Writing Mentors · Young Writers

Discovering Poet Amanda Gorman

Good afternoon my friends,

As of today I will be posting weekly on Wednesdays. Also, I’m experimenting with showing the full posts on the blog homepage instead of excerpts; let me know which style you like more in the comments.

Poet Amanda Gorman

Last week we discovered writer Marge Piercy, a feminist and prolific writer who has published 20+ novels and poetry collections. I just got one of her books from the library, and at some point in February I will be following up with a review of the novel. At this moment I can’t remember the title of it. Also in February, I’ll be reviewing a novel by another writer and poet we studied earlier this month, Haruki Murakami. I am excited to see what the writings of these two edgy successful writers can teach us, and how their writings resonate with me as a reader.

Since it is still January and we just recently had the Presidential Inauguration of 2021, I’d like to shed even more spotlight, if possible, on the amazingly talented young poet who read at the Inauguration, Amanda Gorman. Her poem captivated me during the ceremony, and I wanted to capture her on my blog before time chugs on.

You can read more about Amanda Gorman here.

5 more poems to listen to from Amanda Gorman
Poet Amanda Gorman reading The Hill We Climb at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration
Incredible: A Poem By Amanda Gorman | PORTER
First Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman

She is an inspiration!

Just look at this lady! She’s only 22 and she’s already a National Poet Laureate, was the first-ever American Youth Poet Laureate, read at the 2021 Inauguration, and will also read at the Superbowl 2021. Not only that – her fashion is on point (she really seems to love yellow)!! I am so impressed and intrigued by this person. No matter which way you fall on the political spectrum, you have to admit that this woman has to be very talented and brave to be out on these big stages reading her work at such a young age.

Not only that, this woman is a representative and a torchlight for people with disabilities and people of color. She shows that you can pursue your dreams no matter what obstacles may be facing you! According to her Wikipedia, she has an auditory processing disorder, is sensitive to sounds, and used to have a speech impediment. Not to mention the systemic racism that all people of color have to go up against, which 2020 only served to highlight (especially in the USA). And she STILL gets up there to recite her work on the stage!! Wow.

The Hill We Climb, Poem

Here is her Inaugural poem The Hill We Climb, just as a reminder:

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade.

We’ve braved the belly of the beast,

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,

and the norms and notions

of what just is

isn’t always just-ice.

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken,

but simply unfinished.

We the successors of a country and a time

where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes we are far from polished.

Far from pristine.

But that doesn’t mean we are

striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge a union with purpose,

to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us,

but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,

that even as we grieved, we grew,

that even as we hurt, we hoped,

that even as we tired, we tried,

that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat,

but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision

that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree

and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time,

then victory won’t lie in the blade.

But in all the bridges we’ve made,

that is the promise to glade,

the hill we climb.

If only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it’s the past we step into

and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation

rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed,

it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth,

in this faith we trust.

For while we have our eyes on the future,

history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption

we feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs

of such a terrifying hour

but within it we found the power

to author a new chapter.

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So while once we asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert,

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was,

but move to what shall be.

A country that is bruised but whole,

benevolent but bold,

fierce and free.

We will not be turned around

or interrupted by intimidation,

because we know our inaction and inertia

will be the inheritance of the next generation.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain,

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy,

and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country

better than the one we were left with.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west.

We will rise from the windswept northeast,

where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.

We will rise from the sunbaked south.

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful.

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid,

the new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman, 2020
Poet Amanda Gorman, 22, will read at Biden inaugural

What stands out to me

Now, that’s a mighty long poem, and I don’t particularly want to analyze it, because 1) I don’t want to get political on this blog, and 2) This is not an English Literature class in college or high school. But I would just like to share some things that stood out to me about it:

I love how, in the video of her reciting it, Gorman speaks very clearly, and with a very crisp, exacting rhythm. I think this is so important to poetry, and can make or break the moment when you read your work aloud, for a poet. I took some poetry in college, and reading it out loud was often the most intimidating part; not only because you’re being vulnerable and sharing your work, but also because if you get the rhythm or cadence off, it can come out sounding all wrong.

Amanda Gorman | Boston Pops July 4th
Gorman in Boston Pops: America’s Orchestra, July 2020

Secondly I’d like to just say, wow! I really love how Gorman’s poem rhymes, but neither is it hit-over-your-head style, too obvious. There’s a subtlety to the rhyming, where you ear appreciates it extra. It’s soothing and peaceful to hear a rhyme, in my opinion, just as we are soothed by seeing symmetrical things or hearing a song note that ends a line on the same note it began. These are the subtleties and abstract edges of poetry and song where they sortof blur together, and something we don’t deal with as much in novel-writing. But they’re equally as important as discussing and debating over character motivations, plotholes, cliches and other novelist concerns.

2021’s creative inspirational figure

Last but not least, I am just so inspired by Amanda Gorman. The fact that she doesn’t let her disabilities or systemic racism stop her. The fact that she has gotten so far in such short time inspires me to keep going in my writing, to not put myself in any box of any kind, to not listen to any limitation my Inner Editor or perfectionist may be saying, and just. keep. writing.

Share your thoughts in the comments!

What did you think of Amanda Gorman and her poem? Have you read her debut book, “Change Sings”? Let me know what you think in the comments! And here is her official website.

Until next time,

Chaitanya

In the Family · Writing Mentors

Discovering Writer Marge Piercy

My fellow writers and readers,

I’m always very excited when I get to discover a new writer! Today we’re discovering poet, feminist, and novelist Marge Piercy. Born in 1936, she is a New York Times bestseller known for her frank biographical writings, her writing about social concerns, and her unabashed upholding of women’s rights. She’s written roughly 20 novels and 20 poetry collections! You can find out more about her here.

Marge Piercy, 1936-

The piece that I stumbled upon that really struck me, was her description of the purpose of her writing, found here. It goes:

[Her writing purpose] ‘is simply that readers will find poems that speak to and for them, will take those poems into their lives and say them to each other and put them up on the bathroom wall and remember bits and pieces of them in stressful or quiet moments. That the poems may give voice to something in the experience of a life has been my intention. To find ourselves spoken for in art gives dignity to our pain, our anger, our lust, our losses. We can hear what we hope for and what we most fear in the small release of cadenced utterance.’

Marge Piercy

I really, REALLY love this quote. Why?

It resonates deep within my writer soul, encapsulating and explaining what I aspire to do as a writer. I want people to carry my stories and poetry with them, because it affected them or helped them. To read a book of mine and say about a character, “Their story is like mine.” To get help in a stressful or sad moment by remembering a scene or poetry line I wrote, like Piercy says. That would be so fulfilling!

It’s a way of helping others, to articulate my truth, and have others see, “Oh, that’s my truth too.” Not all of us will have identical truths, of course, but if some piece of mine can be echoed and in some piece of another person’s…it’s this deep, beyond-words sort of connection.

The quote also resonates with me as a reader. Because I’ve found that certain pieces of writing, especially scriptural writings, affect me, and I carry them with me. They help my heart when I’m feeling sad or discouraged, or they lift me up even higher when I’m feeling happy. Sometimes they help me realize things that I need to change or do in life, and that helps my life journey to progress, helps me to “level up”, so to speak.

So that’s why I loved Marge Piercy’s quote, and so much so that I’m awaiting a book of hers from the library now. I’ll let you know what I think. Please share:

  • Did this quote by Marge Piercy resonate with you? Why or why not?
  • Is there an author that inspired you with a piece of their writing, as a writer or as a reader?

I’m excited to hear what you all think!

Featured image (above post) by: InkedVoices

Until next time,

Chaitanya

How Writers Write · In the Family · Writing Mentors

From Daily Grind to Daily Mind

In these days where many are still in quarantine, some might have forgotten the daily grind; others remember it all too well. As we work from home now, or more often, we don’t find ourselves missing the daily commute, the way lunchtime flies by, or the freezing A/C at the office. Sometimes writing can feel like a daily grind too, when we’re staring at a blank page for five minutes straight. What if it wasn’t all a daily grind though? What if we could sit down to write with our notebooks/laptops/typewriters and really develop a habit?

I’ve written on this blog before about developing a daily routine, my own struggles to schedule myself, and organizing your writing space. I’ve shared tips for fighting writer’s block, tapping into the creative “zone”, and more. Now, let’s pick up our zooms lens and tackle it from a different perspective:

“I have to pound away at a rock with a chisel and dig out a deep hole before I can locate the source of my creativity.”

Novelist Haruki Murakami

This quote by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami struck me as both strict and sensitive at once. He words it so poetically and beautifully, but he also makes the daily routine of writing sound rigorous. We have to show up every day to create something beautiful out of rock; to chisel the ideas in our mind and hearts in order to finally step away, wave away the dust – and reveal a completed piece of art.

Novelist Haruki Murakami

I really enjoyed this article about Haruki Murakami’s daily routine. It shares how he went from a part-time to a full-time writer. He didn’t just develop a daily routine; he changed his entire lifestyle, ditching smoking, moving to a more rural location, and getting up and sleeping early. He also swims and runs marathons! Plus, he is a short story writer in addition to writing novels.

There is a certain honoring of one’s craft when one is willing to follow a daily routine carved around it. Murakami writes first thing in the morning if he is having a writing day, and if not, he gets up at the same time anyway. He calls it a meditation to follow the same daily routine, “mesmerizing”. By doing the same thing every day, he gets so deep into the groove of writing that it’s a part of him. It’s as natural and steady as brushing your teeth daily, or checking the mail. You don’t think about it. You don’t get arrested by worries. You just do it, and it’s natural and flowing. You mesmerize yourself.

Of course, it takes discipline. Murakami acknowledges that, as you’ll see in the article. He said it took mental and physical strength. It reminds me of when one of my spiritual mentors chastised me for not taking part in the early morning meditation on an international spiritual internship of sorts that I took. I told her, “I want to, but…” and she said, “You don’t want it enough.”

If we really want it, we’ll do it. Just like Murakami. Yes, life is crazy these days, there’s chores to do, a gigantic To-Do list, and sometimes you just need to rest. That’s ok, too. But if you really want to, you can make the time. Just like I’m making time to write this blog post. I feel tired and I’m already late by 2 days due to bad internet; I could have just waited until next week. But I wanted to share this, and I wanted to keep my commitment to blog weekly.

Of course, just because I’m here blogging, and Murakami gets up achingly early to write, doesn’t mean you have to blog weekly or get up early to write, etc. Do it your style! Make it your own! Maybe you like to stay up late into the night, pounding away at your keyboard keys, “typing madly”, as this blog is called. Maybe you have to drink hibiscus tea and listen to jazz before you sit down to write. Whatever it is, find your groove, like Murakami, and chisel away at that rock. You might surprise yourself with what you create!

I will be trying to find my own groove, as I strive towards a daily writing habit of my own. Wishing you the best in yours – let’s keep each other updated!

Until next time,

Chaitanya

How Writers Write

Writing with Music

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope the year has been treating you and your pen and paper well, so far. Today I’d like to talk about music while writing.

Do you like to write with music? Why or why not? Is there certain music that really inspires you to write and write, and other music that makes you dry up and not know what to write next?

For me, I usually always like to have music on in the background. Lately, lofi helps me to write, because it helps me to feel calm, and there are no words to distract me from the words flowing from my keyboard onto the page. However, a teenage daughter of my friend just convinced me to check out BTS, the famous K-Pop band (oh no! lol). So, I am listening to sad foreign songs while writing, today. What new thing might it spark in my writing? We’ll see!

While researching writing and music, I found that many writers like to have music on in the background. Others, not so much, and others still, used to write in silence but then found that music did help them write! Some writers even make soundtracks for their novels, and I find that so fun and intriguing! I’d like to research it more and return with a follow-up post about it soon.

What if we listened to these authors’ soundtracks while reading their novels? Maybe it would enrich our experience of the book! If you’ve ever done this as a reader, please tell me! It sounds like a fun experiment, I’d like to know how it went for you.



Here are some stories from famous writers about their experiences writing with music: https://www.writingroutines.com/best-music-writing/

This article taught me that Stephen King writes to heavy metal, specifically Metallica. I found this funny and fun! Also…it kindof makes sense. To enter into the strange, eerie worlds and disturbed minds that he creates, no wonder King has to listen to heavy sounds.

Let me know your thoughts and what your favorite writing music or environment is, in the comments below!

Until next time,

Chaitanya