#411: The Raven

selective focus photograph of black crow

Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com

On my desk, perched next to the lamp and beside the personal business cards, a raven sits. It’s not a fancy statue, and it’s not full of elaborate feathering and design. It’s just an all-black raven, that I’m pretty sure Alex bought for me from Target once a long time ago. The fact that it’s not a fancy or incredibly intricate design is part of what makes it special; I like to think the raven is simple and clean, a reminder of my English literature days and my ambitions toward becoming a college professor one day. It reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, of course, but it also reminds me that I can’t give up on who I used to be, or who I want to be today. There is more out there for me to do, and the raven is there as if to say, you better make sure you’re doing everything you can to achieve your dreams.

This might all sound ridiculous, and it probably does, but sometimes small tokens have large meanings, sometimes unintentionally. They just acquire those meanings over time.

Recently, I moved the raven closer to my desk, so it serves as a more obvious reminder to me. That way I don’t forget it as frequently. It’s always there, and I’ll always remember its presence. I like to think that the raven wanted to come closer because it noticed I was losing my way a bit. Alex and I had talked about that a few times, just about how I need to focus more on my professional ambitions and not lose my way on who I want to be, whoever that is. I don’t know what it is currently, but I know that I need to get there sooner or later, whatever it takes.

#323: The Book Club

adorable blur bookcase books

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m going to continue my trend of writing about the most recent fics I’ve been into, and the next one is about a book club. When I described it to one of my friends, after she finished reading it she said, “This is the most you subject matter ever.” And she’s right about that; writing about high school and book clubs is within my nature. I’m still an English major, even years after graduating from college, and I feel like writing about high school is pretty easy, considering I used to teach at one. It’s not difficult to imagine what it’s like to live as an average high school student when so many average high school students are in your classes and beyond. Being in a book club, though, is a different story entirely.

Being part of a book club would be great. I haven’t actually joined one in all my years of reading, but I remember in grad school when one of my professors wanted to start one with some of us after the course ended. It was our grammar course, in which I learned all about morphology and sentence diagrams and trees. The fun, nitty-gritty stuff that you don’t learn in school any more, but probably should. It helps to know the mechanics and grammar of English, even if grammar is a social construct. I don’t like how grammar is used to belittle people who speak or write differently, but I think some grammar instruction would go a long way towards helping people grow as writers and readers. Some kids aren’t able to identify parts of speech, let alone discuss what an independent clause is. I think some of the basics of grammar should be essential learning, even if it’s tough to grasp. It benefits our knowledge of English so much.

#21: Tutors

woman holding pen beside laptop

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I look back on previous tutoring experiences with positive vibes, thinking about the students, their progress, their achievements. You can imagine them in your head, the first session and the development of our practice from then to now. It’s a truly unique feeling to know a student personally for years, and then to see them accepted into their top school as a senior. To watch them develop and become the student you know they can be. There’s a fantastic joy that overcomes me when a struggling student manages to figure out their troubles with a little guidance, and tutoring exemplifies this joy on a regular basis. When tutoring, you are fundamentally in control of the sessions, and there is a freedom of choice and platform that makes them more unpredictable and unique. Each session has to adapt to the one before it, and eventually no two days or sessions look the same. Having a free platform to present tutoring is what allows me to spread knowledge and lessons in English in a care free, easy-going way. It’s the best way for me to approach the practice, otherwise I become bogged down in personal expectations and focus on the performative rather than the intellectual.

That’s one of the major reasons why I see tutoring as different from teaching; in teaching, there’s an element of performance that never goes away. You are always “on stage” to some degree, and you never get to leave, not even when people come to visit you during your free periods. Teaching necessitates a constant, high-octane energy on the part of the teacher, and incoming teachers are made to feel as if they need to constantly display a smile and a positive outlook 24/7 in order to be successful. Those of us who smile and laugh as introverted defense mechanisms, and not necessarily just in a good-natured way, tend to fall into the same category as the extroverts here. But tutoring, though, never has to fall into this trap. It’s always based on that one connection between the teacher and the one tutoree.

#15: The Amateur

gray wooden bridge

Photo by Ketan Kumawat on Pexels.com

I’m new to so many things. Being new, or a “noob,” can be overwhelming; so much information to take in and master, so many people to meet, and so much reading. But it is also an opportunity to learn, grow, and become something new, to add to your personality or identity. After learning how to write, design, and administer a D&D campaign, I became an amateur DM. Statuses can have a powerful effect over one’s self-perception. The life of an amateur involves going on quests to acquire titles to update your identity with.

Being an amateur is not necessarily a bad thing, and yet in so many ways, we look down upon people who seek learning in their studies. Think of all the times English language learners are joked at or made fun of in media or on the Internet because of their mistakes. Think of how popular grammatical and spelling errors are on “meme pages,” despite being such a common, average struggle. We look down upon the struggling and the average, and yet the average is, numerically speaking, where the majority of us are. A novice at something can be easily discouraged by outside factors, such as being mocked, when what they really need is encouragement, guidance, and validation.

I hate to see people laughed at, even if the intentions are harmless, when the person doing the laughing comes from a position of self-righteous privilege. We don’t usually consider how lucky we are, in the grand scheme of the world, to have been born in a first-world nation, let alone the country whose predominant language happens to be the lingua franca. Only learning one language in school (rather than learning four, if you were born Dutch) disadvantages us, but it also gives us the perception that our language is the most normal of all the rest.

Imagine how difficult it must be for people to learn English, in comparison to you learning Spanish or French or Italian in high school. There is tremendous value in learning languages (which is one reason why I’ve been doing more Duolingo recently; have to stay up on my Spanish studies!), as it puts you again in the amateur’s seat. You are back to being a student again, instead of speaking from a position of knowledge and authority. It can be refreshing to be an amateur every once in a while. Remind yourself what it is like to learn something new again.

Montage Lit Reading

Hello, great people!

I’ve just returned from what was one of the more interesting events of my life, to say the least. For the second time, I’ve been asked to read some of my poetry in front of a crowd. Although both events happened on a small, almost personal scale, never in my life did I expect something like this to happen.

Allow me to clarify.

Never in my life did I ever think that I would be reading something so personal and emotional for me, to a group of people. ┬áIt’s surreal, and amazing every time.

I also applaud anyone and everyone who continues to read and write poetry and/or prose in a society that doesn’t appreciate it all as much as they should. But, I digress. That’s a topic for another day.

When people laugh with the funny stuff, and seem moved by the depressing stuff, I know I’ve taken at least some of them on a journey, and that’s ultimately what art is all about. To move people.

Until next time,


Donald Hall Poetry Prize–Honorable Mention

Hello everyone,

This is going to be a short blog update that I hope you get the opportunity to read.

I’m not very punctual, am I? About two weeks ago, I received an email from the creative writing professor here at Quinnipiac. He had congratulated all of the poets who placed in the Donald Hall Poetry Prize, which I had submitted to on a whim. I was unsure whether I would place at all, but receiving an honorable mention pleasantly surprised and humbled me. I am elated that I managed to rank among the top five of the people who submitted to the contest.

Recently, my placing in the contest has won me many opportunities, despite it only being an honorable mention. In early April, I get to read some of my poetry (including the winning poem) at an annual convention at Quinnipiac that allows me to reach a much, much larger audience than I had ever thought possible. On the QU English department website, my poetry is shown. On an e-sign in our grand library, the poetry is displayed, too. Next Thursday, I have the opportunity to share lunch with my professor, the fellow winners, and Desmond Egan, a renowned and respected Irish poet who I have read from. All of this came as a great big surprise that I had never had expected beforehand.

I can certainly say that being celebrated for what you love to do always seems to come as a surprise, honor, and pleasure. The greatest pleasure comes from the process, from enjoying writing and poetry more than anything else.

Almost all of the poetry posted on this blog, other than the poem that won the award, have been written in the small time that I’ve had this blog online. I do not consider “Homeward Bound,” the poem which won the award, to be my best. However, I am not one to judge my own work. If you missed it when I first started this blog, I’ll post it here:

Homeward Bound.

Thank you for reading, and thank you all for supporting my endeavors in poetry and literature. I appreciate it all. And here’s to hopefully more poetry to come!