7 Poetry Prompts to Help You Out of a Writing Slump

by Amanda Steele

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We all have those days, or maybe if we are being honest weeks or even months, where we just can’t seem to find inspiration to write. While it can be easy to get into a writing slump, it is a lot harder to pull yourself out of one. Waiting for the muse to strike can be infuriating and disappointing, so sometimes we all have to seek out a little push in the right direction to get those creative juices flowing.

You can find many fun and inspiring poetry prompts out there, but we’ve curated a few of our favorites to get you started. If you have any favorite prompts of your own, please share them with us! We would also love to read any poems that are inspired by the prompts below.

The first two prompts come from this creative list from Kelli Russell Agodon. These are two of our favorites, but you should really check the rest of the list out. You can find her on Twitter @KelliAgodon.

  1. Write a seven-line poem about one of the 7 Deadly Sins that only contains seven words in each of the lines.
  2. Write a poem that is really a love letter to an old flame. To make sure it’s doesn’t slip into sappy,make sure one or more of these words are in the poem: dung beetle, politician, nuclear, exoskeleton, oceanography, pompadour, toilet, copper mug, corn flakes (or any cereal), corkscrew.
  3. This is a poetry prompt I made up. I would love to read your poem if you use this one, and you can find me on Twitter @adamantaflame.
    1. Line 1: Include a color in this line.
      Line 2: Verb a noun. Example: I “tigered”
      Line 3: Use synesthesia in this line
      Line 4: Highlight the sense of smell
      Line 5: Incorporate a strong action verb
      Line 6: Highlight the sense of taste
      Line 7: Make this line rhyme with the last (slant rhyme is fine)
      Line 8: Incorporate the word “sidewalk” into this line.
      Line 9: Use a simile that has to do with the sense of hearing
      Line 10: End with a line that is unexpected and changes the direction of the poem.
  4. Simply put, a tanka poem is a Japanese poem and is similar to a haiku but has two additional lines. A tanka consists of 5 lines and 31 syllables. These poems do not have titles. You can look at some examples here.
    Line 1 – 5 syllables
    Line 2 – 7 syllables
    Line 3 – 5 syllables
    Line 4 – 7 syllables
    Line 5 – 7 syllables
  5. Write a landay. The landay is a form of folk poetry from Afghanistan that is made up of one single couplet. The first line is consists of nine syllables and the second line of thirteen. You can read more about the form and find examples here.
  6. Do a translation. Either of a poem in a second language into your native language, or a poem in your native language into another language if you’re really feeling adventurous. You could also “translate” something from a different medium (like a movie, book, painting, song) into a poem.
  7. Write a found poem. You can use tangible, real material if you want. Cut something up and rearrange it. Black out words on a page. Anything that inspires you.

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Here are a few other sources. Poetry prompts are fun, and sometimes you just can’t get enough. So, why stop with seven?

Between the BarsWriter's DigestLitbridge

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Utah Pride Festival Poetry Mad Lib Contest Winner

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Marketing Director, Spencer Ballard, and Co-Editor, Aaron Gates, at the peculiar booth.

We recently had the honor of tabling at the Utah Pride Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 2nd – 3rd. While there, we engaged visitors with a fun poetry prompt dreamed up by poet and Utah Valley University professor, Rob Carney. The prompt begins, “April isn’t the cruelest month…” and proceeds like a Mad Lib with fill-in-the-blank suggestions all along the way. Jack, one of our co-editors, did this poetry prompt years ago as a student of Carney’s at UVU, and the full prompt was shared online by the Creative Writing Guild. If you enjoy writing at all, you should give it a try!

Booth visitors who participated were entered into a contest, with the winner receiving $25. We are pleased to announce our winner: Anna Slagle! There were so many wonderful entries—mostly silly—but this poem really stood out among the rest for its poignant sense of heartbreak. You can find more of Anna’s poetry on Instagram: @poeticinkk

Dear Georgia, the One She Loved So Dearly
by Anna Slagle

April isn’t the cruelest month, that would be December,
when I kissed her head
and scratched my skin until I bled.
In April—dreary,
dark, discreet.

Maybe if you’d written a letter to Frida that night
then she could have explained, could have said,
could have told us just how to fix our broken pieces.

No, it’s December that’s cruel because the snow
falls from the sky as the birds
fall silent and I yearn for her voice
among the roses.

Maybe one day we’ll meet again
and you’ll smell sweeter than I remember.

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Announcement: We Are Expanding!

Peculiar Expanding

With our roots in the Mormon stronghold of Provo, Utah, peculiar began as a way to recognize the creative talents of the often-overlooked queer community within Utah’s unique culture. The reception we’ve found for this journal here in Utah has touched our hearts. Over these few years, we’ve seen how important it is to help queer individuals to feel their voices are heard, to see their talent recognized, and to have a chance to come together with other creative minds in their community. We wouldn’t trade any of the long nights or stress it took to publish each issue for anything else. It’s all been worth it.

As the journal has grown over the past few years—and our staff has begun setting roots nationwide—we’ve realized that a lot of what peculiar seeks to embody and shine a light on is found everywhere. So, as we move forward, we’ve decided to broaden the scope of peculiar to include queer voices from anywhere and everywhere. No matter how far you are or how quietly you whisper, know that we hear you.

But we still don’t want to lose our roots in Utah. So going forward, we will also have a Utah-specific contest where the winners will be showcased in the following issue of peculiar. Anyone from Utah is still welcome to submit to each issue of the journal going forward, but the contest is a way for us to guarantee that each issue will still have a number of contributors from within Utah to represent that first spark of peculiarity we love and that made us start this journal.

We hope you can all continue to support this journal we make for you, for the queer community, and for queer creative voices seeking to be heard.

To submit poetry, prose, art, or photography for our next issue, visit: http://www.peculiarjournal.com/submit

Poetry Magazine Call for Submission

by Amanda Steele

Poetry Magazine Trans

peculiar is always looking to amplify the voices of the queer community in Utah and to make our creative community aware of opportunities for publishing their work. We wanted to let you all know about an exciting opportunity coming to you from Poetry magazine. This magazine is one of the most well-known and respected monthly journals in the country for publishing poetry, and it has been around for over 100 years.

From now until May 31st, 2018, Poetry will be taking submission for an issue that will be dedicated solely to the poetry of transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-cis poets. This is a great opportunity to submit your work, and we are excited that Poetry magazine is focusing on these marginalized voices. This issue will be guest-edited by Christopher Soto and is set to be published in the fall of this year. Information about submission guidelines can be found here.

We also encourage you to connect with the magazine by following their Twitter, @poetrymagazine. While this is a special issue that seeks to highlight and feature the voices of transgender and gender non-conforming poets, they also encourage all non-cis poets to submit their work any time to Poetry open submissions. These submissions are ongoing and can be accessed continuously. So, if you miss out on this deadline, you can always submit in the future.

Again, here’s the link to submit.

 

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IMG_0705Amanda Steele is a queer poet and writer with a degree in Creative Writing and Gender Studies from Utah Valley University. She was born and raised in Idaho and currently lives in New York City. Amanda works as a freelance writer and blogger and has been published in peculiar, The Dandelion Review, and Sun and Sandstone, among others. She loves to mix her love of writing with her passion for activism and fandom. You can follow her on Twitter: @adamantaflame or on her blog here.

 

10 Queer Poets of Color You Should Know About

by Amanda Steele

Finding a new poet whose words ignite and inspire your own writing is a joy we as poets share. There are many contemporary poets out there who are creating influential, beautiful work. LGBT+ poets are breaking boundaries and pushing language to new levels.

This will be the first in a series of blog posts meant to highlight and recognize queer poets and their work. If you are looking for a resource to find contemporary queer writers and see what is going on in the world of poetry, this blog series can get you started.

A selection of influential, contemporary queer poets of color.

While queer poets of color have always been around and shaping literature and the written word, learning about poets producing work now is important. Poets such as Audre Lorde and James Baldwin should also be part of your poetry canon, but for today, the focus is on the recent and up and coming.

Contemporary queer people of color are reshaping poetry and spoken word in new and exciting ways. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good place to start if you are looking to add a new chapbook or two to your collection. This really is just a small selection of all the great poets of color out there, and we will definitely be adding more to the list in future installments.

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1: Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones published his debut work of poetry, Prelude to Bruise, in 2014. This collection focuses on themes related to masculinity, race, power dynamics, intimacy, and much more. He is a queer black man who is also well-known for being a literary editor for Buzzfeed. Jones was born in Memphis, raised in Lewisville, and currently lives in New York City. He received an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark and is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize as well as a fellow for Cave Canem and Queer/Art/Mentorship. You can follow him on Twitter here: @theferocity.

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2: Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is Mojave and a member of the Gila River Indian Community. She has an MFA and is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec, which was published in 2012. The New York Times called this work “ambitious” and “beautiful.” She has received many awards such as the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Lannan Literary Fellowship, among others. Diaz lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, and she is a Mojave Language Activist. She can be found on Twitter at this handle, @NatalieGDiaz.

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3: Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown released his debut work, Please, in 2008. This publication won the American Book Award. His second poetry collection, The New Testament, was released in 2014 and was named by Library Journal as one of the best poetry books of that year. Brown also received the Whiting Writers Award as well as fellowships from Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has a PhD from the University of Houston. Jericho’s work is centered around themes such as race, religion, rituals, and love. He can be found on Twitter, too, at @jerichobrown.

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4: Chen Chen

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, released in 2017. This work won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and the GLCA New Writers Award. He has also written two chapbooks and was featured as one of “Ten Poets Who Will Change the World” by Poets & Writers Magazine. Chen Chen has also been the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, and the Saltonstall Foundation. He lives in Rochester, New York, and has an MFA from Syracuse University. Chen Chen is also on Twitter and can be found at @chenchenwrites.

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5:  Erika L. Sánchez

Erika L. Sánchez lives in Chicago and is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is a poet, novelist, and essayist, and her first collection of poetry, Lessons on Expulsion, was published in 2017. Her debut YA novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, was also published in 2017 and is a New York Times Bestseller and National Book Awards Finalist. She is also a 20172019 Princeton Arts fellow. Sánchez received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, and her work has been featured in Poetry magazine, NPR, and many many other publications. You can follow her on Twitter at @ErikaLSanchez.

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6: Yosimar Reyes

Yosimar Reyes is “a nationally acclaimed poet, educator, performance artist and public speaker” according to the bio from his website. He is from Mexico, and his work is focused around themes related to migration and sexuality. His first collection, For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly…, was self-published. He is also co-founder of La Mariocolectiva. This is a performance group of undocumented, queer poets. Reyes’ work has been featured in many online journals, and he is an Arts Fellow at Define American. Find him on Twitter here: @YoSoyYosi.

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7: Amber Atiya

Amber Atiya released her first chapbook, the fierce bums of doo-wop, in 2014. Her poetry has appeared in many literary journals including Black Renaissance Noire, Boston Review, Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, and many more. Atiya is a 2012 Poets House Fellow. Amber Atiya was born and raised in Brooklyn, where she currently resides. You can find her on Twitter @AmberAtiyaNYC and on Tumblr, here.

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8: Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is the author of many collections and works including Seasonal Velocities, He Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song), and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. She performed at the first ever Transgender Stage at San Francisco Pride and has performed at many other venues over the years. Aoki has an MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and she is also the recipient of the University Award from the Academy of Poets. Aoki is also the founder of the International Transgender Martial Arts Alliance and is a professor at Santa Monica College. Follow her on Twitter at @ryka_aoki.

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9: Danez Smith

Danez Smith is a black, queer writer and performer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Their collection of poetry, Don’t Call Us Dead, was published in 2017 and was a finalist for the national book award. Smith also published a collection of poetry called [insert] boy, which was published in 2014. This collection won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Their work has been featured in Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, and more. Danez co-hosts VS, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry foundation, with Franny Choi, and he is also a recipient of many fellowships. Follow them on Twitter under this handle: @Danez_Smif.

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10: Franny Choi

Franny Choi is a “queer, Korean-American poet, playwright, teacher, organizer,” according to her website. Her published works include Floating, Brilliant, Gone, published in 2014 and Death by Sex Machine, published in 2017. She has many awards from the Poetry Foundation, Helen Zell Writers program, and more. She received a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center and the Rhode Island Council on the Arts. Choi’s work has been featured in Poetry Magazine, Huffington Post, and more. She has been a finalist for the National Poetry Slam and other slam poetry competitions and co-hosts the podcast VS with Danez Smith. Look out for her collection, Soft Science, coming out in 2019, and find her on Twitter @fannychoir.

Bonus Resource:

Check out, Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color. The new issue is coming out soon, and, if you can’t buy it, you can still see the list of contributors, making it a great place to find some new poets. Christopher Sota and Lambda Literary Foundation started this online journal in 2014.

Share your favorite contemporary queer poets of color below!

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Amanda Steele is a queer poet and writer with a degree in Creative Writing and Gender Studies from Utah Valley University. She was born and raised in Idaho and currently lives in New York City. Amanda works as a freelance writer and blogger and has been published in 
peculiar, The Dandelion Review, and Sun and Sandstone, among others. She loves to mix her love of writing with her passion for activism and fandom. You can follow her on Twitter: @adamantaflame or on her blog here.

 

Sources:

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/queer-women-of-color-using-media-art-to-get-freelisticle/

http://www.thefrisky.com/2016-01-29/6-modern-day-queer-poets-you-must-read/

Q&A with Featured Artist: Teah Marcotte

Q&A Teah Marcotte

peculiar‘s most recent Featured Artist is photographer Teah Marcotte. Her images don’t just capture a momentthey encapsulate a state of being. Her use of striking contrast breathes life into everyday moments, highlighting the beauty found in both joy and sorrow. We fell absolutely in love with her work, so we asked her a few questions to find out more about her photography, and in so doing we learned what makes her happiest and the spiritual faith that keeps her going.

When did you first start creating art?

I was probably around eight or nine when I started figuring out what art was, and realizing that I had an interest. I wasn’t sure what kind of art I wanted to create or what kind of art I even liked, but I knew I had a fascination lingering. As I got older, I started drawing and doodlingand became pretty decentbut I eventually lost interest. When I was fifteen, I picked up a camera for the first time and never stopped. Finding my own unique style of photography took years, but I eventually found it.

Why are you an artist?

I’m an artist because of many reasons, one of them because it’s a huge escape from life. I love being able to grab my camera, plug in my headphones, and just shoot, blocking everything out, not a worry in the world, just what my next subject is gonna’ be. Being an artist, I feel, gives me a purpose in life. I absolutely love being able to provide people and families with long-lasting memories. Seeing their smiles and excitement when showing them preview shots is one of my favorite parts of being a photographer.

What artists do you yourself admire?

One big inspiration of mine is a good friend named Sarah Kappos, who both writes and paints. She’s an incredible artist! The way she talks about her art and what inspires her to create art inspires me more and more every time I see her.

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“Dreams” by Teah Marcotte

What’s your artistic process?

My process is kind of just go with the flow. Whenever I find myself overthinking shoots or ideas that I have, I feel myself psyching out. Like, I either try too hard or I end up hating my end product. I usually get an idea, kind of arrange it, and then let it go until it’s time to shoot. Either that or I will just go and see what I end up with.

What inspires you to create art? Do you have a muse?

My nieces and nephews definitely inspire me the most. Their innocence always helps me create new-found projects. Other photographer’s work sometimes helps me come up with foreign projects as well.

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“Heart of Gold” by Teah Marcotte

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?

My favorite thing I’ve ever created… I don’t think I have a favorite. Or I have a lot of favorites [laughs]. Portraiture in general is my favorite thing to do, so any portraits of my nieces and nephews are my favorites.

What effect do you hope your photography will have on people?

I hope that people will see my photos and feel happiness. I want them to, for a slight second, be able to breathe and not stressto remind themselves that everything is gonna’ be okay.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

That’s kind of a hard question because I see myself in a lot of different places. My biggest dream is to be a photojournalist traveling the world, taking thousands of pictures a day, eating foreign food, meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and just taking in as much of the world as I can. I would, however, also love to find a partner and settle down in a big city, have some kids, and do that sort of thing. For now, I just plan on taking pictures and traveling as much as I can while I’m still young.

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“Perspective” by Teah Marcotte

What’s it like being queer in Utah?

I lived there for about a year and a half, and it was actually a good thing for me and my whole coming-out process. I come from quite a religious family and my coming out wasn’t the smoothest, but living in Utah and being surrounded by such a huge LGBT community was really good for me and really cleansing. I met a lot of amazing humans  who really helped me on my journey in different ways. I wasn’t ever scared to be publicly open about who I really am, which was foreign for me. It took some time to be comfortable with doing so, but eventually I came to be 100% accepting of who I am. I loved every second of it.

What makes you peculiar?

Well, I am double-jointed in six joints, so I guess that could be considered peculiar! On a more serious note though, I would probably say that what makes me peculiar is probably the fact that I still have my faith and belief in God. Like I said previously, my family is quite religious and, with me, coming out was really hard because I wanted to keep that relationship with God, but I was told day in and day out that being gay and believing in God was an oxymoron. It took a lot of years for me to come to where I am now. I no longer go to church, but I do still work on my faith and my spirituality. It’s probably been the one thing that has gotten me through all of the heartache and pain while coming out to such a religious family. I’m very thankful for my faith and I’m proud of myself for sticking through to what I believe in my heart.

 

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Teah Marcotte is a twenty-five-year-old photographer from Boise, Idaho. She started taking photos almost eleven years ago, and she has been obsessed with it ever since. Photos feed her soul happiness and blur out the darkness in this world. Capturing beauty, which not a lot of people can see, makes her heart the most content.

“Chemical Emigration” by Greg Bayles

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Chemical Emigration

by Greg Bayles

Sacred tablets, broken as host
over sinless tongues. We dissolve like
powder on mucosal membranes, bitterness
washed down with mangoed sweetness.
Take my tithes, alimony for the child
I leave behind in these experiments
in closeness.

Melt into the careless ocean, roll
into methylated gentleness, synthetic
tides of ecstasy washing over you.
Fireplace breathes onto naked
torso, its tempo flickering crimson
and amaranth inside us. Fiery tongues
plunging deep inside us: all else is water
and transience.

Here are children of euphoria, heathen
princes seeking new religion. Here
are perfumed linens and wintered
hilltops, mirrors in our pilgrim eyes.
Here are gods encapsulated.

The feline strobe blinks on, blasé,
only just unbowed like the rest of us
in jocks and harnesses and liquid
atmosphere. Outside the shower
she perches catlike, witnessing the timeless
rites of sugar scrub and tabloid hither-coming;
electric gaze holds scattered pearl drops
and slivered still-frames in the human air.

Here are bolt-grinders and coke
shovellers in a back room, feeding
the inferno lacking leather or
rubber to hide their skin. Sputtering
blood engines pumping virility into ready
chambers, pneumatic, gasping. Quench
the blade with fleck of sweat and
flood of dopamine.

We wake to morning shadow. Surely
I have left the fabled country of my youth
but for a world still rich in fictions.
I have traded all my truths for purer
fantasy. But what of matins
we awoke to, my skin on yours
on his? What of quiet breath and
words of whispered promise?
Was all our love ingested?

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Greg Bayles is a project manager at the University of Utah’s Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab. He received a BA in English Literature from Brigham Young University and went on to complete a Master’s of Entertainment Arts and Engineering at the University of Utah. In his free time, Greg enjoys reading, making video games, cooking, wandering art galleries, and rock climbing.

Read our Q&A with Greg Bayles or order the latest copy of peculiar.

Call for Submissions!

Submit Typewriter Background

peculiar is a queer literary journal that aims to showcase the prose, poetry, art, and photography of Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and otherwise queer writers and artists. We hope to recognize the creative talents of the often overlooked queer community within Utah’s unique culture.

In our first issue, co-editor-in-chief Aaron Gates wrote the following in his foreword: “To belong, isn’t that what we are fighting for, constantly? Every day a wave surges against us, telling us we are too different, telling us we have no place, telling us that something is wrong with us. No one can tell you what you are worth; that is for you to decide.” So we hope you’ll decide to be brave. To be strong. To be beautiful.

The SUBMISSION DEADLINE for our fifth issue (volume three: issue two) is JULY 16th at MIDNIGHT (MST). After which, peculiar staff will do blind readings to select the pieces to be published. Those chosen will be kept in the loop throughout the editing process, with the journal going to print sometime in the fall. If published, writers and artists will received a FREE copy of the journal. No other compensation will be given. After publication, rights revert back to the author.

Submissions of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, art, and photography can be submitted online at peculiarjournal.com/submit.  We do allow simultaneous submissions and previously published work, but please inform us in both cases. We are interested in many genres and the subject matter does not need to be queer-themed, we only ask that contributors identify as queer and live, or have lived, within Utah.

Further guidelines are given online. Again, to submit work, go to peculiarjournal.com/submit before July 16th.

Q&A with Featured Writer: Greg Bayles

Q&A with Greg Bayles

For our newest issue of peculiar (volume three, issue one), we chose Greg Bayles as our Featured Writer because of the way he so carefully crafts his poetry. His precise command of words infuses his writing with striking imagery, complexity, and classical—yet contemporary—tones. Greg agreed to answer some questions about his writing, and we hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as we have.

When did you start writing poetry?

I had written poems here and there all through elementary school and junior high, but 8th grade was really the first time I devoted any substantial amount of time to poetry. My English teacher, Mrs. Medlock, had us write eight or ten poems and do illustrations with them, and that taught me a ton about different styles of poetry. It was kind of my foray into literary poetry.

Why do you write poetry?

Because I’m super angsty! But really, writing has just always been a way for me to sort through emotions and take something negative or confusing and turn it into something I could own and be proud of. I guess I’ve never thought about it too much, but all my major life transitions have poems to accompany them, and I have a poem for every love I’ve ever had and lost. I guess poems are sort of my way of dealing with grief and other hard emotions.

What poets do you yourself read?

My reading isn’t super regimented or methodical, but some of my biggest inspirations and all-time favorites are Ginsburg, Kerouac, Gibran, Hafiz, Eliot, and Levine. I’m really heavily influenced by British and American Romantics, especially Blake and Whitman. More recently, I’ve been reading a lot of Dan Magers and Saeed Jones, but I guess I’m always on the lookout for good writing in whatever form it may come. I literally have Google Alerts set up to notify me whenever certain food critics post reviews, because I love their writing so much. I also think poetry is kind of happening around you all the time—conversations on streetcars, jokes at bars, people smoking on tired balconies—you just have to be there to witness it.

What’s your writing process?

I usually get an idea and write out a few lines on my phone, just as they come to me. Then I go through and handwrite big lists of “words of power” and images and phrases associated with the subject matter, just kind of letting my mind wander and make odd connections and running with it. I don’t like too much structure early on. Then I start to chunk out sections and drop ideas into more metered phrases (I’m an iamb addict), and eventually rough stanzas sort of emerge. I just keep reading through it aloud and cutting and revising until I feel about 80% content with the poem, and then I stop and call it done. I usually shoot for lots and lots of visual imagery (also a symbol addict) and a healthy dose of mysticism/ambiguity. I also spend a lot of time thinking about words: their various meanings, their etymologies, associations with other words, how much breath you release in saying them, symbolic linguistics, etc. It’s kind of an extension of the early wandering I do when exploring a topic for a poem, and it usually ends up shaping the overall direction of the poem as well.

What inspires you to write?

I think life’s pretty amazing, and I want to be able to capture all the beauty I see around me. People, especially, are such an inspiration for me—not just their good parts, but their complexity and everything that goes into a human soul or consciousness. I spend a lot of time trying to intuit how other people perceive the world, and my writing is sometimes an exploration into that. I love nature and art and technology, and all of those things flow together in my writing and more generally in my day-to-day life. I guess great writing also helps me to want to write more. I read a ton, and it’s always refreshing to come across writing that feels like “home,” in a way. I guess eventually I want to be able to create that for other people.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

I had a novel that I was working on a few years ago that still means the world to me. It was my first major attempt at writing a novel, and it’s definitely the piece I’ve spent the most time on overall. I think more than that, though, it became a place where I could live out different lives, through the characters I was creating. This was at a time when I was still closeted, trying to figure out life at BYU, so it became an important way for me to express the conflict I was feeling and to experiment with different facets of my personality. There was a young, selfless, believing hero who represented my desire to stay with the faith of my youth; an old, cynical but kind inventor who embodied my growing distrust for religion and my hope for the tech of the future; a young woman who saw the value in the traditions and rituals of her community but cared more about the people than the culture; a tomboy trying to figure out how she could deal with others’ expectations. I didn’t realize this as I was writing it, but each character (and the conflicts they faced) became a way for me to live out, in a sense, a possible route for my life. I was able to sort through a lot of my conflicting emotions and come to some clarity as to where I fit in the world. So long story short, I guess it’s my favorite because it got me through a crazy time. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back and finish it, but it’s still something I look back on very fondly, and something I like to revisit from time to time.

What effect do you hope your writing will have on people?

I know my poetry sometimes isn’t the most accessible or relatable (as is often the case when mysticism and transport are two of your fundamental writing values!), but I hope that my writing becomes a catalyst for people to explore parts of their personality that they’re afraid to explore. I think for a long time before I came out, I was afraid to live out my gay life because I thought that I wouldn’t find real happiness or belonging or connection outside of the religion and community of my youth. I hope my writing shows that queer life is full of richness and meaning! That’s not to say it’s not complicated, because obviously there are still hard days and difficult decisions and heartbreaks and all that. But when you’re living your life as you choose, you feel a lot less like a victim to circumstance, and you can feel like you are choosing some of those difficulties in exchange for bigger and better things that you really desire. So, yeah! Be yourself!

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Hopefully a lot of places! I make video games for a living, and I hope that in a few years, I’ll be able to start my own games studio! I have lots of big, far-flung aspirations, though, like opening an art gallery or doing a pop-up restaurant. In terms of where all that will happen, I’ve definitely thought about staying in Salt Lake City, but I think at some point in my life, I’ll live in New York, the Pacific northwest, and San Francisco. Those just seem like big tech hot spots, and they have some of the best creative communities in the States. I’ve also toyed with moving abroad for a few years—maybe China or Scandinavia somewhere—but that thought is definitely still in its infancy. Dunno about the rest of life yet! I think I’ll probably settle down one day, but if not, I think I’ll be okay with it. Generally, I just plan on having lots of great relationships with lots of kinds of people, and if lasting romantic love comes out of all that, all the better!

What’s it like being queer in Utah?

I mean, that’s kind of presumptuous of you to assume I’m queer just because I like men and publish in queer literary journals, but I’ll take the bait anyway. Being gay in Utah… That’s a hard one. I guess the word I’ll use to describe it is a word we use a lot in the gay community but not one we think about very much. Fabulous, or belonging to fables. There’s something really epic about being gay in one of the biggest fundamentalist religious centers of the world. Something so rebellious and wonderfully perverse about having grown up in that faith culture and received its rites and lived its myths, and then departing and coming out and embracing such a rich (queer) culture. I think there are a lot of similarities between the two: an appreciation of emotional intimacy, a strong sense of community and belonging, a love for things beautiful and artistic, vibrant symbols, and the list goes on. As a believer, I felt that the whole world had this sort of magical aura about it, and to be honest, I feel like my gay life is a little bit enchanted: wild parties, crazy personalities, genderfuck drag shows, galas, and brunches galore. And unicorns everywhere, obviously! So yeah, fabulous. In all the best ways!

What makes you peculiar?

I guess I’m peculiar because I don’t feel the need to hold myself to any one world view or way of living. My life is full of changing values and contradictions that come together in a beautiful, messy amalgam, and I couldn’t love it more. At times, people think it’s pretty weird. “Video gamers can’t like poetry; poets can’t be interested in chemistry; chemists can’t rock climb; and rock climbers can’t…” Obviously none of that is true, but there’s always sort of this pressure to fall in line and be like everyone else—like other game designers or poets or gays or liberals or whatever—and that’s just not something I’m interested in! I get a lot of value out of being uniquely me, and I reserve the right to change and change and change again, all throughout my life. I spent long enough trying to live up to other people’s expectations, and if being me means being a weirdo, then I choose to be peculiar every day of my life!

 

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Greg Bayles is a project manager at the University of Utah’s Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab. He received a BA in English Literature from Brigham Young University and went on to complete a Master’s of Entertainment Arts and Engineering at the University of Utah. In his free time, Greg enjoys reading, making video games, cooking, wandering art galleries, and rock climbing.

You can read his poem “Chemical Emigration” on the blog, or read more work in the newest issue of peculiar.

Together We Will Rise: A Personal Narrative on the Park City Women’s March

by Amanda Steele

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I woke up that morning at 6 a.m. Pulled on boots, layers of pants, scarves, gloves, and looked out the window to inches of fresh snow. A quick search online let me know that Parley’s Canyon would be treacherous in these conditions, and I wavered about whether or not to chance it. At risk of sounding melodramatic, it felt like a turning point for me. Was I going to turn back when things were difficult? Would snow and icy roads deter me from coming together with millions of women across the world to march for equality and rights for all people? The air seemed to buzz with a collective energy, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t even try. Deciding that I could always turn back if the roads were too bad, I zipped up my coat and headed out the door, a makeshift sign that read “Together We Will Rise” in my hand.

The slow-crawling, barely-moving drive to Park City seemed a metaphor for the state of women’s, and other minority groups’, rights in our country. An uphill battle, slow moving, where little progress seemed to be made. Danger was also involved. Toyota Camrys, Dodge pickups, and Walmart semi-trucks dotted the side of the road as emergency vehicles came to their rescue. Traffic was heavy, and there was bodily risk for all of us—just as those with bodies outside the norm. The bodies of women, people of color, queer people, disabled people, DAPL protestors, etc. are at risk as things stand now in our country. Even more with the inauguration of Trump.

Nearly three hours later, I found a place to park amongst the thousands of people gathered for both the Sundance Film Festival and the Women’s March and grabbed a bus to Main Street where the march would begin. Hundreds of us jogged excitedly to the start of the march that was already beginning to make its way from the Wasatch Brewery. I had made it just in time.

The snow was still coming down in soft, large flakes as I joined the throng. Signs held aloft with phrases such as, “my body, my choice,” “how long must women wait for equality,” and my personal favorite “a woman’s place is in the resistance” among others. There were children, men, celebrities, locals, and lots of women and queer folk. Accompanying us was a peaceful but determined quality to the atmosphere.

The rally afterwards was overflowing into the streets. People climbed up onto snowbanks to get a better view over the sea of pink hats and cardboard signs that were now a bit droopy from all the snow. We were Queens in the North. Winter was here, and nothing was going to keep us from the fight. Despite the stress of getting here, I was happy I had made it. It is hard to describe knowing that you are surrounded by thousands of other people who care about equality just like you and knowing that millions of other women around the world were marching that same day. It truly did feel historic, and I am proud that I pushed through social anxiety, dangerous roads, and crowded buses to show my support.

For me, marching represents a personal commitment to put my words into actions. To become involved in my community and state government and organize with others in my area to create change. To agitate, to protest, to show up. I’ve always been the sort to focus my energy into writing, art, or changing the minds of those around me, and while those are important things, sometimes we all need to be willing to do more.

I was also made aware that even for all the positive aspects of the march there is much work to be done. I had the privilege of never feeling the necessity and urgency of showing up to a protest or march before Trump’s election. Many people have been showing up and fighting long before me because they had no choice. They have always been at risk. These marches were mainly centered on the issues of white women, and the chants could at times be too focused on a gender binary. We need to continue to recognize privilege and get out of the way for people of color, nonbinary people, and other groups that often get pushed aside so that white, cisgendered bodies are the most visible. I, and other white women, need to show up to marches for Black Lives Matter, need to speak up and say that vaginas don’t make a woman. As with all social movements, we need to be continually checking our privilege and critiquing ourselves. We need to celebrate our victories but keep striving to do better.

In the end, I came to the march because I decided enough is enough. It is time for all of us to call our congress people, show up to protests, organize together, and end complacency. For ourselves and even more so for others with less privilege than our own. When I look back on this weekend, one that will be talked about for years to come, I want to be remembered as someone who stood up. Someone who was willing to do hard things because they were the right things. Someone who didn’t sit complacently by and let others do the work for me. May we all continue fighting the good fight and be a little braver and bolder during the oncoming years. May we keep each other safe and keep showing up. If we do that, we can keep the tide of nationalist, bigoted beliefs at bay.

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16142996_10154733640881815_8309407749215901025_nAmanda Steele is a feminist killjoy and bisexual woman living in Sandy, UT. She is a recent graduate of Utah Valley University with a degree in creative writing and a gender studies minor. Amanda has been published in peculiar, along with multiple other Utah-based publications such as Touchstones, Rock Canyon Poets community publication, and Intersections along with online journals including wordhaus. In the past, she has served as an associate editor for Essais and prose editor for Touchstones, both student publications. She is currently applying to graduate school in gender studies and loves to mix her love of activism with her love of writing and fandom.