He wraps himself
like resilience and hustle,
but I have to wonder
if they bring comfort
to an empty life.
He wraps himself
He wraps himself
like resilience and hustle,
but I have to wonder
if they bring comfort
to an empty life.
Spices explode across my tongue,
melding with the warm flush of alcohol…
A long exhale,
eyes at half mast,
head tilted in a relaxed lean.
And my brain is baffled
by the contradiction
of the icy chilled liquid
and the heat it generates.
Driving home, I saw someone
waiting for the green light to cross,
and although I couldn’t tell
if they were male or female
(maybe they weren’t),
it made me smile.
Although I wrote this poem in January, I think I’m about done revising it. For a tiny poem, it’s been through 11 drafts, and I think I’ve given up. It’s as good as it’s going to get. Feel free to make suggestions though!
My shoulder muscles tense,
instinctive reaction to a
I’m not okay.
My fight or flight response
a bone-deep warning to
avoid sudden movements.
I’ve got a few poems jotted down that need a second (or twelfth) look before they’re ready to share, but this one is unlikely to become any more than it is, so I’m just throwing it out there.
I was sitting in a rattan egg chair (I think they’re called egg chairs? Like a little cave of a chair, suspended from the ceiling? Anyway, moving on) on the porch/verandah/deck at my in-laws’ this afternoon, and as I half dozed in the sun, wondering if I should start a new book or if my husband and my mother-in-law were serious that work would only take ‘fifteen to twenty minutes’, my eyes were drawn to the patterns in the chair. And ta da, a poem was born. *shrugs* It’s not great, but I feel like there are a couple of people who followed me when I was posting poems every day and I’ve neglected them lately. This poem isn’t probably the best way to indulge them, but oh well. I do have a few more on the way, but I think they have potential to be stronger, so I’ll hold on to them for a little bit.
The rattan is woven around the sides
in such a way as to make
and the borders
are encircled with bands
that give a sense of
Even in big groups, surrounded by friends or in successful career phases, I was still starting to feel very alone. In some way, shape or form, I’ve always stood out. I’ve got a funny name, or ugly clothes, or a dumb haircut. And even when I was fitting in more, I was still somewhat of an outsider. The whole “fear of having good things because good things always go away”…that’s very real to me. I’m afraid to open up, because I will likely wind up scaring people away at some point. And it isn’t always because I’ve done something wrong (although there’s been my fair share of mistakes). It’s because I don’t give people the chance to understand me. Even when I deliberately try not to be complex, it comes off the wrong way. It’s hard to describe; it’s certainly one of the reasons I’m seeing a therapist, and I still can’t seem to get out what I want to say or what I mean.
And now I feel like I’m babbling. Over the years this song has meant a lot of different things to me; mainly toward other people, and it’s written from the perspective of a fan toward the changing attitudes of his favorite performer. But as time goes on, and the more distance I put between myself and my home and everyone and everything, the more I turn it in my direction. The more I write, and try to understand myself and clarify myself, the more confused I seem to end up sometimes. I don’t want to think that that’s my destiny or anything, but the longer it goes on, the more likely it seems. Ya know…something like “Make a mistake once, it’s an accident; make it again, it’s a decision.” What if my decision has been made for me? What if I’m not supposed to be figured out? It’s not as empowering as it sounds…it’s frustrating, in reality. But it’s my normal setting, I guess.
~ Norb Aikin
How long have you been blogging?
Ten years now, maybe? I just looked it up, because you asked…I created my first blog on January 7th, 2008…so nine and a half years. A lot of life lived in that time, that’s for sure. Nearly 1200 entries.
How has blogging changed since you started? Have you noticed any trends?
There weren’t as many options back then, obviously (on Writing.com and on the internet in general). Now on WDC there are plenty of blogging groups and contests, and there are sites tailored to the average person that combine the ease of word processing with the connectivity of the internet. Like anything else, the more people do it the more functional and important it becomes…the websites dedicated to blogging are easier to use and more people are sharing what’s important to them, and in many ways that’s a good thing.
What compels you to blog?
Personally? Nowadays, a really good prompt that begs me to speak to it. I’m woefully prompt-dependent . And I have to feel like I have a really solid response almost instantly, or some kind of spark at the very least. It’s easy for me to look at prompts and feel very disinterested, almost as a default. Once I can get past that and get the proverbial wheels turning and ideas start forming, the rest often takes care of itself…if my head starts rambling with ideas that I can wrangle down into paragraphs and sentences, without much thought, that’s how I know for certain it’s a prompt that I can offer something worthwhile to. More often than not it’s mentally a case of “Do I wanna do this?” more than anything (even when I see a prompt that mildly interests me), and that’s the biggest obstacle most days.
What you do think makes your blogging style unique?
Ya know, it’s really hard for me to answer that. I’ll never be able to read my entries the way anyone else will; I won’t see things how they see what I write. Blogging is often just an extension of my internal monologue, really. I’ve read many different reviews over the years; people saying nice things and sometimes lesser-nice things , and while I appreciate that it’s hard for me to get a sense sometimes exactly what they mean, because I’m not trained to see my words the same way I would read someone else’s.
How has your own blogging style changed since you first started blogging?
This is a really good question! I think for the most part it’s a lot truer to who I am outside of my blog. In the early days I felt more like a showman, a performer. I felt like I was trying to physically entertain readers in a non-physical medium, and that’s hard if you look at it that way. I felt more like a radio personality or a talk show host rather than a person who enjoys writing. And it’s fine to be like that in the short-term, but it’s not for everyone and it’s hard to maintain readership and interest after awhile because you’re constantly trying to invent and reinvent on top of something that maybe wasn’t already stable to begin with. Today, I feel more like the person whose blog you’re reading today is the same one you’ll bump into at the grocery store tomorrow or have dinner with next week. I’m not slipping into a cartoon of myself so much anymore.
Who do you consider your audience?
Anyone who reads it! No, I try not to limit myself to certain demographics or groups. Like a lot of people in this position, I want to reach as many people as I can while knowing full well what I write isn’t for everyone. But my job isn’t really about pleasing the people who will always read it…it’s more about pleasing those who might not always read it or who once thought maybe it wasn’t their thing when they read something a couple years ago and maybe stumbled upon a link recently. How do I connect with that person? How do I make it more interesting for them, while also making it enjoyable for me and the people who would read my blog regularly? I look at that as a challenge almost as much as trying to come up with interesting content.
Do you advertise or market your blog? Do you get much traffic?
I used to advertise it a lot more on social media, which I really should get back into doing because I find it does make a difference. People who aren’t WDC members but find links to my blog through Twitter (@fivesixer) or Facebook have told me in the past how much they’ve enjoyed it, and it becomes easier to grow an audience organically like that. It’s nice to have that universe of tangible people I’ve grown up with and around coinciding more with the universe of online friends.
Do you care how large your audience is, or do you write more for a select few?
I think this goes back to what I said about an audience. I’m not really concerned if 10 people or 1000 or a million consider themselves “my audience”. I write more for myself first (which sounds terrible but trust me, I don’t mean it egotistically ), but I also do it because people seem to like it and enjoy it, and as long as that still happens I’ll have reasons to keep doing it.
Have you ever received negative or distressing comments/feedback on your blog? How did/do you cope with them?
The two most important things to keep in mind are: 1) Consider the source; and 2) Know the context of situation. If someone I don’t know wants to slam me for something I said, I may want to understand why they feel that way before I consider if I’ve said anything wrong. If I’m wrong, I’ll own it…but like anyone else, I’m entitled to my opinion and the majority of the time I’m sharing just that. It’s ok to call my opinion wrong, as long as you’re respectful and sensible. What I don’t have time for is anger and hatred over something I do for fun. Like I said, I get it that what I write isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea- I’m opinionated, I swear, I make jokes sometimes at the wrong time, I swear while making ill-timed jokes- but there are ways we can agree to disagree without being jerks about it. There is a tendency, especially in this day and age, for people to regard their own opinions as fact…and that’s where a lot of internet comments sections turn into the filthiest cesspools on the planet. People don’t believe they can be wrong, and hate being told as much. If I’m wrong and you can point out how, without making an ass out of yourself or me, I appreciate that. But go in the other direction, and I have no problem telling you to not read me anymore. I just don’t have time for that kind of drama, pettiness, and nonsense in my life.
How important is reader feedback to you?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a big deal to me. It’s not a big deal, but at the same time it’s a reminder that yes, people are paying attention, and in that moment you connected with them enough that they felt compelled to give something back to the discussion. Feedback and comments are a big part of why we do what we do. We have something to say and we’re initiating or responding to something, and it’s in a format that lends itself to two-way longform conversation that’s different than just emailing a couple people or texting someone. The reader contributes to the conversation, depending on the topic, and it becomes another way of sharing information, or a laugh, or even just an implied hug.
Do you have any ‘tricks’ you use to engage your audience (such as asking questions to trigger a response)?
I hesitate to call them “tricks”, but you know as a writer the way you word something will elicit a different reaction than saying something people are used to hearing. There are zillions of words in the English language, yet people tend to think describing certain things the same boring ways over and over are going to make them somehow sound better because it’s coming from them. Even if the response is a simple “lol”, if you do something different people are going to remember that more. A blogger/audience relationship, on a lot of levels, is just like any other human relationship you have…with family, friends, partners, etc. You have to keep it interesting. Keeping it honest, fresh, and fun…sounds like a slogan or something, but it’s true!
And when I tried to take a nap to clear my head from it all, this song kept playing over and over between my ears. I couldn’t shut it off. The refrain is simple- “cash rules everything around me”- but the verses are intricate and deep. Meaningful. I would bump this cassette maxi-single from my old Plymouth Horizon, the first car I ever owned.
When you’re strugglin’, sometimes you’ve gotta do whatever you can just to survive. You make the tough decisions, because if you don’t someone else might, and chances are you’ll like that a hell of a lot less. For a lot of people, cash is king. It’s what makes the world move, as much as we might hate to admit it…try puttin’ it on your spouse or your deities or your faith to pay your bills each month, and see how far that gets you with your creditors. I’m not mocking religion; I’m just sayin’ doin’ nothin’ but hittin’ your knees for thirty straight days prolly ain’t gonna pay your rent.
It’s not easy when you’re low-income…which makes people feel all the more rewarded when they start payin’ bills with a little bit left over each month. That’s when you know things are lookin’ up for you.
~ Norb Aikin
How do you feel if an entry gets no comments?
Eh, it happens. And I’m not gonna lie…sometimes it seems like it happens more on the entries I feel like I’ve worked really hard on, or entries that I’m really proud of how they turned out . If you let it affect you and demoralize you, you’re never gonna write again. And if you’re writing just to get clicks or likes, maybe you’re not doing it for the right reasons…maybe you need to adjust your perception of validation. Sometimes the internet’s odds aren’t in your favor, for whatever reason. It’s ok. Every song can’t be #1 on the charts, every chapter of every book doesn’t get a writeup in the New York Times, and you can’t always count on the eyeballs you’re hoping for meeting up with your entry that day. You just make sure you’ve shared it in the places you’ve wanted to share it, make sure it says what you meant for it to say, and the rest is really up to the fickle nature of human beings. Some days the produce section at the grocery store is empty, and other days they can’t give it away. Either way, there’s another day, another prompt, another experience or memory to share.
What about if an entry sparks a conversation among your readers, even if it deviates from the original post and ends up entirely unrelated? How does that make you feel?
As long as it’s good-natured, well-intentioned, what have you…it’s honestly fantastic! You’ve transcended that conventional blogger/audience connection and the readers and yourself have felt comfortable enough that a left turn takes on a journey of its own. I’ve been on both sides of that- as the blogger, and the commenter- and there’s a bigger sense of community when that happens. Your audience, who came together for one purpose, is now turning their attention to something else, because of what’s transpired. It’s like hosting a party and all of the sudden another party breaks out at your party…as long as everyone’s cool and the cops don’t show up, who’s got a problem with that?
Are ‘likes’ as good as comments?
Ummmm…yes and no. Depends on what you’re looking for, I guess. A comment may not necessarily be a like, but it may mean more than a like. A like just means the reader was there and approves and left to go somewhere else. They showed up to your party, thanked you for the drink, and went to another party instead of throwing a party at your party . Then again, I’ve never minded being the guy who shows up to your party and sits off to the side to have a quiet conversation about matters unrelated to the party but of interest to one of the other guests, whether I know and/or like him or not.
How would you describe the content of your blog? Does it have a theme?
My current blog, Soundtracked, I guess doesn’t really have a theme. None of my blogs ever really did other than me getting out thoughts on different topics, or relating the things I did that particular day, or relating a prompt to my life experiences. I’ve always wanted my blogs to lean more on the humorous side than anything, first and foremost. I guess you could say Soundtracked is the closest to a themed blog as I’ve ever gotten, in that it was originally designed for music-themed contests and challenges. It’s since sort of slipped back into the loose template of its predecessor (Still Figurin’ Out Who I Think I Am) while branching out into poetry a little more…it’s maturing! Soon it’s gonna ask me for the car keys and come home smelling like cigarette smoke and loose women .
How much thought do you put into the content of your blog entries? Do you plan each entry or do you wing it?
I don’t plan as much as I used to. I would get so wrapped up in planning that by the time it came down to typing it up I was really doing double the work and not trusting my instincts enough…and I think that’s what blogging should be, more of how it started than the homogenized corporate-speak that you see so much of today. It should be raw, open, honest (brutally, if need be), and genuine….more “in the moment”. It’s easier to encapsulate all of that on the spot than coming up with an outline and arranging this part and that part and how you want to open or close it and so on. That said, I’ll still write some things down, especially if I see a prompt at night before going to bed and thoughts on it occur to me. I hate getting halfway into composing an entry and knowing I thought of something really funny three hours ago or the night before and I’ve forgotten what it was. It could be a one-liner, or something to remind me of an old memory that’s relevant to the prompt, or just a word I heard or came across that I want to use because I hadn’t seen it in awhile. I may write down a song title or video clip I want to use, or a link I’d recently seen. So I still do some prep work, but I can’t do as much as I used to. It takes a lot of the fun out of actually writing an entry for me, and that’s mainly why I’d taken a break from it for so long last year.
How has blogging changed your life (if it has)?
Well, it’s hasn’t made me rich, or even close to it . But has it changed my life? Perhaps. Probably. It might be the closest I’ll ever come to writing an honest-to-goodness autobiography. But “change your life” is kind of a strong term, isn’t it? I think when people hear that they tend to expect radical departures from an implied norm; the reality is that it’s enhanced my life in certain ways for sure, in a positive manner. When I was at a dead end writing poetry, I started blogging, and as that grew legs my poetry began to come back around…so in that aspect it’s been a success. I’m a believer in the whole “you get out of it what you put into it” thing, and it’s given me a lot in terms of writing and community and inclusiveness…some of which haven’t always been available to me in the non-blogging world. I also believe in the idea that sometimes you need to see things out in front of you in order to understand them, and talking things out with an understanding crowd can be beneficial…blogging for me serves that purpose. If I’m struggling with something, I can put it out there and not worry too much about being judged for it, but I can get feedback and maybe some enlightenment if I’m really looking for it.
Share your favourite blog entry (from your own blog, past or present) with us (or a couple of favourites if you can’t choose).
Ohhhhh my…so many entries alone that I can’t really even…where would I even begin? Let’s take Misunderstood/Sunken Treasure and 30DIC Day 13: Silver At Sleep from Soundtracked, and why not This one’s about bad driving, chaos, and C.R.E.A.M. and This one’s about sex. from the Quill-winning Still Figurin’ Out Who I Think I Am. I can’t even say that these are actual favorites, to be honest; I just didn’t feel like actually trying to find them (out of almost 1200), and then proofreading them again for content and making sure all the links work. These just happened to catch my eye today. Maybe tomorrow I’d like different ones, ya know? I just don’t spend a lot of time looking back.
Do you read other people’s blogs?
Obviously, as the guy in charge of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge, I do read a bunch…but I will definitely try to make time for some of the entries I’ll catch on my Personal Newsfeed (at WDC). And also as the person who runs a blogging competition, don’t ask me to pick a favorite, because there’s probably something not ethical about me saying I like so-and-so’s and then they show up in the 30DBC …that’s just my luck.
Do you read blogs outside of Writing.com?
I do, when I have time. I’m a fan of Deadspin and Jezebel, and Jezebel’s The Slot has some excellent (mostly US) political commentary. Alan Cross’ A Journal Of Musical Things is something I try to keep up with; I was a fan of his radio show growing up. And I follow a few topics on The Mighty as well; it’s a site that focuses on mental health mainly and takes reader submissions, which is an avenue I should probably be more seriously looking into, if I can ever get my head together and focus long enough on writing non-fiction in that vein.
What do you look for when you’re reading other blogs (or what appeals)?
I like blogs that are written like the person doesn’t walk around saying “I write a blog” in a big-deal voice. Hook me early with interesting language and phrasing. Don’t give me a book report or an essay…I want emotion, humor, and a sense of who you are and what your purpose is. After about 3-5 entries, I should be able to tell if you have a distinct voice; something that separates you from a pack. Something that distinguishes you, whether it’s in your tone or in the way you write about the things you write about. I don’t want to reread the same things over and over; I don’t want the same vanilla perspectives. People often ask me what makes a good blog, or if I have any tips, and I have no idea what to tell them. I know what works for me, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be good to you. I may not know what’s good, but I know what’s not good. Three sentences do not make a good blog entry. Answering what is little more than a glorified yes/no question with basically a yes/no answer? Not interesting. I like fun and whimsy and smart and engaging. I want to feel like I’m being conversed with, like the writer wants me as part of what he or she is trying to get across, even if it’s just to sit and listen.
What do you consider the do’s and don’t’s of blogging?
Like I said, be interesting! Be funny, and be yourself. Besides the obvious “have good grammar skills”, don’t be a yes/no person. If you’re writing an entry based on a prompt, don’t just answer the question like you’re taking a test and then move on to another prompt…again, two or three sentences doesn’t really make for interesting reading material. Do embed videos! Do use links from other websites! Do include pictures occasionally, but not too many, and if you’re gonna go that route just link to a photo album. Other than that, I really kinda suck at the “what kind of advice can you give” category…it’s your blog and you choose to do whatever you want; I think a lot of people tend to forget that when they’re starting out, and that they’re in full control.
Which do you find easier, writing poems or blogging? Which would you give up, if you could only do one?
At this point I can’t put one over the other. Either the purpose for doing it is there, or it isn’t (and that goes for both). I’ve recognized that I made blogging a lot of work for myself, because I’m only satisfied in writing an entry if I’m 100% committed to spending the time to really say what I want to and have it turn out a certain way. And because I don’t consider myself a “true poetry scholar” (not meant in offense to those who are), it’s easier for me to write down a poem, flip a page, and do the proverbial “kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug, and I jet” (Google it, kids). One’s not really easier than the other; both have differing degrees of physical and emotional demands that require attention…but I started out as a poem-writer before blogging was even a thing, and given how some corners of the internet look at blogging, poetry is seen as less shameful than it was maybe 20 years ago .
No And No
This is the noise that keeps me awake,
the tie-dyed sentiments flung
from dirt that can’t be un-dug,
and this is me saying no
to a wish that “no” isn’t an answer to.
The curl, pulled straight.
The antidote, failed.
Nothing good can come of this
and that’s why I’m here.
This is the lookalike and this is the duplicate
and I am the difference
that goes unnoticed
until it’s too late.
There’s something, and nothing,
and something from nothing,
but I walk on the outline of the void-
I won’t fall in from the push;
my recoil does all the work for me.
Let’s not and say we did
before we have to pretend,
or at least until we get caught.
This is the noise that keeps me awake
and this is the escape I can’t seem to make
when I least expect it
but that’s what I’m doing now
and no one’s gonna tell me otherwise
even if they wanted to.
Like a joke not worth explaining
to people who don’t understand laughter,
I can’t help myself from myself.
Do you write poems instinctively or do you craft them? Are they blurted out on a page, carefully edited, or some mixture of both?
This might upset the so-called”purists”, but I don’t care…90% of what I do is based on instinct. The only difference between my notebooks and what shows up in my online portfolio are the parts I’ve clearly scratched out (probably because I couldn’t spell something right or had a mental spasm of indecision over where to break a line ). I don’t labor much over poems like I’ve learned many others do; maybe I should, because that would improve them…but what would I be losing out on from an impact standpoint by readdressing something when I wasn’t in the original moment? There’s a small element of crafting I guess- the genesis, or hows and whys, mixed with a thought or memory or some other nudge- but once instinct takes over, it’s up to me to respond and I find that if I’m struggling in parts and aren’t able to put concepts or thoughts together in a way that seems to work for me, then it’s not gonna work in the minds of the people reading it either. It’s maybe a more complicated standard than it needs to be, but it works for me and I can’t be worrying about touch-ups and finagling…that’s taking time away from working on something else I might have on my mind.
How would you describe your poetry style?
Rebel Rap Tennis ( that’s a story that goes way back, to my teen years!). I don’t know how else to describe it, and I don’t know if anyone’s ever asked before (or if I’ve considered an answer to)! There’s really no true “definition” other than an amalgam or conversion of various parts and pieces that were put together in ways that not only made sense to me but resonated with others.
Do you ever share your poems in real life?
Not at much as I used to; hardly at all in fact anymore. Life happens and often gets in the way, ya know? As people grow and move on, your circle becomes smaller and there isn’t the same time to invite someone over and say “Hey, I just wrote this…what do you think?” like I could ten or twenty years ago. And having a place like WDC means I can reach people on their terms, so they can read at their leisure, because let’s be honest, one of the worst parts of being a writer is that moment when someone’s reading something of yours right in front of you. What do you do with yourself in those moments, where seconds feel like minutes? You don’t wanna be too anxious, even though you’re wondering what kind of response you’re gonna get. And then the balancing out of wondering if the response you’re getting is genuine or just placating. Ideally I’d like to find a real-life community where I can open up a little more; I haven’t been able
to find that yet where I live now but I’d like to believe it’s out there.
Also, I do find it kinda hard talking about poetry in general. I just finished Matthew Zapruder’s excellent Why Poetry, which addresses some of the stigmas and preconceived notions attached to poetry, and I think anyone with even a passing interest in poetry would find it advantageous to read…if only to get past some of the ideas and stereotypes that exist because of poetry and the people who write it. People have asked me about my own writing- people I didn’t realize even knew I wrote- and I’ve never been sure what to say, because they didn’t strike me as people who would be interested enough in the first place. Hopefully I won’t just brush them off anymore.
Do you feel your audience genuinely understands your poems, or is there always a hint of ‘I’m glad they liked it, even if they’ll never truly understand the hidden context’?
Both are in play, I think. Understanding and interpretation are funny, fickle beasts, and I’m still trying to figure out who or what my audience is. With blogging, it’s easier and you can play to them more…poetry is more intimate, even though to me I compose blog entries and poetry similarly. You hope they get it but can’t plan on it, and liking something isn’t the same as understanding it. The difference is that with blogging you can be more straightforward if you want, which leads to better understanding. With poetry, it’s easier to purposefully not be understood at times. Words have meaning but context is applied randomly by the reader through their own relation to the same words. Some will understand, some will feel confused…if everyone “got it”, what good would secrets be?
Skateboards and Notebooks (for Mike)
It starts with a thought-
a silly hobby.
Use it to pass time,
blow off steam,
and/or engage friends.
Sometime comes when you realize
you’re pretty good,
eventually better than everyone you know
and at least on par
with what you’ve seen
outside your broken half-circle.
So you work.
Improve. Expand. Practice. Build.
Not only is it yours,
it becomes you.
Your humble pride begins to swell
You’ve found freedom within
from what has left you out
and circulated it
into your universe,
for use at your own discourse.
You’ve not merely won,
but created a dynasty in positive proportions.
Ingredients are more than hard work;
your talents, once marked and scarred,
when exercised hand you
a grace to overcome your detractors
and turn their hurt into your wit,
determination, skill and chance
to overwhelmingly succeed.
It doesn’t happen overnight,
for forever’s rewards take immeasurable
but not infinite
time to earn.
It starts with a thought-
a silly hobby.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your poetry?
I was fortunate to have a couple English teachers throughout high school that really appreciated poetry and encouraged me and made time for me. They normalized it for me, nurtured my interest, and above all were honest with me in regards to what worked and what didn’t. Having a strong foundation means you can do a lot more than you realize you’re capable of, and having people who can inform you from a practical standpoint when you’re testing limits is indispensable. And from there, you just try to take in as much as you can from around you, and you turn it into yours.
Who are some poets you admire, or some favourite poems by other poets that you’ve appreciated?
Richard Brautigan…a coworker friend turned me on to him, and I found his language easy to relate to. It took me awhile, but once I’d read In Watermelon Sugar I really understood life in general to be a lot different than I imagined. And Saul Williams…I came across a copy of , said the shotgun to the head while working in a bookstore and was blown away. His free verse is the post-9/11 soundtrack America needed and yet maybe slept on out of fear that fear of everything was in vogue. As for people I’m more familiar with, I’m a huge fan of Cinn…her word economy against emotional impact is leaps and bounds over 95% of what’s out there. Charlie has an incredible soul, warmth, and texture…the things you can’t measure. And I really admire Minja, because she tackles a lot in her poems and does it with English being her second language. She’s another person who brings these great undefined emotional tendencies to her work that makes everything she does stand out.
What’s going to happen to all the poems you write? Will they end up lost in cyberspace? Collated on a website or blog for posterity? Scribbled into a bunch of notebooks to be carefully treasured?
I don’t look that far ahead anymore. I used to be obsessed with the idea of timelessness and writing things that hopefully one day kids would read in their Literature textbooks instead of the same dreck they’re force-fed, but the internet did change everything and with the nature of “cyberspace” being so current, it makes me question what 10 or 50 or more years will be like. I know there was intent once of having a kid that I could instill this love in and pass these notebooks down like some kind of heirloom, but as I get older the likelihood of that diminishes (obviously). I’m cool with uploading as much of my old stuff as I can take to WDC when I feel like it. I do want some kind of digital archive like that…but putting in the work to do that is a bit of a pain.
I know if I don’t though, the alternative is building the coolest landfill outside of the one in Arizona where Atari buried all the unsold ET video game cartridges .
How often do you look back at old poems you’ve written? How has your poetry changed over time, and do you think it will change again?
I don’t look back very often. Some don’t age as well as I thought they might, which is fine…we can’t predict the social climate we’re going to be living in. And like I said, archiving old notebooks is cool, but it’s energy I’m spending on not moving forward. But there are some gems I come across…maybe I was too “in the moment” to share them and then just forgot about them…having a healthy separation from your work is key to not letting it drive you totally insane , whether it’s days or years. Has it changed? Maybe it’s evolved, if anything, or at least I’d like to think it has. Hard to say…I’m not focused on giving myself critical evaluations. I’m just doing what I can, the best I can, when I can.
Do you ever write stories?
I don’t. I probably could (and should), but I don’t have the attention span or attention to detail required. Blogging is as close as I’ll get to writing stories, because there’s a bigger emotional payoff for me in doing it I guess…which is a garbage answer, because I’ve read some really cool short stories this past year alone, but it’s not for me. For as long as I’ve been a WDC member, I’ve only ever posted one (that I can remember, at least: Painted Rock) and that was for a specific contest that got me out of comfort zones completely. I know it needs some tweaking but it was nominated for a Quill Award, and that blows my mind. I wouldn’t wipe writing more shorts off the table completely, but it’s not a priority. I don’t blog enough as it is anymore anyway ; those are the short stories I’m most interested in writing…getting little personal anecdotes of my life out there before I forget them.
You have a particular interest in non-fiction, including reading medical writing. What is it about these that interests you? Do you utilise the knowledge you gain in your own writing?
Oh, you know, when you find something you’re good at, you often tend to embrace it. I lost my amazing ability to multitask in a stressful environment that earned me my income, so nowadays, I have a near perfect memory for dates, doctors, diagnoses, and just about anything medical– once I’ve learned it, I rarely forget it. In fact, if I were well today, I would likely be a Pharmacologist. It’s a weird thing to admit, but we all have our talents! I do of course take many medicines but I can tell you what each one looks like, what writing it has on it, if any, and their color and purpose.
When I was a young child, I read every single ingredient from every single shampoo bottle, food product, anything with writing in the house– I devoured the written word. I repeatedly read the same products and words over, and over, until at last I could at least recognize their phonetic breakdown, spell them, YES even if I didn’t know what they meant. Certainly I was teased and called ‘wordy’, which is a nice compliment now. Ha!
I remember going to the public libraries and researching my kidney symptoms when I was only 14-16 years old. My mother and I spent many weekend days there, because the doctors didn’t believe my pain was serious, and because I kept insisting something was seriously wrong. I was six when it began, and seventeen when the kidney and gland were removed. It was in these old physician’s only medical texts that I first learned some medical jargon, and gained a rudimentary understanding of the urological system. It saved my life, just not my kidney nor my adrenal gland.
Once high school was over, I had no need for medical knowledge, and I tossed it all away. However, in just a few short years at the age of twenty-two or so, I got hit with the adrenal crapola from hell! Then, I was too sick to really go to the libraries, and the internet wasn’t even around for anything other than gaming. We’re talking 1993 here. I was working 80-90 hour weeks and had no time for research. Seriously.
Once I was back in the ‘system’ (the medical system) in my home state of S.California, it was a matter of picking up the lingo and information as I went along. I had so many tests, not just the normal x-rays, blood tests, but also MRI’s, IVPs, just nuclear medicine tests at the cost of thousands of dollars. Once I learned this adrenal failure happened because of corticosteroids I was given to help me breathe, I became nearly obsessed with not allowing my ignorance to ‘bite’ me in the ass again. Had I of known, been told, read the package leaflet… maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t have become so ill. So, essentially, I either understand everything they are DOING to MY BODY, and I make intelligent suggestions along the way thus becoming an active participant in my OWN healthcare, or— I die. It became as simple as that. I was close, there were mistakes in medication, diagnoses, and malpractice and an amazing amount of pure negligence along the road these past twenty-five years. There’s friends who have died. People younger than my nearly 47 years. BUT, it IS a choice: you either buck up and do THEIR job WITH them or FOR them, or you could easily die. And not peacefully usually!
By the way… I have no issues with dying really, but I’ll be damned if it’s going to be from neglecting myself. I do the best I can to be a compliant patient, but I am nobody’s fool. Now. So why DO I really write about it? Because I feel very alone in it. Nobody has all the circumstances and quirks and diagnoses that I do, I mean, my body’s its own Whata Wreck. But. . . surely there are others that can benefit from my experiences? There is no one protocol for much of this adrenal / endocrine system failure. And I am NOT afraid to give some pretty strong advice. Ha! But really, I write about it also because the physical act of typing it all out makes it clearer in my mind what needs to be done. I always have to have a plan or three, and I must constantly evaluate those to weave in the variables of my illness… nothing stays the same for too long. Writing usually makes me feel like I am SPEAKING to someone, for once. That illusive someone who may read my hypotheses for recovery, or may at least agree with me on how little value life can be. I need no sugar coating– I like my reality with a double shot of ‘just the facts, ma’am’. I can come to my own ‘hopeful’ or ‘bleak’ conclusions. I did not put myself back together with glue and tears and medications just to be taken apart by their lies and indifference again. No sirree.
Tell me about a piece of writing that stayed with you or was particularly memorable.
Oh, I’d have to say Mannequined allowed me to express a feeling of why I used to consider myself to be stupid, in an interesting way. I stayed pretty quiet in my relationships because I had no basis for anything resembling normal. I hadn’t had time to develop yet; like a Polaroid photograph that is still developing, but I was so impatient with myself. I figured it out though. Eventually.
My inner child was just too
indelibly written within.
A life spent in survival mode
was still just… too raw.
My spine was too weak,
my tongue too flayed…
to speak my truth, then.
But really i hate carnations because my dad was a hard person to get to know really deeply, kinda like myself. He just showed the shallow stuff, mostly, and waited for a person to be interested in more before revealing anything vulnerable about himself. And because I feel him closer to me when I read the poem about the day of his farcical funeral. Rather a comedy of errors and incidents that weren’t too funny, but then my dad and I shared our weird sense of humor, so….
Some of your writing is very personal. How important is it that you share your own story, or is sharing your work merely a byproduct of your need to write your experiences for yourself?
I figured out a while ago that if I don’t post my more intimate poetry for public consumption, then I just won’t write it. Then it all gets stuffed inside, and people are not supposed to be olives, right? We aren’t cannon that will one day just implode! Well, we aren’t supposed to be, I’m sure. I just kind of start to lose it if I cannot express a time in my life that was painful. Writing about it sucks—it hurts. There’s such indecision, and second-guessing going on. But once it’s completed, there’s a sense of satisfaction at having turned something ugly into. . . I dunno, perhaps something another person can relate to. Maybe there’s truly a few people who read it and feel better just knowing they aren’t alone in their experiences and / or feelings. I think cancer finds its way in when we refuse or cannot release these negative, pent-up emotions. I mean, I’m going out a different way, not cancer. A great example of how personal is too personal would be: Transient Murderer. There are not many who could share something like that, and I envy them because they likely don’t NEED to share it– but I really did. What I am NOT doing is airing my dirty laundry in some half-cocked contest of who’s had it worse. Everyone has their shit in life– I’m saying, this is mine.
How has writing changed your life?
Tres bien, ah de trop Madame! So, so very much. Before I found Writing.com, it was just me and my illness. I had within one month been put on permanent disability from the job of my dreams; I’d had to give up my swanky little apartment and move back in with my mother; I had to quit college– my life just was put on hold. About a year later, my mother got a home computer and I began to research my ‘Cushing’s Syndrome’ and umm etc. I’ll spare you ha ha! But finding WdC was fun. I was WhataWriter and it was a total joke! Whata did I ever write? Some, not much.
I can’t really socialize with my illness—it stresses me out too much. I’m the worst kind of friend, unreliable due to something that really wasn’t ever my fault. I know that now, but I still must be vigilant. And the older I get the worse it all gets so hey, lots of material to write about eh! So separating my medical ‘crapola’ as I refer to it and my writing endeavors is pretty difficult—which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows. But writing helps me cope.
Do you listen to music when you’re writing? Do you have a favourite ‘soundtrack’ for writing?
Oh aye, of course, I simply must! Anything will do, but it goes with the theme of my writing. If it’s sad, then sad songs; if it’s angry or fun it could be heavy metal to Imagine Dragons to Scorps to… I do so love music. In fact, a phrase in a song might playback all manner of memories; it is often the beginning of some dark poem. If I’m really into something deep, something as yet intangible (or even a punctuation or structural nightmare) I’ll switch to instrumental only music. I love the ‘Lost Christmas Eve’ album from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And Archangel, a newer one. I like Andrea Bocelli. My friend Bobby is always great for some music referrals if needed! This poem was like that, and I’m still contemplating a few edits on it: Archivist of. . .. I wrote it to mimic four movements, but the subject is how to fill the hours. My favorite movie as well, ‘The Hours’.
Do you have a favourite author?
Definitely. I hearken back to my first favorite author, because it’s kinda like a first love, even though I’ve quite a few more favorites since: Diana Gabaldon. She writes the voluminous ‘Outlander’ series which I think there’s nearly twenty of them now? Not slight, modest books are these—they’re like 800-1000 pages. Hardback. Anyways, I used to work (for years) in bookstores. I found ‘Outlander’ before it was an international bestseller. Yeah, I like to say I made her rich ha ha ha. But it’s just that great a series. The TV Show has been amazingly true to the books as well. She made me want to BE a writer. I just haven’t found the time away from my emotions to get serious about writing fiction! But I want to. I have a little something-something in the works….
Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
My favorite fantasy series are on Amazon by Robert Anton. It’s an enchanting world, wonderfully written. Amazing talent. But he is also my favorite non-fiction author on Writing.com, I can get so engrossed in his philosophical and scientific articles! Yeah, I just love to learn new things… ancient civilizations are kewl too. Yup, Bobby is a huge inspiration– and one of my biggest fans. Not to mention my editor when he isn’t TOO busy and I have tough enough skin to take it. He’s a rare, excellent quality gem.
What’s your favourite piece of your own writing?
Well, it’s actually my epic 4600 or so word biography, Just Another Walk in the Rain. I began writing it when I first joined Writing.com, waaay back in 2002. When I came back as simply ‘whata’ two years ago, I thought what absolute shite! I had to rewrite it. It took months. It was most difficult because the medical events were mostly so long ago, I couldn’t get the timeline cohesive enough. I do so loathe structural issues. So when it was completed, I really did feel such a sense of accomplishment. It isn’t the easiest material to write about. However, in reading it over once again this morning, I vow to make a part II. What more could I possibly add? I was more optimistic when I rewrote it just two years ago; I’d like to infuse some of my dark charm into it. Because I’m neither happy-go-lucky-Whata, nor down-in-the-dumps-Adrie. I’m kinda stuck right now, somewhere in between. I mean, I am, after all, a realist. I used to be such a dreamer….
We are all born into this world as innocents, right? To me, life is not so easily defined. After years of obsessive research, I’ve concluded that we are sent to this earth as a lesson. This lesson teaches us to be kind, to persevere, to help our fellow man, to love and be loved in return. Most of all, life is a lesson to never, ever, give up. We must keep fighting, not merely to survive, but in order for us to thrive. I surmise these are the lessons we are meant to learn before our corporeal selves die, and we are released into the spirit world.
No, I am not a Shaman, nor am I a wiseass: I speak in earnest. I am a person who has seriously visited a kind of hell, one on this earth, and have learned many lessons from my unhappiness. Now, at the age of forty-four, I am quite set on my path of righteousness. Not that everyone will, or should, follow my path, as it is for me. I have earned it, you could say. However, I do stumble, but I’ll continue to drag myself up, dust my bum off, and try in earnest to learn from my life’s lessons. It is this knowledge, and my secret hope that propels me to seek a more fulfilling life.
– Just Another Walk in the Rain by Adrienne Lilley
Yes, this is me. Longwinded. Irreverent. But hopefully always as truthful as I can be (according to how much denial I’m in at the time, of course).
You can read more of Adrienne’s work at her Writing.com portfolio.