Miss Musings

A modern miss provides commentary on sociological and psychological issues concerning politics, the media, literature, and everyday observances.

My Tumultuous, Blood-Stained Battle with the Omnipresent Cliché

" 09 - ITALY - Verona - Muro di giulietta - lettere a Giulietta - Dino Quinzani

By Dino Quinzani (Flickr: Muro di giulietta) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Leave it to my parents to tell me that I am a good writer; I know my ability. Yet, growing up with a prolific older sister, I did not believe writing was or ever could be my territory. It seemed like an unknown world; it was akin to a sensuous piano of untapped keys that stared at me with white eyes, black pupils…

That is precisely how I wrote. I kid you not. I personified random instruments the same way a lonely romance writer would, but I, a mere 17-year-old lady, never cracked open one of those shirtless male-clad books.

This begs the question: why was my writing so cliché?

I want to blame my more immature pieces on my love of reading. Books make my brain hurt but my senses tingle, so I read a lot of stories when I was younger. This may have been a double-edged sword: I learned how to write well by reading the works of published authors, but I also learned how to copy them down to the sentence structure. I was not a writer; I was an indoctrinated soul.

But as time went on, my diction grew more unique. No longer did I try to sound like Jane Austen. I told myself – hey, Samantha, don’t be Jane. Be you. Be inspired by Jane. Do it. Just WRITE.

When I stopped trying to imitate authors, I found a whole new way to write: by being myself. It is horrible to read the same thing twice, so it is only my hope that people will read my writing and feel enlightened simply because I said something differently than the author they read stories from in their AP Literature class. Through a bit of introspection and practicing completely self-generated writing, I learned the art of being a writer instead of a cliché machine.

It took time. I have edited my writing meticulously, wrote actively, stayed aware of my cliché trap, and attempted to be myself through-and-through while writing, even if I was a bit scared of how a piece would turn out. Then I would remember that there is always editing. But writing? It’s boundless. I would tell myself fine then, be cliché, and then change your words at your will. I fought my inner editor for countless pieces, only to unleash her on some of the most cliché articles and poems I have written. I told myself that writing from every corner of my mind, whether it turned out cliché or otherwise, was okay, because it was the only way my writing would improve. Inner editor (I call her Edna) will spice it up after the words go in my Word document. After a while, she came to visit me less, because I finally grew comfortable with writing as me; I wasn’t so cliché after all.

Quiet the inner editor. Don’t worry about being cliché. If you are cliché, fix the problem after you write something. But the chances are, if you write as yourself, you may create the most original pieces of us all.

How do you fight being cliché? Tweet Miss Musings with your tips!

3 slam poetry performances that I can’t stop thinking about

Some slam poems have made me feel so deeply that I could not ponder on anything other than their meanings, and how certain phrases convey these meanings so acutely.

Here is a selection of a few slam poems that made me think, as well as some commentary and specific parts to look out for. However, these lines and meanings should stand out by themselves.

 

1. “Nearest Exit” by Alex Dang, Brenna Twohy, and Eirean Bradley

 

“You can only tread water for so long… when the plane starts going down you will not want to keep breathing… you were just fooling yourself into thinking you were above gravity.”

I do not dare to state what this poem is about – or any of these poems really – but “Nearest Exit” appears to deal with misconceptions regarding coping with grief. The vocal dynamic created by the trio of speakers, similar to a group reading from Greek and Roman times, brings the morbid nuances and helpless calls for realization of this poem to life.

 

2. “Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers

 

“[She was] deciding how much space she deserves to occupy… I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”… a circular obsession I never wanted, but inheritance is accidental.”

This poem is one of Button Poetry’s most viral videos, at approximately 4 million views. Myers employs the metaphor of food and size to represent the role of women in, what she has experienced, a man’s world, and expresses her anger through helpless observances, whether through apologizing for no reason or observing the oppressive scenario she never asked for. A brilliant social commentary, “Shrinking Women” is bound to be known as a 4th wave feminism literature trademark, albeit digital. Let the number of views speak for itself in this regard.

 

3. “21” by Patrick Roche

 “6 – I wanna be… Spiderman. Or my dad, they’re kind of the same…” 

Since this poem has been featured on Upworthy its views have skyrocketed to over 2 million views in one week. Roche is one of my favorite spoken word poets because he writes such unorthodox poems. The poem has been met with some confused comments due to its complexity, but it brilliantly details the life a boy with an alcoholic father (and presumably mother) by recalling memories from years 21 to 0. Ironically, 21 is the legal drinking age in America, and this age and his father’s death start off the poem.

Other recommendations include OCD, Audio Book, Pine City, and Siri: A Coping Mechanism. These poems contain colorful language, so please view with discretion.

My Strange Addiction: Slam Poetry

When I tell acquaintances that I love watching slam poetry videos on YouTube, I assume they expect me to start busting out Shakespearean sonnets and snapping my fingers oh-so-pretentiously. While this is an amusing image, the more accurate one looks something like this:

Picture me, in pajamas with my frizzy hair and tired eyes, stunned by a poet’s controlled voice and extended metaphors.

I watch the poet’s movements: the hand thrusts, beating claps, and the synchronized stomps… I listen to the perfectly-timed vocal inflections and treat myself to a sorbet of an oratory masterpiece. This is not hyperbole; poetry really is that refreshing.

Now, when I even say the word “poetry,” I am greeted with eyerolls. People must believe I am the epitome of a pesky, Plath-obsessed English teacher. They revert to babbling about the overexposed Frost poem about roads and a yellow wood, or immediately refer to Poe’s Annabel Lee. They might even think my YouTube recommendation of Neil Hilborn’s poem OCD is an assignment I expect a ten page essay out of. Yet it isn’t. But this attitude is still typical.

Look, poetry is anything but homework. It is COOL. REALLY COOL. If you’re someone who has a lot of emotions but does not know how to articulate them, or perhaps you want to relate to people on a more intimate level, slam poetry can and will open doors for you. Is it geeky? Absolutely. Is it useful? Even more so. Ever since I started keeping up with Button Poetry’s uploads on YouTube, my writing has improved as well as my interpretation skills. The way I speak has become more refined, creative, and yes, poetic. My writing has changed in a similar manner; I can now say my metaphors and images are much less cliche than in the past, as I have learned from spoken word to always try to find a new way to explain an old emotion.

Slam poetry even made me more interested in written poetry, and I have since begun researching Sylvia Plath, Kate Chopin, and Adrienne Rich. I found a new love – feminist literature, especially poetry – and continue to investigate not only the meanings of poems, but the intentions of poets.

So go ahead: replace your daily cat video with a piece of slam poetry from YouTube (or just add it to your routine; cats are too cute to eschew from your mornings).

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My secret novel-in-verse

secret

Source: http://www.thecoast.ca/RealityBites/archives/2011/09/29/right-to-know-week-day-3secret-government-meetings

 

I don’t let anyone read poems written by my twelve-year-old self, period. But outside of this minor restriction, I have made a great effort to becoming more open with my writing. I frequently write for a creative writing blog, posting everything from serials to poetry; although I kiss each piece goodbye like a mother would: very reluctantly. Certainly I write prolifically for various publications, and I have even created this blog in order to inspire others and publicly spread some light to those who are trapped in perpetual night.

Let me tell you: I have discovered that sharing words, combined into well-phrased sentences, is vastly liberating. Nonetheless, I still hold certain pieces of writing closer than others; yet here I am, healthily outing one of my creative projects: my unpublished novel-in-verse.

To be candid, some writers physically have to write when they are inspired, lest they internalize a shallow viewpoint. When I witnessed a piece of art, the film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, I shocked myself by not crying. Instead a new feeling of anger, power, and desire to end worldwide hatred helped me discover a new point of interest: researching the holocaust, and in particular, how it is portrayed through myriad art forms.

 

Still from the movie The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Still from the movie The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Source: http://theboyinthestripedpajamasproject.weebly.com/friendship.html

 

I read countless novels, memoirs, poems, articles, and scholastic papers on genocide. I watched The Pianist and listened to Chopin for hours afterwards. But none of these creative activities, however interesting, satisfied me as much as writing, so I decided to generate my own way of coping with a situation I would hopefully never have to endure.

So I wrote lines of poetry as I thought of them. There was no general framework for the piece or any planning. I did not know who would survive the wreckage. Truthfully, I was not even fully set on the names of the characters. I had soaked in so many emotions from the victims, families and portrayers of the holocaust that my only catharsis resulted from writing my own reaction to such a tragic moment in history.

Writing my secret novel-in-verse means I have the power to cope with anything; it means I have the ability to create – to procure instead of destroy feelings. It means I have strength in my mind that allows me to summarize indescribable emotions.

 

How I feel when I write poetry

How I feel when I write poetry. Source: http://www.sodahead.com/entertainment/clap-along-and-post-your-favorite-songs-about-being-happy/question-4221899/

 

Yet, regardless of this skill that I may possess; I have trouble letting anyone read poetry written from a vulnerable place. Perhaps all writers do.

I research what bothers me: my struggles with poets

Cognitive dissonance in action.

Cognitive dissonance in action. Source: http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/cognitive-dissonance-in-psychology-theory-examples-definition.html#lesson

 

The power of psychological disturbance is greater than you may imagine, especially when it is transcribed in the English language. Undoubtedly, we accept what is normal easily, and what isn’t, not so easily. This follows the theory of cognitive dissonance: we remember what sticks out to us, because it is atypical.

When I read books, I aim to read them actively. In doing so, certain words stick out to me. An author’s diction sticks to my throat.

Most of these words and phrases are centered on topics that I have little knowledge of: for example, strained relationships, depression deeper than mere medication can heal, or oppression few people could handle long enough to carry out the plot of a short novel.

I distinctly remember reading the poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath for my literature class. It shook me about in that bothersome literary way. The metaphors of fascism and the holocaust that Plath employed affected me, as I was deeply involved in independent genocide research at the time. Shortly after I finished reading the poem I ordered Plath’s only novel, The Bell Jar, from the library and absorbed its richness page by page. A quick Google search lent me a key fact: the book is semi-autobiographical. Hence, Esther Greenwood’s enigmatic personality must be a reflection of Plath’s, and was written by a primary source. Plath’s unabridged journal collection fell into my hands, as did several medical papers, and I went on researching, intensely and meticulously, this woman who adjusted the definitions of modern-day psychological disorders.

 

Segment of Plath's writing.

Segment of Plath’s writing. Source: http://data2.whicdn.com/images/74477080/thumb.jpg

 

This, along with a quick trip to Target for a caffeine-loaded soda, was my personal-enrichment project weekends ago. Days later I was assigned to read and analyze a feminist novel entitled “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. I was enticed by the romantic, iced-cupcake style of language, but when I bit into it, something tasted sour. Edna committed suicide by drowning.

After reading several pieces by Sylvia Plath, this little event should not have affected me as deeply as it did. But a character I related to, whom I spent one-hundred pages with, intentionally sank in the ocean.

There had to be a deeper meaning.

Thankfully, there was. More than one, actually: Edna’s suicide has been debated by world-renowned scholars, and her purpose has been analyzed from feminist and humanist perspectives. I scanned pages of discussion on this act of defiance, trying to understand why my literary doppelganger decided to sacrifice everything without “thinking of the children.”

Throughout all of this, I had my own “awakening”: what disturbs me prompts my intellectual discovery. The cognitive dissonance created in my mind by wordsmiths, while not original, is influential on me as an inquirer. I Google what bothers me; I learn from the mistakes of characters. They spark movements in my mind.

What is the most disturbing yet thought-provoking thing you have ever read?