Poetry is…

[Results of a freewriting exercise from The Aspiring Poet’s Journal]

poetry is the excavation and the expanse

poetry is an arm that stretches back and inward

to emptiness or elsewhere

poetry is a blackbird’s wing, inky and slight

poetry is my unhinged jaw fluttering

poetry is veils of meaning

poetry is magical thinking

poetry is the vise that cleaves

the cork from my throat

poetry is dried blood on the old wound

poetry is passage

We Don’t Know What “Normal” Is

I, like many others, suffer from anxiety. Often, it is just a generalized buzzing, a pervasive feeling of dread, this excess negative energy. Other times it is acute, sharp, and dangerous-feeling. These are panic attacks. To me, these feel way worse than the generalized anxiety, which typically starts in my head and stays there. Panic, on the other hand, hijacks my body. My heartbeat feels impossibly fast, my throat feels like it’s closing, my vision narrows and darkens. My chest feels constricted. Sometimes, I can’t feel my hands. I can feel myself spinning out of control. In those moments, I feel horribly damaged. Broken. Like there is something really wrong with me.

I haven’t really found a great solution for the panic attacks. For me, the best plan of action has been to avoid situations that tend to lead to panic attacks. But, once I’m in the middle of one, the only thing to do is ride it out, pray to a god that I don’t really believe in, repeat some positive affirmations that I don’t really believe in, lie through my teeth and tell myself that I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay. Eventually, it passes.

Afterward, I still feel shaky and weak. It’s like I’ve seen a part of myself and I can’t go back.  I’ve seen myself for who I really am: frail and fragile and struggling to keep it together, and usually failing. I don’t always see myself this way, but there’s something about the aftermath of a panic attack that makes me feel vulnerable and flawed. This feeling can last for days or weeks. I feel depressed and, ultimately, anxious again.

That’s when I try to remind myself that I don’t know what normal is. Not really. Have I ever been normal? How would I know? So, what am I striving for? Most of the time, I tell myself that I should be different or how I shouldn’t have this problem. I compare myself to some imaginary person who has all their shit together. Deep down I know it’s a fiction: to think you know about someone else’s interior life. We don’t know what normal is. All we have is our own lived experience. Start from there. All those shoulds and should’nts just end up giving you an inferiority complex.

NaNoWriMo 2019 Updates

Hello!! It’s almost that time of year again, that most wonderful time, National Novel Writing Month (AKA November). It’s always a highlight of my year, and a wonderful reminder to keep creating, because our stories matter.

This year will be a little different for me because I’m taking on the role of Municipal Liason for the Skagit Valley region. (Whether that new role will help or hinder my word count remains to be seen.) Regardless, I’m looking forward to getting to know fellow writers in the region and helping them tackle their novels.

I haven’t formally decided on what I’ll be writing this November, but that’s what October is for. Preptober, as it’s often called for NaNo purposes, is all about setting yourself up for success in November. For me, it involves two main areas:

  1. Novel prep: Brainstorming, planning, and outlining, as much or as little as desired
  2. Life prep: Planning everything outside the novel to carve out as much time as possible for writing in November!

Since I’ve seen a ton of resources online for novel prep, I’m going to focus more on the second point. For me, this usually involves meal planning and prep, event planning for big events (for Thanksgiving and my daughter’s birthday, as well as ML-hosted NaNo events), general housekeeping, and self-care. It also involves coordinating with other people (partners, writing group, babysitters, etc.) to create a team to help support you during November.

I plan to post more on these topics during the weeks of October as I’m going through the process myself. Happy prepping!

First Poem for James Wright

I went to your river

and marveled

at its lonesomeness,

that wildness reflected in

the bingo halls, the Wheeling factories

all empty now.

I looked for your grave

and wished for words.

I thought I heard

something. But it was just

that dirty river, moving past,

keeping its own secrets,

like the dead. I wonder about

my own wasted life.

What can I say to you?

I’ve loved you like no one

else since I first heard

your voice, one dark wing.

Ever since, I’ve searched for you

in truck stops and back alleys,

the polluted waterways of America.

Did you ever really leave Ohio?

When you return, will you find

the same thing as I?