Top 13 Scary Moments: Claudiapoet’s Edition

In the spirit of Halloween, I want to share some moments that have scared me in different degrees, but scared me for sure. Are they all spooky? You have to read on and find out! Go on, see whether any make you scream or scram.

Some of these moments are small fears–you may even say silly. Other moments have roots I cannot begin to tell you.

FullSizeRender

13. The Storm and Thunder 

The way the trees toss and turn outside my window scare me. Thunder has such a loud boom that I find hard to ignore. My least favorite time out in the roads is during the slightest clap of thunder.

12. Alarms 

Any sudden or new beeping sound to me makes me jump a little. Alarms, fire alarms or sirens, make me uneasy. I’m just not a big fan of loud noises.

11. Being Late 

Whether it’s a job, a class, or an event, I like showing up when I say I’ll be there. I’m habitually on time to things. I leave up to half an hour to an hour early when I’m going somewhere new. If I’m late somewhere, I imagine people looking at the clock and frowning or scowling. All this drama build ups in my head.

10. Rejection Letters

Submitting poems to journals and magazines is easy. Hearing back from them is not; it’s scary because sometimes it doesn’t happen. Whenever I hear back from a submission, if the subject line or opening line lacks a “congratulations,” my heart sinks.

9. Dialing Strangers, Especially Representatives 

The act itself is not scary, but there’s still times where I have to pep talk myself into making a call, or when I have to write out my message before I can speak it. Maybe the digital age has spoiled me. Maybe it’s one of the downers of being an introvert. Maybe it’s being in a woman of color body. 

I wrote a poem about one of these scary calls. It was to ask my congressman about Syria and its raped women. I stifled tears throughout the whole ordeal, which was particularly hard as the staffer explained there wasn’t anything to be done. 

If you, reader, don’t have this fear, I encourage you to make a call to support and demand action for the Dream Act–it’s a quick call, actually. This matters to me not because I am a DACA recipient, but because I know their pains and fears.

8. Encounters with Many-legged Insects 

Enough said. I don’t want them near. Yes, I know caterpillars grow up to be butterflies. 

7. Lock-downs with Middle Schoolers

When I worked in a middle school classroom as a tutor, there would be times when a crime had happened near enough the school to put the school on lockdown. This often meant that the classroom had to go quiet, which isn’t easy in a roomful of squirmy bodies. The tension of the moment was something similar to that Halloween movie where you’re screaming at the girl, “don’t go in there!”

The children made it, but I know that some days, some school does lose a child–to gun violence or to bullying.

6. Transferring to a 4 Year College 

It was actually the commute that terrified me. And then the financial expenses. I figured George Mason University would be my last stop in my journey to earn a college degree. I figured I wouldn’t graduate… but I did in May 2017.

5. Car Rides with Speedy Drivers 

Will we survive? Is there a police behind us? Hey, are you seeing that stop sign? Slow down. I want to live.

4. Post-Election Day 2016

I had gone to bed late, with each hour, hoping the votes coming in would change direction. I couldn’t believe that a man with recorded evidence of gross “locker talk” was winning the election. I was scared of the future. I was scared for the future.

At the time, I was a classroom tutor, and I couldn’t imagine going into work. The students had spent months commenting on the racist remarks of the candidate-now-turned-president. It was a horror story.

I didn’t have work that day. I had school, which was just as bad because in most classrooms, I’m the Hispanic or the Latina. Post-Election Day I was the.crying. Latina. 

3. Car Accident, February 2017

I learned that even cautious drivers like myself can’t avoid car accidents. I was hit head-on by a driver who miscalculated or was plain reckless when she made a left turn, wanting to enter the road in the opposing direction of traffic.

The scary part was that I didn’t see her car; I felt the car slam against my car before seeing anything or anybody. The other scary part was the quiet in the car. In TV images of car crashes, there’s always screaming. I turned around and my mother, who was my passenger that day, wasn’t screaming–but she was alive.

2. My Mother Takes a Trip to El Salvador

In the summer of 2015, my mother made an emergency trip to El Salvador. TPS beneficiaries have to file an advance parole application to make visits outside the U.S. This was my mother’s first trip. We both had fears that something would go wrong, that she wouldn’t be allowed back into the U.S. For the few days she was away, I worried about her return trip. At that time, I was a full-grown 20 year old woman going on to 21 years, and all I kept thinking was Come home, mamí.

And she did! It only took some procedural hours of questioning at the airport.

1. The Right Now 

In case you don’t know, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for Nicaragua and Honduras is set to expire January 2018. For El Salvador, that’s March 2018. Homeland Security is due to make a decision about the future of Central Americans and Haitians into November, and November starts tomorrow.

Advertisements

Simple Gems in the City of Washington, DC

Living in Northern Virginia, I have a great view of the city. Washington, DC is a metro ride or car ride away. There are no-effort and wallet-free options for the city, some hidden and some in plain sight. Here are some day trip ideas for the next time you head to the nation’s capital.

City Views

FullSizeRender (4)

Adams Morgan shops

A productive stroll in the city involves more than dining or shopping. It means going into a bookstore, sitting at a bench when you manage to find one, and being open to discovery.

Museums are a must, and there are so many to choose that you may be missing on some gems like the National Building Museum or the colorburst, the Blind Rhino. You can spend hours in one museum alone. Some really great sights, murals and sculptures, you will find find right in front of your nose. Be on the lookout.

Murals

You’ve seen these on social media posts, especially Instagram. Why not see them yourself? Some neighborhoods to try are U St, Adams Morgan, and NoMa, which have blocks full of murals and are metro accessible. It’s easy to miss a mural at night, so daylight is the way to go.

DC Mural

U St mural at dusk

In daylight, some murals you can’t miss–they’ll take up an entire wall as you pass the sidewalk and other artwork will be hiding down alleys. Stay alert.

You’ll notice artists using the wall medium to their advantage: to wow and to celebrate the city. Recent additions are part of MuralsDC Project started in 2007, an effort to make art of graffiti around the city.

While you will stumble upon murals unintentionally, here is a map of DC murals.

Sculptures

Many tourists know to take pictures of the sculpture of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. These are great but DC has much more to offer.

Find PandaMania sculptures throughout DC! The sculptures are a long past 2004 art project with many sculptures still in perfect condition, all scattered around DC and Northern Virginia.

Find a sculpture of Albert Einstein on 2100 Constitution Ave NW or sitting and pensive George Mason in East Potomac Park or the Bartholdi fountain inside the Botanic Gardens, named after the artist who also happens to be the artist behind the Statue of Liberty.

Interested in other overlooked sculptures? There’s more, all small surprises around the city.

Cozy spaces

Terrace View

John F. Kennedy terrace view

Visit the John F. Kennedy Center. Watch no-ticket-needed music and dance performances at the Millennium Stage. Upcoming events include Rocky Horror dance lessons from the Joy of Motion Dance Center on Halloween and a Thanksgiving Day Swing Dance Party on November 23. While there, head to the Tour Desk for a free tour. Handy fact: there’s also a free shuttle that departs from Foggy Bottom.

Attend a poetry event hosted by Split This Rock. Stop by on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month for a no-cost writing workshopStop by monthly poetry open mics: the next one in DC is on November 19 and in Virginia on November 12. Split This Rock hosts open mics on the regular with $5 tickets. Stay updated via Split This Rock’s Facebook page.

In the mood to treat yourself? CityCenter, with over 30 shops, is the place for you. At the plaza, sit for awhile and enjoy the view. Notice the art installations change by the season: beach balls in the summer, now leaves hang from Palmer Alley. The CityCenter plaza is a family-friendly location.

Choose these city delights for a low-cost and relaxing day, but know there’s still more to discover. 

 

 

Questions? Comments? Let me know. Find me on Instagram, @Claudiapoet.

Claudia Poet’s Ideas for Random Acts of Poetry

October is a fairly decent month: the calm before the winter freeze, the color before the bare landscape. It is host to Northern Virginia’s Fall for the Book literary festival and to Random Acts of Poetry Day.

Random Acts of Poetry (RAP) falls on October 4 this year.

Legend has it that RAP Day arose in the early 80s, following a Canadian writer’s scribbles on a restaurant mat. That writer was Anne Herbert.  In the U.S., the writer Dylan Barmmer may have woken up Americans from their slumber. Whatever the origins, RAP Day is a holiday we have all much been waiting to discover.

On this day, the key thing is to commit to surprise people with poetry. (Read a beginner’s guide to poetry here.)

RAP-French-Pin-Poetry.pngFollowing are unexpected spots and ways to find a poem:

1. Library Book
Have you ever found an abandoned bookmark in a book and felt a little wave of discovery? Make that happen for someone else. Write a line from a poem on a sticky note or bookmark, pick a page in a library book, and be done.

Estimated Discovery Point: unknown, it could take years for the book to be opened
TIP: pick a New Arrivals/Hot Pick book for a faster discovery rate

2. Bathroom Stall
Leave a poem on a bathroom stall, where a stranger won’t have much of a choice but to read it! Be bold, make it a long poem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within hours.
TIP: Print out or write on colorful paper.

3. Bus or Metro Newspaper
Write fortune-cookie size poems and leave them inside newspapers. Imagine the surprise on strangers’ faces when they realize the day’s news has a poem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within hours.
TIP: use tape so that the poem doesn’t get lost.

4. Hashtag Poem
Ever wonder if people are reading your hashtags? Chances are they at least sneaking a glance. Surprise them with #onelonghashtagpoem.

Estimated Discovery Point: within minutes of post.
TIP: choose a mundane photo. Use #Raopoetryday or #RAPDay2017

5. Balloon
Write “POETRY” in big letters on a balloon, leaving room for a short poem. Release it into the air. Repeat.

Estimated Discovery Point: unlikely.
TIP: take a picture. Throw a party.

Want more ideas? Check out TS Poetry’s idea booklet.

Questions? Thoughts? Send me a poem? Follow me on Instagram, @Claudiapoet or Twitter, @Claudiadocumented

On Citizenship: A Takeaway from the DACA Decision

JapaneseAmericanMemorial.png

Japanese-American Memorial: center sculpture by Nina A. Akamu depicts two birds with chained wings and wings breaking free

This past week, the nation tuned into Attorney Jeff Sessions’ announcement on the termination of DACA. News outlets were then eager to interview DACA recipients to share the stories of these youth. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program. It did not offer a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency.

When the program started in 2012, it was “subject to renewal,” which meant the program was a temporary fix. Homeland Security stated strict eligibility requirements for the program, aimed at protecting youth from deportation. All DACA recipients were granted temporary work permits, which in some states were used to apply for driver’s licenses and in-state tuition. The program has a filing fee of $465.

What Congress is supposed to do within the next 6 months, shape the future of thousands of young lives, Congress had to do sooner or later.

Congress is long overdue, overdue like a library book found in the attic. Under Obama’s administration, the DREAM Act was proposed, which would create a way for undocumented youth to become citizens. In the White House Archives President Obama is on record: “I have said time and time and time again to Congress that, send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away.”

Congress did not pass the DREAM Act in 2012; instead, that year, President Obama pushed DACA into existence.

The program was to be renewed every two years, during which years Congress was to find another solution. The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA speeds up the necessary discussion about citizenship rights for youth who grew up believing in America and feeling American.

Who gets to be American? In a nation built on the abuse of Blacks and Native Americans, American somehow boils down to a birthright.

The U.S. is a country that offers birthright citizenship, or if born overseas, birthright through parentage.

This is because the 14 Amendment, enacted post-Civil War, states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” As baby, a person has a land to claim, a land that will protect them.

Because of birthright citizenship, some children have parents who are undocumented. Because of birthright citizenship, some mothers give birth in America. It happens. It’s ridiculous and shameful, not for the parents but for the countries that these children aren’t being born to. Something is horribly wrong if a mother has to consider geography when giving birth.

Trump proposed an end to birthright citizenship during his campaign. Whatever your opinion about the President, he wasn’t wrong in bringing up the issue. In some countries, citizenship isn’t automatically granted upon birth. In 2013, the Dominican Republican took away citizenship from thousands. A ruling declared that persons born after 1929 without “at least one parent of Dominican blood” did not qualify for citizenship. It is a ruling that is still being questioned.

In the U.S., a person born in another country has to apply for citizenship in two ways: 1) citizenship through parents 2) naturalization which often requires reaching permanent resident status.

When we talk about a pathway to citizenship, we are skipping the first step: a pathway to permanent residency.

Permanent residency must be petitioned for or sponsored by an employer, a family member, or a spouse. In some cases, victim-survivors of domestic violence, incest, or rape, can apply to U-visas. Refugees can also apply to citizenship. One of the barriers to permanent residency is the lack of education about the immigration system. Another is economical: affording an immigration attorney. I believe there is a third barrier: all cases are not equal. All lawyers are not equally qualified or capable. The process is complicated.

Over the next months, it’s important to think about what we mean when we use the word American and legal Americans. 

At the beginning of 1942, President Roosevelt issued executive order 9066. If you visit the Japanese American Memorial in Washington, DC, you will find etched in stone the story of how 120,000 Japanese Americans were mistreated during World War II.

Were these Japanese-Americans illegal? No, they were American citizens. Was America scared? Yes, and America is still scared. Today, documented and undocumented Americans face fears about job security, terrorism, quality education, and ownership of homes.

As a community member, as a fellow human, I want to acknowledge those very real fears.

It is not easy to make a living in America.

Yet, some people manage to live in America, with different degrees of success and survival. In the U.S., some people view undocumented youth and their parents as an enemy force. The enemy, however, looks more like a stubborn Congress, mass incarceration, natural disaster, low-wage, greedy corporations, and inadequate healthcare access.

In other words, the enemy isn’t touchable, which doesn’t matter because the hero walks like you, laughs like you, looks like you. Dear reader, the hero is the you that comes to understand political problems are indistinguishable from human problems. It is the you that recognizes the face of another human to find yourself.

A Beginner’s Guide to Poetry, 21st Century Edition

My college professors, as is expected, knew their stuff. They had areas of specialties, and in the English department, this meant people and time periods. I expanded my knowledge of poetry and poets by taking classes like “Forms of Poetry,” “African American Poetry,” and “Recent American Poetry.” I haven’t become an expert in poetry–that’s not what my English degree means. Instead, I know more about things I don’t know.

In hopes of bringing everyday people out of the darkness of not knowing poetry, I have compiled a list of 7 types of poetry everyone should know exist. These could come in handy.

1. Free Verse

This is a point of resistance for young children, who are confronted with the idea that poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. Free verse is about breaking structure: down with meter, down with rhyme scheme, and down with form. Free verse follows the internal rhythm of the poet.

I Hear America Singing” – of patriarchy, but with rhythm, Walt Whitman

Still I Rise” – a celebration of self and perseverance, the Maya Angelou way

Home Wrecker” – memory, love, and family from contemporary poet, Ocean Vuong

2. Form

Sometimes called fixed form, these types of poems follow a structure, contrary to free verse. The structure can be small or big: a poem written without one or two letters from the alphabet, the lipogram; a poem using 14 lines, rhyme scheme, and iambic pentameter, the sonnet; a poem that repeats lines or words in calculated places like the pantoum, villanelle, and sestina.

My Brother at 3 A.M.” – a pantoum about addiction by Natalie Diaz

Mad Girl’s Love Song” – a villanelle about nothing other than mad love by Sylvia Plath

When I consider how my light is spent” – or Sonnet 19 on life and faith, John Milton

3. Experimental

2014-04-17-18-49-26.jpg

This category could easily be broken into subcategories to include the kind of art redefining poetry: composing a new poem using math formulas to replace words in an old poem, cutting out words from random places to create a collaged masterpiece, erasing words in a book to leave behind poetic lines. Experimental poetry is all about experimenting with words in new ways.

The Lady” – a quick little something about death, Guillaume Apollinaire

Sonnet III” – a collaged sonnet, Ted Berrigan

a leaf falls” – an initially illegible poem, e.e. cummings

4. Prose

Prose is text without lines. Novels. Short stories. News articles. Poetry uses what’s commonly known as a line or a verse. Prose poetry is what happens when poetic elements enter the prose genre. Of course, this blurs the lines of prose and poetry, and that’s just what prose poetry aims to do. Test the borders.

The Objectified Mermaid” – a mermaid tells us about the modeling industry, Matthea Harvey

Girl” – a short story about growing up girl, Jamaica Kincaid

The Prose Poem” – a poem about the landscape of the prose poem, Campbell McGrath

5. Visual

Through space on the page, photograph or cut outs, or rearranged words, visual poetry reminds us that poetry is an art.

haiku #62” – a collage mimicking the haiku form, Scott Helmes

Silence” – repetition with a message, Eugen Gomringer

Women” – a protesting and moving poem, May Swenson

6. Spoken word

Spoken word feels relatively new, but it’s only been made more accessible through video sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. In the past, spoken word existed in the confines and ephemeral moment of the poetry cafe. A blending of performance, musicality, and poetry, spoken word is memorized by the poet(s) and performed instead of recited. This could mean the use of accompanying music, a short film, or the presence of a finger-snapping and encouraging audience.

When Love Arrives” – a duo about patience and love, by not-a-couple Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye

Love Drought” – poet Warsan Shire’s verse sprinkled over Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2016) album

The Last Poem I’ll Ever Write” – not the last, bless their soul, a touching piece, Andrea Gibson

7. Micro-poetry

Poetry meets the internet age, from 140-character tweets to Instagram’s short verse. Micro-poetry is just that, poetry that hits the stomach or lungs with a quick punch. Instagram in particular has rejuvenated the poetry world and resurfaced the typewriter. This kind of poetry is practiced by anyone from skilled poets like Rudy Francisco or Rupi Kaur to your average Jane.

Hey, Poet: World Poetry Day Awareness

March 21st marks the 16th anniversary of World Poetry Day. First observed in 2000, World Poetry Day is an initiative taken by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate poetry as an art form and a cultural phenomena.

If you’re thinking poetry isn’t your thing or it’s a waste of time, I have a few words for you: you are a poem and poetry pays.

pay_with_a_poem_2016-731x1024

Julius Meinl Coffee‘s 2016 Pay With a Poem Poster

Julius Meinl, a global coffee and tea provider based in Europe, started celebrating World Poetry Day last year by using poems as currency, and this year, Pay With a Poem will be observed in over 1,000 locations across 30 countries. Currently, two U.S. cities located in Florida and Illinois are on Pay With a Poem’s location finder, though if you happen to be around Italy, Austria, Romania, or Germany, expect several coffee shops to hand you free coffee in exchange for your handwritten poem.

Dear America,

let’s start loving us some poetry and getting ourselves some free coffee. Doesn’t this Pay With a Poem promotional video make the smell of coffee ciruclate your nose and the sound of poetry kiss your ears?

Robert Frost says it best when he says “A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness.” Poetry can dig a nest into our hearts, but it’s often treated as a second class literary form in school curriculums. When poetry is taught in high school, it’s the type of poetry that makes people cringe. Those epically long poems, those tritely rhymed and metered sonnets, and those exceptionally esoteric word choices have some people fed up with poetry when we should actually be engaging with poems.

"Journal Entry"

Journal Entry” Joel Montes de Oca CC BY-SA 2.0

Everyone has a different taste, but there is a poem waiting for all of us. Whether you need therapy, a laugh, a dose of politics, or a mental workout, poems have you covered.

Here are 14 poems that will have you rethink the meaning and medium of poetry:

1. [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

2. Story XI. The Lion who Hunted with the Wolf and the Fox by Jelal al-Din Rumi, translated from the Persian

A lion took a wolf and a fox with him on a hunting excursion,
and succeeded in catching a wild ox, an ibex, and a hare. He

3. For Jane: With All the Love I Had, Which Was Not Enough: by Charles Bukowski

I pick up the skirt,
I pick up the sparkling beads

4. Scars/To the New Boyfriend by Rudy Francisco

5. Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real? by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,

6. The Ballad Of The Landlord by Langston Hughes

Landlord, landlord,
My roof has sprung a leak.

7. Accents by Denice Frohman

8. wishes for sons by Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town

9. Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation by Natalie Diaz

Angels don’t come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.

10. A Letter to My Dog, Exploring the Human Condition by Andrea Gibson

11. This Room and Everything in It by Li-Young Lee

Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,

12. I Stink by Roque Dalton, translated from the Spanish

I smell like the colour of mourning on those days
when flowers wilt due to their price

13. The Beloved by Paul Celan, translated from the German

She is standing on my eyelids
And her hair is wound in mine,

14. Buffet Etiquette by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Photo by Tyler Menezes CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Tyler Menezes CC BY-SA 2.0

Start small this World Poetry Day by sharing a poem or go big and campaign for a poet’s freedom of speech. Poetry can be dangerous: poets around the world are threatened and silenced for writing poems deemed too political or blasphemous.

Take over social media or write letters on behalf of poets like Ashraf Fayadh, who was almost sentenced to death in 2015 for sharing his poetry in Saudi Arabia. Find other dissident poets on Pen.org and help save a poet.

Need more time to find the rhythm of the poetry that runs through your blood, the lovely pump in your heart, the gentle wind chimes in your laughter, and the captivating hold of your stare?

April marks the 20th celebration of National Poetry Month in the U.S. Find your inner word genius and get to celebrating.

 

Youth

Slow
learning
optimists
daring to try
out.

Cinquain n. 2

Girly,
resist the mold
shock and resuscitate
the steel she society shunned:
flee script.

Cinquain n. 1

Breathing

outside the glass,

hands outstretched, hands reaching:

to our daughters rising stronger

women.

permeable

You scan a catalogue and find options. I wake up the neighbors knocking on doors.

You know all the inside scoops. I dive into trial and error.

You call your thoughts masterpieces. I label my work in-progress.

You sound and look flawless. I stumble across words and wear my closet.

You got the world backing you up. I got the world pulling me backward.

You talk like you know about life. I talk of nothing and say it all.

When our dreams deflate, I’ll be first to float.