1,000 miles: step 88

February, I like to think, ends the winter season. At the very least, it serves as a transition point, a leap forward into spring. I’m going through similar leaps forward, or leap backwards? Read on for some general Claudia updates:

On the Job Market

Art in Congress

Art gallery in tunnel toward the Capitol

I’m now a FWD.us alumna, no longer an intern. My time at FWD was incredible. I gained so much confidence and knowledge about Capitol Hill. Before FWD, I had never stepped foot in the halls of Congress. I had never shaken the hands of a senator or representative, yet alone be in a meeting room with them.

But I don’t fancy myself a pro community organizer. Instead, I’m a starving artist at age 23. I got stuck with a poet’s body in a culture that doesn’t pay artists their cultural capital.

I have no idea what happens next in my life, but here are some things that are obvious and opposites: there are bills to pay; I’m a writer.

Oh, and I have 18 months of protection from deportation in this country. Good luck to me.

All I’ve Yet to See & Hear

There’s so much of America that I want to see and because there’s a legal clock ticking, I want to go far this year.

If I started listing the things and places I haven’t seen, I might as well hide under a rock. Last year was actually my first trip to New York City. I haven’t seen a live concert. I haven’t been to any Disneylands. I haven’t traveled abroad.

I can’t afford much of my bucket list because of the starving artist situation. Fortunately, I live in gorgeous Virginia and near Washington, DC. There’s a lot of sightseeing potential here.

Anyone want to publish me?

I decided to publish my first poetry book last summer. I’ve been in the “please publish me” game for less than a year. I’ve had single poems accepted into magazines–this past week it was a series of poems in Argot magazine.

To my deep disappointment, the whole manuscript hasn’t found a home. I could be patient, in another life. My book can’t wait for long. I’m feeling very anxious because of the whole legal clock ticking.

There’s moves I could be making right now: self-publishing. That is something that’s on my mind.

Traditions

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Junior youth power

Over the years, DoSomething.org has partnered with Meals on Wheels to run the Love Letters Campaign. I joined the campaign in 2015, and because I love keeping traditions, sent in Valentine’s Day cards to seniors until 2017. This year the campaign didn’t open; maybe it was due to funding for the scholarship tied to the campaign. I could be wrong, but I for sure didn’t want to stop sending cards.

I got the junior youth group I help run on the weekends together. We all made Valentine’s Day cards to send to Cards for Hospitalized Kids.

#ToImmigrantsWithLove is also coming up. It’s a tradition hosted by FWD.us to send love to immigrants on Valentine’s Day. Write a physical or digital letter and share online.

Make it a Happy Valentine’s!

_________________________________________________

Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, and El Salvador have lost TPS and lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. 

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1,000 miles: step 85

In  my last update, I expressed several frustrations with being a 20-something year old. Those frustrations are still relevant, but there’s been a few changes and experiences since. Read on to find out.

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat

The online poetry retreat, normally a $279 experience, was offered to me through a scholarship. Just in time before the retreat started, I received a journal and book from Two Sylvias Press and was invited to a Facebook group. The retreat began early in October. For the following four weeks, I received writing prompts and motivational quotes in my inbox. I managed to keep up with the prompts. It was a productive season, which ended with my submitting two poems to the editors for critique.

New & Old Experiences

Sunset - blue -sky

Photo I took on a busy day, 11/21

In October, I helped judge a speech competition that was held at George Mason University. I judged something.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, Fall for the Book happens in October. Where were you? I attended my third Fall for the Book Festival because it’s tradition.

I also attended my first orchestra performance at the Kennedy Center and recommended the experience in my Simple Gems in the City of Washington, DC post. It’s a great chance to wear that fancy attire tucked in our closets.

Reading Poetry in Public Spaces

On October 21, I read a poem for a holy day, the bicentennial celebration of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. I made a recording of the poem “How To Live” for YouTube. Then, at a Sterling protest on November 21, I read two poems about being an immigrant. This was in front of Representative Barbara Comstock’s office.

Though these experiences aren’t the same as open mics, I find them thrilling. What’s a poem if not breathed into the public? If you are interested in my poetry, The Bookends Review published one of my forms poem, a sestina. Read the poem now.

Public Resistance for Immigration Reform

As I said to a crowd of protesters in Sterling, I feel most comfortable with poetry. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve forced myself into protests. I was even interviewed for a ThinkProgress article and provided Mason Dreamers with input about the TPS situation. Public resistance means an active engagement with my community; it makes me feel empowered. Many people still don’t know about TPS. Educating people online is difficult–there are short attention spans and complicated lives.

DC protest TPS

I help hold that banner shortly after taking this picture on 10/23 #SaveTPS

If you follow me through Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find that these days, immigration doesn’t leave my mind. I have started a countdown for the days left until the Department of Homeland Security makes a decision about El Salvador’s TPS designation. By chance, this March 2018 deadline also marks the point when DACA (Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals) ends for thousands of youth. Times are rough.

I’m A Policy Intern

This month, I started an internship as policy intern with FWD.us. It was an unexpected turn of events, but it’s the space I need to be in right now. It’s a space that makes sense with the issues that make my heart heavy.

FWD.us organized a fly-in for about 100 DACAmented youth and businesses who employ these youth, so they could meet with members of Congress. I was part of that effort!

Being me at this moment / brown/ immigrant / woman isn’t easy, but I’m taking step after step anyway.

_________________________________________________

Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan have lost their TPS designation. El Salvador, Claudia’s country of origin, has 200,000 TPS holders whose lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. We cannot delay.

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

1,000 miles: step 83

Firstpublication

Issue 15 of Canadian magazine, Poetry is Dead

It’s been difficult to separate my personal life from the political world.

Every morning on my way to work, I’ve made it a habit to search for news articles about the future of TPS (Temporary Protected Status). I’ve been sharing these articles on social media and with friends.

Most of the time, I feel like I am speaking into a vacuum, as if no one is listening and no one is caring.

I have to remind myself that people have lives, and on a given day, one thing or another has more priority.

Some friends do check up on me, and I am as always, grateful. I do have a hard time expressing myself when it comes to the question, how am doing? My first instinct is to push people away because I am obviously not doing well–how could I when my future, life as I know it is on the line? I want to pull some kind of tantrum; of course, I don’t. All I want out of friends and allies is that, friends and allies, people to be there for me.

Time is better spent than lingering over the uncertain future.

Though, if you, reader, are interested in supporting immigrants, you should. The most important thing is to show up, speak out.

I am lucky to live in Northern Virginia and near Washington, D.C. Life still goes on. Over the past few summer months, I have become a festival go-er. Street festivals and book festivals are all fair game. The National Book Festival earlier this September was my favorite. I spent most of the time in the ground floor chasing childhood nostalgia.

Fall for the Book, a literary festival sponsored by my alma mater, George Mason, is coming up in October. I have a line up of poetry events on my itinerary.

I’ve been getting around metro and bus, with the occasional car coordination.  This past weekend, I worked on a poetry project with a friend and poet. It is a poem that speaks about our shared experience with learning the English language. When I first proposed the project, I had no idea what to expect, though I tried hard to keep organized.

I can’t wait to share the poem with the world. Collaboration is fun and challenging; it fosters understanding of the self.

There are no poetry publication news other that in August, my copy of Poetry Is Dead finally arrived. My poem, “Losing words,” selected for publication since late last year, is now being read in one corner of the world.

My inbox is otherwise filled with rejections from poetry magazines. To name a few: American Poetry Review, Meridian, and 2River. I’d like to say the sting of rejection eases with each rejection but that isn’t the case. Rejection makes you question the worth of your art. Rejection can make you angry. Rejection simply hurts. I am grateful for the summer campaign I ran, as through the funds raised, I have felt brave and supported.

I hope to find my poems small homes and my poetry larger homes through the forms of a chapbook or a poetry book. I am trying, so, so hard.

With everything that is going on, all I can do right now is fight on.

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

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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.

1,000 miles: step 79

The fall semester is now over.

I have submitted “finals,” known as projects to the English major. Grades are coming in. I have gaps of time–yes, time. It has all gone by so fast.  This semester I made a savvy choice, and I took all poetry classes: a small-sized workshop, a course taught in Spanish, and a course covering African American poetry from the 50s and beyond. I’m grateful for the semester; I gained exposure to an unbelievable range of poets and interesting perspectives from classmates.

At school, I ate a waffle in the library, learned a little salsa, attended a few open mics, carved a pumpkin, and started a gym routine. I didn’t plan some of these things; they just worked themselves out. I also attended two literary festivals in September: the Library of Congress National Book Festival in DC and Fall for the Book events on campus. In November, I spent three hours at the African American History and Culture Museum. Time spent well, all in all.

In the spring, I’m once again taking poetry classes. I want my final days as an undergrad to be full of poetry. When I think of the future, it is still scary, but I’m more willingly to get there.

2016 has been good to me. There have been bad days. I’m not going to lie: I spent post-election day crying–mourning to be precise. This week wasn’t entirely good either. Tuesday night I was upset with news of Aleppo. Wednesday morning I woke up further into sadness with this tweet still in my mind:

And it is because today I am alive, and yesterday I was alive, that I am thinking of everything–support, laughter, art, growth– that 2016 has offered me.

Thank you, world.

fall2016

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.

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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.

 

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.

am I here?

here I am,

my eyelids weigh,

drag me down. . .

the hours

the hours

the hours I have slept

escape me. . .

though my soul is voiceless

it is restless

from all the steps

the sole of my feet take

to nowhere, over and over.

save me

from forgetting how to be

what I claim to be

I am, I am poet

turns to I was, I was poet.

I am, I am alive

turns to I was, I was alive.

pull out the matches

and turn ablaze my inspiration

a stroke of illusion

that someone hears

my heart’s beat,

through these words

I matter.

I am matter.

I am here.