I've been writing this post for a week, trying to express what I think Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky is about. How it fits into our life.
And then the news notification start rolling down my screen.
On the 15th of March, 2019, a man entered two New Zealand mosques and killed fifty people. Immediately, and weeks later, New Zealand women who are not muslim donned head scarves in solidarity, from the Prime Minister to reporters reporting on more recent harassments targeting women in headscarves. One such reporter, Samantha Hayes said, ““I’m wearing a headscarf today for her, and for the families and friends of those killed in Christchurch a week ago” (x).
We remember Joe Biden isn't just a pure man nursing a bromance with Obama.
People stuffed on concrete beneath an overpass, held in by barbed wire, like feedlot cattle, because of their pursuit of the American dream.
And so on.
I want to give you an eloquent, deep essay connecting today to Deaf Republic.
But at this point, I think it'd do Kaminsky, and you, a disservice.
So read something.
Try Deaf Republic, an epic poem. Good for both fiction and poetry readers.
You won't regret it, but you'll feel it.
Deaf Republic does that thing.
You know, that ~thing~ New Yorker and Buzzfeed writers keep trying to say when they talk about poetry making a "resurgence in uncertain times."
That thing that leaves you with more questions and images and feelings about the world than when you came to it, slowing cracking the spine.
Power to you. Read something this month. It's national poetry month. Start here.
“You will find me, God / like a dumb pigeon’s beak, I am / pecking / every which way at astonishment”
“silence moves us to speak…
Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,
“Body, they blame you for all the things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body”
About a month ago, I reached a point where I thought my present circumstances were unbearable, and the only way I found to convince myself to push forward was to daydream about the summer. My ideal summer day went something like this: Wake up at dawn. Make coffee. Have coffee on my balcony with my laptop, write for a few hours, have breakfast too. I’d write for this blog, work on my fiction, write the screenplay for that musical I dream of putting up. Then, once the sun would be too hot, I’d pack lunch and bike downtown, to the library. I’d rent all kinds of books. Philosophy. Physics. Psychology. Once I’d be done, I’d bike to a park, where I’d read and have a picnic. As I’d bike back home at the end of the afternoon, I’d stop at the market to get fresh vegetables. Make something I’ve never had before for dinner. Listen to music. Journal a bit. Go to bed early.
I told my friend about my plans. She looked at me thoughtfully and asked: “Why aren’t you living that life now?”
I had reasons. I’m so busy. My balcony’s buried in snow. The sun rises after 7. Fresh vegetables are rare and expensive at this time of the year. I opened my mouth to voice them. Something stopped me. This quote, that I haven’t been able to find attribution for, popped in my mind: “There's no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you'll make time for it.” I could react defensively and list my reasons and play the victim. Or I could open my heart and think.
My friend continued, her voice careful: “Sometimes I think we live like we forget we’re going to die.”
Cue an Existential Crisis, complete with questioning all my life choices, booking appointments with my guidance counsellor and my psychologist, and holding back sobs as I tell my mother on a video call: “What is the rest of my life? 60 years? 50? 5? I don’t know!”
I spoke to some other friends about it. If you’re dealing with stuff, tell your friends about it! Every time I give someone a peek of what’s inside my heart and they don’t go running the other way, I feel a little less lonely. To one of my friends, I wrote:
I don’t want to kill the hunger within me, and idk, I know this all sounds melodramatically existential… I don’t want to live on autopilot. I think living intentionally, mindfully and purposefully all go hand in hand. And the joy that comes from enjoying the small things comes from the same place that the pain of existential questioning comes from: an understanding that life is beautiful, fragile and so so precious.
I’m happy. I derive inordinate amounts of joy from the smallest things. A chord. A patch of blue sky. How broken ice looks. How Freddie Mercury is scatting in Under Pressure and it works. My mother’s gif game. A discussion with a friend. My high-waisted paisley palazzos. Cooking my oats in vanilla oat milk and stirring in almond butter, frozen berries and sunflower and pumpkin seeds (the luxury!!!). The way Julie Andrews sings “when you wake up, wake up!” with all the might in the world. My sister’s reaction when I told her what I said at the student assembly. The house brand ancient grains bread. So many things bring me so much joy, and when I realize that for several years I was seeing life as biding my time, as eating pistachios (you break your teeth trying to open them and they don’t even taste that good), I think I must be the luckiest person alive.
But I can be happy with the small scale and unhappy with the big scale. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, like I told my friend, I think they come from the same place. I’m deeply unhappy about the suffering in the world. I’m deeply unhappy about the state of our planet. I’m deeply unhappy about violence and oppression.
I’m also not sure that my life isn’t heading towards a devastating midlife crisis in 15 years.
In one of my university classes, several years ago, we were learning about midlife crises and one of the students – an older one – asked the lecturer: “Is it possible to avoid having a midlife crisis by being reflective and introspective throughout your life?”
I think the idea is interesting. However, I’m sure that whatever I do, I’ll have a midlife crisis. I mean, look at me. I’m a walking-talking existential crisis. I just don’t want my midlife crisis to destroy my life. My quarter-life crisis destroyed my life. Once is enough. Our time here is finite (that we know of for sure). I don’t know how much I have left and I want to make the most of it.
Change is coming.
When is it not?
Next time, I’ll write about classical music, just like I promised in the collective march love list.
Until then, I hope you get the time to ask yourself questions. About anything.
Gray recently posted some of their thoughts around being nonbinary, transitioning and coming out. To be honest, I loved that post so much that I immediately messaged them to let them know, which is something I tend to have difficulty stopping myself from doing.
I told them about the things I could relate with (I’m nonbinary and I identify as genderfluid) and the things I experienced differently – namely, how I like the state of aspiration that comes with being between selves. Gray suggested I write a response post about the state of aspiration! So, here we are.
In their post, Gray expressed feeling frustrated with the “state of aspiration,” a term coined by Joshua Rothman that Gray reinterpreted in light of identifying as nonbinary. My understanding of this state is that it is the state of changing, rather than the state of having changed. Change is not “complete” as much as we’d like it to be. I guess I live in a constant state of aspiration. I’m always asking questions, changing my mind, redefining myself and my life, re-evaluating my decisions. I think I’d be miserable if it wasn’t the case.
Sometimes I revel in the shape of my body and I accentuate it however I can. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think it’s completely wrong. Sometimes it’s just there, and like, whatever, I guess I need a body, right? But at the end of the day, I like my body. I refuse to be made to feel like my body is wrong.
And if you dislike your body, for whatever reason, if you want to change it, permanently or not, that’s totally ok and valid and worthy of support. But it’s not my situation. I love my body because sometimes I adore it. And yeah, sometimes I think it should be completely different, but those days don’t erase the days I love it. It’s like… will you get rid of your backyard because you can only garden in the summer? No. But if you never garden, then by all means, sell that backyard, my friend.
I mean. It's your backyard. Do what you want with it, it's all cool.
Shitty metaphor aside, this is what I want to say. I am so many people. I am one person, and that person is always the same, but I see it like a container, a person-shaped cauldron, and inside so many people are flowing. And I like that when I am one particular person more than the others I am not completely that person. Because it leaves space for the others to come.
Lately I’m a prickly theatre director, the kind of demanding jerk with big visions, big opinions, big emotions. He wears draping, colourful, dramatic clothes. He gets called “grumpy” a lot, which always confuses him, because he sees the beauty so much. He knows joy and he knows pain and he knows they come from the same place. He sees people not as who they are, but as who they could be, and that’s why he comes across as both overenthusiastic and overdemanding. Anyway. I use “he,” but he’s also loosely based around High School Musical’s Ms. Darbus (what an icon), and sometimes he doesn’t feel like a “he,” either.
Is it weird that I’m talking about a part of myself in the third person? Yeah, totally. I just want to emphasize that it’s a part of myself. It’s not all of myself.
So, what’s the plan? The plan is to live my gender authentically every moment I can and want to. And for me, that gender is the space between selves, and that’s ok, just as someone else’s gender might most decidedly not be in that in-between space. Gender is so… everything. Multidimensional. Vast. There are so many different genders, and then there’s the space between those genders, and that space is genders too. Unless that’s not what you want to call it.
And it’s all ok.
Before I finish this, I just want to say: I think the way we view gender is heavily tinted by our upbringing, how the world tried to fit us in certain categories, how rigid those categories were. In this way, I am conscious that my upbringing was unusual and my parents, very gender nonconforming (especially in the context of 90s-00s rural Canada). When I wrote, in my intro post, that I didn’t care about what pronouns you used to talk about me and that I thought gender was “unclear and illusionary,” I meant it. I’ve taken Intro to Sociology (and other sociology classes) but I still don’t really understand gender, least of all mine.
Writing this was hard, and posting it is scary, so props to Gray for writing the original between selves.
Next time, I will write about the inevitability of death! Yay!
Until then, courage.
i swear my heart twirled in my chest when i read gray’s and nadine’s introductory posts. i feel deeply lucky to rope these brilliant people into this project with me. so with that, thank u.
somehow tho, i have very much resisted writing my own. i suppose this is why i created the sprout club: to make space- and then disappear. i like that i can stand behind a curtain, doing my own lil celebratory dances to my favorite beepboop songs in honor of other people, and no one watches me do so. i like building a world, especially when i can watch others inhibit and interacting with it. i don’t think my presence in that space is all that vital to its existence, but the others' definitely are !
so thank you for being here. thank you for joining the club. you are welcome here, in all your eye-burning brilliance, your awkward weirdness, your messy bedroom floors, and those books you kick under the bed when someone comes over. it’s good to have you. i hope you don’t feel alone here. whoever you are. hiya. make yourself at home.
i call myself m. wilder, because it echoes the name my mama gave me, but fades away. it’s a sound, a gesture towards something, but nothing else. i used to use “mouse,” because i liked the idea that there’s a lion in every mouse, an unassuming creature that can, and probably will, ruin your life with an absurd mix of confidence and quietness. but i think i’m the only one who hears that when i say “mouse,” so,,,, the name's m. wilder. nice to meet you.
i am more or less in my 24th year of living, but look about 15. the most taurus sun, cancer moon you'll meet, but my mars is in aries, so i’m a loyalist who will happily shred your head if you cross whom i love, or if you don’t eat gluten because you think that’s a cute diet. bet. i am a youth librarian by trade, a poet by education. for “fun” i make myself syllabi (snore), do yoga and lift weights (roar), and collect degrees (chores). if you don’t dance at the concert, i will think you are weird.
in other words, my first tattoo will probably be a piece of bread because i can’t eat bread, and i am very sad about it. i associate memories with places, crave public transport, and resent plastic wrapped vegetables. my queen bed is my favorite possession, just ahead of my access to spotify, chai and matcha teas (loose leaf, trash isn’t appreciated in this house), my current journal, and my jackets. i'm in the midst of my masters degree in information sciences.
if you need to know one thing about me, let it be this: i made a list of nonbinary characters in YA books, and the public library i work for posted it across social media. today i noticed a queerphobe trolling this, and in the fit of rage, i impulsively bought a rainbow sweater. behold, my agenda:
everyone is welcome and valid here. everyone good is necessary. pull on a sweater. stay warm. stay soft.
my general goal is to promote movement and creation of content to combat mental and situational adversities, especially when i can back up my thoughts and loves with science or study. i hereby swear to cite my sources. i also work as an advisor and reception artist for the teen editors of Elementia magazine. you can also find my words in or forthcoming from journals and books such as rogue agent, cicada, nyt, desolate country, and letters to a young poet.
in the spirit of gray and nadine, my favorite filter is dramatic, my favorite instagram @the.holistic.psychologist, and i keep Women Who Run With the Wolves beside my bed, tho it veryyyy much irks me that it is gendered. people have said the following about me, and i trust their judgement: "shapeshifter," or "brooding, but not afraid to make connections," or "crying into books about politics is m's brand."
life is weird. let me know what you're thinking about.
in my intro post that i made around a week ago, i wrote a sentence that i was, first, afraid to write, and, then, afraid to publish. the sentence is at then end of the second paragraph of the post and reads, “i use they/them pronouns and (after struggling with my identity for over a year) identify as non-binary.” i kind of antagonized on whether or not i should write those words. yes, i’ve been contemplating this for a year, and yes i do tend to silently consider myself nb, and yes i do modify my appearance in certain ways in order to look androgynous or (more accurately) transmasc (binding, short hair, no shaving, etc). but even though i do all these things and present this way, the actual decision to say that out loud was and is still terrifying to me.
change is always scary for me. i do not look forward to it and when i am force into it i am dragged kicking and screaming. there are many ways that i wish my life was different, but i’ve come to learn that i am very prone to slipping into and remaining in the comfortable and the known. i think most of us are like this. i often find myself thinking well, my life isn’t great, but it could be worse. the fear of the unknown consequences of change scares me more than the changes themselves. what if i make the wrong decision and get stuck somewhere i don’t want to be? somewhere worse than this?
this is the dilemma i face when thinking about my gender identity. i don’t want to say something now and then take it back a year later. my answer to this recently has been what i stated above: present the way i want and don’t talk about it to anyone. i think a lot of us do this. i don’t think there’s anyone who has the “a-ha, i’m trans (or any other identity other than the assumed)” moment and then immediately is able to talk about it (maybe there is, and if you did…respect). i don’t think it’s a long term solution at all, but it’s how i’m treating it, and i don’t know when i’ll be able to tell my family or my childhood best friends that i’m non-binary. i have this vision of myself getting top surgery in five years and just being like “oh idk…just like the way it looks!” when i’m asked about it (this is not a good thing but i am writing about myself and i am not always good).
i read a new yorker article by joshua rothman recently, and in it, he wrote, “it might be easier if our biggest transformations were instantaneous because then we wouldn’t need to live in states of aspiration. certain of who we were, we’d never get stuck between selves.” the article examines decision-making processes and applies them to something i don’t particularly care about (deciding to have children/become a parent), but in it, rothman brings up quite a few good points about how much autonomy we really have over decisions we make, which is exemplified through that quote. to me, right now, as a non-confidant non-binary person, i feel as though i am in a state of aspiration (part of why i was afraid to write that sentence is i thought maybe i am not nb enough (another thing that i think a lot of people feel)). i feel like when i say that, i’m saying, “look! this is who i want to be!” instead of, “look! this is who i am!”
in real life, instant transformations are, of course, impossible. as much as we’d like to believe that we have the agency to be who we want to be, there are always circumstances that make this unreasonable and honestly, it can be dangerous. however, the only way we can know if a decision is the right one is to make it and live the consequences. these possible consequences can become daunting and ultimately scare us off from our goal and from what we had originally been so sure about. now, i’d like you to imagine we don’t live in the real world. the idea of instantaneous changes are so appealing because they get rid of the possibility of being scared off from who you think you are supposed to be. i constantly feel like i am stuck between selves and never quite feel like i’ve become anyone who i thought i’d be. it’s hard to feel like a real person when you’re never quite sure of anything.
maybe, to feel more human, i need to learn to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable and understand (not just know) that life really can’t be lived fully if it’s lived in fear. in paragraph three, i mentioned that i “don’t want to say something now and then take it back a year later.” i don’t think this is the right way to think about these kinds of things, because there’s no way to know if it’s right unless you do it. and if i do change my mind, then whatever. then it gets changed. i don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself, and my mind changing about this shouldn’t negate the experiences of any other non binary person. all of this is so much easier written then felt, though.
i wish i had a definitive conclusion, but i rarely do. it’s so hard to know what is right, to know what is good for you, and to know what is good for everyone else. and once you know, it’s even harder to act on it sometimes. and unfortunately, the only way to move forward in life is to make hard decisions, and live your life the way you think is right for you now, and hopefully will be right for you in the future.
[this post was originally posted on my blog... i think about this one often, lovingly.]
It’s eighty-two degrees and I sit on sun drenched concrete, hot pink book in hand, pebble- small crimson strawberries staining my left hand and right knee. Suddenly, a fluttery brown butterfly wiggles between my thigh and the ground, crouching against my skin. I shriek- being the put together young person i am- and then quiet, carefully shifting to stare at this beautiful thing that has chosen me to rest against. It flutters upwards too quickly, shooting straight into my neck where its wings rustle kisses much too softly against the most intimate sections of my neck. I shriek and wave my arms again- because yes, I am peaceful and one with the universe, experiencing every little girl’s dream of cupping a butterfly, though definitely not in the proper place- and scream the line of poetry I had just read moments ago: the butterfly, “she was floating like a lost brain cell!!!”
The line is all too simple and visual and connotative. Yes. I know who this is. I can use this. Good poetry feels like that: stunningly familiar and sensible, yet so perfectly said that it must be filed away for future reference.
Analicia Sotelo’s Virgin is so: lush, surprising, and yet all too familiar. Sotelo explores the feminine, specifically the bittersweet single girl in all her conflicted, tired-of-your-bullshit, loving, hungry, reliable complexity. The first sections of the book, aptly named TASTE and REVELATION, root themselves in this girl and her perspective. From an emotional distance, she observes those surrounding her from within their midst at summer barbecues or late night kitchens. Here, there is desire for love and satisfaction, intertwined with innocence, hesitation, memory of her Texas home, and personal myth. This is exactly how the entire book is constructed; though we depart from our single girl and travel backwards, we remain rooted within her multi-faceted identity.
Sotelo paints portraits for her reader, embracing lush and surprisingly logical imagery and metaphor. Such metaphors are not simple and there for the poetics. Instead, the metaphors are reflections of the scene in which it stands, to convey not only a person and their feelings and desires, but also to deepen the setting itself. A strong example of this follows, as our single young woman drifts through a summer potluck. Metaphors reflect her resentful boredom, and her desire for true emotional and physical intimacy.
“I’m a radish tonight, for everyone
has been flowering with careful hellos
and it’s made me red and pungent,
made me sick of potluck drinking
under the stars with the weeds, brushing
their blond hair against my ankles, sick
of the clear buttons of sweat on their skin
and their salty arguments about who’s best
(Expiration Date, 11)
All metaphor in Virgin is effortlessly intentional, and stunning.
After observing and interacting with men who can’t quite satisfy, the reader is led down the hallway of doors, first to revisit past traumas, revealing how exactly we arrived in this single female body. Sotelo is thoughtful; she does not write with blame or bitterness. Instead, she gingerly examines all angles, including, yes, toxic men, but also, relational complications-“In this the twenty first century / where men still love girls, but rarely admit it, / and history binds you to your signature” (29)- and emotional unavailability- “the place, like me, had its visitation days” (48). We continue to slowly backwards through time, stumbling home to a childhood with a father drifting in and out of view. Slowly, we understand the first sections from within the lens of the girl’s roots; a girl is a history: “I am my mother’s daughter. / I am not afraid to go back in time” (42).
A girl is a myth.
The concept of virginity is slightly questionable, placing value in a touch or experience which is often so very complex and personal. In one realm, all value is given to the virgin, while in other worlds, “when they said Virgin, they meant Version we’ve left behind” (23). So is this a virgin: A myth? In a sense, yes. The book follows every myth revolving ’round the heart: the myth of who she has been: “People think I’m sweet… look now: my heart // is a fist of barbed wire” (8, 18). The myth of the identity of who she had thought she wanted: “so / many people are tender from the right angle” (8). The myth of unreachable fathers. The urban legends behind artists like Frieda Kahlo. The traditional myths, rooted in Ariadne and Theseus. Virgin is, at its core, a book of myth.
The book closes softly, a reflection of every poem and girl portrayed. It is neither sad, nor joyful. Perhaps we fall within our single girl, weighed down with disappointment, building a sort of beautiful funeral pyre, looking for meaning in the rising smoke.
Her bed is an island,
her dreams are a breakthrough,
each vessel finds the pia mater,
sends her to the beach
to collect their driftwood. Burn it.
This is how I find you.
In short, beautiful. Onto my wishlist it goes. Rarely do I find a book of poetry that so seamlessly connects all of its individual pieces into a complex, reflective narrative. I am impressed, and intrigued by this gorgeous book.
i don’t know what march is like where you are. if you can feel the springtime coming. here (a corner of canada; this is nadine writing) you can’t. it’s cold, it snows, it’s cloudy. the only clue is the lengthening hours of daylight. and yet somehow that’s enough. you can feel it in others, this quiet resilience, a mixture of tiredness and hope. march is ugly. march is thick ice and grey snow, asphalt invisible under the rocks and the dirt, trees still bare, puddles bigger than the street, car wheels that spin loudly on the ice. sidewalks are the enemy, obstacle courses. march is not kind. but march is precious. thirty-one days. one month. march may not look like a gift. but i refuse to see it as anything else. maybe march is a test. maybe march is nature, vulnerable and wild, fragile and fierce, asking us “can you still love me like this?” and i want to be the kind of person who says yes. i want to be the kind of person who loves unconditionally. people, nature, life.
for me, these days, trying to love life unconditionally means two things: appreciating it as it comes and daring to reconsider it completely.
hopefully these favourites of ours will help you do just that. anchor yourself to the present and look to the future with hope. because you know what? there will be more. a month from now, we’ll make a favourites post, and none of us knows what will be in it yet. you’ll have new favourites too. definitely something worth sticking around for.
→ Debussy’s La Mer: Trois esquisses symphoniques: 1. De l’aube à midi sur la mer played by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap Van Zweden (released feb. 22, 2019). listen with closed eyes. you’re on a small fishing boat on the Atlantic Ocean by the coast of France. it’s dawn. the sun rises, the sea awakens. the sunshine reflects on the waves, blinding you at times. everything is saturated, but in a good way. the song ends at noon and you’re still out on the sea, with the sun at its zenith and your compass unwaveringly pointing north.
nadine: this is impressionist music; like the paintings from the same movement, its purpose is to create an impression in the mind of the person who encounters it. in this case, i find the impression startlingly and pleasantly clear. i know 9:16 sounds like a long time, but it’s so worth it. the last minute of this piece is pure euphoria to listen to for me (the chords!!!!). after i heard it the first time, i had to stop everything, remove my headphones and just laugh because who knew there were still such wonderful treasures i’d never heard before? you never know what you don’t know, and if that’s not a reason to stick around, i don’t know what is. finally, two things: (1) if you have time to listen to the entire programme/album, do it! it also features The Rite of Spring, which i actually discussed in my last post. (2) i will be back with a classical music (loosely-used term) piece each month. will probably discuss why i think classical music is beautiful, powerful and relevant in a blog post, but until then, i do hope you enjoyed this at least half as much as i did (and that would already be a lot).
→ Sucker Punch (LP) by Sigrid (released march 8, 2019). listen when you’re out for a walk on a sunny day, or on a cloudy day that you want to make sunnier.
nadine: Sigrid is my favourite newish player on the pop scene! this is her first LP. listen for a quirky voice and production with an upbeat vibe. i recommended the entire LP because LPs are a rare commodity these days, and LPs with many enjoyable songs are always a rare pleasure. if happy pop is not your thing, you may want to skip directly to the last song, Dynamite; otherwise, honestly, these are all straight from pop heaven.
→ Placeholder by Hand Habits (released march 1, 2019)
gray: the new album from meg duffy’s project hand habits is like a breezy spring morning. duffy’s sweet vocal melodies and melt over ephemeral instrumentation and evocative lyrics. let it fade away, in the bathtub with clay on your face (“are you serious?).
→ What Chaos is Imaginary by Girlpool (released february 1, 2019)
gray: i guess this month i’m into sprawling sounds. since the album came out earlier this year, i’ve been captivated by the vagueness of the lyrics and the moments of larger-than-life sounds (“what chaos is imaginary,” “chemical freeze”) mixed with soft, intimate moments (“all blacked out,” “hoax and the shrine”). let the sound surround you until what’s real becomes…well, imaginary.
→ Avalanche by Just Friends, and other songs on the playlist. listen with the lights dim, your body fluid and submissive to the way music asks you to move and groove. alternatively: on a porch watching a spring rain.
m: bonus points, moving on a rainy day. someone asked me recently what music i like and i froze and blurted out “reverb… beats… purple stuff that envelopes you and makes your body loosen up!” juicy songs to do yoga to. music in the background writing papers, yet the same music you can close your eyes in, and lose yourself in the waves. world building music. avalanche does this incredibly well. half through, the bass thrums in your chest, yet water trickles in the background, but all you can hear is a woman’s voice. then, a piano chord. it’s intricate, yet feels so simple and human. dip into it. then, shimmy your shoulders to playful cellos and basses and more in soul alphabet. dip and repeat.
→ Self Control by Frank Ocean and Cavetown and Dissect. listen loud, with that bittersweet ache, and a thought for summer, late at night, on the phone with your best friend.
m: covers are hit and miss. usually, i prefer the original, but sometimes an artist does a song so differently, or so distinctly theirs, that i fall in love (such as Somebody Else by Vérité.) this is true here. frank ocean’s self control is so intimate and distilled, a musical journal. beautiful. i suggest listening to the podcast dissect episode on the song. lyrically and sonically, it is an art, and irreplaceable. when cavetown, a red haired english boy, covered self control, i was skeptical. while very similar to frank ocean’s version, this version is somehow distinctly cavetown’s. listening to the tune, i could believe each version was written by the artist.
→ The Dream Chapter: STAR by TOMORROW X TOGETHER (or txt, for short). listen when you want to feel happy and excited and kinda silly. like afternoons in the summer with your best friends that you'll remember forever
julia: txt is a new group, they have debuted only a couple weeks ago, but I'm completely addicted to their debut EP. they are pretty young, with members ranging from 20 to 17, so their songs are basically about the growing pains of being a teenager. the main single, Crown, talks about a boy who one day wakes up with horns on his head and is afraid he turned into a monster. but then he meets a boy with wings and realizes that he's not alone in being a bit weird and now his horns feel more like a crown. even though i'm way past that age, i still can relate a lot to both feeling inadequate for something i was born with and trying to come to terms with that too the point where i can see the positive side of it. Also the songs are just bops, Cat & Dog is absolutely absurd and hilarious, it always puts a smile on my face.
→ this video of Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson’s acoustic cover of No Tears Left to Cry with violins and cellos for BBC Radio 1 (released dec. 11, 2018). watch at the end of the long day with the quiet conviction that you’ll find a plan.
nadine: i actually love covers, so i was already sold on the idea of combining this duo with one of my favourites 2018 releases, but this exceeded my expectations in every way. i’ve watched this oneit so often by now that now anytime i finish a video on youtube, however unrelated, youtube is like: “now this?” and i’m like: “YES!” i could probably write an essay about this cover/song. or Miley Cyrus. it’s so quiet but it feels so huge.
→ MARINA’s new album trailer (released march 8, 2019).
nadine: i like people who think deeply, creatively and earnestly. Marina, previously known as Marina and the Diamonds, is definitely one of those people. besides, album trailers are a cool concept, and this one doesn’t disappoint. about staying soft and kind, finding beauty, and finding love in the midst of fear.
→ John Green's Cause for Celebration (released november 20, 2018) for when you feel unwell and unhappy.
m: John Green reminds me how much humanness we have lost recently. sometimes i wonder at the human inclination, across culture and age, to dance. humans love to dance. along with this, humans, forever, have celebrated, for the seemingly smallest occurrences. sure, some of this is because people of history actually depended on things like rain to survive. a harder life, for sure, but a more thankful life. i wouldn't mind reclaiming some of this joy, especially in the dead of cold spring.
→ txt’s live performance of Crown
julia: this month has been really all about them for me and I'm simply in love with this choreography. it's so intricate and fun! I have watched it so many times but I'm still not sick of it.
→ Will You by Carrie Fountain, a poem to read on your kitchen counter.
m: this poem uses glitter to confront your wakefulness or apathy.
→ Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
→ Yes She Can: 10 Stories of Hope & Change from Young Female Staffers of the Obama White House compiled by Molly Dillon
m: good for crying into your coffee when you should be working, or googling “credentials to work in the white house, wait a second, who’s the current president?”
→ Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience
m: i picked up my copy of this book today, and i am already stunned and touched. incredibly well written, featuring voices such as elizabeth acevdeo, chen chen, safia elhillo, and ocean vuong. steep in another's world.
→ matcha with vanilla almond milk. pairs best with lust for springtime and planning the present.
→ dirty chai with oat milk. a literal incarnation of the term “bittersweet.”
→ coffee, lots of coffee. currently my fave is a citrus chocolate blend from my friend's own brand. citrus + chocolate, opposites complementing each other instead of fighting, the kind of balance i want for my life.
→ this month was for Existential Questioning with much-deserved capitalization. examples of questions nadine has asked himself/herself/themself include: ♫ what does it mean to be a good person? ♫ why is it important to me to be a good person? ♫ what does it mean to do good in the world? ♫ just as i don’t want to pretend i know what’s best for someone else, can i pretend to know what’s best for the world? ♫ how may i balance altruism and hedonism; how may i contribute to the wellbeing of others while having fun? ♫ what is inner peace? is it attainable? is it a selfish thing to want? do i even really want that? ♫ why do i think i am currently alive as this particular human here? ♫ where does my pain come from? ♫ how much money do i really need, assuming i’ll live to old age? ♫ what motivated the past Big Life Decisions i’ve made? ♫ what pursuit brings me the most happiness, why, and why did i ever give it up? ♫ how can i find more people who don’t make me feel like a freak, who make me feel less alone? ♫ what do i want to do with my “one wild and precious life”?? ♫ what can i do now to start exploring the world more thoroughly? to have more fun? ♫ how may i reframe my feelings to realize that regardless of their degree of normality, they’re normal for me? ♫ how do i become the best friend i can be? ♫ etc. ♫
→ how can i be honest with myself without running away, terrified?
→ club prompts, 3/10/19 ☽ what do you stay for? ♡what is ur church? how do u pray? ☽ spoken word for a wordless song ☽ turn on a song. dance. move the way u need to. capture your thoughts + arising feelings ☽ poems for tarot cards ☽ instant film ♡send us your favorite skies
→ club prompts, 3/5/19 ☽ sink into the point of view of an original character ♡ use a morning routine to create a piece ☽ boat building ☽ what details encapsulates your february? ☽ the horoscope you need to read ☽ erasure ♡a light in the wrong place
what about you? what’s been making you think, lately, “i’m glad i stuck around long enough to discover this?” let us know!
I started reading tarot in the Spring of 2015, which was most definitely a Bad Time in my life – head full of deep, cakey mud that made it almost impossible for any wheels to turn. I stopped not long after. That’s why when people ask me when I started reading tarot, I usually say: December 2016. Because that’s when I really dedicated myself to it as a practice.
One card I never really understood was the Knight of Pentacles. I have a notebook in which I jotted down thoughts regarding each card’s meaning. Most cards have elaborate flow charts and mind maps. The upright Knight of Cups page just read “hard work”… for over a year and a half. Seriously. Two words.
I was fortunate enough to find The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin at my library last summer. In it, Crispin goes through every tarot card and illustrates it through famous artists or artworks, creativity-related anecdotes, etc. Bear in mind that this is most definitely not an introductory book; I would suggest a certain level of familiarity with the cards before reading this (i.e. being able to read each card comfortably with or without notes).
It would not be hyperbolic to say that this author revolutionized my understanding of the Knight of Pentacles. It’s true. Of course, between “hard” and “work”, there wasn’t much to revolutionize, but still.
Crispin relates the Knight of Pentacles to a particular number in The Rite of Spring, I think, or in The Afternoon of a Faun that had been produced a few months prior, I can’t remember. Point is: erotic ballet in the 1910s causing upheavals and controversy.
Jessa Crispin also mentions ballet in the discussion of the Nine of Pentacles, saying that the Nine of Pentacles looks like a ballerina floating onstage, but that, like the case is for the ballerina, a whole lot of hard work went behind it. This is something that helps me understand the use of the erotic ballet metaphor with the Knight of Pentacles. Another thing that helps is the reminder that the Knight of Pentacles is earth (Pentacles) and fire (Knight).
I got the Nicoletta Ceccoli deck in January 2017 and it is one of the two decks I am still using today (the second one being the Circo Tarot by Marisa de la Peña, which I got in August 2018). In that deck, the Knight of Pentacles is portrayed with a discarded heart-shaped sign on the ground on which the words “Hate me” can be read.
I never understood the point of that sign until I read Crispin’s Knight of Pentacles chapter. I feel so moved when I think of the vulnerability in that “Hate me” sign. I think that sometimes we ask for hatred because we’re tired of asking for love and being met with indifference. When we get past this need to claim others’ hatred – the moment I think the card may be portraying – we are ready to dare in the most authentic way possible, not to get reactions, but because that is what we feel in our gut we must do.
We’ll never know what Vaslav Nijinsky was trying to do with his erotic ballet, if he wanted to shock or if he was just going for the frankest form of expression he could imagine. Some people say The Rite of Spring was a publicity stunt, created entirely for its shock value; yet, others disagree. Did Stravinsky, Nijinsky and the others ask themselves “What is the most shocking thing I could make?” or “What is truest to the feeling and the vision I have inside?” Call me idealistic; I like to think it’s BOTH.
Because I’ve felt that way. So huge and electric and intense inside and like nothing I can make will shock others enough to make them understand. I can relate to the need for the high-pitched bassoon tune, for the dissonance, for the confusing rhythms, for the weird melodies. I’ll never know if Igor Stravinsky wrote those elements in his music because there was no way for him to create anything that satisfied him otherwise, or because he just sat down at his desk and thought something like: “Alright, let’s shock these rich Parisians and get me a lot of press attention.” But I like to think there’s an element of honesty in The Rite of Spring, and for the sake of this post – discussing the Knight of Pentacles – let’s say there is.
And so, I sense a duality in the Knight of Pentacles. On one hand, the training, the work, the physical care, repeating exercises over and over, bandaging our feet, showing up, buckling down. On the other hand, daring in the most authentic way possible.
See you in the next one: the inevitability of death.
Until then, I wish you the courage to channel your inner Knight of Pentacles.
hi. i meant to make this post um at least a week ago, but i get distracted easily. i want to introduce myself before i ask you to read anything that i say with authority (this only seems fair). i will first say that i am not good at writing about m-e, but i will struggle and edit and hopefully post a slightly authentic view of myself for you to understand.
first, my name is gray. well, it isn’t but i often feel uncomfortable with and disconnected from my name, so we’re gonna use this for now. i don’t particularly feel strongly about gray as a name, so it’s subject to change at any point. it’s just the only gender neutral nickname i could make from my name without sounding like an old timey fighter pilot (ace lmfaooo). i use they/them pronouns and (after struggling with my identity for over a year) identify as non-binary. i will write about this in another post soon.
i am 22 years old (year of the rat babey) and am a sagittarius, but a november sagittarius. i don’t know what that means. moon in capricorn and rising gemini. i also don’t know what that means. if anyone knows, hit me up on twitter. i don’t really believe in it, but it’s fun. by trade, i am a graphic designer/illustrator and earned by BFA last spring. if anyone needs some gd/illo work, hit me up on twitter. in the (almost) year since i graduated college, i have learned that i am really bad at phone interviews and i’m even worse at writing cover letters. i firmly do not know what i want to do with my life, and it is really funny to me that just two years ago, i was so sure. it’s ok.
i wrote one of these last week that didn’t come out good, and there was a whole paragraph dedicated to lists of my favorite things. it was way to long, so i will try to just give you the true favorite from each category. NOVEL: a little life by hanya yanagihara. BOOK OF POETRY: night sky with exit wounds by ocean vuong (sorry, crush). BAND: parquet courts. SONG: "the book on how to change ii" by hand habits. TWITTER BOT: @sikenpoems. QUOTE: “you do not have to be good.” -mary oliver. i think this worked well.
it might be good to tell you the themes that i often write about and will most likely end up writing about on this blog. heartbreak (duh), family ties, the importance of music, and the nuances around “coming out.” i will write about more than just these four things, but i guess this is just a mini preview of what’s to come.
one last thing that i couldn’t figure out how to fit somewhere else that’s not really important but i’m gonna include it anyway: i live in charlotte, nc. i think this is a good introduction; the bases are now covered. i am happy that i get to play a part in this project, and i look forward to reading your submissions.
until next time.
Do you (or your readers) have any recs for "classic" poets? I'm really into modern poetry but I also love used bookstores, and they don't exactly sell button poetry books. I'd love to know who too look for next time!
Hello, dear reader,
Oooh yes, this is such a good question for many reasons! We tend to spend a lot of time talking about deconstructing, or expanding, the canon, but sometimes canon and older or obscure writers are the only ones we have access to! Also, to be clear, this argument is generally over white washing, rather than poetry not being valuable. In the list below, I have made an effort to include poets of many identities... poets you'll hopefully actually stumble across.
I love used bookstores, and sometimes it’s overwhelming to just set aside an hour to sit on the floor and browse... but you should totally do it sometimes, coffee recommended! It’s also a cute date. Just pick a book, flip to a random page, and see if you like or hate it. Rinse and repeat.
I find that used bookstores often stock poets I’ve never heard of, often local to the location. This is super weird and alienating for my anxious self, but it’s also super fun, especially if you’re traveling and want poetic souvenirs :)
As for recommended poets...
Audre! Lorde! Oh my gosh Yes! Maya Angelou. Set yourself free and sleep with their words under your pillow. Absorb. See also, bell hooks (also a brilliant essayist.) These are feminist women who wrote about living and being. So much love. So powerful.
In high school I had a love for John Keats of the early 1800′s. He’s quite traditional, yet a surprisingly emo nature boy. His work remains accessible, I think. He’s who got me into poetry.
Robert Frost is another standard canon poet who deserves his place. He’s surprising, but so grounded in the real world. In high school I found that I related to a lot of his work, such as "The Hill Wife."
Sylvia Plath for your in-your-feelings confessional poetry.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a Beat poet you might encounter and like. He founded City Lights book store, and he’s a poet-activist-painter. If you ever find the little black and red book Poetry as Insurgent Art, you need to get it. It's a manifesto of power and goodness, and I wish I could wrap myself in it. Alas, it is pocket-sized.
Alan Gingsberg too, I guess, tho I agree with Ocean Vuong in "Notebook Fragments" that if a guy says his favorite poet is Ginsberg, he is probably a douche bag. Ginsberg, in my humble opinion, is the tumbr/twitter e-boy of Beat poetry, Aesthetically™ concerned. That being said, Ginsberg is an ever inspiring powerhouse, someone who draws many into poetry. Just read Howl!
Mary Ruefle is also so lovely. I keep her book Madness, Rack, and Honey in my bag as much as possible. I am so smitten by this woman’s brain. See also, Anne Carson and Mary Oliver.
Wendell Berry is another brilliant mind and writer all around. He writes nonfiction about spirituality, but his poetry is full of wonder and appreciation for nature and the world. I love.
See also: Rumi.
William Blake wrote poetry and art chapbooks in the 1700′s. So beautiful and interesting to study in relation to his included art and the way these works play off one another.
T. S. Eliot wrote a book called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and I wish I had kept my ugly orange copy. It’s an absurd illustrated poem book about cats, straight up. It inspired the musical Cats, which may or may not put a damper to things, but it’s an amusing, weird book you should try out, especially if you love cats.
Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Study them.
And I can't escape this post without mentioning e.e. cummings and Rainer Maria Rilke. People love him. Give his work a whirl.
Other women you should know include Joyce Carol Oates, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Patricia Smith.
If you come across an anthology, you’ve struck gold. Anthologies are really lovely ways to access many poets at once, and get a feel for a themes or identities. I especially suggest anthologies for poets of color. They're so good and varied, and you will learn so much.
I also suggest subscribing to poem-a-day, an email that contains a poem and an audio recording every single day! While it may be hit or miss, as each month has a different curator, I often discover my favorite poems through here. And it’s free ^.^
Let me know if you have recommendations, or opinions.
Enjoy reading, namaste,
ps. Use your local library, and inquire if the system is part of an Interlibrary Loan system, to access books that may not be a part of the local collection.
the sprout club
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