Enfalten Part I, Louie Van Patten //
Which season is the best for writing?
Perhaps there are seasons better suited to a type or style of writing--for instance, how writing at night carries efforts of the day or might lend itself to a romantic touch. How morning writing is hazy with surrealist clouds of dream memories or hope for the new day. All seasons are best for writing. And writing through all seasons helps you see your own growth and change. What are you currently working on?
Currently I am working on editing my first full-length poetry manuscript--how I would love to hold the published book in my hands! The collection delves into intersectionality and womanhood, alchemy and feminism, folklore, replication, and water. I am beginning the dedicated work of finding Like Water’s home.
Simultaneously I am working on a shorter themed project, presently titled Hey, Big Wild, revolving around a Dr. Frankenstein-esque character aptly named Frank and a beautiful, though silent creature and gift from God named Mateo. Dealing with concepts of loyalty, agency, family legacy, and love, this project will also showcase my attempt to merge pen and watercolor into poetry, as if an illuminated text in the tradition of William Blake and, more recently, Bianca Stone’s poetry comics.
Additionally, I am always working on VIDA: Women in Literary Arts’ column “Spotlight On!” celebrating literary magazines that publish exemplary work and include within their pages a diverse representation of writers. Is your homeland imaginary or real? Describe it.
My homeland seems to be somewhere between the imaginary and the real. Because of this I wonder if I have purposefully misplaced myself.
Ethnically, my family comes from many different countries: the Philippines, Mexico, Spain, Ireland, and followed the tides to come together as the family unit of my mother and father on the west coast. And as many immigrants of my grandparents’ age did once they arrived to the States, they tried to assimilate and asked their children to do the same.
I have not stayed in my home state, but traveled to and lived in several different states countries: Hawaii, Czech Republic, China, and on both coasts of the United States. I am happy and fortunate to have traveled so much, to make friends, and to be in love all over the world.Every place I have lived I have tried to make my home, even if temporarily. I tried to learn the language, the culture, be active in the community and support it. Once or twice I fell in love. But a homeland is different from a home, and often times because I knew the trip was temporary, I would not call any of these places my homeland. In leaving the people and the places I have begun to call home there is always a gaping sadness. On my last day in China, over fifty friends came to wave goodbye and see me off. I have never felt more cared for than in that moment. I cry often during transitions--a type of ceremony for what I had, what I am leaving, and what will come.
This has been a reminder of what I have always been able to return to: my body. The history of my ancestors, the love of my friends, the adventures I have had are in the lines in my hands, the callouses on my feet, the color of my skin, my name, are in my heart. I access my homeland from within myself. My homeland is embodied. My homeland is my body.What callings do you answer? Which do you leave alone?
In Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, she writes of Esther’s ambitions like a fig tree. Esther says, “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”.
There are times when I feel this way, but as I grow older I learn the boundaries of callings are much more easily blurred than what I believed as a child with ideas of Career Trajectory. I follow callings that help me love people better and test my ability to be empathetic. I believe following callings that help you understand the soft animal of your body (Mary Oliver) will lead to calmness and letting go of guilt. Guilt is a prison. Letting go of that anxiety can only help you be more creative and powerful.
I want strong wings, which can “soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice.” The same wings Mademoiselle Reisz looks for in the shoulder blades of Edna Pontellier in The Awakeningby Kate Chopin. “It is a sad spectacle,” Mademoiselle Reisz continues, “to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.” We can be exhausted because we tried and are confused. Sometimes we might need to come back down to earth. It is okay to rest and reflect. This is how we become stronger. What is worrisome is when you become so overwhelmed by options that you follow none.
I will always follow a calling to write. Any callings which tells me to stop writing, I question what that calling fears in me. I render from that fear a precious intent to build upon, learn from, and share with even more boldness. The point is not to internalize fear, which so quickly becomes anger, but create from it.
I believe as poets our greatest skills are intention and improvisation. On a moment’s line break I can take you from the forest to a Kepler planet to inside my throat. With improvisation comes risk, fear of failing, and the need to start over. This change takes energy but is replenishing as long as we are guided by a curious heart. What is important to me is to take the experiences, the failures, the desires, the mishaps, the treasures and sew them into the fabric of my poetry.
Sheila McMullin curates the feminist and artist resource website, MoonSpit Poetry, where a list of her publications can also be found. She is the Website Assistant for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts where she writes the column “Spotlight On!” celebrating literary magazines that publish a diverse representation of writers. She is a Contributing Editor for ROAR Magazine. Her poetry collection, Like Water, has received notable attention from Ahsahta Press, New Delta Review, and Black Lawrence Press chapbook competitions. She works as an after-school creative writing and college prep instructor, and volunteers at her local animal rescue. She holds her M.F.A. from George Mason University.