The Power and Utility of a Podcast

BY JORDAN MCAULEY・ In June, I was a wreck. Granted I was certainly a wreck prior to June, but the barrier of “I’m fine’s” finally gave way and I admitted to being completely submerged.

Being as prideful as I was, this honesty was incredibly difficult. I felt an intense sense of shame because I wore my enlightenment on my sleeve. I had spent the past 4 months pouring over books like A New Earth and articles regarding mediation and mindful listening from 10 Percent Happier. I knew and preached about the venomous nature of negative self-talk and the importance of presence but, personally, could not seem to uncloak the layers of annoyance, selfishness and greed that radiated from the local restaurant I served for. I brought these layers home with me; I found myself wildly short-tempered, painfully frugal and grossly self-centered. More so, while attempting to describe my state, I found myself at a loss for words. I simply could not identify my emotions. Fatigue collided into annoyance, which bumped frustration who had been running a muck in sadness’s territory. Despite having a partner and two glorious best friends, for the longest I chose silence and solitude.

It wasn’t until coming  across the Brown Sister’s podcast, “How to Survive the End of the World,” that I came to realize that “we have all this exposure [to trauma] but no tools with which to process this exposure. A lot of us are an open door to the worst things that are happening in the world to come walking through to sit on our couch and we don’t have any way of setting those boundaries or closing the door.” This idea illuminated upon the collective internal apocalypse so many of us are grappling with today but rarely profess aloud. It led me to realize it wasn’t my workplace’s fault per say, but rather everyone else was suffering too. More importantly, however, it suggested that vulnerability led to clarity.

Thus, I beam with gratitude regarding the writers who so willingly share their own, inte

rnal destruction. Cheryl Strayed’s initial struggle to live according to the ideals she set for herself tasted like my own. Eckhart Tolle’s disgust with his current environment reflected my own disdain and Gabrielle Bernstein’s fervent attempts to control everything, and everyone, around her burned with unfortunate relevance. Despite such downfalls, however, each character rose to the occasion thereby foreshadowing the sunrise of my own triumph and the possibility of triumph for others. Oprah Winfrey’s “SuperSoul Conversations,” where these authors are featured, has allowed me to connect to their work in a way I have never connected to readings before. Through this medium, I listen to their stories. I heard the fluctuation in their voices and felt the authenticity singe throughout my being. For me, there is a nuanced power in spoken words that written work simply cannot imitate so I am grateful for this introduction to so many books that I deeply cherish.


The podcasts brought me to a point of essential self-reflection. I now admit to operating within my own perception of reality which enticed a tremendous amount of stress because reality failed to align with my vision of it. But I do not despise this realization, rather I surrender to it. As Misha suggested, “we have control over our essential truths, and we can hold onto them and taste their goodness.” For me, this means I must surrender so I may connect with the balance, peace and radiance within. It is not to say that I do not have my share of bad days, because I surely do, but that I notice my false sense of control more readily. I surrender to feel the internal evolution that deconstructs the desires and labels that have held me hostage for too long. I now bask in the enjoyment my journey has laid out to me, rather than being restless for results.

I believe that we are reflections of one another and the internal apocalypse we all battle is a projection from within; it is merely a mirror. So I ask, what truths have you been denying and what tools can you call upon to close the door to the world’s worst gifts? 


The World is Ending but Here Are Ten Poems that Give Me Peace

BY MISHA PONNURAJU · It is weird being a poet as the world seems to be on the brink of apocalypse. The time to reverse climate change is dwindling, the United States is continuing its tradition of human rights violations, and it’s likely that there will be another recession soon. When all of this is happening, I always wonder, “Why poetry?” What does it offer to the poet, to its readers?

Poetry can make everyday objects from ordinary life sacred, and I believe there is hope in everyday life. None of these poems may solve the world’s problems, but it teaches that there is beauty that can put the mind at ease, and enough of the world that is worth saving.  It is essential to take the steps we can protect our Earth from heat and hatred, but it is equally necessary to protect our hearts from getting cold. These poems bring warmth.  To begin New Forum’s summer blog, I thought I’d share some poems that fosters light in an ever-darkening world.

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East of Eden, North of Irvine: The Joy of Representation

BY MISHA PONNURAJU · Summer brings the promise of empty schedules and open books — many open books, hopefully. East of Eden has accompanied me on my quieter days, and my summer is more thankful for the still moments I can retreat into the narratives of the Trask and Hamilton families. East of Eden delicately and painstakingly renders several generations of two families who thrive and suffer on the soil of central California. This is an American story; American in the sense that this is an ‘American narrative’ which can typically exclude me and my family’s history.

I’ve accepted this exclusion. In order to love literature and my literary education, I have to accept this. It also helps that East of Eden has beautiful storytelling characterization. However, I cannot personally relate to the migration of European families who settle down onto rich farmland. As an Asian American, I don’t expect the great American novelists to tell stories that my family may recognize in ourselves.

So you can imagine the surprise I felt when I encountered, Lee — a character who’s deep introspection has given me joy beyond expression.

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A Struck Bell: Annie Dillard, and the Recognition of Truth in Writing

BY SARAH MAYO ·  A few years ago, I heard the opening passage of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek read aloud. It made an impression on me; as I listened to a woman describe a tomcat crawling on her chest in the early morning, leaving a trail of blood like roses, I knew that I would remember it, because it sounded like something I had heard before and recognized. I could smell the musty room, and see the window, the bed, the furniture, just becoming visible in the bluish light from a not-yet-risen sun. These weren’t the author’s words, but this was the image I kept in my head like a stone in my shoe for the next two years, remembering the book and knowing that I needed to read it.

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Em[body]ment – A Reflection on How Poetry & Performance Shape Each Other

BY LEILA ALSKAF · I was truly dubious to what the art of performance poetry was until I witnessed a Youtube video of Phil Kaye performing a spoken word poem titled “Repetition” at New York’s Bowery Poetry Club.

“I remember the bed just floating there.
Apart – Apart – Apart – 
my mother taught me this trick.
 If you repeat something over and 
over again it loses its meaning.”

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From the Books to Home: Remembering Family through Poetry

BY ERIKA HIGBEE · I never thought I’d be using the medium of poetry to tell my mother’s story. Admittedly, the impression of poetry I had for years was that it was for people far wiser and even far wealthier— to contemplate daffodils or the unbearable pangs of love. (Both of these circumstances are still true.) When I began to take the craft of poetry more seriously in my creative writing courses, however, poets like William Carlos Williams and Li-Young Lee surprisingly brought poetry far closer to home. The Rom

antics— good old Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron— were put on hold, and for a short while I began to read poetry about old women enjoying their neighborhood plums, gritty farm workers, and first-generation Asian Americans who struggled to preserve the language of their mothers. So the “everyday” life wasn’t left out of poetry, after all.


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Live Long Enough to Become: Musings on Florence Welch’s Useless Magic

BY ANALISA GOMEZ · As my fellow editors have noted, imbuing writing with those mentally tangible qualities such as the passing of time, a comedic flare, representation, and so on, is no small task.  Some of the most fundamental and prevalent aspects of life are so easily overlooked in their familiarity. But they are often the source of countless hours in revising and editing.  If done well, this struggle goes unnoticed except in the exquisite sensation that what has been crafted on the page is no less familiar than the steady march of the second hand around the face of your wristwatch.  But permit me to withdraw from the effect this skill has on readers and retreat to an effect writing has on the writer. In my experience as a writer, these aforementioned accomplishments are not the only ways in which the seen and unseen intersect.

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Growing Pains and Growth Rings

BY JOCELLE VALERA · To start off, Adam made a great point last week: “Silent and intangible, Time is difficult to capture, particularly in writing.” I cannot agree more. Immediately I thought about how time is more easily seen and felt, in a sense. I celebrated my 25th birthday about a week ago, which I have yet to fully grasp because I feel I could have done much more with the time that has passed. I am at that point in life when I am witnessing my friends succeed in their careers after college, get married and start families, purchase their dream cars and homes, etc. Family members and friends ask me questions that are difficult for me to answer, and I usually resort to “In time, I will know.” I would find myself in a rut and overanalyze what I could have and should have done…what am I (not) doing?

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Johnson’s Working Time

BY ADAM TIMMS · Time is a difficult thing to address. It sneaks by, often unnoticed, and neglects to stop in for tea. Silent and intangible, Time is difficult to capture, particularly in writing. In my work it tends to pool in irrelevant places, pushing at the paragraphs, distending any attempt at rigid structure into something bulky and graceless. Editing helps to smooth that out. Eventually, I manage to put enough time into ideas that need it to function and drain it out of needlessly bloated concepts.

Pacing is not a problem I face alone. Moving through time in writing is something that many folks struggle with, finding themselves racing through the story in fifteen lines, or unable to escape a scene that is already too long. Transitions feel burdensome, sentence length is a chore. Everything about timing is hard.

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