Finding Inspiration As a Writer

Finding Inspiration as a Writer
Base Image by Tara Winstead

Finding Inspiration

As a creator, your art depends on you having inspiration. Unlike certain jobs, you cannot just clock in, do your tasks, and clock out. Writing, similar to other forms of content creation, requires inspiration and motivation, in addition to time and energy.

How does one go about in finding inspiration? There are many sources which I personally take inspiration from, and it varies from whether I am writing a poem, a story or an online post. I will share from where you could find inspiration, mostly based on my personal experiences

1. Daily Life

Daily life can often be seen as dull and mundane, but artists have an incredible talent at looking around them and seeing the details that are not always obvious. If you’re waiting for a bus, what are the thoughts of the other people around you? What are their motivations? By observing someone’s actions, you can get a sense of their state. For instance, a teen with a backpack, constantly looking at their watch. Does that mean they will be late? Is it morning and they are going to school? The people around you all have deep thoughts and a story, so feel free to make up one yourself for them.

Train Station with passengers
Passengers in a train station. Photo by Elena Saharova

An even easier inspiration is if the people around you are conversing in a way in which you can (in a non-creepy way) overhear. Between what is experiences, and the assumptions and character you add in your head, you can create characters or a story. In From the Backseat of a Bus, I drew inspiration from various passengers on my regular trips on the bus. Whether it’s a teen girl saying it’s scary to be outside after 9pm, or a gentleman mistaking a woman for being pregnant, there were several events around me that captured my attention in ways that I wanted to write about them.

2. Emotional Experiences

An extension to our daily life is ourselves and how we feel. This can be either a reaction to events that happen around us as bystanders, but also our own experiences. I would classify emotions into two different ones: the surface emotions and the deeper ones.

Surface Emotions

By surface emotions, I refer to those that are easily identified and understood. When you are afraid of something or angry at someone, it is not too difficult to understand the basics of what caused this emotion and what you are feeling. Based on evolutionary traits as well as social experiences/values, a lot of fears may be shared by those around you. You can rely on readers understanding these, for instance anger towards a lover who cheats and lies, or fear of the dark. Actions that are reactions to the immediate surroundings are a good starting point to convey emotion, while creating a path to the deeper emotions.

Fearful Man Trapped in a closet
Evident image of a claustrophobic guy. Photo by Mart production

Deeper Emotions

Most of our emotions run much deeper into our consciousness. What makes one person afraid of bees but not another? Why do some actions of a person make us angry, but these same actions are acceptable to everyone else? Our past experiences, perhaps unconsciously, shape a lot of how we perceive events. Life experiences, such as trauma, would often require us to consciously reflect on work on ourselves to understand them.

Not all emotions are negative; often, I find myself difficult to express joy and love in words, because they are so intangible and overwhelming. These emotions are motivations for our behaviour, so they are required (even if not directly written about). Personally, I find it much easier to project these emotions onto characters in stories, and then I let these characters navigate through similar situations in different contexts.

3. Dreams

In the history of psychology, certain fields of psychologists have often analysed dreams as a pivotal part of the unconscious psyche, knowing there are truths and important meanings in our dreams. This can be considered as part of the deeper emotions, but it can sometimes be much lighter and fun. Whole new worlds are formed in seconds, and they generally do not adhere to the same rules of our physical world. Those who are able to dream lucidly and have more control in their dreams may be able to use such imagination even better for worldbuilding.

I recommend writing your dreams in a dream journal (whether notebook or an app on any device) as soon as you wake up. Within time, you start improving the amount of detail you recall from your dreams, and this will help you find some hidden gems that you can weave into your writing.

4. Nature

We often speak about how nature is important for our mental health; and guess what? Our creations come from inside our minds. I know I am sounding cheesy. I am not the kind of person particularly enjoys time in nature, but there are several creators who do. Perhaps that is why in movies/shows, there is often a reference of the artist who goes on a “writers’ retreat”; a getaway where you take a break from your everyday life and spend time in quite with your thoughts and with nature, meditating and reflecting.

Thunderstorm on a city
A thunderstorm on a city. Photo by Frank Cone

There is incredible beauty in nature, both in the aesthetic value, as well as the mechanics of how the world works; how animals evolved and how they behave; how the flora reflects the environment’s climate; the marvel of space and laws of physics. Taking time to observe the world around you can generate wonderous ideas. I mean, the ancient Greeks saw Lightning and they created Zeus – trust the creations of your mind!

4. Other Artists and Creations

We often her the phrase “imitation is a form of flattery.” I definitely agree with this; obviously, cautioning away from flat out plagiarising, taking inspiration is a natural path of an artist. One can take inspiration both from art of the same form (e.g. writer inspired from other writers), but it may also cross artforms (e.g. writer inspired by visual art)

Inspiration from the Same Artform

As a poet, I tend to take inspiration from both poets and novelists. Whilst reading poetry, I sometimes am stricken by a specific phrase or line, the visual format of the poem, or the whole poem and what it encompasses. One of the most impactful lines I have read is the Blythe Baird’s My Body is a Crime Scene — in this case, the line is also the title of the poem. When I read it, I knew that nobody could’ve described that experience better than those words. Another poem which I often re-read based is Cuddleslut by John Byrne; it is so relatable that I have used the phrase cuddleslut as a self-description. When a writer managers to convey the exact thing I am going through, it fills me with excitement and drive to try and convey that in my own writing.

Different Artform

One doesn’t necessarily have to look into similar artists for inspiration. Any form of art is to be admired and can be built upon. Movies, like The Matrix, may often pose existential and philosophical questions that I am sure have inspired thousands to explore similar life-questioning notions. The visual experiences in movies and series can also expand our experiences and knowledge — for instance, the idea of a White Christmas is something I have only learnt from movies and shows since I live in Malta, an island in which it never snows.

Other forms also provide a great source of inspiration. I often connect with the lyrics of the songs that I enjoy; which causes me to embody them emotionally. If Taylor or Adele are having a heartbreak album, I will be going through a heartbreak. And yes, that means I will also be writing about heartbreak. Plain and simple!

Woman listening with headphones
Listening to music. Photo by Burst

Most of my time is spent playing video games. There are different types of video games, and hence several forms of inspiration. Story-driven games, are in essence, written stories that have added artistic and cinematic elements. But games do not require to have a story to inspire. It can simply be the creation of a unique creature or type of magical abilities that can transport us into a new world, which opens up several possibilities for us. Keep your mind open. Whether its movies, games, music, visual art, architecture or any other form of artistry (even pastry perhaps), everything has a story to tell, and hence there is a new story that can emerge from your perspective.

5. News and Current Events

“Life imitates art” does not exclude that art also imitates life. Certain artforms, particularly those that intend to convey a political or social message (e.g. environmentalism), draw inspiration from current events. An impactful artpiece can take information available as facts and translate into an emotive piece that motivates the reader/viewer to expand their knowledge and adapt their beliefs and change their behaviour.

If your art is primarily fiction, often you may take real-life events, such as wars and riots, and translate them into the fictional world you have created. This can work well both for fiction that takes place in a fantasy/sci-fi realm, as well as for literary fiction that parallels our world and rules. A great example is the topic of conversion therapy, which unfortunately is still practiced in several countries. In The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Malachi the Queer, Damian Jay Clay takes us into a conversion camp, without shying away from the harsh and graphic realities it encompasses. The book had me crying throughout several chapters.

Closing Remark

Inspiration is everywhere, you just need to open your eyes. Whenever I experience a “writer’s block”, the true problem is not the lack of inspiration, but that I am overthinking and overediting my ideas before they have a chance to breathe.

An easy practice to do if you find yourself in this position is to use a journal to jot down notes, no matter what. Practice writing regardless of the outcome, even if you write a page knowing that you will throw it in the bin. Turn off that critic inside of you and just write, and I promise you, you will find an idea or a sentence that you will latch onto. Take that idea and harness it weave it into something beautiful.

My Own Voice: Not for Everyone, but Not for No One

Guy shouting in loudspeaker
My Own Voice. Basic Photo by Thirdman

Overcritical of My Writing

When I started taking poetry a bit more seriously, I first struggled with how my writing should look like. By default, I was looking at others’ work and comparing. My poetry felt very different, which I attributed to being inferior; which I no longer thing is the case. In my mind, there was an objective good, and I tried to apply that to something like writing, which in most of its essence, is subjective.

Although one may take inspiration from others to grow their art, what I ended up doing was taking out my voice. The question was no longer what do I want to say? but it became what do others want to hear? This question, at times, can be a useful critique while editing some works one may want to publish, but it was more harmful while writing, including the drafting stage. And it was basically impractical for me to think that way — writing is an activity I engage in for the sake of it, rather as a career or financial opportunity. So, how can I go about discovering my own voice?

Masking for Others

Perhaps before identifying the solution, one has to discover the root of the problem. In my case, I believe that a significant contribution of the problem lies in masking. Masking is a behaviour that a lot of us neurodivergent folk engage in to mask what we truly feel and instead portray it as something digestible to those around us. It is demanding and exhausting, but we have learned ways how to fit in because we are singled out and rejected for who we are.

Large mask in nature
Masking. Photo by Magda Ehlers

Ever since I was a child, I had learned to mould myself to what others expected of me. My learnt way of communication was primarily focused on what others deemed acceptable; thus, it is not incomprehensible that this translates to my writing.

Combined with the abundance of content, I fell into the trap of not listening to myself but trying to assimilate once again. To not be left out. To be one of the rest. Unfortunately, that is an unhappy state to be in for a while, I lost connection with my writing, even if I thought I should be proud of what I am writing.

Rediscovering my Own Voice

Taking a hiatus from publishing anything was very fruitful; in the instances where I wanted to write, I started writing for myself again. And I got to re-read some of my past work, and I fell in love again with writing as I saw my voice emerge once more in an ocean of words. In truth, I know that my first works are not masterpieces poetically, but emotionally they are raw and they are meaningful. So why should I feel negatively because they may not match up to the best writers out there? Why did I have to feel the need to move on from them and try to fit in?

In the past two years, I have focused mostly on writing and drafting pieces, rarely focusing on polishing a piece to perfection. I haven’t been at the state of wanting to consume my energy into refining something for the eyes of others. There’s a flaw in how I used to do that, and I need to find a new way. But in the meantime, I have rediscovered a way to express myself once more. I have become in tune with what my heart wants me to say, even if nobody else will listen.

Making Myself Heard

No voice is meant for everyone. In a world of billions of people, I cannot expect to be heard by masses, and that’s okay. Perhaps sometimes that is the battle with arts; we put so much time and effort into our works for them to be consumed so lightly by others that it almost feels meaningless. And perhaps I have come to terms with the fact that sometimes, my work is just going to be glanced over and that is it.

Hands on Typewriter
Getting Back to Writing. Photo by Min An

However, that is not an excuse to keep everything to myself. As I learnt from my recent Transformative experience of an Open Mic, there comes power in sharing. And under the right circumstances, if I am heard, I am also likely to be listened to. In reality, I have to let others decide if they want to listen – if they do and they love what I wrote, or if they were impacted, yes, that would bring me more satisfaction. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Running from rejection is not a good way to live.

I Belong Here, and so do You

The most painful thing we could do is to shut ourselves up. It can be draining and isolating to put your voice out there, only for it to dissipate in thin air as if you never were there. Yet, it is more destructive to not be heard because you do not try. It feels worse; despite being in control of not being heard, it does not kill away any insecurities.

I notice several parallels with my PTSD and the fact that trauma changed how I communicate and behave. It’s been a long journey in which I struggled to find my voice back. The scariest experiences were, that post-trauma, I shell myself — being in situations in which my mind has numerous thoughts but my body does not even attempt to communicate them, neither verbally nor non-verbally. You know the cliché that words are stuck in your throat? It wasn’t like that. It was more of a void where words were not even being created internally.

I don’t wanna ever fall back into that same mindset. I have been making an effort to make myself heard in many ways: this post; sharing my poetry; gaming livestreams and videos. And I wanna explore more avenues to mark my presence. At this point, I no longer not care if there is anyone out there that gets me. I deserve this space. I will own this space. I belong in this space. I belong in this world, and I will not be intimidated out of it.

Book Review: The Happiness Hypothesis – Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Book Cover of The Happiness Hypothesis

The Happiness Hypothesis
by Jonathan Haidt

Choosing This Book

Following my resurgence after a self-imposed 15-month lockdown, I experienced an internal need to improve my life. I wouldn’t say I was unhappy, but I knew I could be better. And for a while, I had finished my studies and started working while postponing the question of what am I meant to do with my life? In a world of pandemic and uncertainties, it did not feel immediate. However, it is now time to dig deep and if possible, find an answer.

I’ve been always inclined to intellectual discussion, and although social interaction could provide that, an internal dialogue is something I engage in more willingly. Books are an optimal source of fuel for such dialogue. I sought some books on positive psychology, particularly to change my outlook on life, and The Happiness Hypothesis ended up seeming a perfect fit for what I wanted.

The Happiness Hypothesis

The full title of the book is The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and is authored by Jonathan Haidt, a social and positive psychologist. Published in 2006, the book refers to Ten Great Ideas, with ancient wisdom taking from several sources, such as from Buddha or biblical passages. As the title suggests, the premise is to tackle common ancient wisdom, provide modern scientific proof and apply these to our current lives.

Does the book hold its promise? In all honesty, for something released in 2006, I would still say not completely. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great read. But perhaps, I was expecting the science and truths to not be primarily based on the early 1950-1970 psychology that most of us have already learnt about in schools or pretty much common videos online. It lacks the freshness, except for titbits of the author’s own experiences. This made the book, at times, boring.

However, it was not a let down. It was still an insightful book, and although most of the chapters did feel unnecessarily longer than they should’ve been, they do bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern life. Undeniably, science and early psychology may be too focused on hard truths, which is disassociated from actual life. The author manages to brige these two well enough.

Ultrasocial Humans

Perhaps one of my main mistakes looking into positive psychology and self-improvement is to assume it all relates to the self. The book does, in the beginning, tackle concepts like the negativity bias or the problem of evil. The more I delved into the book, the more insight how we belong in a society and how most of our feelings are in relation to others. There is a constant analysis of the play in the spectrum of humans as completely selfish to completely altruistic. Despite us not being as altruistic in the sense that ants or bees are in their colonies, we are far more group-oriented than a lot of us individualists like to think.

And this is not to say that our meaning in life or our happiness derives from helping others – far from it. However, there is a positive feeling, at least personally, when I do something that I enjoy but also feels productive. For instance, writing these book reviews or publishing poems – I enjoy the writing myself and in many ways, it is selfish. But if one person reads these and enjoys what I write, or takes some value, than I am also contributing to society in some form, which enhances my experience. Coincidentally, in my last post The Transformative Experience of an Open Mic, I spoke how I do not live in a social vacuum, and that attending an open mic perhaps felt incredible, to share my poems with others. Perhaps I can attribute the book to have pushed me into not being afraid of such social interactions.

So, What is Happiness?

I think, as you might expect, there is no straight answer to happiness. I am in a temporary happy state as I write this and I don’t have an urge to look for much change in my life. In the hedonic sense, which is based on neurological pleasure, a clear answer is to indulge in food and sex, and perhaps despite not being actual happiness, it is also important to not feel ashamed and not denying myself such pleasures.

The second lesson, which I do need to apply, is to focus more on love and productivity. I have been alienated from the rest of the world, and the sense of productivity I get from publishing content (whether writing or gaming livestream/videos) is fulfilling. By nature, these activities occur in a community, and perhaps the connection with others is what is the source of me feeling good. In the future, I look forward to engage more directly in the community, particularly with workshops and more open mics.

Final Review

Although not the most exciting read and nowhere near fresh as expected, the book still manages to provide insight that I have found motivating. Compared to when I started reading the book, I am already in a much better place (okay, it is not solely based on the book, but it did contribute). On that aspect, I would still recommend this read, although I would expect that there other books out there in the same field that might do this job better.


The Transformative Experience of an Open Mic

Spooky Themed Open Mic

On a Friday before Halloween, I participated in a Queer Open Mic where we read short stories and poems under the Spooky theme. Although, the theme was open to encompass anything dark or grim, not necessarily horror. And this was only my second Open Mic event that I attended — the first was 3 or 4 years ago, in which I was a trembling, anxious mess.

In this event, I read out 7 of my (yet unpublished) poems which I wrote while processing a trauma. This poetry was extremely personal, and I should’ve been too nervous to share these. But there was something about the environment and the audience, a safe space that allowed me to read without any anxiety. For that, I am grateful for those that actively create queer safe spaces and all the audience and participants.

Outside a Social Vacuum

The open mic was an incredible experience. Yes, partly it’s the boost in self-confidence, in realising that I am able to read my poetry comfortably, regardless of how deep & personal the poems are. But there is more to it than that: the social aspect.

For so long, when I posted my poems online, the interaction has been minimal – hundreds of poems are posted every day for free for anyone to read. And I am not the only who experiences this; I have seen hundreds of talented poets get almost no interaction or recognition for their incredible work. There is a lack of human connection, which unfortunately separates the artist from the audience. There is a coldness to the web pages that display our texts (yes, ironically I am posting this online).

In contrast, having a live audience is innately a much warmer experience. As soon as the readings were over, I put an olive in my mouth & one of the other readers came to talk to me – while my tongue was playing around with the olive pit. It’s one of those things that in most scenarios, it would be awkward, but this time it was hilarious. An odd but grounded way to start a conversation, in which we discussed poetry and got to know each other briefly, before both of us had to leave.

Opening Doors to Future Events

Despite my original feelings of hesitations, I am proud that I disregarded my anxieties and attended the open mic. I would describe the overall experience as transformative. I have built new connections with other like-minded, queer writers. I have opened a door to myself to attend future open mics and workshops. One positive experience has made me eager and incredibly motivated to interact with other local writers, something I have always avoided.

And that motivation pours over into the personal motivation, with an additional reason to write and polish my poems. As I am inclined towards growth, I am re-engaging finally in writing and reading. This post is proof in itself, as it had been a while since I had the focus and motivation to sit down and write down my thoughts, and then share them.

Rediscovering the Balance between Privacy and Art

Artistic expression is inherently a personal expression, whether personal, political, or otherwise. In my case, poetry tends to be mostly reflective of real experiences I had. Due to this, when does poetry become too personal to share? In all honesty, I am still trying to discover that for myself. Writing without any inhibition is necessary, so I would not write for the audience, but primarily for the self. However, without sharing any of it, I find myself demotivated.

There are two healthy approaches that I am experimenting with. The first, is to share in safe spaces, like this open mic I participated in. And it’s all verbal and at best stored in our minds, but not anywhere accessible (unless you can read minds). The second, is to stray away from pure realism and allude to experiences that might or might not have happened. In this sense, I would express the emotions but not quite tell the exact story; which then, although trusted by the reader, also provides a thin protection for me as a person from others. Overall, it’s a quite tough balance to strike, but I look forward to use these experiences to motivate me to further engage in writing and related events.

Freewrite Poem: Mixed Signals

Today I decided to do The Single Weekend Freewrite Prompt, of which I chose Parking Ticket. This time around, I decided to write poetry, as it’s what I want to reconnect with the most and push myself more into. I wrote the poem in 5-minute freewrite without any edits.

Freewrite Poem_ Mixed Signals.png

Mixed Signals

I thought you wanted me as much as I wanted you.
My heart ran away from its home town
and sped through highways across the world
just to find yours,
hiding, not wanting to be found,
disconnected from any radar.

I’ve parked my love outside your childhood house
and waited for you, night & day.
You were never ready
but the warden did not care.
I got a parking ticket cause I stayed there too long
& the neighbours thought I was being creepy.

But you’re the one who asked me over,
dancing around with my feelings
but never ready to commit.

I’ve been here, waiting
for you to let me in. So,
shall I knock one last time?

Another nightfall is upon us
and I would like to sleep on a bed tonight.
I could find a cheap motel on my way back home,
somewhere were alone does not hurt
as much as being rejected –
or rather, played with.

See, I have no problem with rejection.
But I feel lied to – the way you made me believe
that you were my future,
the goal, the thing I need to survive.
I was set on you & I would still like to give you that chance.

Perhaps I am dousing my heart in more fuel
for you to burn it while it is alive & beating.
I knew you liked your food crispy-burnt,
but never knew you were a carnivore too.


Links

Poetry Book Review: ‘Tempest’ by Ryan Meyer

Tempest

Tempest is Ryan Meyer‘s second publication in which the author challenges himself to be more personal. In these poems, Ryan dances eloquently around the eye of the storm, not shying away from the darkest of thoughts. I commend his open vulnerability – a vulnerability that has allowed me, the reader, to connect with the author and experience the poems through his eyes.

Setting the Narrative of a Mundane Life

The first poem of a collection sets the tone for the book, and in Flamingo, Ryan just does that. In this poem, Ryan travels between the mundane and monotous life and a fantasy of a vacation, laying on the beach – a dichotomy between reality and desire. The transition of imagery is smooth and genius:

A blaring horn pulls you back to shore
Your surfboard cursor
Bobs along the surface

(Flamingo, p. 1)

The phrases of beach-related words with office life, such as “surfboard cursor”, blur the lines so much that these two worlds become one. And on a deeper level, perhaps that is a scarier truth; to need to dream. Without such fantasy, the author does not show any motivation for his life. I think Flamingo was the perfect poem to open us into the storm of emotions that Tempest holds.

A Lonely Search for Hope

The following poems carry on a similar tone where the author searches for hope, for growth, for a better future. I appreciate that each poem still had its own voice, imagery and length. As I read the poems Somewhere Else, Can’t Fly Forever, and On Evolution, I had gotten heavily invested in where Ryan is taking us, and I could not stop reading. Is the process of life similar to a caterpillar’s metaphorsis; a stagnant cocoon?

I hope growing wings
Doesn’t have to hurt.

(On Evolution, p.8)

Reaching The Eye of the Storm

It doesn’t take Ryan long to arrive at “the place where they say Death resides”. The poems has slowly led us to a place of metaphysical darkness that requires our silence as we watch. This darkness has an intense grip on us as it takes over the mood. But in Ryan there is a hope, a fire that burns despite the hopelessness that led us to the stage. Out of the hostility of the accumulation of negativity, the author’s inner spirit resurges, perhaps in an unexpected yet very real way:

It makes me yearn for life’s monotony, …

… I want to scrub
Clean the bathtub in my childhood home

(Threshold, p.12)

In contrast to the previous poems, the monotonous life we were escaping primarily has become the sought prize; a refound appreciation for the smallest things in life. And this is what courage is in real life; fighting the most intrustive of thoughts to find a way to survive, to want to be a alive. One does not need to break barriers and accomplish achievements – no, the true change starts from wanting to live, no matter the reality.

Emerging from the Existential Crisis

After Threshold, we continue to struggle with existentialism, at which point Ryan starts reminiscing about childhood and teen years. What was just a lone shell of thoughts, the shell started to crack, shedding light into a past, and a life where it is not just the self versus the world. There were family, there were friends – doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows:

We were young: fooling around,
Downing cheap vodka,
And smoking stale cigarettes
From our mothers’ purses.

(Unsteady, p.33)

As Ryan lives back through his past, he starts pulling himself out of the present darkness and grounds himself into the world where a person has not only past, but also a future. As the collection goes along, I witnessed the author experience self-growth. And while life may still not be perfect, Ryan’s mindset has changed. I can feel it as I read through, a perhaps unapologetic tone of being oneself, of being okay with not being okay without the resignation that led us originally to the Tempest. The soil is still wet from the aftermath, but the Tempest has definitely calmed

Summary

In the preface, Ryan stated that in this publication, he wanted to go deeper and be more personal. I feel like he successfully achieved being vulnerable with the reader while still retaining the genius of imagery he used throughout, blurring the lines of reality, imagery and fantasy. There were a few poems here and there where I wished to be taken deeper, but alas, as a collection, I was compelled to read it without pause (more than once). I would definitely recommend poetry readers to pick up this book as I would easily give it a 4.5/5 rating, and I have high expectations for whatever future work Ryan Meyer publishes. Make sure to check out Ryan Meyer on nothingpeak.com


Disclaimer: I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Links

Inside a Poet’s Mind: Too Sacred to Write About

Up to a few weeks ago, I used to say that whoever enters into my life must accept that I am a writer and will express myself in writing. That means I would write whatever I have to, no matter what is said about them. But with time and new experiences, beliefs change.

I’ve been seeing this guy for a month now, and it’s been quite great. And I like him so much, that what we have feels sacred. He is special to me, and I don’t want to do anything to fuck it up. That include being hesitant from writing about him, about us, because there is a lingering feeling of ‘wrongness’ to write about something so sacred.

The second of the ten commandments in the Catholic religion is “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” and that’s how I feel about this guy. I shouldn’t be revealing this thing I have with him to the world. I want to keep him to myself, and to not expose him to the world in the intimate way poetry does, because, he is the most intimate part of my life.

I never really felt like this with anyone before. Perhaps I don’t want any of my words to affect what we have now or in the future. But this blog post, as anonymous and secretive as it is, is my first step to writing about him in public, and I acknowledge that he could be reading this. And I know in the future, I’ll succumb to writing more deeply about him, and all the things he makes me feel. For now, he’ll be my secret to cherish.

Poetry Book Review: Your Heart is the Sea (Nikita Gill)

Your Heart is the Sea is divided into eight sections; each a stage of an emotional journey. The presentation is well thought out as the author gives us a story to follow, through the emotions evoked within the poems of a section. However, it almost feels a little too thought out, as I became detached to emotional content of filler poems, used to repeat a pattern or attempting to be ‘smart’ that it creates a barrier. This especially happens in the abstract or almost clichés, usually occurring in second-person poems more than others:

“But what you must remember
is every time you crash downwards,
you learn to stitch your spirit
back faster.”
(The Fall, p. 45)

Rewording the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” doesn’t make a verse in any way exciting, unless the new image is extremely effective, which in this case, I don’t feel like it was.

Having said that, where the collection lacks in creative imagery, it makes up for it in honest, heartfelt verses. And at times, she does this beautifully. One of my favourite verses is the following:

“I crave loneliness so much
I do not want it at all.
Wanting someone’s touch
whilst not wanting any other soul.
Needing another voice to say my name
whilst cringing when I am actually called.
There is an empty attic in my head
with a secret chasm where I fall.”
 (A Ghost Called Depression, p. 23) 

I love paradoxes, especially when they are so human and logical, even in their conflict. And the examples are relatable, ones that readers can easily understand. Unfortunately, Nikita often ends up explaining the poem or the more creative verses in either the first or the last lines, which slows down the reader and dilutes the most effective of verses.

All in all, the book has a solid story-line, which I appreciate in poetry collections. However, I did not have the strongest of connections with these poems, and at 200 pages long, half of the book feels like filler poems. Is it worth buying? Possibly, but not for myself. Personally, I’d rather have more focus on the individual poems, rather than have a great outline for a collection and centering a publication around that idea, rather than putting together sets of poems. To each his own.


I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Check out the book in one of the following links:

Book: https://thoughtcatalog.com/book/your-heart-is-the-sea/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42630586-your-heart-is-the-sea


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From the Backseat of a Bus

In From the Backseat of a Bus, Jeremy Mifsud encounters a variety of experiences during his commute. Published by Ghost City Press (2019), the microchap contains 9 poems about bus passengers and observations of the outside world. This edition is freely available from the publisher’s site.

The extended chapbook includes 7 additional poems that reflect on the poet’s personal experiences (pertaining to bus travel). From these 7 poems, “Reminscence” and “Situationship” have been published in Door is a Jar Magazine and Marias at Sampaguitas respectively. This edition can be purchased on Kindlepayhip, and Kobo, amongst other bookstores. Reviews can be found on Goodreads. Book reviewers could also for a review copy preferably through email on jeremy.mifsud.writer@gmail.com

This is what Carla Sofia Ferreira, High School Teacher and Poet, had to say about the chapbook:

“This is such a fun and delightful read that manages to ask serious questions while playfully bending form! Also, Mifsud is so skilled at enjambment: I love the clever bend and tilt of the lines, imitating the movement of a bus on city lanes, sometimes smooth, often jolting.”

Carla Sofia Ferreira, Teacher and Poet

The following is a poem from the collection.

Overheard

I overheard
a teenage girl
telling her friends
she can’t go out tonight.

Her parents
can’t pick her up
            & it’s too dangerous
            for a girl
            to walk alone
            after 9pm.