By Sarah Yang
The Pulse of a Poem: Why Poetry?
I hated the way my Japanese clumsily dribbled from my mouth. “How has your mother been?” my grandmother asked through the phone. In Japanese that effortlessly lifted through her, my grandmother had asked me a question to which I responded, in my clumsy Japanese, with a “She’s alright.” That was all. The only Japanese that ever left my mouth consisted of one-syllable words. I wanted to honor and keep the neglected Japanese part of me alive in places outside of me, and while I could not speak Japanese fluently, I was fluent in what I lacked. I began to utilize this fluency in poems, gradually filling myself with a sense of fulfillment over reviving the part of me that both terrified and completed me by detailing my grandmother’s wartime stories or the internment of my Japanese ancestors. In this way, I am passionate about utilizing poetry to reconcile with and be kinder to our quieter constituents, such as how I strove to with my Japanese heritage.
In this way, I write poetry to wholeheartedly immerse myself into my passion to engineer a space of “and” —a space where I can authentically exist as a sum of all the parts that constitute me. I write with the promise of being able to boldly and freely live in all my colors — my passions, identities, and quirks—and more valuably, to attain the courage to seek out more. I seek to discover every hue of every day, from its smallest elements to its grandest events, by employing what I would like to call a “kaleidoscope thinking”—continuously searching for vibrancy in an ever-evolving and shifting world—through my poetry. I’m boundlessly optimistic about writing’s innate capacity to defy and redefine, and through my “kaleidoscope thinking,” I aim to navigate how every shard of striking glass aligns to create sense from the mosaic of moments constituting or relevant to my life. Whether it’s about how I pen my grandparents’ skewed love in how “my grandfather coos through the phone, the way an orphaned letter aches for the womb of a word” in my poem “Mother Tongue” to my great-grandmother’s dementia as “every memory sleepwalks across her skin, an ice cream truck dinging in the middle of a desert” in my poem “Ode to my Great-Grandmother’s Dementia,” I utilize poetry as a metaphor for imagining what could be in a world that always is. In a sense, I utilize poetry to perceive the world as a metaphor for the goodness it could be. I’m boundlessly optimistic about poetry’s innate capacity to defy and redefine—for poetry’s capacity to continuously revise itself alongside our own revising as human beings.
My favorite poet Ocean Vuong notes poignantly that the “practice of metaphor is…the practice of compassion.” And I believe that, by extension, that is what poetry is—a practice of compassion. As Vuong observes once again, poetry is where “you have to look deeply and find lasting relationships between things in a disparate world.” Especially in a world that has become ever-divisive due to the pandemic, I believe poetry is necessary in how it requires patience and thoughtfulness—in how it requires you to believe in the potential for yourself, people, and the world to be more than what is. Just like poetry, we also exist only in the plural—in all our possibilities.
As much as poetry has been and continues to be a personalized process for me, I ultimately want to grant others, especially those who find themselves marginalized and underrepresented, the spirit to determine their own “and”— to find empowerment in their self-expression and their own selves, guiding them towards understanding that the narratives they share with the world is necessary and lasting. I am passionate about further establishing poetry as a lineage that we all have the capacity to collectively share and participate in to inherit our most colorful and whole selves. I am consistently aiming to channel my writing into allowing others and myself to reimagine and relearn the world, as well as ourselves, not as what it is, but as what it could be by looking through the indefinable kaleidoscope that is poetry.
A quick after note: poetry could be daunting because it seems so elusive—it is tricky to detect the pulse of a poem. That is why I have attached a handy list of sweetheart poems of mine that always compel me to detect their pulses and keep my fingers there forever.
· “Hide and Seek with Time Machine” by Anna Journey
· “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith
· “Into the Breach” by Ocean Vuong
· “Poem for my mother’s cleaver” by K-Ming Chang
· “Choi Jeong Min” by Franny Choi
· “A Name” by Ada Limón
· “Poem Always Having To Repeat Itself” by Darnell “Deesoul” Carson
By Iris Kim
COVID-19 led to both the shutting down of certain experiences and the opening up of others. During my time in isolation, I felt a renewed sense of appreciation for non-fiction/fictional prose.
The magic that lies within prose is that there’s the freedom to what is written. It’s the presentation of the real or the unreal, the ugly truth or the fantasy world in paragraph form. Many may not be familiar with the term “prose”, but it’s actually one of the most common forms of writing because it follows verbal grammar structure. This is different from poetry, which is constructed by lines or stanzas. Think novel writing...if you enjoy writing in paragraph form, prose is the path for you! During the pandemic, I spent most of my time wallowing and hoping for some kind of escape from reality. Eventually, I realized that I could be spending this strange bubble of time to create works of my own and construct a renewed sense of calm.
Some examples of prose that I have written revolve around my personal experiences within the pandemic, recounting the empty shelves earlier in 2020 and the stress that came with the inability to socialize with others. The restrictions on in-person meetings made me realize my dependence on communication and my desire for feeling the presence of others, the need to be present in the world’s events. I found myself seeking that kind of comfort in my camera roll, re-watching videos of vacations and weekend getaways. Skype is a godsend, but it’s lackluster compared to the weekly drives that my friends and I used to participate in.
These kinds of subjects popped up in the majority of my prose works, as the genre itself serves as a category for my diary entries and pages of ponderings in my room. Prose doesn’t necessarily have to be about oneself, though. It can be about a multitude of other things, such as the history of Sylvia Plath and an extensive review of The Bell Jar, or a story about true lovers destined to fall for the wrong people. A tip for writing prose is to not worry about rhythmic measures and write so that it reads naturally and has a conversational tone.
Here’s part of a diary entry I wrote from May of 2020:
“We met at Peet's Coffee in Cedros. The cashiers took orders at a table they brought outside and dropped a dollop of hand sanitizer onto each of our palms after we paid. A small line of people waited for their drinks, each spot marked with blue masking tape to ensure social distancing. I sewed my mask at home—it’s three layers of fabric (the middle one is felt)—and my friend asked if I had swiped it from a Starbucks barista because the green color matches their aprons. I laughed. And I realized that the only way people could tell if you’re smiling is if your eyes crinkle at the corners.
“The three musketeers were finally reunited, six feet apart and with masks.”
I’m usually not one to write a diary (and when I start one, I pretty much always give up after a few entries), but quarantine inspired me to keep track of my days and what I’ve done in each, regardless of how simple my tasks were. Looking back and reading each of these entries makes me smile because although it had been rough (especially in the beginning), I can see that quarantine has taught me a lot and I’ve definitely grown as a person. Recollections of the past can serve as good baselines for prose works, and I can guarantee that reading about these memories in the future will remind you of how far you’ve come.
In summary of all that has been said, I believe writing prose is great because there’s so much freedom within this genre, as it isn’t limited to a certain flow or structure. My tips for fellow prose writers (and those who may be interested) is to write fluidly, and if you are unsure, read your work out loud to see if it reads well. Got characters? In that case, incorporate different voices to fit each of their personalities, and adjust the flow of your words to match
By Sammy Ismet Merabet
I’m an awfully fidgety person, which makes staying in a seat in front of a computer all day difficult. I try to keep my hands occupied, and that usually means trying to create something. I doodle and sketch in my notes while reading a textbook. I fold and color little shapes on flashcards and arrange them into little mosaics while studying. During lectures, I might knit a few stitches of a scarf, before inevitably having to scrap the whole thing because I completely lost my count and made a huge hole.
By the end of a given day, there’s a good chance that my desk has amassed a huge mess of art projects. Now, let’s be clear, most of them aren’t good, and even less of them are complete. Honestly, a lot of it goes in the trash. Sure, some days I may sit down and try to start a full work of art that I can be proud of and show to other people, but most of the time it’s just the smaller stuff.
That said, I don’t value the smaller stuff any less. In a time as stressful and isolated as being in a global pandemic, I think it can be extremely helpful to really reflect on what creating means to you when divorced from the expectations of other people. For me, there’s a real grounding sense of control that I get when I can create a tactile piece of art, regardless of the size or quality. Even if no one else will get to see it, there’s something comforting in the knowledge that I got to see it, that I was able to turn a feeling (usually boredom, or sadness, or just a ton of restlessness) into something physical. Looking back and seeing every little line or fold or stitch or stroke that I made and recognizing the effort that went into it helps reorientate my perspective.
For a lot of creatives and artists, I think it’s common to get in our own heads at the moment. It feels like we have all this time, so we expect to be able to use it all to create amazing, beautiful, profound art. And while there are plenty of amazing artists who have been able to do just that, it’s also not realistic for plenty of others! Rather than setting expectations so high that they scare us out of making art, it’s important to become comfortable with creating whatever piece of art we happen to create.
Even if you’ve never tried seriously committing to art before, I still recommend using this time to try creating some! Again, it doesn’t need to be particularly big or flashy; if it evolves into that, that’s great! But it’s just as great to start out with smaller steps. Explore the different materials and media you have around you, and see what you can make out of it. Make really ugly things! Make things that make you grimace a bit at much you messed up before crumbling up the paper! No one needs to see it but you, so why not give it a dozen or so shots? Worst case scenario, you can decide it’s not for you, laugh a bit at your attempts, and move onto trying the next thing.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s much better to make a piece of art that isn’t quite up to your highest standards than to make no art at all. In this unsteady time, using art to explore yourself---as an outlet, a distraction, a way to occupy your hands---can be both really satisfying and extremely confidential, so start making things of all shapes, sizes, and qualities!
By Akarshan Shokar
Photography is a medium of artistic expression that allows the creator to capture a moment that can be cherished forever. No doubt that life flies by with the blink of an eye. It is very important for me to capture the moments in my life to look back on. What I love about photography is that it allows you to capture reality, a moment that is taking place in real-time. Photography allows you to find joy in everyday life, encourages you to live adventurously and live a fulfilling life. It enables you to embrace moments and cherish the hectic, chaotic, and randomness of life.
During the pandemic, I have been capturing moments on my phone that I want to remember. I have been capturing a lot of memorable stills from trips to the beach to moments in the home. I can creatively express myself and showcase my unique perspective through images. What is great about photography, especially phone photography is that you can capture any moment and make it meaningful in your everyday lives. You can create meaning to anything -- a sunset from a bedroom window to people on the daily commute. You become the artist of everyday life.
In photography, I don’t have to create anything new but capture what is happening right in front of my eyes. Photography is very convenient with cameras being in everyone’s pockets these days. Anyone can create and capture art with a click of a button. It is like creating a painting with your camera. A beautiful scenery waiting to be captured.
You don’t have to be a professional skilled artist to learn and appreciate photography. You see a majestic sunset, you take a photo of it. You see a father having a moment with his son, You capture it with just a click. All you need to express yourself in photography is emotion, imagination, and your unique eye. What separates artistic photos from ordinary ones is the timing and anticipation of small details of the big moments. The strong emotions are hidden in these small details.
What inspires me is the beauty of this world and people. I like to capture the beautiful sceneries and moments with my friends and family. I don’t use the fancy expensive camera as I believe all you need is your unique vision and a phone camera to creatively express yourself. I also find inspiration through everyone else’s photography. I love seeing submissions to the journal and following great photographers on social media.
I believe the main component in creating great images is lighting. Natural lighting is a great source for capturing nicely lit images. For creating a darker theme, more dimmed lighting is appropriate. To enhance the images even further, I like to use photo editing apps on my phone. You can experiment with exposure, saturation, contrast, and play with filters to create the best images that suit your eye.
Lastly, I want to leave you with a note that never stop capturing the beauty of this world. Always keep exploring, capturing, and creating. Think like a child and you will never lack inspiration.
Images below were taken on an iPhone camera and edited in the VSCO app.