New Poems Published

I’m so pleased to announce that three of my poems, “Slots,” “Scraping” and “Make a Decision” have been published in Barking Sycamores Literary Magazine Issue 13.

Barking Sycamores is dedicated to neurodivergent literature and its craft. I’m so honored to be a part of this project.

Barking Sycamores Issue 13



I’m Tired of Being an Artist*

I’m tired of being an artist right now. There are days like today–when thinking about my art transmits a flurry of moths up from my stomach into my neck in sets like waves. My brush strokes are low-brow; the piles of paintings all around the house and the studio are like piles of dusty yellow newspapers stealing space from a small apartment.

I can’t stand this weird habit of mine to play with pricey paint on overpriced canvases or pieces of plywood. Today, I especially hate the abstract ones. They offer nothing other than one of my moods, thoughts or bits of dreams. That’s all they are, blobs and strokes that illustrate whatever I’m feeling (or thinking or dreaming about or worried about or in love with) throughout the span of the painting’s construction.

Then there’s the piles of poems loitering around the desk at the studio, staring up at the historic ceiling, bored and wondering when they will become timeless. Who cares about these poems anyway? Again, they’re nothing other than thoughts thrust about as words, landing in some sort of design from my mind.

I wonder, why did I make all of these?… I’ve only sold two paintings… and the poems are still waiting to become a book (they’re getting published in pairs by journals or anthologies like little odd couples). Last week, I heard back from the editors of an anthology soon to be published. Two of the three poems I submitted are going to be published in the collection. It’s a publication I was hoping to get, and I got it! But I don’t feel as relieved as I used to when something got published…I feel like it’s not enough; I should be sending out my manuscript. I should be more on the cutting-edge. I should be making money off these useless paintings.

Why I'm Tired of Being an Artist

I’m tired of thinking about it, of wearing this big noticeable techni-colored jacket that automatically announces to everyone I meet, “Hello. I’m an artist. I will be different.” When people find out I paint and write poetry, their eyes grow a little wider and they quickly inhale as if saying, “Wow. You’re different.” Yes. I’m one of those, I think, I spend a significant amount of time making things. And naturally, I’ll feel different; I’ll become annoyingly aware of all the jokes I’m making and the tired smile on my face.

One man who visited my studio at the Estate said, “I can’t believe people like you exist.” When viewers come to check out the studio, they first read my posted bio, and then look through a few windows before knocking on the door–I morph into a fish in a tank, something curious and colorful moving around in a space.

There’s days when I wake up feeling like an artist, excited that I get to play all day, ready for the ideas to spill out like confetti, and then there’s the other days, when the thought of being an artist is a really sore tooth that makes your eyes water when you bite down. What should I pour out of my mind today? I should stop thinking like an artist. Why should I spend the hours meandering and wallowing around my mind? What would a normal person be thinking about?

*This was originally published on Pink Curlers & Post Scripts

Pouring Imagery into a Volta

While writing some new poetry yesterday, a large division appeared that organized my works into two categories depending on the implementation of imagery. Though I unknowingly (or subconsciously) modified my techniques throughout the writing process, once I finished and reflected on the day, I realized that I had used to different methods of composing “vivid imagery” in the drafts.

The Diverse Ways of Using Imagery Techniques in Poetry

I am obsessed with imagery. O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D. While I write, I slow down at every line hunting for abstract language that can be replaced with a concrete image. Generally, my imagery functions as symbolism, setting, reader transference, mood and even just straight up “trippiness.” For example, I would replace “He was useless” with “he was a soaked paper towel,” something like that.

During the building of the first poem, I focused on the image as a symbol (in terms of comprehension), while attempting to double up on an image’s “vibes” or “trippiness.” The images weren’t supposed to paint a picture, but take the reader on a journey toward a certain understanding which can only be described as insight or a feeling– which the reader experiences at the end (volta). To bring it all together, I wrestle with a metaphorical theme, and I want to say some semblance of story. However, in these poems there really isn’t any story; there is no chronology at all. I don’t have a term for it other than “nonlinear” work. A classic example of this type of writing is Jim Morrison’s poetry.

The diverse use.s of imagery in poetry..

The next few poems that came out were significantly shorter, linear, not surreal and uncomplicated. One was a haiku; the other two were brief (like four-six lines, one or two stanzas) and free verse. Instead of symbol, each image was, well, what it was. There was a golden pickup truck, water spilling, two dogs I’ve never seen before…etc. Each image functioned to bring together not a picture, but a tiny movie scene or even a gif.

Notably, a significant overlap occurred at the ends of each poem. They all had an image (surreal or realist) that resulted in a volta. So–maybe, I’m actually more obsessed with voltas, if all the use of my concrete imagery must produce a volta? Am I bashing these images into a funnel? I’d prefer to think that I’m pouring one ingredient at a time which then results in the volta product–like the action of stacking, or the opposite of stacking (depending on how you look at it).

Then, I ask myself (and you, of course), are the surreal poems linear because they must be organized in a particular way in order to produce a poignant or insightful volta? Another question– Can a piece of writing be linear without chronology? Or does linearity automatically imply some sort of chronology?

How Poetry Writing is Like Surfing on a Short board: the strangeness of poetry

The Spring semester is over. I’ve decided not to teach a class or work in a writing center or wait tables. I’ve decided to relish in my residency at the Deering Estate at Cutler. For the first time in my life, I feel I can afford to drop everything but writing (and wedding planning…a whole other story) for this entire summer. It’s not yet a relief. It’s actually a somewhat awkward process for the mind. I have to a) give myself permission not to take in any income for a few months b) validate my writing as valuable c) get my a$$ out of bed or away from the lounge chairs at the pool, away from tinkering and writing on my blog (I mean, it is still writing, I tell myself), even away from my paint brushes or the beach or away from the the sofa placed perfectly in front of Netflix (if I binge watch documentaries then it doesn’t count, right?) d) and most strangely, I have to reconnect with my poetic mind. There’s enough distractions to make me (and probably you too) wonder why I should write poetry at all.

I’ve just finally stepped out of a year long denial (perhaps another productive and self-imposed consequence of having a writing residency); all last year I neglected and rejected my thesis/poetry book manuscript. I replaced it with an exhausting obsession (and an achievement!) with a full time position as well as with pouring of all my writing energy into a novel. The manuscript became not unlike an enemy, a daunting task because it requires me to open up the poetry doors of my mind or perception (as poet, Jim Morrison would say).

The past few days I pushed my way through the heavy doors, sorting through these old-ish poems, writing a couple new ones and attempting to find some decent and publishable building for them. I’m really worn out. It’s a mental version of switching from a longboard (surfboard) to a short board after riding a longboard for too many months.

How writing poetry is like surfing

Unlike with surfing, where I routinely force myself to take out a short board (as I get older, the longboard becomes more and more tempting to ride) and paddle out. Riding a short board is a more intense exercise. All of your core muscles are incessantly working to stay on board; you must pop up significantly quicker to stand up on the board when you’re catching a wave. I always joke when I’m in the lineup on my little nugget “Whew! I’m out of shortboard shape!” Others, especially us that are 25 and up, really get a kick out of the comment, as the ripped lean adolescent gromets swerve around us like birds, passing us for every wave, even the crappiest waves just because they can (I remember that endless almost annoying amount of energy that needed to be released somewhere; waves were the best place to do it. When you’re younger you don’t miss any wave. Each wave is an exciting adventure in itself). Another habit I’ve picked up with age, in the activity of surfing, is waiting for “a good one,” rather than fighting to ride each wave coming your way.

surfers waiting

Diving into poetry again, is very much like jumping onto a short board; I feel awkward entering the form. I write, and then when I reread what I’ve just written, it’s so wordy. What feels like thousands of useless words must be trimmed off; metaphors must be more disguised, intense, complex, original. When I’m writing a new poem, I work much slower than I did in grad school where/when I was well-versed and fluent in daring, trippy, edgy tongue. The environment in grad school (for my MFA) facilitates your creativity. Everyone around you is in this creative complex realm of language, imagery and controversy. Basically, I was in very good poetry writing shape, comparable to my fitness level and the surfing community of my early/mid twenties.

Reorganizing and reassessing the old poems as well as churning out new ones, like dropping in on a steep wall of a wave, wobbling on your potato chip surfboard, requires a mindset that embraces danger or failure which is tangled up with faith that the perfect ride or the most powerful poem will come alive. It’s much more difficult to find your way into and then just as difficult, if not more, to get out of the mental state of poetry writing (think of a labyrinth that leads to a labyrinth and then trying to find your way back out of both when you’ve reached the interior or when your day’s work is over).

It takes a lot out of you, this poetry writing, especially when the ultimate goal of publication rests at the end of the heavy rope. Not only is this weird stuff spilling out of you, but also you’re hoping that some other weird poetry junkie with money and power will appreciate your work enough to want to print it over and over again.

I have a feeling this post will be continued. As I’m writing, more ideas on poetry are popping up. Alas, I can’t stay here all day, putting off my poetry manuscript for another few hours. Upcoming, I’d like to vent about/examine the tiresome effect of the outer/societal expectations/perceptions on the poet’s writing process as well as the emotional/perceptual effects of poetry writing on the poet. There is no doubt that the poet (or the writer that is swimming in a poetry project) carries the weight of a poetic lens throughout daily life, holding it in front of the comprehension of everything.

How surfing is like writing poetry

I’m a Fish in a Tank (aka The Estate’s Seafood Festival)

This past Sunday was a much different day at the studio. My usually silent, but breezy residency/studio at the Deering Estate at Cutler was rambunctious, primary-colored and glittering with coconut shrimp.

I had the pleasure of welcoming visitors into my studio. I joked with my fiancé, “They look at us artists in our studios like exotic fish in a tank.” It was a not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day. Reggae beats drifted in the sea air. Kids ran around with hot pink snow cone mustaches dodging through the buzzin’ grownups.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

To give you some context, this area is normally a vast green meadow-like area.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

This is the entrance to my studio which used to be the Estate’s carriage house.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

A completely different view from the studio.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

I put some glitter on my business cards for the kids; it was a hit.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

Living the Life of an Artist in Residency in paradise.

It was just another Sunday in paradise…