After nearly three weeks of waiting, we finally found out who the winners of the English Department Writing Prizes were today. And by golly, I’m one of them. I won first place for a short story I wrote for my flash fiction class entitled “Lobster Boy,” and the Academy of American Poets Award for a poem I wrote for my Independent Study, “Lightning Words.” And I won cash prizes for both, which is awesome and probably the first time I’ve ever been paid for writing something. I am very excited. (Now I need to get my act together and start submitting to literary magazines.)
With this money, however, comes the expectation that we will read our winning pieces to a group of professors and students at an event held by the department. This is where I get less excited. I’ve actually already read “Lobster Boy” to a group of probably 30 or 40 people (students and professors). We all had to read for our flash fiction class. It was pretty painless, but I am not a fan of doing readings. I used to be in Speech and Debate in high school, so you’d think I’d be better at it, but the thing here is that I have to read pieces I wrote. I could get up and read you something I didn’t read (like a humor piece, like I did for two years in Speech and Debate [I was not a debater]), but reading a piece that I wrote makes me feel so nervous and judged and unworthy. Clearly I must be a decent writer, given that I won some prizes, but I’m nevertheless nervous about it.
The thing about poetry and creative writing, at least to me, is that I write it to be read, not necessarily to be read out loud. If I’m reading it out loud, I’m sure it’s much more awkward than the text on the page is. Does it make it better that in my head I know how things should sound if when I say them they don’t sound like that at all? There are lots of arguments for public readings, and against, and I think I side with the against, at least with my own writing. I know there are plenty of people who are great readers, but I don’t think I’m one of them.
Obviously the only choice is to become a famous writer and get a ton of practice.
Here’s to my future fame!
(Just kidding. I don’t want to be famous. Writing is cool, though.)
Seven months and countless advisor meetings and hours spent in libraries later… and my Senior Independent Study thesis is DONE. FOREVER. DONE. (Except for the oral defense I’ll have to give within the next month or however long, but let’s not talk about that.) You might be wondering why I haven’t blogged about it yet, given that I’ve spent my whole senior year thus far on it. This is a happy place. Relaxing plus thinking about the biggest, most stressful paper ever does not equal happy. But now that it’s done and turned in (as of Friday, actually), I can share some details.
(My school’s colors/tartan and my number–122 out of however many seniors there are. We get buttons with our numbers on them!)
Title: The Poetics of Metaphor: How it Means, Conceptualizes, and Creates
About: I’m an English and Philosophy double major, so I went the route of philosophy of language in order to accommodate both in one project. I wrote on metaphor and its ability to semantically mean. Because metaphor can semantically mean, it is also capable of meaning creation. Further, because poetry is so full of metaphor, poetry is a breeding ground for meaning. I wrote six chapters on that. Simultaneously, I worked on corresponding poetry. The poems all ruminate on the philosophical ideas, but I promise they aren’t as boring as they might sound. There are 44 of them and some of them (I think) are actually pretty decent.
- A designated work space is necessary. We all get carrels in the library and that carrel was the one place I could get a lot done. I tried multiple times to convince myself that I could get things done in my room or in other academic buildings, but these were all lies to myself. A designated work space got me into a zone of efficiency.
- Making lists helps. When it seemed that I had too many tasks ahead of me and the whole thing felt impossible, making lists on post-its helped me to feel as though I was accomplishing something despite the sea of writing still looming ahead.
- Just because you can work for hours and hours doesn’t mean you should. Breaks are necessary for morale and the continuing enjoyment / pretend enjoyment of your project. Attempting to get things done for a relaxing weekend, however, is also a good choice. It’s all about balance.
- It is worth some stress, but not a ton of stress.
- It will never be perfect. Ever.
So this project is the reason I’ve been sparsely blogging and haven’t attempted to publicize the blog at all–no time! But I’ve got some plans now for all the extra time I’ll have. Blogging. Reading. Sewing. Thrifting and then sewing. TV? Internet? Sleep? Food and cooking? Trying to get published. Some of those poems I wrote–maybe someday you’ll read them in a lit mag. WE’LL SEE. The possibilities are endless. Right now I’m being the laziest ever and reading The Blind Assassin. Diggin it.
Can we talk about this guy who wrote a 10,000 page poem?
I learned about it from GalleyCat and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Basically, the guy, David Morice, wrote 100 pages of poetry every day for 100 days to have a 10,000 page poem. And it’s all bound into one giant book, which cannot be easy to read.
It opens with, “On a clear night, you can see for light years. / When you wake up in the morning, /you can read the dawn / and compare it to the dusk. / Today the sky above Iowa City / is cloudy with tiny droplets / gently blowing in the wind / and tapping my laptop with dots. / In front of the University/ Main Library, Gordon sits / on a marble wall, camera / posed to video the beginning / of this poetry marathon.”
I’m pretty dubious about the prospect of marathon writing at all, and I can’t say this is something that really appeals to me. I prefer my poetry more concise. But if you’re interested, you can read all of it here. I did open the first day and try to get through it but… not my cup of tea.
I do, however, admire Mr. Morice’s dedication.