Writing…

The following is a guest post by Douglas Cole, whose short story “Villagers”: appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse.

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I just love the whole process of it. Beginning in emptiness. Wanting nothing. Recording brief flashes in the head, mixing that with some thing in my vicinity, flowing back and forth, slowing down, catching the wave of a memory or something completely imagined or dreamed that arrives like a movie projected into the mind.

Then I let it go. It is what it is. A moment. A snapshot of a moment. The Kaliope fluttering inwit carnival of thought.

And then slow down, go back and read it and in reading it see it again and ask myself, do I want to pursue this? Is there something here I want to work on? Do I have enough pieces? And if so, crawl back inside with new eyes and so add my upper thinking structures, reader-need, what might be called craft (say in fiction, think of plot, dialogue, description, that sort of thing filling out, but mostly stay organic and intuitive).

Some poems are a journey, and a record of a journey, like a scar, and can’t be altered. They may or may not be for others. They may be just for me.

And then, tinkering, as with a mechanical puzzle of word and language structures (especially with poetry, but certainly prose too) and sometimes pushing it as far as it can go to see what it opens, like a dart thrown into the black mystery of the void beyond seeing and hearing and remembering—and trying to connect back to the trance that brought it in the first place, honoring that and then ruthlessly changing it, cutting, reworking and adding to get to what I know, simply know, is right.

And not giving up. Unless I’m supposed to give up and start again.I suppose it resembles a kind of rebirth loaded with karmic weight and weight of self that I have to get around. But that’s all less than, just application—because the whole enterprise is bigger than that. Writing is hooking into the great creative dynamo. It’s freedom and transformation, practice for dying and what comes after. Maybe.

All I know is that it has been my golden thread, and without it, the world would have snuffed me out long ago.

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How Poetry Can Matter to a First-Year Composition Student

Olga Dugan

The following is a guest post by Olga Dugan, PhD, whose poetry appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse.

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To be truly educated is to resist the easy certainties of deeply ingrained and unexamined ideologies of soundbites and clichés in favor of an ongoing pursuit of knowledge, of truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.

–Natasha Trethewey1

The value of one student’s life more than her death made painstakingly clear how poetry could matter to my first-year composition students. A week prior to her untimely demise, the thirty-year old described an experience that clarified for me what Trethewey’s work continues to do for students learning to write. In mixing the generic traditions of poetry and history, Trethewey creates poems of cultural consciousness that prompt student writers to explore the historical roots of their own voices and where their voices can take them in their writing. Presenting the public nature of very private ideas, notions, and experiences, conveying how we are more similar than different, her poems challenge beginning writers to think about themselves as historical beings, and to write from sources of knowledge that include their individual and collective memories. For my student in particular, the study of historical representation in Trethewey’s poetry led to writing in which she recognized her own voice as reader and storyteller of the fuller version of American history that Trethewey aptly insists we all share.

During an office visit, my student’s questions about an upcoming paper gradually intensified to thoughts on what it means to do this thing called ‘living’ and do it well. Our composition class was discussing this topical question raised in Trethewey’s second book of poetry, Bellocq’s Ophelia, the main character of which undergoes a journey of psychological exile that resonated all too well with my student. She admitted to dreading the essay assignment because the book required her to write out of a personal history from which she complained of feeling exiled. She offered no reasons for her sense of loss about where she came from and where she belonged. But acknowledgement alone betrayed her understanding and fear of the interdependence of cultural identity and historical memory pervading Trethewey’s poems which exhort readers to participate in an “ongoing exchange and honest, inclusive remembrance of the past.”2 And given her recognition of this call to active reading and the writing it induces, no wonder the continued heft of my student’s last words to me.

While regretting that she lacked the character’s courage, my student praised Trethewey’s Ophelia for this very act, seeing as hopeful and plausible Ophelia’s final moment of aggregation in which she looks back, sees where she’s been, where she is, then walks away from Storyville and prostitution. My student equated this act with walking away from the marginal places where social, political, cultural, and historical forces greater than ourselves can thrust us, and into a new life, albeit, a life unplanned and uncharted. She ended with a promise to write, ‘not a great paper, but at least one in search of truth.’ Trethewey’s poetry had invited my student to consider what in its historical representation could teach her to remember and examine about her own “presence” and cultural work in the world. Four years later, her presence is remembered, and the work she did during that office visit continues to inspire student writers in their own efforts to live and do it well.

1Natasha Trethewey, “Commencement Address by Natasha Trethewey, 19th Poet Laureate of the United States: June 07, 2014,” Knox College (web), http://www.knox.edu/news/news-archive/knox-college-commencement-2014/ commencement-speaker-natasha-trethewey.

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Olga Dugan is a Philadelphia-based Cave Canem poet. Nominated for a 2018 Best of the Net and 2019 Pushcart Prize, her poems appear in several journals including Typehouse Literary Magazine, Virga Poetry, The Sunlight Press, E-Verse Radio, The Peacock Journal, Origins, Kweli, The Southern Quarterly, Tipton Poetry Journal, Pirene’s Fountain, and Scribble. Olga’s articles on the work of U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey (2012-2014) appear in The North Star, the Journal of African American History and in Emory University’s “Meet the Fellows.”

Notes on Note-Taking

The following is a guest post by Jim Naremore, whose short story “The Bleeder” appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse.

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I’m a compulsive note taker. I think all writers should develop that as a habit. When I get into that wonderful place of creativity, it can feel like I’m a kid again, running through backyards on those never-ending summer evenings, chasing ideas and observations like fireflies, and a trip to get coffee can be like a trip to the Paris flower market for inspiration: a line of dialog, a character, a setting, a mood, a description, whatever. The novel I’m currently wrestling with came from piecing together three of those random single-sentence thoughts I jotted down at different times.

I try to carry around a notebook. I say “try” because Inspiration seems to get bored and gets its jollies by sneaking up on me when it sees I’m unable to write something down easily. Because of this, my notebooks also tend to be stuffed with random bits of paper torn from things or folded bank deposit slips or some such scrap of ephemera, with cryptic messages scribbled in the margins. I’m currently working on three of them, small pocket-sized things. What goes into them is usually no more than a single sentence or a fragment, sometimes just a single word (I run across some really killer words). My novel takes most of the ink, but I have ideas for new short stories and bits of potential poems and even character names scribbled in those notebooks.

Sometimes I’m forced to carry the idea in my head until I can get someplace and do something with it. This is like carrying water in your hands across a busy street. I cannot tell you the number of fantastic ideas I’ve had that I’ve lost. I know I had them. I have no idea at all what they were. In fact, I remember distinctly having the last line for my novel drop from the sky on me one day in the car. It was exquisite, but I have no idea what it was now.

Then there is the note that is now meaningless to me. As an example: written on the bottom corner of a page full of plot outlines and other good thoughts is a small note: “HIT IN THE CHEST WITH A JELLY DOUGHNUT!!!!”

That’s all it says.

I try to go all Sherlock Holmes on it and deduce the meaning by looking at the other notes I wrote around it with the same pen (pens are like flirtations in a crowded bar… they come and they go…), but nothing around it in that blue ink makes it any clearer. It’s got four exclamation marks. Obviously at the moment I wrote it down I thought this was genius. But now, I’ve got nothing.

I cast my mind through the great mental rolodex of characters I have created, searching for one who either would find being hit in the chest with a jelly doughnut to be a moment of great personal transformation or growth… or who at least deserves it. I get nothing. Taken from the other end; who have I written that does doughnuts? Who is the potential lobber of said doughnut? No one comes to mind.

A different angle perhaps? Was I thinking of doing memoir? I do recall being hit in the chest with a tuna sandwich once. Here, I am certain, is the naissance of the note. But a tuna sandwich is not a jelly doughnut. It doesn’t take much postmodern literary criticism and deconstruction to see that the underlying essential artistic gestalt of a jelly doughnut is not that of a tuna sandwich. Its like orangutans and goats.

So, there it sits: the jelly doughnut note. I run across it periodically when I’m going back over my notes, combing for good ideas when I’m stuck or looking for a new direction to take, or just the right line or phrase. I’ve never come to a point where I’ve said: “Eureka! Lay that doughnut upside his chest!” It’s like a needle in a haystack I keep finding, over and over again. Normally I’m pretty possessive of my ideas, most writers are I think but you need someone to be hit with a jelly doughnut? Be my guest.

“I’m nobody… Who are you?”

The following is a guest post by Mahdi Ahmadian, whose poetry appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse

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And each line I breathe I find myself again, as people judge my poem as me and believe the poem is the way inside me, to my head and my being. I confess and I do not want to confess, but I express emotions that are far detached from what I am. As a poet, or better to say a maker, I find myself becoming a non-entity with poetry, with writing, with creating. I often reflect on Things I know but I do not know, subjects, mere things shrouded by the eternity of everyday. It is better to say: “I gush words like a geyser.” However, this geyser, this stream of words, poured on a page of a paper, is the result of accumulation of raw material (boiling words and ideas) inside the maker’s imagination. Making a poem can lead to a state of being that is ahistorical, atemporal, aspatial, and one can feel the inwardness of nature while making. It is this inwardness of the poetry that shapes the poem and Things in it. This gift of writing makes the creator feel redeemed each time the completion of making occurs. However, the urge to make more and make better makes it unbearable as one feels castrated by the inability to make more and better. The maker in poetry is dominated by the language. However, this self-chosen domination leads to recognition and makes the one find his/her own nature and heritage anew, one which lies in the collective unconscious of the ones from yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In the poems published by Typehouse Literary Magazine, the subjects are real, but they are not. Imagination is the essence of these works. Imagination is the gear that turns the wheels of these poems. You can close your eyes and find your being transmuted in different forms and shapes, as though your being is a non-being, and that is what the essence of the making is. You turn to an alien, an outlander, and become the one who can feel the nature of the ones that occupy the space of your imagination. This unconscious process of crafting poetry creates identities and deconstructs them over and over again. Once you find yourself becoming the beggar on the bridge and once the man who died in a car crash in another part of the world, changing roles and forming new masks, or better to say new realities. You leave the boundaries of the flesh and turn to reflect on the experience of the self as the Other— the one you do not know. This representation sutures your being with the supplementing reality inside/outside and merges it with what is essentially beyond perception, what is concealed in an ever enunciatory mode of existence which we call writing, leading to a better understanding of being in the world.

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You can find Mahdi at his Website, or on Instagram or Twitter.

Issue 12 is live!

Featuring:

Fiction by:
Serena Johe, Eric Gier, Douglas Cole, Andriana Minou, Andrew Hamilton, Jim Naremore, Molly DiRago, Rose Wunrow, Philip Dean Brown, Katy Mullins, Ashley N. Melucci, Julia Blake, Hannah Suchor, Jay Vera Summer and Lucas Flatt.

Poetry by :
Ian Kappos, James Croal Jackson, Mahdi Ahmadian, Olga Dugan, David Gilmore, Bridget McDonald and Elspeth Jensen.

Visual Art by:
Zola, Andrea Adams, J. Ray Paradiso, Filo Canseco, Alicia Buster and Daniel Ableev.

 

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