers that never stopped burning
Much like the tiny bit of hatred hidden away in their hearts.
Because even though it was the kindness that tossed them there,
Hatred is what kept them.

Some say it’s a warning,
Gawking at the apparent pain that these creatures exhibited.
Do not be too kind;
Just look at what happened to them,
Cursed with scars and pain
All because of the pity they chose to show.

And now,
The gawkers have passed
Learning to keep their eyes away
In fear that their once long-passed kindness
Can awaken and devour them whole.

.

-Isabella Hansen, Class of 2023

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
and
unfar

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 Poetry Unit by Nadja Goldberg

We are now entering the fourth week of our six week poetry unit. In this unit we have discussed and practiced many aspects of poetry: the traditional forms (sonnets, quatrains, etc.), rhyme schemes, the shape of poems, concrete and abstract imagery, metaphors and similes, and more. Our studies are based on reading The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes, a book that explores many poetic devices and provides a range of examples for each one. Every night, we have a poem prompt due the following class. The prompts are usually related to the area of poetry we were focusing on that day or inspired by a poem we read. For example, after reading “A Blessing” by James Wright, our assignment was to write a poem with the same title. Another time, when we were learning about traditional forms, we were asked to write a poem with a traditional form about a certain mode of vehicular transportation (train, car, boat etc.).

After numerous nights with poem prompts, we did a day of workshopping where each of us brought in three of our favorite poems and received written and verbal feedback from the three members of our workshopping group. I think this practice is what truly strengthens our writing, as it allows us to get helpful criticism from classmates who also have experience with poetry, and it gives us a chance to listen to and appreciate others’ poetry.

I first took interest in poetry when I had to write five to ten poems for my portfolio. At first, that was the part of my portfolio I dreaded, and when I started writing it, I considered it my weakest style of writing. But as I began to study famous poems and write more poems to submit, working intensively to revise them, I realized I was actually enjoying it. Now that we are diving into the art of poetry in Creative Writing and I have several assignments to inspire my own poetry, I cherish the time I have to work on my poem when I get home from school.

After the process of revising a poem, I often like to compare the revised copy to the initial version and notice how much it has evolved. Here is an example:

Before:

Adolescence

At night the park transforms.

The jungle gym
that once invited me
to clamber
to the top
now stands
in its cold, metal
complexity
in which I fear
I will be trapped
A trail pressed in grass
from wandering feet
that trek countless circles
waiting for the right moment
to stop
Stars point through drifting holes
in fraying fog
As the wind
brings a chill
to my skin.

 

After:

At Night the Park Transforms

The jungle gym
invited us to clamber up
vibrant blue, criss-crossed ladder
hook spindly legs around a bar
and dangle
shirts plummeting
pale bellies revealed
faces turned crimson from gathering blood

Despite the heaving effort
put upon upside-down lungs and heads
we laughed

When vigorous rounds of tag
left bodies taken over
by automatic rapid breaths
that inflated and deflated our tiny torsos
we lay in shady splotches
on mounds of damp soil
beneath sun-soaked leaves
coolness extinguishing the flames
on our cheeks

Now
as I press a trail in grass
with wandering feet
the jungle gym stands
daunting
in its cold, metal complexity
in which I fear
I will be trapped

Once refreshing shade
has become eerie moon shadows
trickling toward me

Formerly
friends frolicked on cloudless afternoons
that rolled into exuberant evenings
munching candied fruit and salted nuts
crumbly crackers and crinkled chips

Now
years later
I tread countless circles
at nightfall

My dog follows
with weary paws
drowsy
longing to return home

Though numbness stiffens
each limb of my sleep deprived body
I cannot stop trudging
I’m waiting
for the pound of thoughts to deccelerate
hoping, pleading
I won’t have to lie
when I look into my parents’ faces
their eyebrows sloped with concern
and say
“I’m alright.”

Stars point through drifting holes
in fraying fog
as the wind
brings a chill
to my skin.

Nadja Goldberg, class of 2021

syn·es·the·sia by Arin Vasquez

Written in response to the CW trip to the new SFMOMA

a confusion of the senses. the painting looks like a song called taxi cab, like the sound of metal clinking against teeth, like what I wish I looked like from the inside.

splattered. new. it’s art in its most basic form – as many colors as will fit onto a single canvas, smudged and smeared and blown together and apart, a paintball fight, someone shutting their eyes and relaxing. color is an exceptional thing.

I sometimes meet colors that are anxious, sometimes ones that are angry. I have noticed that colors on their own are never happy. I think, maybe, my brain is trying to tell me something in that confusion, in that sensory experience.

don’t let yourself be alone. you will be so much alone, but never quite happy. that’s what the colors say.
calm, yes, excited. but never joyful.

that comes in patterns, in the way the paint is splattered onto this canvas, in the way my imagination sees joy in one hundred complementary colors that dance together, in the way a hummingbird’s wings sound like the smell of baking brownies.

home lives in color. that’s what entrances me most about art.

in the end, all it is is music on a canvas

all it is is a place to live in brightness

all it is is childhood and paint-smeared fingers and color, color, color

color everywhere.

by Arin Vasquez