What to Expect: Discussions and Book Reviews

Hello!

My last semester in college has now officially started and I am thrilled to be one step away from graduating. Because my workload is pretty heavy this semester my posts may seem sparse but I will not disappear completely.

What to Expect from me by the end of January and in February,

Book Reviews:

“Writers Gone Wild” by Bill Peschel

“Imaginations” by William Carlos Williams

“Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction”

Discussions:

I will be emphasizing on short short stories and fiction for the next few months due to my increasing interest in writing in both styles. If anyone has any suggestions or would like me to tackle a specific topic related to these styles please leave a comment below. I would love to have an online discussion on this topic and involve as many writers as possible.

Thank you to all my followers and regular readers that continue to stick with me and read my work! I am deeply grateful for your attention and dedication.

-Alina

 

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Why I Write: Poetry #1

I want to play around a bit and start up a new series of posts that I plan on continuing into the New Year. I will call this series “Why I Write” and I will talk briefly about the various forms, styles, and interests that I have.

For this one, I want to open up a discussion on the never-ending question as to why people choose to write and/or read poetry. This will be a personal post, in that I will be pulling from my own experiences and background in writing poetry and maybe talk about where I’d like to go in the future.


 

Poetry #1: The Root of the Obsession

I did not get into Poetry until I was about 19 maybe 20 years old which was not that long ago for me. But in the span of the 4-5 years since then I have come a long way. I use to think that Poetry was some high-brow artistic form of writing that I would never be able to understand let alone write regardless of me already being an avid reader and dabbler in writing. This fear is not unknown to people who have been interested in Poetry and it is, in fact, a common trait. It is probably because of the literary history of Poetry and it’s importance to all civilizations in terms of culture and time that contribute to its somewhat intimidating prestige.

I was finally broken into poetry in one of my creative writing courses in 2011. In this course, I read Wittgenstein and Maggie Nelson among many others which finally cracked open the world of poetry and creative writing for me. Since then, I have never been the same and have found myself continually wanting to write and explore literature. In only a couple of years, my interests in literature led me to my routines today. I have read numerous books on writing, poetry, and fiction and have maintained a routine of writing for a minimum of one to two hours every day. What can I say about poetry, about writing?

If you love it, do it.

It’s worth it. I have discovered so much valuable knowledge and have worked hard to gain the experience that I have and hope to have in the future just from my unwavering love for writing poetry. It is the insatiable desire to learn, read, and write more that has led me to where I am now. It is humble times but it is a beginning of a future I hope is successful.

For me, I write because I feel like I need to and I would love to open up a discussion for other writers/bloggers and ask, why do you write? and when did it start to become something serious for you?

Please leave responses in the comments below. If you would like for me to write on a topic related to this let me know.


 

Thank you for reading my work! I hope you will return in the future! 

-Alina

Book Review: Making a Poem by Miller Williams

 

photo source: amazon.com

 

I recently finished reading, Making a Poem: Some Thoughts About Poetry and the People Who Write It by Miller Williams who was a former inaugural poet for the Clinton administration.

This was an interesting read in that Williams looked at writing poetry from angles I had not previously considered such as The Writer and The Editor, The Scientist and The Humanist, and Translate. These are all chapters that begin in the middle to end of the book and discuss relationships between being a writer and the editor, with personal experience from Williams in both positions. The Scientist and The Humanist is a dialogue between Williams and another on the similarities between scientific thinking and the efforts of humanism and particularly how these are mimetic to writing poetry, or what poetry tries to achieve. And lastly, the subject Translate, which is on translating poetry into English or vice versa. Translation being a critical part of the literary world that can often have detrimental effects on the work itself: a beautiful line can be altered into a wobbly ugly thing if a translation fails.

These particular topics were intriguing to me, since I had some inkling of them but have never really read any serious discussion on them. Reading Williams perceptions and responses on these topics helped me gain more insight and information from a reliable source. Overall, I would recommend this book to those interested in reading about writing Poetry in a loose manner. It is not very rigid, and it is definitely not a “how-to” manual but nevertheless, it provides valuable insight into Poetry.

Thank you for reading my work! I hope you will return in the future! 

-Alina

 

Personal Response: Surviving 2017 in the Trump Era

Back in November, I made a brief announcement post that I was planning on writing my personal response to ‘Surviving 2017 in the Trump Era’ and the reoccurring theory that college students are being brainwashed into becoming liberals. This is exactly that.

NOTE: This is my own reflection. I am not assuming a voice for all those opposed to Trump. Anyone has the right to disagree or agree with what I am saying but do realize this is my own personal response. I am not looking for battles or arguments. I think it is beneficial for people to reflect on an entire year like this one, in one form or another to help them gain insight into themselves and the changing world around them. 


 

The results of the election last year were devastating. Not only had Trump won but suddenly the surreal feeling of living in a twilight zone-like reality began. Watching Trump’s inaugural speech on January 20th on TV, the strange and gloomy streets as he paraded in Washington D.C. Suddenly, it felt like something had dramatically changed. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it but now I think I’ve realized what it was that I felt. This was the beginning of a new time, a new block of time that would have to be sectioned off, highlighted, and analytically picked apart day by day in the future. It has been termed an Era: The Era of Trump. I think this term is correct because now it is apparent 2017 is the start of another chapter in U.S. history.

The Women’s March, protests, petitions, and rumors of impeachment have all added to the growing feeling of tension and unrest in the U.S. Two sides were emerging; in support of POTUS and vehemently against. This divide has become stronger and more resolute as news coverage, tweets, and speeches which all contribute to the obvious reality that the POTUS may be extremely irrational and dangerous. There is little room to breathe when his ego is threatened when his words are analyzed and questioned when his behavior is criticized as being inappropriate and extremely insensitive. But the division between pro and anti-Trump supporters is creating unsafe spaces full of animosity and possibly dangerous eruptions.

After the first month, sleepless and admittedly paranoid, it felt like everything suddenly went into full gear. Every week on the news, every day, Trump words and actions have become a horrifying reality show in that his actions have actual repercussions throughout the U.S. and the World. I have come to terms with the fact that now I have to spend the next three years watching this man puff up and prance his way through international relations. That his arrogance now puts Americans at risk and that his agenda, selective and suspicious, is equally threatening to minorities in America. It has become more and more apparent that Trump’s ideologies may be reflecting in his actions as POTUS.But it hasn’t only been Trump’s behavior that has made the first year of this Era disturbing and shocking but its been his reactions to the horrible and tragic events throughout the year including protests, shootings, and hurricane devastation.

Charlottesville was a turning point. The protest turned violent and deadly, the POTUS fumbled and went back and forth on his own response to the events. The ‘Unite the Right’ rally featured white supremacists, who try to camouflage their hate and identity with terms such as ‘white nationalist’, protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. Counter protestors were present and violence quickly ensued. Finally, counter-protestor Heather D. Heyer was killed when a white nationalist plowed his car into the crowd.

Trump’s response was inappropriate and strange. I think his words will be highlighted and remembered forever as he said there was blame “…on many sides.” This did not make sense, it still doesn’t. Suddenly people who do not believe in hate, racism, and bigotry were equated with white supremacists? Both parties were somehow guilty? This is when I think America finally began to understand where the POTUS stood in terms of hate, racism, and bigotry if they hadn’t already clued in with his behavior before the presidency. It was so apparent when his quick on the draw tweets and responses were delayed…possibly for once a response was being thought over by Trump himself before coming out of his mouth.

Personally, I was not surprised by Trump’s response but I was devastated by the violence and death. I have been conducting research since then on white supremacist groups. My findings are horrifying and I am now more aware than ever that America may have to again fight against racism (a never-ending fight) on a publically large-scale level similar to that of the civil rights movements of the 1960’s. (Oftentimes I found that white supremacist groups say they are not racists but just have certain beliefs regarding who should be a recognized citizen, including who should have rights, which for them means only specific people of white European-descent. Their definition of what an ‘American’ is, rests solely on their beliefs of race) Not only have I realized this but as a college student, I have been approached by multiple people who tell me I am being brainwashed to become a liberal.

After some research on this theory, I learned that the infamous Ben Shapiro has written a book on this ‘brainwashed liberal’ concept among many other self-proclaimed conservatives. Ben Shapiro actually came to my University this year and gave a talk, it was highly protested and at the same time, his supporters (fellow students) were large in numbers which is unsettling and disturbing. I recognize now that since this event my campus has felt completely different. I have also noticed how Salt Lake City’s local news appears to have their own biases about events such as this. This is not new and it has become harder and harder to find a reasonably unbiased news source that will tell the truth and report what happened without taking their own spin on stuff. This little theory (liberals are brainwashed) is not new but has been present for a very long time. But this is the first year ever, in the six years I have been a college student that anyone has told me this. Now I am left feeling confused and offended. I have worked my ass off to graduate next spring. I have had to save my own money, pay my own tuition, and just this year take out two small loans so I can graduate. To be told that somehow my education is brainwashing me is humorous and ridiculous.

If being taught that diversity and unity among all peoples regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion (to name a few) is wrong, this belief only tells me that people opposed to a higher education don’t believe that our society can function if it is diverse. I am assuming here that being deemed a ‘brainwashed liberal’ means that I am being brainwashed to believe in equality and rights for everyone; brainwashed to believe it is possible that one day people will be judged on the quality of their character not the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender, or religious or cultural background.

Higher education isn’t available to everyone and is treated as more of a commodity than anything else and I can understand how this commodity can be manipulated to indoctrinate young adults into particular beliefs and ideologies both pro-diversity and against. But it does not makes sense to me that a higher education means I am being brainwashed. If anything I have been taught to read carefully, analyze, extrapolate, and critique everything that is available to me. After all of this, I am encouraged to give my own response, pull from own experience and education, and ultimately think. It should be noted that at my own university there are Ben Shapiro and Trump supporters and possibly even white nationalists. I am never forced to believe anything, I am given the opportunity to choose, as I think most people do. I am taught to think critically. I am also continuously taught to question my own education, including my university. If being brainwashed means to question everything, think critically, and believe in possibility then fine. I would rather be deemed a brainwashed liberal just because I have a higher education than believe everything on the news, believe the words of our POTUS, believe conspiracy theories in circulation and believe in the fear of change. I never proclaimed myself a liberal but have been labeled one from the very beginning. If this is what I am recognized as by those labeling me then so be it.

Also, If having Trump as POTUS is what it takes for the U.S. to wake up and realize we need to address specific issues that have continued to be swept under the rug or falsely believed to be ‘solved’ then so be it. This is the time for change to happen. This is not a time to be silent and pretend that something isn’t already happening in our country. The political turmoil, the continual protests on “both sides”, the issue of sexual harassment, these events are crucial in understanding that right now is not the time to stick our heads in the sand. We must be vocal and supportive and uphold the rights that we have worked so long and so hard to gain as Americans. If a diverse society cannot be, or cannot function, if a belief in rights and equality for all people in this country is not possible then our country would be exactly the same as it was in previous centuries. If it is not possible then why did change happen in the past?

Ultimately with everything that has happened this year and my own personal experiences, I have come to the conclusion that there it is no survival but endurance.

This is already a long post, and if you’ve read this far I want to thank you for your time. It has been difficult trying to put my thoughts into words and try to come to some kind of conclusion. If I do not stop now I could go on for pages about these two topics forever. How I feel now versus at the beginning of the year has changed that’s true but I find myself instilled with even more passion than before. I have more courage now to write.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my writing. I hope you will return in the future.

To my regular readers and loyal followers Thank you so much for your support.

-Alina

Response to Jane Eyre and Discussion on Creating Complex Characters

 

Jane Eyre
photo source: goodreads.com

I recently finished reading for nth time Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte  (first published 1847) I find myself usually rereading this novel every winter out of habit. I love this novel for so many different reasons but the main one being that Jane is smart, witty and stands up for herself which should not be taken lightly. The novel is set in the early to mid 19th century and revolves around the story of Jane Eyre from her youth to adult years. Her life story is full of loneliness, pain, seclusion, and hardship. The main subject of the novel is the love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester, a man about twenty years her senior who hires Jane as a governess for a child he has taken into his home. Besides the love story, a plot which is full of drama and secrets, there are aspects of the novel that really stand out to me.

I am a Writer, obviously, and I do like to write in short fiction. Fiction is a genre that resounds with me on a creative level whenever I may have too many words for just poems. The issue of creating characters that are not one dimensional is one of the elements that I find myself occupied with the most. I have read multiple books with advice on how to create lifelike three-dimensional characters through writing and I found myself amazed (yet again) when reading Bronte’s writing the details and layers that she uses in making Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester so complex. A reoccurring theme in most of the books on fiction writing that I read is that adding complexities to your character (for instance a character that hates liars but in fact lies constantly) is one of the ways in which your character can come to life. A key piece of advice that keeps popping up for me now is also, “Show, don’t tell.” Which is a part of my writing that I have struggled with from the beginning.

How do I show readers through words what my character is like as a person? How do I do this through dialogue, action, and narration without making my writing feel forced?

I know this is not a new question and it is a possibility that whoever reads this post may be dealing with the same obstacles in their own writing. If so, I would love to read some comments on how you, as a writer, try to create complex lifelike characters, what books have you read? what advice have you heard?

As for me, here are a few books that I have read (or am reading) that have been invaluable in my constant learning to write regardless if its fiction, prose, or poetry.

 

 

photo source: amazon.com

Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School

 

 

 

photo source: amazon.com

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

 

 

photo source: amazon.com

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

 

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by [King, Stephen]
photo source: amazon.com
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

 

I am constantly searching for more books about writing, how to write, and study literature. If anyone has any suggestions please leave them in a comment below! If you would like me to respond to a question about writing please also feel free to message me or leave the question in a comment below!

Thank you so much to all my readers (new and old) for taking time out of your day to read my writing! I hope you will return in the future!

-Alina

 

 

 

Reflection/Response: Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice

I have most recently finished Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. These two novels are classics of the western European literary tradition and question social status, class, and gender-related issues of 19th century England. I enjoyed both for different reasons and at the same time had my own complications with the two.

Pride and Prejudice (published 1813)

The characters are vibrant and possess a lot of stubborn vigor when it comes to family and gossip. The socio-cultural habits of middle-class and upper-class (somewhat royalty) families are the main subject of this book revolving around complicated marriages, friendships, and of course the tumultuous romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I enjoyed reading this novel again purely because the dialogue is extremely witty and the plot is full of plenty of drama. My complication, or struggle, with this book is probably the same as anyone else’s Elizabeth and Darcy’s behavior, mainly their stubbornness and arrogance which is sometimes frustrating and painful to read. I love Elizabeth for her honest and straight-forward ‘say-it-like-it-is’ style which I think is refreshing to read and comforting. Overall it is a novel I would read again at any opportunity.

Wuthering Heights (published 1847)

This is a much darker more tragic novel than Pride and Prejudice, it is not a happy romance. Lockwood rents a home from Heathcliff and what results is a long story told to  Lockwood by Nelly, a housekeeper about the complicated history of Heathcliff and Catherine’s love and the generation after. Illness, madness (mental illness), rage, and abuse are consistent throughout. There are mysterious elements in this novel such as ghost stories and apparitions, and I believe this could be considered a Gothic Novel. My complication with this story was the role of Nelly, she is the narrator and ultimately a complete meddler in people’s affairs but she has no family, few friends, and is a life-long servant to the two main households in the story making Nelly, in my opinion, an equally complex character to that of Heathcliff and Catherine. I found this novel interesting and heart-wrenching but I gradually became more curious about the possible inspiration or reasons that Emily Bronte would write such a book. Overall I am impressed by this novel and I have been struggling to think of anything I’ve ever read that could be similar to it that is from the same century.

I wanted to give brief reflections on these two novels, to keep it short and sweet. Usually, I would include a little background info on Emily Bronte and Jane Austen but I am thinking about posting a small summary of the lives of Emily and Charlotte Bronte as well as Jane Austen sometime soon. I am currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte for the nth time (it is one of my all-time favorites) I have no idea how many times I have read this novel but it is incredible and I love it, do expect a reflection/response post to this novel as well!

Thank you for reading my reflections and writing, I hope that you will return in the future! 

-Alina 

 

 

Review: “Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry” by Robert Pinsky

 

image source: amazon.com

Robert Pinsky is a Poet and Writer that provides insight into the mechanisms of poetry in our modern day. “Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry” is one of Pinsky’s books on poetry that provides readers and fellow poets information and a space of reflection when it comes to Poetry in America.

I found this book helpful since I have been recently researching the role of poetry in American Culture, specifically when it comes to a surge of political writing and poetry during tumultuous times. Keeping in mind the protest poets of the past, I wanted to gain a more complex view of the role of poetry in America. What does it mean to write ‘political’ poetry? To write protest poetry? Do these poems last, are they cherished by audiences in another time and country? Or are they encapsulated in their own time and place as relics of specific events and times?

Pinsky’s book answered some of these questions I had although with a more complex response that pulled conversations and philosophical theories from people such as Alexis de Tocqueville . I also kept in mind that this book was published in 2005, not that old but it has been more than a decade since its first release. What is important is that Pinsky dismisses the idea that poetry is only for entertainment and that it does in fact (sometimes inadvertently) reflect the democratic culture of the U.S. at a specific time.

This book was insightful and interesting, a quick read too. I felt like it did a good job at bringing depth to Pinsky’s discussion and his own projects such as Favorite Poems Project. I did think that its purpose was to argue Pinsky’s own argument on the importance and role of poetry in America rather than discussing the ways in which one can write such poetry. I would recommend this book for any Pinsky reader and contemporary poet interested in the subject.

-Alina