Editors’ Blog

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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The Craft of Stand-Up Comedy

BY YANIT MEHTA · Comedians at the very core of their craft are writers. Every comedian creates his/her own fiction (sometimes non-fiction) and delivers it to an audience. Just like any other writer the intent is to elicit a certain response in the audiences. Whether it’s laughs, gasps, dismay or disgust, a comedian must always write his/her way into generating an emotional response in his/her audiences. The one major difference between an average fiction reading and an average stand-up act is that if a comedian leaves with the audience silent for the entirety of his/her act he/she probably failed, or in industry jargon: bombed. Comedians not only, forge detailed narratives but also implement their own elevated fictitious personas to present these jokes after hours of introspection, and deliver them in a meticulously constructed set.

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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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“Kalani”: A So-Called ‘Hawaiian’ Story

BY JULIANNE VU · In keeping with some of Misha’s topics from last week’s New Forum Blog post, I’ll also be taking a moment to talk about representation, but from a different lens. We’ll come in a round-about way to consider the short story “Kalani” by Emma L. Dillingham. “Kalani” is the story of a Hawaiian native and some white colonists in the late 1800s, and Dillingham’s was one of the “Six Prize Hawaiian Stories of the Kilohana Art League” printed in the 1899 by the Honolulu: Hawaiian Gazette Company.

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