Caution: Poetry at Work

November 30

NaNoWriMo at Work

NaNoWriMo at CSBSJU
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo at CSBSJUAlthough this a poetry blog, the flip side of the creative writing coin is fiction. This month, the Writing Center organized three on-campus events to support and encourage students interested in being part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). During the month of November, participants across America attempt to write a 50,000-word novel. This year, several students took their first stabs at writing and editing novels! They wrote tens of thousands of words in addition to all their writing for classes.

The piece below is an excerpt from the first chapter of a yet untitled novel that received substantial edits during the NaNoWriMo haul. The storyline follows two characters on opposite sides of a civil war in a fantasy archipelago kingdom.

      The crowd's muttering made Castin pause a moment, still smiling.
      "How will we accomplish such a feat? How can a king be removed? By the people, my friends! By you and I and all Prince Albian's loyal subjects!" Castin threw his arms wide, as if to encompass all of Paith. "I have taken it upon myself to organize this resistance, along with Ettore Maynard and Barchett Endroe." He gestured to the steward, then the blond man on his right. "With Ettore's knowledge of government, Barchett's grasp of military design, and my drive, we will give Albian the comfort of justice. We will take our kingdom back. We will put a king worthy of the title on the throne! But – and this is the best part, my friends – once we have cleansed the Palace, we will set up a governance for ourselves! The king/heir system has failed. With Brecc removed, we can create a better, more equal reign. Never again will heir islands be treated as lesser. Never again will we be forced to pay higher tax! Our imaginations are the only limitation to what good we can work for this Forty Island Kingdom!"
      Castin shook his fists into the sky and laughed, wild and triumphant. His eyes shone with the vision he had painted for them.
      "If you will commit to justice, then join me, join the Prince's Army," Castin cried above the villagers, his words rising to the gray-washed sky. "Be at the gates of Unik on the isle Sythr in a week's time. There, history will begin!" With that, Castin stepped down from the well. The villagers rushed to greeting him, shouting, laughing, pounding his back.
      Baen watched Castin's easy smile. He watched the man who had been a stranger an hour ago laugh and jostle with the people. His costly clothes were dirtied against mud-stained, weatherworn homespun and neither he nor the villagers noticed. Baen grinned.
      War was brooding, its righteous tip aimed at the King.

--By Hannah Baumgardt, CSB 2020

Invitation for your Writing:
Finish the following story in either poetry or prose: It was less than a second, maybe half a second, but it changed everything.

November 9

Why Write a Poem?

Since the beginnings of human society we've had a need for someone in the tribe to be the documenter, the recorder, the person that tells the stories of what got us where we are. The poet is that person. The assertion that if we cat reading a bookforget the past we are doomed to repeat our mistakes has much validity. This applies to personal or family history as well as the big picture of societal history Poetry is a powerful voice with which to bear witness.

People are complicated creatures. We see, we hear, we feel. We get angry, we laugh, we cry, we get bored. We get lonely and frustrated and sometimes, so filled with awe and wonder we are about to explode. There are positive and negative ways to express our feelings. Poetry, music, dance and art are among the positive. Then again, there are people who express themselves with racist epithets or picking fights, being bullies or worse. Poetry is one of the positive ways to express the range of emotions we humans possess, even the negative emotions, without causing harm to ourselves or anyone else.

As human beings, we all have personal reasons, to perhaps, express ourselves with an occasional poem. At times we have a need for catharsis, a need to unburden ourselves. Poetry can also be a tool for healing ourselves or others after times of trauma. We all react to both internal and external stimuli, for example, poems written by soldiers at war, or poems written after the 911 attacks. Perhaps we've just seen the most glorious sunset of our lives or heard the words "I love you" and we can't contain our reaction to what life places before us.

Poetry can also be a meditative experience. It helps us think on another level. Sometimes we need to write a poem out of curiosity. Words can be the ship that takes us on a journey of exploration. Poetry is a way to solve what puzzles us.

Write a poem for the sake of art. A poet is just as much an artist as a painter, a sculpture or a musician. A poet's medium, written and spoken word, is created with an audience's or another person's consciousness as the canvas, the stage, the bock of stone that is sculpted.

A poet is an entertainer. Famous American writer (and former Saint John's faculty member), J.F. Powers, once told me a writer is nothing but an entertainer. If you don't entertain, who will read what you write? Author Bea Lake in "Mutant Message From Forever" says "entertainment is meant to cheer the weary, soothe the frustrated, comfort the distressed." If you're an entertainer, try entertaining with a poem!

Poetry is fun! What better reason to write a poem could there be?

We need to communicate with each other. There are times when we see something, hear something or feel something and we just want to tell someone else about it, when one human being needs to communicate with another. Try a poem. Like wondering if the proverbial tree falling in the forest really fell if nobody noticed it, a poem needs a reader or listener. Find that person.

What are your reasons to write a poem? Find them and give poetry a try. If you need an audience, want to improve your poetic ability or just talk about what you've written, bring your poems to the Writing Centers on either campus. There are creative writers on our staff and we don't care if you're taking a creative writing class or not, though we'd love to hear from Creative Writing students. We're interested in writers and writing of all kinds. Share your work with us. We're people just like you and we'd love to hear what you have to say.

Stories From Tierra Amarilla

An old man and his old black dog sit in the sun,
the wind deflected by a crumbling adobe wall,
rusty hinges barely supporting
a paint-chipped blue door that never opens.
The old abuelo's drooping head
is full of stories he's told himself all his life,
half made up in his mind, though all of them true.
He tells these stories to his deaf, white-whiskered dog
or any passerby that stops to share the sun.
If you stopped, he would tell all those stories to you,
and you would feel obliged to carry them with you,
not as stones in your pocket,
but as poems written on dragonfly wings.

— Larry Schug, Writing Center volunteer tutor

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