CREATIVE WRITING: Long Live

 

When she accidentally stepped on the executioner’s foot
she gasped and graciously apologized…

Perched on the edge of their rotting stools like pigeons
on the window ledges of their abandoned bakeries,
Les Trecoteuse raveled and unraveled their threadbare threads
in silence.
The usual “who’s who” was a waste as each woman could recognize
the cake batter dripping from her mouth
to the sticky urine lined streets.

The “Austrian Woman” tried to become one of them. She was hard pressed for acceptance.
Still. Still after 23 years, she balanced atop her mocking post
where silk buckle shoes drown in the blood of her severed husband.
Splotches of rust and dust ate away at the intricate designs through the eyelets
where laces should have been.
A revolutionary stripped his former queen of preciousness.
He tore through whatever represented the wealth of the privileged-
boot laces spun in gold,
her ragged Fontange, where a single alouette feather remained
caught between the mousy grey locks
and broken wires that no longer measured two feet high.
Luxuriously, the revolutionary threw them over the scaffolding to join
the King’s navy culottes.

CREATIVE WRITING: Alliance

 

The inherent distaste for “Austrian snakes” clung
to the tongues of each Louis in turn.
In France, it was assumed that a Hapsburg woman
was a mauvais payer,
an ill-fated hand.

Wound by the intentions of female politicians,
a counter-melody was proposed-
composed for Maria Antonia to out-perform
the catchy tune of “Austro-phobia,”
a score pregnant with dissonance.

She is folded to the floor of Versailles’ foyer,
arms pressed firmly around her ankles.
She rocks a steady rhythm there. Steady
as when mother used to hum softly in the evening.
This was her debut, her duty
to tumble into a love less marriage.

She stands-
Maria Antonia.

Lilac satin cascading past her tiny mid-drift
& bubbling over her hips,
the lace trails from the crown of her head
past the backs of her primrose knees.
Peering around the entrance to la Salle de l’Opera
no orange blossoms meet her virgin eyes.

She stands-
Maria Antonia.

Whispers ensue as privileged peasants begin to caress
the strings of borrowed violas and a foreign harp.
Maria recognizes the tune Plaisir d’Amour humming
against her ribcage. The words are absent
but she hiccups a chuckle
at her memory of them:
The pain of love lasts a lifetime

LITERARY ANALYSIS: Why I Need Google Glass

I was concerned about writing this poem because I didn’t want readers to think I was targeting Google as an evil corporation or an example of science fiction gone wrong.  Rather, my intention was to allow readers to think about the practicality of certain technologies as opposed to others.  For example, I write “They’re only like 15 hundred dollars/cut-rate and constant, cheaper than college,” pointing out that an essentially trial piece of technology can be compared in price to college tuition (13-14).  Also, I should note that I attempted to write these technological poem in traditional pentameter form to make a connection between the past and present.

I focused on the idea of progression by linking the first and last stanzas, hopefully insinuating that I do believe in technology, but also the maintenance of human thought and ingenuity.  This why I chose to write about the driverless car that is also happens to be in development Google.  There are upsides to this new product, like the elimination of drivers falling asleep at the road, but I am bothered by the elimination of another human ability.  With completely automatic cars, will anyone be able to drive a car regardless of their age or competency?  Furthermore, I feel coveted career opportunities are in danger of becoming meaningless with some uses of technology.  While great vocalists can be discovered through youtube videos, I fear for the integrity of the music industry.  In my research, I watched a video interview with Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live.  He was asked to try Google Glass after performing a skit on the show in which he parodied the product.  The third stanza of Why I Need Google Glass resembles some of what his character reported on the show.  Later, when Armisen tried the actual Google Glass, he suggested that musicians wouldn’t have to worry about lyrics and actors could perform without scripts.  I thought this positivity was interesting coming from an actor, because he is in the industry.  It would seem that to a live actor, he would value the integrity of memorizing a script, which is why I included: “Musicians will empty their lyric banks/Actors will read scripts on screen, in theatre” (28-29).

Stanza 9 nods again to the relationship between past and present, where work is becoming increasingly virtual.  I personally try to use pen and paper when I write because I tend to stumble across some really valuable ideas when I take the time to actually write the words down. When I transfer my work to the keyboard, then I start to play around with different phrases and images, placing great stock in the thesaurus.  I hope readers interpret the stanzas as an appreciation our potential to progress with technology balanced with a healthy resistance.  Because of the struggle between past and present The piece is written from the perspective of an enthusiastic and technologically driven woman, but tends to reflect my somewhat sarcastic views to technological developments.

CREATIVE WRITING: Why I Need Google Glass

I was inspired to write this poem after our many discussions about the relationship between technology and humanity.  My reactions to Virtuous War (James Der Derian), Little Brother (Cory Doctorow), and Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart) led to my questioning of how technology should be used in our lives currently and in the future as well.  I knew I wanted to write more about technology, so I thought about some of the recent developments such as the smartphone and tablet.  Then, I heard more about “Google Glass.”

Why I Need Google Glass

Ellen Scherer

My iphone 4S isn’t cutting it.

I’m on the straight and narrow to omission

from competition. I can’t handle that.

My pestilent age cannot defeat me.

So I really need them to stay relevant.

They’ll sit on the bridge of my nose, just there

like a fashion forward accessory.

I’ll be wearing the runway on my face!

Oh no, I’ll be able to see just fine

and I can use my glasses anywhere

without being rude or disrespectful.

No one will even know I have them on.

They’re only like 15 hundred dollars.

Cut-rate and constant, cheaper than college

I could use them to learn in an instant.

Here, I’ll demonstrate their efficiency:

“Google glass? Look up ‘autonomous car.’

Can you believe it? They’re developing

a real transformation revelation

vacant driver’s seats aimed at the highway.

Tired? Take a nap in your Volkswagon,

she’s got your back by using her radar,

lidar, GPS and computer eye

on site, depending on sensory aid.

You don’t need to do a thing, she’s got it.

How was I able to spew all that news?

Google glass, an apparatus, baby.

Musicians will empty their lyric banks.

Actors will read scripts on screen, in theatre.

I’ll rapidly master schools of studies,

filing in the world’s information

without lifting a solitary pen

from my collection of dried out ballpoints.

Soon, the trivial choices I must make

won’t be clouded by my questions and thoughts.

I’ll move forward with constant direction

in a stable frame labeled “progression.”

LITERARY ANALYSIS: First (and Last) Date: A Sexist Sestina

Author’s Reflection and Interpretation

When I began research for this poem, I went straight to the Vagina Monologues 2014 Facebook page, which sounds a bit unreliable, but the girls in our group are constantly finding examples of sexism and rape culture.  The article I found most helpful for First (and Last) Date was posted on Upworthy by Ari Isaacman Astles. “A Glimpse at How the Media Treated Women This Year” is a compilation of news stories and commercials that marginalize women into silent sex objects or power-hungry monsters. I won’t break the entire poem down as I did with “Knockout,” but I will highlight some of the news stories I used.  Primarily, I tried to bring attention to the phenomenon of “slut-shaming,” carefully choosing my words so that the feminist voice in the poem didn’t use the word without quotations.

Upworthy’s video:

I chose begin the poem with a question about pro-choice because frankly, it made me chuckle.  If a traditional, hetero-normative male were to effectively destroy a first date with a woman, I would not be surprised that trying to discuss abortion would have gotten him there. The Texas passage of anti-abortion law was an absolute battle in the Senate, and Senator Wendy Davis was labelled “stupid” and earned the name “abortion barbie,” which I reference in line 7 of First Date.  I also try to battle the notion that intelligent women are either a joke or complete fallacy through the poem.

When I refer to a woman as a “looker” in lines 8-9, I am referencing a stories found on BBC and CBS.  A presenter for BBC stated that tennis champion Marion Bartoli is “never going to be a looker.”  This was a prime news story, and rather than comment on the athlete’s success in on the court, the news person chose to draw attention to her appearance.  A similar story was found on CBS regarding a Houston cheerleader, questioning if she was “too chunky,” a quote I also borrowed in line 16 of the sestina.  I see this all the time with women athletes (compare Bartoli’s objectification to that of Maria Sharapova, for example.

Maria Sharapova Related Google Searches

These are related Google searches for Sharapova In order of “importance.” Notice a pattern?

Meanwhile, when I Google search Lebron James I find nothing but stats, game highlights and articles concerning NBA trades.  The stigma against women in sports is still so negative that radio host Damon Bruce was quoted, “sports has lost his way because women are giving directions.”

In line 11, I write, “I’m not saying you women deserve it.” I was going to use the phrasing simply because it’s pretty well known when discussing rape culture. When I watched the Upworthy video, I knew it was something I couldn’t ignore. When covering the story on a rape accusation, a FOX news reporter rationalized “I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but…” That “but” was exactly what I needed for that last end word, for the sestina.

The last stanza of this poem was written on a whim, when I was reminded of Beyonce Knowles’ song “Bow Down.” Controversy surrounded the lyrics, and she gained a lot of attention from conservative reporters like Rush Limbaugh, who decided that because the singer married wealthy rapper, Jay-Z, she might choose to bow down or bow out. (With this sweeping generalization of women’s dependence on men, Limbaugh fails to note that Beyonce earned $2 million per night during her tour this year, and has been a successful solo recording artist for 15 years).  In reality, Beyonce is telling her fellow women to respect her position as a powerful woman and to not make assumptions about her personal life.  (This topic is discussed much further in Disruptions and Reinforcements of Gender: An Analysis of Daenarys Targaryen and Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Hardly ***Flawless:The Complications of Feminism and Identity Categories as Illustrated by the Study of Romanticism and Beyonce).

Ban Bossy Campaign

Beyonce taking a stance against the stereotypes that gendered language creates.

***Flawless lyric

Beyonce states that she is more than the wife of a powerful man.

Other lyrics I borrowed were from Beyonce’s “Upgrade You,” and “Why Don’t You Love Me?” Lily Allen’s “Fuck You” and “Hard Out Here,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” and Natasha Bedingfield’s “These Words.” The piece is a little vulgar at times but as one last reporter insists “You’re beautiful, but you have to be honest as well.”

CREATIVE WRITING: First (and Last) Date: A Sexist Sestina

I have been meaning to write a poem like this for a long time. I recently performed a piece about the transgender community but until now, I haven’t written much about sexism. I find this strange, since it’s one of the social issues I am most passionate about. I feel there is more to come, especially with how cheeky this poem turned out.

 

First (and Last) Date: A Sexist Sestina

Ellen Scherer

 

“So… are you pro-life or pro-choice?

Cuz like, I’m pretty intelligent, you know street smart.

I know if I walked around half naked like some of the sluts

I saw this Halloween, I’d have to assume my ass

was on the line. It would be like a main entrance”

 

Hold up, Imma let you finish…

but first let me just point out that a woman’s choice

is in her voice. And even though she may never be a fine

looker, she shouldn’t feel obligated to resemble a hooker

and yet, sometimes we do like showing off our butts-

 

“I’m not saying you women ‘deserve it,’ but

the abortion barbies have it coming. (mouths

on them) Seriously, it’s your choice

I’m sure you’re all brilliant.

assert your independence, because the world’s watching you, sluts.

 

Then again… most women are too chunky to be sluts.

Maybe if they emptied out that dress a little… but

that means they’d have to fill their whorish mouths

with something other than cheeseburgers and choose

a salad for once, maybe try out some of that smart”

 

food for thought? “You don’t care to know I’m smart”

My 3.7 is useless to you. “If I told you about my sex life you’d call me a slut.”

you need a new prescription for those “blurred lines,” but

your blind eyes should see that “These words are my own”

and “I can still upgrade you.” Use your discretion,

 

Choose wisely.

Go ahead, label me “slut”

But you best be ready to bow down bitch.

 

LITERARY ANALYISIS: Knockout

Author’s Reflection and Interpretation

When my friends played Call of Duty religiously in high school they weren’t disturbed by violence before them on the screen.  Most men, they found the game normal, and they weren’t outwardly violent people. However, when I think back to these friends through a feminist lens, I recognize that in many different aspects of their young lives, they were encouraged to portray a sense of hyper-masculinity.  As I recall more clearly, they did get into fights with other boys to assert themselves, and if they didn’t, they lost respect. Boys who felt more comfortable in the arts were also threatened by a rain cloud of masculine hegemony, adopting nicknames that highlighted their “feminine” interests.

Because of this realization and a very specific class discussion, I wanted to write about how this display of violence in gaming and on the schoolyard is no longer child’s play. A cruel and moderately recent game called “Knockout” (or “bomb,” “knockout king” “polarbearing”) has been infiltrating the inner city youth in the United States as well as the United Kingdom. When I first heard about this game, I expected news stories from places such as Chicago and New York City, but there have been cases in Massachusetts and Missouri as well. I did write this poem with big city life in mind, and I did name real places. The names of victims and prosecutors have been changed. In order to do this piece justice, I feel I need to do a stanza by stanza interpretation:

 

I’m gonna live till I die! I’m gonna laugh ‘stead of cry,

I’m gonna take the town and turn it upside down,

I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.

                                Frank Sinatra

This song by Frank Sinatra was used in an advertisement for Call of Duty Ghosts. I first thought this was an interesting accompaniment to such a violent video game, because the song encourages living life to the fullest potential.  Reviewer Krystin Goodwin refers to the song as a “humorous juxtaposition” to the game, while I am still a bit disturbed by the violence being masked. Furthermore, the characters in the new game are terrifyingly realistic and also iconic. Actress Megan Fox is introduced as the first playable female character, which sounds like progress for the female gamer, but being Megan Fox, her character is sexualized.

 

The man was found in an alley behind Martin Luther King Drive.

Couldn’t have been more than 25 years young-Matthew Drafus

Concussed, with 6 stitches running across his previously coveted jaw line-

now a modern work of Frankenstein.

Only the monsters are still in hiding.

 

When I was pondering where to place these characters, I thought about the images I could stitch out of inner city youth. Instead of choosing a more immediate Harlem or Chicago, found a news story that took place in South Orange, New Jersey. I wanted a specific street name, but not “the” street, so I puttered around on Google Maps until I found “Martin Luther King Drive” I chuckled at the irony of placing such a violent phenomenon on a street named for a man of peace, and repeated the line for a bit of emphasis.  “Matthew Drafus” is a pseudonym, but the injuries I borrowed were from the real New Jersey news story. The “monsters” I refer to in line 5 could be anyone; absent parents, game developers, government agencies or society in general. Basically, I wanted make it known that the young boys playing this game have struggled to find a moral compass because of their environment and upbringing, not because they are inherently evil.

 

Hiding behind 8th period Global Studies and delusions of innocence,

fueling themselves with unleaded racism to avoid a damaged engine.

A league of boys trying to fill the size “macho” shoes of their absent fathers.

A league of boys rediscovering a tingle they once felt in their fingertips

in their knuckles and biceps.

Again, lines 6-8 refer to the unfortunate position of the younger generation. They are understood to be innocent, but are crowded by a violent sense of racism they don’t really understand, put into place by a sense of protection; “fueling themselves with unleaded racism to avoid a damaged engine” (7). Lines 9 and 10 are meant to describe a displaced exertion of anger and violence. Instead of taking their aggression out in a video game, the boys are finding solace in violence against real people, which supports the theory that video games can cause Cognitive Neoassociation rather than Symbolic Catharsis.

 

A crew streaked with vengeance and hate, but mostly-

a resentment which they will never fully understand.

Matching street corner hookers to new born mothers.

Separating their brain from their mind and their mind from their manners.

Adding chapters to a story they will never think to read.

 

This stanza refers again to a displaced sense of hate that seems to be present in today’s youth. The racism and prejudices our younger generations have adopted can be societal; therefore, sometimes there is still resentment across the board.  I write “matching street corner hookers to new born mothers” to refer to the innocence of Knockout victims as well as society’s view of sexual women (13). Because Knockout targets unsuspecting and presumed helpless, how could women in our society not be a target? Lines 14-15 are a post-human reference.  Because these young men are violently assaulting people “for the fun of it” I can see a certain loss of humanity in them; much like the loss of humanity in virtual/virtuous war.

 

The man was found in an alley behind Martin Luther King Drive.

He doesn’t want to show his face on My9 Jersey news for fear of round two.

Fear of being knocked through the curb with the backhand of a boxer’s glove.

The Everlast bag was pricey

but strangers are free.

 

The man was found in an alley behind Martin Luther King Drive.

Not to be undone, Quentin Caldwell of Syracuse, New York

actualized his personal call of duty.

sucker punching his English professor to the curb. 10 points.

Only the monsters are still in hiding.

This stanza goes back to the New Jersey news story I found. Line 17 is true. When the victim was interviewed after his assault he had his back facing the camera and his voice was not audible. He was afraid the boys would be able to locate and attack him again. Lines 18, 22 and 24 refer to the way other victims were attacked. A man was actually attacked by a protective motorcycle, which I thought was quite ironic. Another was slammed to the curb by one of his students.  The man showed no fear as he walked past the group of boys, but I guess maybe he should have feared them after all.  Lines 19 and 20 were written to remind the reader that these boys don’t have many options because of their financial constraints, which is another reason why they have turned to violence. You have to wonder, “is this all just for a little attention?”  Line 23 is a reference to the game Call of Duty, insinuating that the boy felt he needed to carry out his own violent orders.

 

Underground gamemakers

hide in a misogynist’s closet

held in by translucent curtain labeled “acceptable.”

leaking a poison of ferocity

through the imagination of brilliant children.

“Hopefully within the next couple of months

this is something you won’t hear anything about.”

 

These last two stanzas are very accusatory in the direction of society.  The “underground gamemakers” that “hide in a misogynist’s closet” could be anyone, and society deems the games acceptable (26-27). However, the curtain is “translucent” because society is beginning to see the repercussions of developing a violent environment for their children (28). Lines 28 and 29 are borrowed from another video game trailer that promised something along the lines of “linking the ferocity of gods with the imagination of brilliant children,” again, I thought such a promise was a little scary. The final two lines are borrowed from a newscaster, closing a story about a knockout victim. Since the game has been in play since 1992, I don’t think we’ve heard the end of it.