A Picture’s Worth a Word or Two

I’m not going to lie; lately my creative gas tank is running on empty (see what I mean?). I can come up with ideas for other people, but when it comes to my artistic needs I am Romeo sans Juliet, bread without a toaster. So, in true Alexa fashion, I decided to choose a photograph and write an on-the-spot poem. Let’s hope it doesn’t, well, suck. I shot the photo below at a beach on Staten Island.

Gull by Alexa L., written today, at this exact moment

blue like bruises,
watches me.

Perched and patient
I feel the stare,
point my beak downward
then up to the sky,
blue like cotton candy
sticking, then covering
cloud fingers.

Water, jealous,
calms quiet.
Poles jut to
ugly thrones
and I sit,

Note: I started classes this week and I adore them. I’m taking three, which is considered a lot for a graduate semester, but I feel comfortable with my choices, all focused on magazine publishing and writing. Wish me luck!

Tired is Just a State of Mind…or How to Sound Exhausted

Today (or I suppose yesterday) I truly felt like posting another song video, despite the fact I might be losing my voice from cheering at my softball game against Harvard University Press (We lost by one point. Sad.). So though I might sound tired (and I have a roomie I don’t want to bug with too much soul), here’s a new one from an inspirational lunch idea from a couple months ago. A toast to inspiration. Enjoy!


by Alexa L., written April 21, 2010

I had a feeling that you could not let her go
That what we had was not enough to tell her “no,
this isn’t right, when you call me late at night,”
You’re the reason that we’re fighting, fighting, fighting for our life.

Tears tumble down the little curves upon my cheeks
You shower me with love, then beg me not to speak
about the lies, about the moans and then the sighs
You’re the reason that I’m crying, crying, crying “not tonight”

Why do you hurt me so
Why do you hurt me
Why can’t you let me go
Why can’t you let me

You know she’s drunk, she bites the bottom of your lip
The smell of cigarettes, your hands upon her hips
And I’ll be fine, you go and blame it on the wine
But she’s the reason that you’re lying, lying, lying all the time. 

Why do you hurt me so
Why do you hurt me
Why can’t you let me go
Why can’t you let me

How to Fall in Love When You’re Seven

The end can be the best beginning. 

I am my finished product, the final brush stroke, the final chord. You look at the last page of a book and wonder, how did she end up here? You are dazzled at my ability to survive the jungles, the swamp with rats that are much too big, the labyrinths, the space stations. She marries him? But why? So you start the book over until you find your way to that last line. To the end of me. To the end of everything.

And they lived happily ever after…I do…Here’s lookin’ at you, babycakes.

So the inspirational lunch duo has done it again. Amanda J. gave me a gem of a last line—”with a pair of scissors”—and I attempted to give her a gem of a poem in return. So below is the result of too much down time at work and a whole lot of childish thinking.

Arts and Crafts by Alexa L., written July 26, 2010

Our love is elementary school
I am the macaroni, the glue
He, the card
I color him in
Cerulean and Jungle Green
outlines in Antique Brass and Gold
hearts and stars
paper-lace borders
your secret admirer
p.s. I really really like you

and watch

as he cuts my words 
with a pair of scissors.

The end.

Color Me Poetic

During undergraduate, and a little bit after, I worked at my university’s writing center. While we, the tutors, all shared similar goals of helping students ultimately receive an A on their paper (we crossed our fingers we didn’t give them bad advice), our tutoring styles differed both blatantly and drastically. Sometimes you couldn’t help but laugh at yourself as you tried to explain to someone how to use a semicolon. I mean, I barely know how to use it; that is, I sort of get the gist. I try. I ponder about it. I dream about semicolons like they’re a lost lover or a movie villain.

SEMICOLON: Unguard! You are no match for me. I will split your sentence in half.
ME: Oh, no, please, not my sentence!
SEMICOLON: Oh yes, my pretty. I’ll rip your conjunction out from under you. You’ll be helpless.
We fight, his sword slashing at my innocent words and glinting with each pass. He wins. I fall to the floor, my “and” left convulsing on the pavement.
End scene.

Anyway, my point is in the advice. I tried to give students  tips that I would have understood when I first started out with all this writing…stuff. My favorite advice was this: write what you know, what you interact with daily. I know it’s amazingly cheesy, predictable even, but it’s true.

The on-the-spot poem below is about colors. This is because I’m writing what I know, using a familiarity with my inspiration source as a guide; in this case, my friend Amanda S.’ first blog post from her brand new Worldwide Investigation: Amanda at Large.

I am green, red, blue
for you
in envy,
and sorrow
I am silver, gold
your moon, your sun
your yesterday,
your tomorrow.

Zee end.

Poem-spiration or How to Make Something Out of Something

I mentioned inspirational lunches in a previous post. This is the result of a particular lunch with Amanda, where she gave me the first line of the poem below. Because of the summer, we haven’t been meeting as much, but I wanted to wait until we exchanged the poems before I posted mine. So here it is. Enjoy. 

First Line Poem by Alexa L.
written April 25, 2010 

When the winter comes, these things happen…
My coat hangs off my shoulders, then the floor.
My hair is bobby-pinned tight to my head.
A hat then shields my eyes from seeing more.

My legs feel heavier, snow-covered and tired.
My feet make size-8 imprints in the snow
The wind whips at my face, then at my fingers
Because the scarf I have can’t stand the blow

Gloves hug my hands and hide my sweaty palms
a consequence of hot against the cold
I shake the snow from off my boots and shiver
and realize the walk home is getting old.

I wake up every morning to the sunlight
aware of what the temperature will be
but still I hesitantly touch the window
and pray for warmer weather, just for me.

Eat, Meditate, Speak Italian

So I finished reading Eat, Pray, Love

but before I share my point of view on Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual/travel memoir of her journey to find pleasure, devotion, and balance on a trip overseas, I want you to be aware of the vast array of opinions circling this particular text: 
“If a more likable writer than Gilbert is currently in print, I haven’t found him or her,” Jennifer Egan of the New York Times Book Review wrote in a portion of her review. She later continues: “Gilbert’s prose is fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible, and makes the reader only too glad to join the posse of friends and devotees who have the pleasure of listening in.”
I’ll admit, many of my friends are riding the Gilbert boat all the way to Indonesia. They admire her. They find connection and a sense of “I’ve been there,” much as Gilbert states in her book. While some of my friends loved it, some actually said, read Committed. It is so much better.

A reviewer at Booklist said (in part), “there is never a whiny or pious or dull moment because Gilbert is irreverent, hilarious, zestful, courageous, intelligent, and in masterful command of her sparkling prose.”

But I spoke to a woman today, a stranger, who told me as she raised her spectacles, “Honestly, I just couldn’t get over how whiny she was.”  
Already two different readers disagree, but this seems to be a direct representation of how people feel about the book in general. They’re split. 

So what do I think, then?

In Italy, Gilbert ate everything and talked to everyone. She told us, as if she knew us, why she divorced her husband and how she cried and how she missed her husband; then after the divorce, how she missed her boyfriend, David. She suffers. She suffers. She suffers. Then she eats some more and learns Italian, which she adores. This is Italy.
In India, she prays and meditates and suffers. She talks about meditation and Gurus and love for God. She can’t find a mantra that helps her meditate. Then she finds it. Then she meditates and then there was something about the color blue. She is quiet, then she isn’t. She isn’t at peace and then she sort of is.  
In Indonesia, more specifically, in Bali, she doesn’t suffer as much anymore. She befriends a medicine man, a healer, and a smokin’ hot older Brazilian man named Felipe (among others). Then, finally, she has sex again. 
It’s not that I didn’t like the book, no sirree; I just didn’t love the book. If someone asks me if I like it, I tell them that it was OK. I tell them her prose was too conversational for me. That India was a difficult section to get through. I tell them the section on Italy felt like an infomercial, with constant repetition of how beautiful the language was and guidebook-esque descriptions of the city of Rome and its people. And yes, Gilbert complains or whines or whatever the term you choose to use for dealing with suffering and guilt and depression. She is dealing. But at one point or another you just want to shout to the book, “Hey, we get it already, Liz. You’re in pain and we wish it wasn’t that way. But could you just stop talking about it all the time?” And note, if you aren’t into meditation, religion, the concept of God, or yoga, or of any mindset related to those spiritual practices, then you might want to rethink reading Eat, Pray, Love.

But the book wasn’t all just OK. The third section, Gilbert’s trek to Indonesia, is what makes this book worth reading. With characters like Ketut Liyer, Wayan, Felipe, Mario, Tutti, and Yudhi and the little bits of Sanskrit, Italian, and Indonesian thrown in, Eat, Pray, Love comes alive with a colorful story of a country that had been ruined by war, but had grown a heart and a sense of individuality incomparable to anywhere else in the world. And more, this book is inspirational. It screams, “You know you want to eat what I’m eating. You wish you knew Italian like I do. You can’t even imagine what it’s like to see a real Ashram. You think your baby has no teeth? Well you should see this guy in Bali!” And I know I said certain people would probably not enjoy this book*, but there exists a terribly large amount of people who would, those people who have been Liz, have been divorced, have lost their way, and who never want to feel that hurt again.  

*If you didn’t quite get if I’d actually recommend this book, I would. Just not to some people. And plus, the movie looks like it’ll be splendid (comes out August 13, 2010).

Kiss This Goodbye…or Too Many Titles, Too Little Relevance

Lord! I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing.”
Jonathan Swift 
After over a month of blog post titles based on the name I chose for my blog, I believe it is time for a much-needed change.  No more kissing.
In journalism your headline must be concise, so in your news reporting course you’d practice writing 20-word headlines until you got the hang of cutting down for clarity. In poetry class, you had to learn form before you could learn how to break out of it. For me, the idea of keeping themed headers was not just to be consistent with Punctuate with a Kiss, but to create a starting point for future posts. So the following is a list of blog titles I never used, but came up with in the hopes I’d use them later (which technically, I’m doing right now). And the funniest part is this: I came up with most of these as soon as I created this blog and I used almost none of them.
  • Kiss the Hand that Feeds You
  • True Love’s Kiss*
  • Kiss Me, You Fool*
  • Kissed the Girls and Made them cry*
  • Kiss kiss bang bang*
  • Kiss the Girl
  • A Kiss Before You Go
  • Kiss me
  • Little Kisses
  • The Big Kiss
  • The Long Kiss
  • Kisses to Kisses, Dust to Dust
  • A kiss before dying  
  • Kiss from a rose*
  • Kiss til the cows come home 
  • Farewell kiss 
  • A kiss is just a kiss 
  • Eskimo Kisses
  • Butterfly kisses*
  • Blow a Kiss
  • Kiss off
  • Making Out
  • A Peck on the Cheek
  • Kiss under the stars 
  • Kissology 101
  • Missed me, missed me, now you got to kiss me
  • Kiss my Ass
  • Kiss and Make Up*
  • Kiss and Run
  • Cold Kisses
  • Chocolate Kisses
  • XOXO
*My favorites. 
Note: My friend Dave helped me write some of these.
Note: Mine are still better.
Now on to the main event.

Fairy Kisses and Nonsense…or My Attempt at Writing for Children, Part III

The third and final part of what I’ve written so far. I’ll be updating this particular tale less frequently, but I do intend on writing more of the story as soon as I find the inspiration. 
Once Upon a Raindrop, Part III
     Had I fallen asleep? The room quieted for a moment and I listened for the clack of my aunt’s heels on the hardwood. 
     “It’ll be all right.” The voice, gruff but friendly, continued. “I’m here for you.” 
     Toby loomed over me, but he was smiling, his fish-hook mouth curved upward. I hugged his leg and bathed in his fur, momentarily comforted. 
     “Maggie?” He whispered this, and then patted my head with his oversized paw. “Your mother gave me to you for a reason. She said when you could understand them, it was time to go. I need to help you go.” 
     Confused, I looked into his button eyes and saw myself crying. I missed my mother, I could fit in a mouse hole, and my aunt was coming home any minute. 
     “Just close your eyes, Maggie. Close your eyes and sing your song and go there. Go to your better place.” 
     I did as told; then opened my eyes once more. I looked up at Toby. 
     “It didn’t work.” 
     “Of course it didn’t. You need to believe a better place exists before you can get to it.” 
     Clack. Clack. Clack. 
     Toby picked me up and I stood in a field of fur. “Hurry,” he pleaded. “She’s coming!” 
     I closed my eyes again so that my lids felt like they were burning into my cheeks. I pictured a place with green, green fields of grass, golden sunlight, and houses shaped from flowers. Clack. A dark forest surrounded the bright place. Clack. An evil queen. Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack. 
      The noise stopped; the sounds of my aunt’s high heels faded into the sounds of chirping birds and running water. 
     I kept my eyes closed for what seemed like hours. I could almost feel Aunt Rue stick her heel in my foot and dig, laughing as she did it; but there were no heels, and the smell of my aunt—like sour milk and bonbons—was replaced by the scent of flowers and fresh-cut grass. It was when I opened my eyes I noticed my outfit, unlike my dream, remained unchanged; my wings, nonexistent. I had only moments ago been fairy-like. Now I donned only jean shorts and a blue T-shirt, running shoes, and a ponytail. I cried then, not because I could not fly, but because my better place did not mean a better me. 
     I grew tired of sitting. I rose up and turned, enchanted by the workings of my imagination. I had landed on a small grassy patch, surrounded. Forest was on all sides of me, with arrows pointing in the cardinal directions at the patch’s center. There was writing on each wooden arrow, with a symbol of some sort etched in the point—to the north, a flower; to the south, a faded crown; to the west, a mountain; to the east, a fish. The continued sound of running water relaxed me as I made my choice. I headed south in search of royalty. 
     The forest’s canopy started to fold into itself the farther I walked into the forest. Darkness—like attic darkness— began to shroud me and the trees, too; a breeze whispered through my hair, “Little girl.”

A Kiss of Inspiration or Things to Do When You’re Hungry

So my friend Amanda and I have started attending these inspirational lunches. When I say attend, what I mean is that we bring our lunches out to the Common and read to each other. We bring old poetry and new. I sing to her. Another friend tells us the story of an aggressive duck through interpretive dance. We laugh. I smile. We come up with “assignments.”

Ideas for inspirational lunch members or lunchers, as I will call them for now:

  • Make up a line of poetry for a luncher; they then have to use it as the first line in their poem
  • Write a response poem or song to an original piece from a fellow luncher.
  • Pick a form or type of poetry and bring in a new piece the following week in that form.
  • Make a list of subjects you’ve never written about, but wanted to; then write a poem using the top three topics.
  • Pick a favorite poem (original or famous) and rewrite it.
  • Pick a poem from childhood and rewrite it.
  • Write a poem about a dream.
  • Pick a color and try to express that color in a poem without using the color itself.
  • Write a slam poem.
  • Write a haiku, then create a longer poem from that same haiku.
  • Use a photograph for inspiration.
  • Open a dictionary and flip through it, choosing ten words at random. Use those ten words in a poem.
  • Give a luncher a controversial topic to write about.
  • Pick a news story and write a poem inspired by the headline (or use the headline as a first line).

There are hundreds, nay, thousands of ideas out there. Probably infinite, though in calculus I usually ended up approaching zero (no matter how  hard I tried for the alternative). But the ideas for ideas are not really the point of these lunches. These lunches are meant to keep us writing, to snap us out of the creative funk we’re facing in the wake of finals and futures. If Amanda is anything like me, she needs to write to stay grounded. I outsource my stresses to my song lyrics. They keep me sane. And when the lyrics stop flowing, when the creative well has dried up, all that’s left is a publishing student with an empty journal and an empty heart. Just recently, I was able to transfer files from an old laptop onto my new one. What I realized in this transfer is that I was a firecracker with words when I was 11, but now? I lack opinion. I lack stance. These inspirational lunches are my way back to finding my voice, to finding me

Write on.