problems

Poetry Nights and how they put everything back in perspective

Sometimes I love cancelled plans, ironically they come to me with a great feeling of adrenaline rush and countless opportunities. I am an introvert by default – it is evident from my need to catch a break for a day or two after spending a lot of time closely interacting with other people for a while. It doesn’t mean they are not dear to me, I just need a small escape gap to give me a chance to recharge my batteries, and then I’m ready to socialize again and be a happy, functional human woman.

Like most of us, I enjoy being around people I like and who I’m comfortable with, talking is of course the main part of the deal so a healthy cocktail of chit-chattery, gossip, simple topics mixed with something new or more challenging is always the unintentional goal. One of the parts of being a social being in general is no matter how long you know someone, if your relationship is solid, you’ll always manage to discover new subjects, learn something and finally, get excited about things you didn’t even know they excite you.

So, cancelled plans. This week is the best time to be alive for all of us chronic cancellation and postponing loving assholes. It is the middle of a summer, the time when I usually turn into someone who is not a very good person, someone who doesn’t have the greatest conversation starters or any creative ideas whatsoever, someone who will talk about mosquito bites and suicide 90 per cent of the time. I would most likely team up with your grandma and present everyone with the data about the horrible effects of sun exposure and how you should, if possible, avoid it throughout the day. Going to the beach happens only from 6 to 7 AM or after 7 PM, there’s no in between. Literally. I will even casually throw in the word ‘cancer’ just to keep the party going, totally unaware how I’m being a bit of a hypocrite since I used to smoke a pack  a cigarettes a day and no one could say a word about it.

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Back to cancelled plans. The past couple of days the heatwave made everyone act like me. They are postponing work, public events – no open movie projections, even some theater plays got cancelled! Since nothing is going on, all we hear in the ‘news’ is: extreme temperatures, the worst summer ever, hell on earth… I read a title that went like this: Our readers experiences: ‘I went to the store today and died’. The whole article consists of random statements delivered by anonymous Croatian citizens (a.k.a. invented by the author) worrying about how to survive the heatwave. My absolute favourite comes from a brave female reader from Zagreb:

I drink water and pee all day, I can’t eat and I usually love to eat. If I put my clothes on, I’m hot. If I take it off, I get sticky. And the worst part of it all – the coffee doesn’t taste good.

What do I do when plans get cancelled and I’m lying naked in a pool of blood sweat next to the ventilator, but don’t want my brain to go into a complete shutdown? I read poetry – no matter if it’s going back to old gems or accidentally discovering new authors, it’s the best cure. Tonight I’m once again hanging out with my queen, Sylvia Plath.

One of her poems that leaves the greatest impression is called Mushrooms and although I didn’t pay much attention to it because of the title that seemed bleak (seriously?), became important to me right after I read it for the first time.

Mushrooms

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Sylvia Plath, The Colossus and Other Poems (1960)

 

When I read it now, I could swear that this poem is precisely what first inspired Margaret Atwood to write The Handmaid’s Tale, just look at the last verse. Sylvia Plath is an icon of feminism, a real one, not just a ‘one line pony’ as I like to call them nowadays. She lived in the 50’s and was, in a way, forced into accepting a role of a simple housewife, go after society’s rules, although her mind was way beyond that ever since she was a young girl.

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If I Could Just See You From Up Here by Norman Duenas

This is a poem about oppression and how it will not last forever. I don’t think it’s necessary to limit to the equal female rights problem only when oppression is not just gender based problem (what an understatement in lack of a better word), it is everywhere, it is evident, hidden, sometimes comes in layers, sometimes directly in your face. Oppression is the word I would use to describe what Plath was fearing the most during her young and later adult years, the fear of not being able to express herself and live freely without having to answer to anyone’s expectations deteriorated the state of her mental health leading her towards the tragic ending.

Mushrooms speaks to everyone who has ever felt isolated, misunderstood, underestimated or ignored and although it comes in a depressive tone, it is actually a positive, hopeful poem.  It provokes the thoughts of a revolution that will help restore the balance between the greedy oppressor and the underdog. It is in deed a revolution, but not the roaring, powerful kind, it is subtle and quiet, it comes on its tiptoes while you think everyone on the planet is asleep. Nothing is sure except that in the morning the sun will rise and deliver a surprise on its rays.

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We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.

 

 

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I Am a Hypocrite, But So Are You

I love animals, all of them without the exception, except for snakes, fish and some types of birds, especially chickens, they freak me out almost as much as snakes do. Let’s start again, I love cute, playful animals the ones you can have as a pet and teach them a couple of tricks  – dogs, cats, bunnies, hamsters. I’m not totally crazy about hamsters, I wouldn’t like to own one as a pet but I don’t mind visiting someone who owns them and play around a bit if they are in the mood. Can you teach hamsters some tricks?

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Oh and I used to be obsessed with getting a skunk as a pet, that was my main goal for like a year or two, but I gave up eventually because my only pet at the time was a mentally unstable cat so I thought getting a skunk who is known to be at its most energized behaviour just before the sun comes out would be a bit of a drag to say the least. I postponed my ‘getting a skunk’ mission until my cat runs away or dies or whatever. One fine spring day the cat disappeared, which was normal because if you have been living under a rock and don’t know, cats are the biggest whores on the planet. He (my cat) came back after five days all wounded up and weird, which was normal, because of the whoremones and all, then disappeared again and never came back. A couple of deliberately petless years later, we got a labrador and fell hopelessly in love with that funny, droopy eyed, perpetually hungry creature. Again, skunks are out of the question.

But, I digress. I made my point, I am an animal lover and I think people are often behaving like ruthless idiots when they buy a dog and leave it alone in the yard when they go on a three-week vacation thinking: Oh well, he’ll manage! Sometimes buying a puppy for your 8-year-old doesn’t turn out quite the way you’ve expected because puppy’s are like human babies – annoying and aggressively needy. When Pongo (the dog) was a pup, we didn’t get a good night of sleep for the first month or two because he would wake up at 4 am, start eating the furniture very loudly, or scratching the door while whining because he needed to pee. Even though he didn’t sleep much, he was hyperactive during the day, we have photos of our hands covered in blood to prove just how much energy he had. So, when the 8-year old realises the dog is too much of a responsibility and leaves it  for his parents to take care of, they decide it’s time to dump the poor bastard somewhere on the road far away from home because god forbid he finds the way back.

That makes me very angry, for sure. But here’s the other thing – I love eating meat, wearing leather shoes, leather jackets and I buy leather bags. Poultry, pork, lamb, beef, game, doesn’t matter, I love it, not that I’m a huge carnivore, but I like to keep my options opened.  I tried horse meat once, I don’t remember the taste but I refused to eat it when I found out it’ s a horse. Where do we draw a line? It partially depends on the culture and your upbringing, I drew it right before the horse.  Although,  now I probably wouldn’t say no to it if someone prepared it for me in a fancy restaurant. I would definitely say no to dog or cat meat because it’s just too weird.

When I tell my friends I would wear a nice fur coat during dark, cold winters even though a whole pack of fluffy animals had to die for it to be made so that my selfish ass can get warm and look stylish, they look at me with shock and disgust. I don’t blame them, I’ve seen the videos of the torture hell animals go through before the fur is ripped from their bodies but somehow I manage to separate the horrible process from the final product and if you think that’s horrible, it is highly possible that you do the same, as well. I prefer buying a more expensive real leather jacket because I’ll wear it for the next 10 years, while eco leather can be a replacement, it’s never the same quality. And for me, the fact that a less quality alternative exists is not a good enough reason to stop buying genuine leather.  Your laptop, your clothes, iPhone, basically everything that is a result of mass production… guess who made that and in what kind of conditions? Just google Steve Jobs child labour and please don’t tell me those are just ‘conspiracy theories.’

The world is a horrible place and horrible things are happening all the time and often the system makes as a part of those atrocities without us being aware of the inclusion. We could be aware if we wanted to, but too much awareness would drive us crazy. The difference between me, a leather bag, fur lover and a friend of mine who is against killing animals for clothes, but regularly buys a new iPhone and orders stuff online? We are basically the same, the only difference is the moment when we decide to close our eyes and pretend we didn’t see inhumanity and injustice being used as a tool in order to satisfy our selfish needs. There’s no way of being a functioning part of modern society while being 100 % ethical on all levels. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,  at least trying to be nicer to each other for a start and make sure we are not setting the moral bar low for ourselves while it’s unreachable for everyone else. We are all trying to swim through the shit the best we can while creating all kinds of distractions and occupations.

I wonder how well would my dog and a skunk get a long with a bit of training?

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Blank paper anxiety

Here it goes, it’s like a slight pressure that builds up in my gut, then goes up towards my throat and even if it goes away shortly, kind of stays around me, most likely just sitting on my shoulders. I am describing a typical day when I decide to write something, it’s not always like this, but it happens a lot when I have too many ideas floating in my head. Too much of them, some of them are good but suddenly -BOOM! My head feels like it can’t process it all and the next thing I do is… I give up! Hands up, I surrender. Not this time because in the past couple of months I have realized writing definitely helps with dealing with anxiety, it’s simple: the unnecessary energy that builds up for whatever reason I can transform into words. The process can be more or less painful, but it works. The words are often meaningless, just bits and pieces of my thoughts, making the reader feel like he just got lost in a labyrinth and needs to find a way out as soon as possible. I hope your sense of orientation is better than mine. First simple conclusion: The faster I write and the less I think about it, the better.

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What I wanted to start with is not a general sense of anxiety, it is a specific form that everyone in the modern world experiences at some point – the emptiness of the first page. I remember the feeling since I was a kid and we had to write an essay on some mundane topic such as ‘why I love spring time’, ‘on my way to school’, ‘how I spent my holidays’ and so on and so on.

Growing up as shy and obedient child who didn’t want to get in trouble, I would follow the rules of writing that boring essay, making one sentence the centre of it all and then repeating it in numerous uncreative ways until I could count enough words to finally invent some kind of a conclusion, a finishing touch to an uninspiring story. And guess what? SInce my grammar was pretty much flawless (btw, English is not my native language), I would end up getting an A, or maybe a B on a bad day. That made me think I am a pretty good writer, which is hilarious, but not a big deal. What I find is a bigger deal is the fact that I thought the feeling I had while writing is what it must feel, there’s no other approach to writing your thoughts down. Those weren’t even real thoughts, those were the exact same thoughts of every kid my age who is trying to write something she’s sure her teacher would: a) understand, b) recognize as familiar and appropriate, c) reward with a high grade. That’s how the educational system works, everyone wants you to be creative, but don’t get too creative, it’s like there’s an invisible boarder. Too free and creative style probably means you’ll go crazy sometime in your life, you won’t get a good job, big family and turn out to be a complete and utter disappointment. All that because you didn’t take things seriously.

I’m much more relaxed about it these days, but that’s nowhere near complete sense of calmness and feeling of confidence and content. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, I don’t know, but at least now I’m trying to figure it out by myself. The need to write is present, so I guess I just have to do it every once in while.

Having some experience in journalism, writing news and reports, I feel it’s way easier  in this field because here you have to follow the rules, certain clichés because the readers are used to them to a pont of no return. Also, the rules of newsroom are clear, if you write too much, the editor will cut your text down to a number of words he can fit into the paper or on the web. He doesn’t care about your witty finishing line, we don’t have time for that! There’s no much romance in it. But even in journalism, the first sentence problem and the fear of not knowing how to start your story is still present. Maybe there is a romance in that, after all, it’s just hidden under the rough surface of cold facts.

Writing college essays and seminars can be, you know, soul-crushing, and for me, the beginning is naturally the hardest part. After I’ve finally managed to write an awesome introduction, got started working on the main thesis, it all goes smoothly, with a help of the right sources and literature, the piece kind of writes itself. In the end I would pretty much be happy with the results, especially with those essays where I could choose my own topic. That just reminded me, if I find my favourite Tarantino essay that got me maximum points in one particular course, I will post it here.

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It’s all about leaving the romanticized feeling of what writing is and embracing it as a job with all of it’s pros and cons. What I’m finally trying to say is, I need to learn the mechanisms of how to push myself more, how to start and beat the hell out of that blank page. Meaning not just filling it up with random thoughts like I’m doing now (it also helps, though), but make my point and be able to defend every word I’ve written down on paper, I mean computer.

 

Be excited, be creative!!

Ever since I started a project of my own I am aware that I overuse the word CREATIVITY and add ‘she/he is such a creative person’ to describe the people I’m collaborating with. Why do I do that even though I often feel a hint of disgust even after first three-letter C… R… E… ughhh, no I can’t do that, think of something else for god’s sake!

Don’t get me wrong, I love creative people, I love being around them, learning from them, even copying them but not in an illegal douchebaggy way, or at least I hope. The problem with my generation is that we have a lot of time on our hands. When I say ‘we’, I’m talking about European or Northern American privileged young adults who are pretty much broke, but we still live pretty comfortable lives when compared to… you know, the rest of the world. Like I said, a  lot of time combined with access to cultural, artistic, cinematic, etc. experiences from all over the world results in a bunch of individuals who see themselves as modern artsy gods, creative geniuses who’s talent, although not yet discovered should be rewarded by the cruel society. Pretty much thousands of Van Goghs wandering around on Instagram, collecting followers who worship their perfectly aligned photos of morning coffee and bagel next to an overly expensive Mac laptop, or ‘innovative’ fashion escapades inspired by the Kardashian clan, or on the opposite side of the internet sphere – tiny Lolita’s with their petite features giving advice on vegan diet and yoga practises… I could go on forever, if you ever used Instagram, you know what I’m talking about, the stereotypes that we are all becoming a part of. It’s an inflation of people who want to be special, recognized and in the end, famous. The lifestyle, maaan, it’s all about the lifestyle. Of course I get jealous sometimes, but the more perfect the photos, the more suspicious I get when I think about it. And when I don’t think about it, I just scroll through it and  forget about most of the stuff I’ve seen, there’s just too much information, your brain can’t process all the visual stimulation it receives during the day.

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source: incrediblethings.com

I think of myself as a creative person, but maybe not in a conventional way. That doesn’t mean I’m special, au contraire, I am a part of the group with the most members: people who enjoy, appreciate and consume art without having a real talent. I draw stuff, write poems, take photos (who doesn’t these days) but there’s nothing special about it, and even more importantly, I don’t feel the need to share it with a great number of people. Regardless, art is and always will be a great part of my life.

In Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona Scarlett Johansson plays Christina, a reckless young girl who is not sure about what she wants from life, the only thing she knows is what she doesn’t want. I very much sympathise with that. She also says at one point that she needs to accept the fact that she is not gifted, although she can appreciate art and feels she has a lot to express. She turned out to be a talented photographer, but she had a good mentor, a true artist kind of type. Maybe that’s what we all need, a push, someone who will build our confidence and make us feel relaxed and good about ourselves and what we want to express. In case we want to persue our passion in a professional way, that someone should also be direct and honest about the work we created.

It’s  funny because we live in a place and time where creativity is an absolute must have in probably every type of profession, job interviews rarely go by without the ‘show us your creativity assignment’, creativity is no longer something reserved only for kids or quirky adults, it is an expected part of our personality. At the same time, being childlike or playful is frowned upon. I guess we need to learn how to find a balance between the two. Oh no, now I’m starting to feel sick, like trying to wiggle my way out of a boring school essay and that is not a good thing so I will stop writing immediately.