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.

Be Kind, Revise…or the Importance of an Imaginary Knife

You rewrite your poem, perhaps because you are forced to; or maybe you feel it just doesn’t sound right. But there is always something that can be changed, a “the” that can be removed for the sake of punch. So the poetry below was the product of both a class assignment and a forced rewrite. A Sleepwalk required specific elements, such as a utilization of the five senses and a line in a language not your own. Deep-Sea Denial is, of course, the chopped version, cut and sliced with the hopes I’d bared a little bit of me by shedding the unnecessary skin of wordiness, of too much. I hope you enjoy both of them.    
A Sleepwalk, written January 25, 2007
by Alexa L.
The blue glow, it guided me forward— 
a lighthouse glow that let me wake 
beyond the waves of carpet, 
and my feet were sinking. 
My feet were afraid 
of the carved notches in the floorboards— 
diamonds that would never shine— 
the rough sandpaper couch beneath my fingertips, 
and the absence of sheets rustling in my grandma’s bed. 
I heard the clock tick and thought of the blue light 
and how the Atlantic seemed so small now. 
But my feet were brave, 
not freaked out by the shadows beneath 
because if you curl your toes, you fall in. 
The cool water of forget is like drowning. 
The smell of grandma’s baked apples and cinnamon falls down, 
down. 
Grandma’s heart as my head lay on her chest beats— 
down 
The smell of detergent, my nose sinks in to a newly washed cotton shirt— 
down 
into the depths of cream-colored fabric. 
“I’m so proud of you,” she whispers. 
But the phone rings and my grandma moves along the corridor— 
floating. 
My left hand grasps the wall, nails scratching at paint 
that looks gray, but I know it’s white 
as it scratches back. 
And I know I will be scarred by it 
and Sweetheart didn’t want to hurt. 
She wanted flotsam dreams— 
jetsam-soaked ambition. 
I am filled with driftwood from broken ships 
Les bateaux se sont cassés. 
The phone cries out “save the captain.” 
But I am sinking— 
sinking 
down. 
Now on to the revision:
Deep-Sea Denial, written April 18, 2007 
by Alexa L. 
I was not dreaming. 
I was not 
sinking into the waves of carpet 
of my grandmother’s house, 
into the old, graying threads 
that tied my feet 
like seaweed. 
The ocean 
seemed so small now 
against the scent of baked apples, 
the touch of sandpaper couches, and when my feet, 
like hesitant fishermen, 
hooked into the carved floorboards, 
reeling themselves into 
forever. 
I was not forgetting. 
I was not 
swimming in a sea of flotsam 
and jetsam memories 
of a house 
where I learned to appreciate 
breathing, 
where beauty rested 
in a bed with blue sheets and 
a flower-printed comforter. 
I was not 
forgetting. 
I was not 
dreaming. 
I was not.

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?” 
     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.”

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

So here is the second part of what I’ve written thus far. Enjoy.

Once Upon a Raindrop, Part II

     “Owwwie!” I grabbed at nothing; then brought my hand back to my eye. The dumb little fairy pulled out an eyelash and it hurt. How did she keep getting back in my room, anyway? I kept closing the window. I even pulled the shades to keep her from watching me tonight. 
     But when I looked up she disappeared; little flecks of glitter lay haphazardly on the blanket. 
     Long after she left, I dreamed I was tiny and looking up at the fairy with the glitter suit. I wore a dress, a deep blue-purple the shade of blueberries, and my wings were penny copper. My chocolate mane was tossed into a bun with a small tiara twinkling in the sunlight or moonlight—I couldn’t remember which—but I recall being happy. 
     The glitter fairy frowned and curtseyed. “Your highness,” she said, “Rosalina, at your call.” Was her name really Rosalina? It seemed so real. I nodded my head in acknowledgement and looked out over my kingdom.
     Sunlight peeked through the window, but I could barely see it over my mass of sheets, blanket, and my giant stuffed bear, Toby. Giant? He was humongous! I felt small; my little heart raced and I panicked, flying back and forth. Wait—flying? I had reddish-brown wings. I stared down at my bed where I should have been sleeping. I felt dizzy and flustered. It was then that I remembered my fear of heights and I fell to the bed, faint with wonderment and fear. 
     I sat there for hours wondering what to do when my aunt came home. My aunt wore her hair clasped tight to her head; she had hair the color of cigarette ash and black eyebrows that she dyed to make her look younger. She was prim and hateful; her sister, my mother, used to tell me before bed of how my aunt would dress her up like a doll, and hit her if she didn’t do as asked. When my parents died, my aunt was all I had left. 
     So when I found myself tiny, I stiffened; scared of Aunt Rue. 
     Brushing the soft hair of Toby’s coat, I let my mind wander. My mother once told me if I just close my eyes, sing the first melody I hear in my head, and imagine myself in a better place, I would go there. I could free myself of sadness and fear. It was in this place I transported myself when my mother and father passed. It was in this place even Aunt Rue couldn’t find me. 
     My better place bloomed with magic: fairies possessed amiable qualities unlike Rosalina’s; flowers danced in the rain; many creatures could fly, disappear, transform. I ruled this place, much like my dream, but in real life I was not queen. To Aunt Rue, I represented all the world’s defects. Because I looked just like my mother, she punished me. I was her China doll; she tore my dresses, pulled at my hair, and rubbed her greasy fingers across my porcelain skin. I could not say a word. 
     For a long time, Rosalina made the problems worsen. When she pinched me and I yelped in surprise, Aunt Rue would hear me and come down the stairs. My aunt’s voice was quiet, but dark. When she spoke, the ground shifted; graves appeared and I swear I could see blackness grabbing at me with claws as swift as shadows. Aunt Misery. Aunt Hate. Aunt Evil.

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

In Book Publishing Overview, we had to follow the creation of a book from initial manuscript to its publication. We created our own press, designed our covers and our text pages, and figured out the print run and distribution plans. I received a manuscript for a children’s book (my sample title page is on the left) and after reading the manuscript—this was several months ago—I thought I could try writing my own book for the little ones.  I only wrote a few pages, but I will be posting them in parts every now and then. If I get positive feedback, then I might actually try to finish the darn thing eventually. But for now, here is a brief segment of my first attempt.
Once Upon a Raindrop, Part I  
     It was on this type of day it always happened, always expected and not expected. I would prepare myself for months, then the memory of what I was supposed to do would pass; and then there would be rain, and for a second I would feel like there was something I should remember. 
     When I was two, a fairy pinched me. Her two beady eyes looked angry, as if she were jealous of my stuffed rattle-worm with the missing eye button or my China doll with the tattered dress. The fairy’s clothes were too pretty: she wore a body suit that looked to be sown with glitter. When she moved, light would glint off her outfit, then off her wings, and she would circle around my head then pinch and pinch and pinch. I hated her then; she always watched me through my window. When I slept, I knew she was there, wishing she could wake me. 
     When I was five, the fairy bit me and I slapped her to the floor. How I wanted to squish her then, but I was too kind. The fairy limped to the window and flew upward toward the stars. 
     For years I did not see the fairy. I was six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve before she found me again. I was pulling brown strands of hair from my comb when I felt a tap on my shoulder. 
     A whisper made me still. “You have something of mine.” 
     I turned and smacked at the air with my comb and a faint “oh” faded into the air like dust. When I looked down, I saw her; she swatted in front of her nose. 
     “What was that for?” 
     I stared at her, wide-eyed. “It’s you!” 
     “Yea, Now you understand—” 
     “Understand? What’s there to understand? You tried to bite me again!” 
     The fairy shook her head and laughed. “No. Now you understand me. The way I talk.” She made a motion with her hand to look like a mouth. “You know, because you used to have trouble listening, what with you being so little.” 
     I bent down and put my hand next to her. I promised to pick her up if she promised not to bite. The fairy agreed and she walked upon my palm. Her little feet felt heavy, despite her size and she twirled once, shaking off some of the lint from the carpet. 
     “I see you haven’t gotten any cleaner,” she said, picking bits from her hair. 
     I held my breath and placed her on my dresser. 
     “So what do I have that you want so badly? What can I do so that you’ll leave me be?” 
     “Future.” Her voice shook and repeated the word. 
     I, twelve-year-old Maggie Faye, did not have the fairy’s future. She’d been following me for seven years on a silly notion. 
     “Did you hear me?” 
     I nodded, grinning wildly. “I think you’re mistaken. I have nothing of yours. I don’t even know what my future is. How do you know I have yours?” 
     “Look. I know you do so just give it back.” She pumped her fist as if to hit me and hopped up. 
     “You should go. You’re not getting help from me.” 
     She stomped her foot down, but it didn’t sound like a stomp at all. “I’m not leaving ‘til I get my future back.”
     I plucked the fairy up by her wings and flung her glittering body out the window.

Kisses in a Bottle

I sat at my desk by the printers of MIT Press and looked up at a cardboard blowup of one of the titles: Sky in a bottle. And it was then I thought to myself, wow, that should be something. So below is the result of both my boredom and my attempts at creativity (also, I have no idea as to what the book is actually about).
Sky in a bottle, a tribute in narrative form
by Alexa L. 
Play a song for me. A wish. But grasshoppers only sing when nobody looks, you know, like me when I go in the backyard to dance. No one can see the twirls and twists, the way my skirt moves under the cover of the trees. I dance to the music of the grass, to the hum and buzz and chirp of nature. It is when I fall backward and sink my feet into the dirt that I hunt for my orchestra, my jumping bugs. And the ones I catch between my palms aren’t always green. Sometimes they have brown speckles or charcoal-colored wings. They hop in my little hands, then out them. And I follow, casting shadows and chasing sounds. 
It was on a day like this I found it, peeking from the grass like a gem. A present for you, something whispered, a voice that reminded me of peanut butter and jelly, or playing on swings. “For me?” I gestured with my hand, then looked around.  I could see nothing but the brown of my fence and the glass doors that welcomed me home. Well then, aren’t you going to pick it up? The voice again, louder than a whisper now.
I walked toward the glint and knelt down to look. It was just a bottle, small and made of glass. When I picked it up to examine it further, I noticed a tiny grasshopper on its lid. Be careful, please.
“What’s in it?” 
The sky, my dear. For you, the sky.
I peered into the glass, as careful as could be. The inside of the glass held sunshine and rain, clouds and birds and snow and wind. The sky in a bottle. A present for me from my orchestra.
The sky, my dear. For you, the sky. 
I lifted the grasshopper to my lips and whispered thank you. He bowed, his wings moving backward like the bow on a violin. He sang as I danced, with nobody looking on but us and the sky.

(So I had to leave for my softball game before I could write any more…didn’t seem right to finish it outside the press. Or maybe that is the end. Who knows?)

Chirp.

Technokiss: An Interview with Maren Jinnett of Wired

In my magazine publishing overview course we were asked to interview a professional in the publishing industry. This is my interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
 

Wired Beyond Her Years


An Interview with Maren Jinnett of Wired, Assistant to the Editor in Chief
 
by: Alexa L. 

When I first contacted Maren Jinnett via e-mail, she confessed, “When I saw the subject line, I assumed it was an interview request for Chris (a normal occurrence!)….” Chris Anderson might be the king of free, but Maren, at only 23, maintains his kingdom. Maren moved to California in October of 2008. After five months of interning at Wired, she was promoted from gadgets intern to her current position as Anderson’s assistant. The following excerpts were taken from a phone interview on March 16, 2010.   

Alexa: So, what is your typical day like as Assistant to the Editor in Chief?  

Maren: It’s sort of a complicated answer because my typical day can really vary. Chris travels a ton. And depending on any given month, he may be in the office a minimum of six business days all the way up to a maximum of maybe 15. There’s almost no month that goes by that he’s in the office every single business day and sometimes he’s barely here at all.

A: What is it like when he’s in the office?

M: The bottom line with the job is that I have to split my brain into however many pieces are required of me on any given day, and one of those pieces is always where’s Chris and where should Chris be. So definitely, while I’m doing everything else, I have to keep an eye on conference calls that he needs to be on, or meetings that he needs to go to, or anyone who’s in front of me who’s asking to see him in that given moment…A lot of what I do is being sort of his gatekeeper. I make sure that he gets [to] places on time. I make sure that he’s—it sounds crazy, but I make sure he’s doing his homework. Like, I make sure he’s reading the parts of the magazine he’s supposed to read, that he’s handing off presentations that are due for speeches he’s about to give…I book all of his travel; so given that he does travel a lot, I usually have to make sure that I’m managing buying his tickets, creating itineraries for him so he knows what to do.  
     I think people are often really surprised when they realize that Chris literally has no idea what he’s doing from one minute to the next. He outsources that part of his brain to me. He’ll just come right up to me and say, “so what do I do next?” I literally manage every step that he takes. It frees him up to come up with all sorts of other things like ideas for the magazine.

A: And when he’s not around?

M: God, what else do I do? I handle freelance travel, I run pitch meetings—mostly logistics. I do research for Chris. So, research for story ideas, research for book ideas. But it’s very much the kind of job that as long as you can multitask and manage a ton of tiny details at once and be open to kind of going with the flow [with] whatever gets thrown at you, then no two days really do look the same.

A: What is it like being such a young assistant?

M: You know, it’s hard for me because I got picked from the intern pool to be his assistant. People had previously seen me as the intern they mostly ignored. It took me a while to kind of feel like people did respect me. And the person at my job before me was about ten years older than I was. And I knew that I was probably one of the youngest assistants [Chris] has ever had.

A: Then is age ever an issue with Chris?  

M: It’s not from Chris. Chris himself is someone who is mostly in awe of people who are fairly young and seem to know what they want. In his early twenties he was, you know, in a rock band and he was a delivery boy on a bike. I mean, he just kind of did his thing and was not the person who was super ambitious and had all the internships and, you know, crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. That was not his background. So I think because he had that experience when he was younger, when he meets someone who’s in their early twenties who is achieving at a young age I think he’s mostly in awe of them. And it’s never a question of “oh, you’re immature, I don’t respect you”; it’s “wow, good for you for having your life together at a young age. That’s impressive.” No, I don’t feel ageism from him. But it’s in the air, it’s in the environment, especially in journalism.

A: I know Wired is all about technology. How do you feel about the subject matter?   

M: It’s so funny. I was super interested in tech before I moved [to San Francisco]. Here it’s technology. It’s like every single person you talk to wants to tell you about the start up they’re working on. All the guys work at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and I work at Wired and so there are times , actually, when I feel very suffocated by all tech, all the time. It was a little more fun when it was just sort of a passion and a hobby and now that I’m living in it, it’s kind of—there are moments when it’s a little too much. But it can be exciting, too.

A: How well do you think Wired has dealt with changes in the magazine market?  

M: I was here in September when Condè Nast went through a big shake up, cut a ton of magazines, cut a ton of staff members. I was here through all of that. I technically have the safest position at Wired, so it was a very interesting place to be while watching everything look so shaky for everyone else. It was hard to be that close to it. A couple of editors were good friends of mine and they got laid off. It was rough for a while. But I think that Wired is perfectly positioned to sort of reinvent itself now that people are really excited about new ways of consuming media, particularly graphic-heavy media like magazines…I think magazines still have a place. And I think our magazine in particular is extremely interactive, extremely visually laden…So Wired, I think is going to be fine.  

Note: This interview was cut down from approximately 44 minutes of tape.

Stay classy, San Francisco.

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.

A Kiss to Keep Me Motivated

Summer creeps near; I can feel laziness breathing down my neck. Huff, huff, huff. A siren’s call, promises of trips to the Cape, dips in pools of blue, blue water, and the clop of sandles on the pavement. The promises quell worries of fall semester, of graduation and job hunts, 8-hour days and entry-level payment. Summer in Florida consisted of Disney and movies; Boston speaks of road trips and site-seeing. Such a difference. So much history here. But when summer ends, and the plastic umbrellas shrivel in your drinks, it is important to remember to shed the laziness like a sweater.
Staying motivated is not easy; I know this well. So here are a few techniques I’ve acquired to keeping up with the workload.
  • Choose a competitor. Pick a person in your class whose quality of work surpasses your own and then consistently try to outshine him. It can be a friend or an enemy; this doesn’t matter. It just makes you competitive, and keeps you attentive. 
  • Create a rewards system. For example, if I get straight A’s this semester I can buy myself the new phone I want.
  • Set aside homework time. If you are watching a television show, use the commercials to do part of your assignment. 
  • Mix homework with chores. If you’re already doing the dirty work, just balance it out. While you’re waiting for a load to finish, do the homework. Folding clothes ends up being a pretty amazing break from studying.
  • Invent time goals. Give yourself a time to finish your assignment by, sort of like a due date, but on your terms. If you don’t finish it when you said you would, you don’t go do the next thing on your list (like going to a movie). 
  • Write your goal on a mirror. If you have a dry erase marker, they work just as well on bathroom mirrors. Put your to-do list or goals on the side of it. Basically, every time you go to brush your teeth or fix your hair you’ll be reminded of what you have to do to succeed. 
  • Study with a friend who is motivated. Find a person you know can focus, and follow their lead.  
These idea, dorky as they may seem, have worked for me. I hope they work for you. 
Ta ta, for now.