How Does One Make Poetry Accessible?

It's a question that Adrean Messmer no doubt asked herself as she wrote the following blog post, which is a masterful and thoroughly accessible dissection of the basic vital organs of poetry. I thought it was so worthwhile that it would be essential not merely to share it, but to mirror it. So here is the post in its entirety. See the original source here.


I originally presented this as a sort of crash course for my writing group over Hangouts. So, a lot of the examples were chosen because I knew members of Nevermore would dig them.

Robert Frost said a poem "begins in delight and ends in wisdom". Now, don't misunderstand and think that means poetry should be, like, delightfully happy. That is definitely not what I'm saying.

But I am saying it should satisfying. That's the delight. I mean, let's look at Poe. He is, IMO, the master of poetic devices. He's all about the meter and the rhyme and... everything, really. Look at this excerpt from Annabel Lee. Read it. Read it out loud. Feel how these words feel as they fall off your tongue.

Oh, and spoiler alert, I guess, for a century-and-half old poem.

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

 It just feels good to read, right?

Pretty frequently, I see people treating poetry like it's some kind of magic. It's not. I promise. No matter how arcane or wonderful something is, you can learn how to do it. Even poetry. It's all about the bass. I mean literary devices.

Let's start with my favorite.

Alliteration and Assonance

Both of these things deal with the phonetic sounds of words. Alliteration is, basically, when the consonants in a word sound the same, assonance is the vowels.

Let's take a look at Mean by Taylor Swift.

You, with your switching sides
and your wildfire lies
and your humiliation

Alliteration! We've got it with the Ss in switching, sides, and lies. We also have the L in wildfire, lies, and humiliation. And for assonance, we've got the long I in sides, wildfire, and lies.

Let's do some more. Pretend like we're in high school and see if you can guess them before I tell you. Here's a bit from Contagious by Night Riots.

Don't be, don't be so cold
Bones rust, decay, and mold
Head first, it is what it is
Youth lost, kicks us to live

We've clearly got some rhymes here. That's technically a different thing, but we're going to ignore it for now.

We have an alliterative D in don't, decay, mold, and head. There's also the T in don't, rust, first, it, and lost, but it's not as noticeable.

The assonance is pretty strong with the long O of don't, cold, bones, and mold. There's also the short I in kicks, it, is, and live.

Make sense? Sorry, I can't hear you if the answer was no. So, I'm going to assume it was yes and move on. Feel free to ask questions, though. I'll answer them as best I can.

Rhyme

There are two main kinds of rhyme-- true and slant.

Looking at the Night Riots example, "cold" and "mold" are true rhymes while "is" and "lives" is slant. So, true means it's the exact same ending sound and slant is... close.

Check out Partition by Beyonce. She's all about the slant rhyme in there.

Every girl in here got to look me up and down
All on Instagram, cake by the pound
Circulate the image every time I come around

"Pound" and "around" are true while "down" is slant.

Everyone still with me?

Imagery

Okay. This one is pretty big and easy to miss. My best friend likes to harp on this one a lot. The imagery is how you're going to convey the theme and mood of your poem to the reader. Not all poems, and certainly not all songs have much concrete imagery, but if you can work it in, you'll make the piece at least 20% cooler.

Take another gander at Contagious up there. It's all entropy and death, culminating in the line, "Youth lost, kicks us to live". The next few lines are, "I am contagious, I am breaking down. Flesh of the fathers, I am no one's fault." Literally speaking, I have no idea what they're talking about. But the picture they're painting with those descriptions evokes depression and desperation.

If they'd just said, "We're sad and it's not your fault", the song might still be musically cool, but lyrically pretty basic and boring. It's all about making the reader see something that will then make them feel something. 

Blue October pretty regularly kills it in the imagery department, so check out this verse from Come in Closer:

Come dancing with devils
need not know their names
and we'll waltz like an army
for the fear of our pain
Our souls become useless
as the day they were born
in the rusted arm rocking chair
away from your storm

Again, if you look at the words literally, it's basically nonsense. Like, okay, these people are going to waltz with some random devils because if they don't someone will hurt them? And it renders their souls useless? But they're sitting in an old rocking chair (or maybe the souls are) while a storm rages somewhere in the distance.

If you listen to the whole song, there's a distorted voice near the end that says, "You cheated on me with another woman". I think, with that knowledge, it's pretty easy to read those lines to be more like temptation, ruin, and impeding consequences.

But you know what? Here's the part where poetry is kind of magic. With the imagery, maybe, for you, it isn't about the temptation of adultery. Maybe it's about running away, addiction, dealing with a difficult decision... the possibilities are endless. And what's even cooler is that it can change.

When I first listened to Come in Closer, I was playing a character in a World of Darkness game that prophesied to blah blah blah, whatever. The song felt like it was about him. Later, when life was kicking me in the shins, the song started to feel like it was telling me to just get out already.

There are so many examples of wonderful, evocative imagery that I could talk about this for hours. Sometimes I do, much to the chagrin of everyone I know who doesn't care about the deeper meaning of pop music. But whatevs.

If we don't want to be stuck on this for days, we should probably move on to...

Meter

A lot of the examples I've used so far have been songs. In a song, a singer can manipulate the words and warp the meter to be whatever they want it to be. But there are still some great meterists out there.

Like The Barenaked Ladies on Who Needs Sleep?.

My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing, filled with lists
of things to do and things I've done
Another sleepless night's begun

Okay, so now you might wondering wtf meter is. The easiest way I can think to explain it is this: meter is the rhythm of the words, formed by the stressed and unstressed syllables. When you look up words in the dictionary, you see something like this: an·oth·er - əˈnəT͟Hər. That not only shows you how to pronounce each letter, but also where the stress on the word is.

I'll admit, I didn't look up each of these in the dictionary to find out exactly where the accented syllable is. I just read it out loud and marked where it felt right. If you're completely new at meter, you might want to check, get a little comfortable with it. This should be about right, though.

My HANDS are LOCKed up TIGHT in FISTS
My MIND is RACing, FILLed with LISTS
of THINGS to DO and THINGS I've DONE
anOTHer SLEEPless NIGHT'S beGUN

What we have in Who Needs Sleep? is called iambic. That means it is one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed. Iambic is the most common. It's how most people tend to speak naturally. It's easy to get into and easy to identify. There is a name for pretty much every combination of stressed and unstressed you can imagine. I'm not going to get into that because I want to do other things with my life and no one is paying me for this.

Not all poetry has meter. Those pieces are called Free Verse. However, meter is kind of like salt. Not everything needs it, but it's almost never a bad idea to add it. Even most cake and cookie recipes call for salt.

Robert Frost was kind of a master of this.

The WOODS are LOVEly DARK and DEEP
but I have PROMisES to KEEP
and MILES to GO beFORE I SLEEP

Poe also killed it.

ONCE uPON a MIDnight DREARy while I PONdered WEAK and WEARy
OVer MAny a QUAINT and CURious VOLume of FORgotten LORE

And, even One Direction can be pretty good at it...

WE're ONly GETting OLDer BABy
and I'VE been THINKing aBOUT you LATEly
DOES it EVer DRIVE you CRAZy
JUST how FAST the NIGHT CHANges

There's actually a pretty cool dissection of Night Changes by 1D on this podcast I really dig called Switched on Pop. I'd love to talk about the fact that there are no rhymes and what that means, but they already said a lot of it and I feel like this post is already running long. Which might be okay, except that my brain is starting to vibrate and I can't really tell where I should end sentences anymore and we still need to talk about the fact that...

Everything You Do is a Deliberate Choice

So, this is always true in writing, but especially so in poetry. One of my professors once said that poetry is telling a story in the least amount of space possible. Every word, line break, and piece of punctuation means something.

There's this Emily Dickinson poem called Wild Nights. I got into a pretty heated discussion with a classmate about it. I read it and immediately thought, "Oh, well, this is clearly about sex". But my classmate, she was of the opinion that Dickinson would never write about that.

Wild nights - Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah - the Sea!
Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee!

Okay, sure. Whatever. Maybe it's a poem about reckless abandon on a little boat called Eden and then mooring... in... uh, thee. Which is clearly the dick--I mean dock. Right?

But seriously, for my classmate, this really was just a poem about a boat. And that's fine. That's what she saw. For me, though, this poem is bubbling with excitement. The exclamation points and the em dashes make it feel breathless and urgent. Sure, maybe that's because the narrator really loves rowing. Maybe the em dashes are meant to show the exertion of that very family friendly activity. But there are twice as many as exclamation points as there are stanzas.

When you're working with something as compact as poetry, everything must serve a purpose. Which sounds hard, but it's really just the same as writing. When you're doing prose and you want to describe the setting, you're also setting the mood for the scene. If you can write a scene, you can write a poem.

Dark and Dangerous Things Are Here!

The Purple Ink Writers' latest anthology, Dark and Dangerous Things III is finally here! I just purchased it on Kindle, and I've been enjoying reading the stories by all the not-me authors.

Dark and Dangerous Things III has just about everything. I really enjoyed spreading my wings and finally publishing something in the science fiction genre. Science fiction was my thing back in high school, when I spent my free time writing short stories about aliens and gods made of touchable photons.

My knowledge of physics was still light in high school.

But now I'm back! And I enjoyed it so much, I might just have to do it again soon.

Winter Interlude V: The Y Awakens

And now for the final installment of...

26 Things About Me

V — Vacation destination. In all honesty, if I had the time to go on vacation, I would go to the Netherlands. I've heard amazing things about the architecture, the churches, the history that seeps from every city street. I've heard other stuff, too, but I want to focus on the things I'd share pictures of.

W — Worst habit. Bad habits, I have a few. The worst, by far, is my tendency towards tardiness. I have a constant enmity with time, and I tend to be late to things more often than not.

I've tried to argue that collectivist cultures, such as mine, tend to have a strange conception of time as a series of interactions—defining the self in relation to others—rather than a series of ticks on a clock. That argument never goes well for me.

X — X-rays you've had. Erin, what a weird question! After unfairly blaming her, I checked with Archon. He answered the same question. Whoever made this thing up is very, very weird. Anyway, I guess I have to answer the question now.

There. Is. No. Choice.

I actually have no idea. A lot. I get x-rays every time I go to the dentist, and that's every six months. The most interesting one was the x-ray on my knee to figure out why I was experiencing chronic pain. Turns out there was nothing wrong, which cured my psychosomatic pain right away. (Well, after a few hours of forcing myself to walk on my healthy knee without aid).

Y — Youthful indiscretions. Oh wow. Now you want me to go into my childhood? Who doesn't have youthful indiscretions. The most curious experience I had as a kid was when we were playing around with a guy's car and accidentally set off his alarm. We ran, but we got caught by the guy who owned the car. Turns out the guy was FBI. I apologized, no one got in trouble, and I got to help the guy out later when he came back to ask me to help him get something out on his computer.

Which, I'm suddenly realizing, no FBI agent would've asked a 13-year-old. So maybe he was on a case, and he had to see how a kid would get to the thing in the computer. Or he wasn't FBI at all and was just fucking with me.

Man, adults are dicks.

Z — Zoos visited. A few. I've visited zoos in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, and Tulsa at least. I lived in New York City for a year, and I never went to the Bronx Zoo. If you think that's a crime, consider that none of my students had gone. They'd lived in New York City their whole lives, only a few short miles from the zoo.

What a sad note to end on. Let's end this Winter Interlude with a cute picture instead.

Winter Interlude IV: Return of the R

It's time to revisit...

26 Things About Me

Q — Quirk. I couldn't be sure what quirks I might have, so I asked my friends. After they helpfully listed a number of character flaws, we came upon two quirks. First, I apparently love to explain things that don't need to be explained. I'm a pedagogue by nature, and I love to talk about the things that I know. And I bore my friends to tears when I talk at length about things they either already know or don't care one iota about.

I also apparently snort. I can't speak to that.

As I was writing this, I made a really bad joke. "There's your quirk," Adrean says to me. Oy vey.

R — Rant. Oh, I can rant! What would I prefer to go on about? What—at this moment—strikes me in the unfunny bone? Maybe people who ignore basic facts about their favored candidates when they make decisions regarding whom to vote for. For example, I could go on and on about Donald Trump. I've considered writing a blog post about him, actually.

I've also had ants crawling under my skin over The Walking Dead this season. Specifically regarding a spoilerrific abuse of cinematography to trick viewers into thinking something was true that plainly wasn't. I might be more likely to write a blog post about that.

S — Simple pleasure. What pleasure is simple? According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, food and sleep fall under the lowest (or simplest) domain. I would have to say that those are my simplest pleasures. Sleep has to be my favorite of the two. If I'm able to dream, all the better. Dreams are where my best ideas come from, and I value the days when I rise gently from a dream to face the world's travails.

There couldn't be a simpler pleasure than sleep.

Speaking of sleep...

T — Time you wake up. I wake up at different times every day. It's not my preference, but it's a simple reality of working unusual hours, depending on my client load for a given week. What I do know is that, no matter when I come home, sleep doesn't come immediately to me. I usually need to take some time to chill out after a long work of counseling adolescents.

My preference, though, has to be waking up around 8 A.M. I love getting up, taking a long shower, and enjoying a warm cup of coffee before facing the day. I also love the sunlight. The more I can get, the better I feel about life, the universe, and everything.

U — Underestimated. I don't feel underestimated. Instead of settling with that for an answer, I returned to Archon's list for his genius idea.

U — Underwear color. Genius maybe wasn't the right word. My underwear color varies. Suffice it to say that I adore the underwear I wear now. Several months ago, I became a subscriber to MeUndies, which sends me a new pair of underwear every month. Each month there are new featured designs that make the underwear look super cute. The underwear is made of MicroModal fabric, which feels so good against my skin. I think they're amazing, and I absolutely recommend them to anyone.

If you wanna try out MeUndies, use this link to get 20% off your first order. They don't support this blog, but they are happy to get referrals.

Dark and Dangerous Things Are Coming

I've been dying to talk about this, and now I finally think I can! For the past two months, I've been working on several short stories, each destined for different anthologies: “Melt," “Xinsheng," and "At the Intersection of Blake and Irving." “Melt" went on to be published in Now Playing in Theater B in mid-February. And now “Xinsheng" and “At the Intersection of Blake and Irving" will appear in the newest anthology by Purple Ink Writers called Dark and Dangerous Things III.

My short stories will appear beside those of a small group of very talented writers, so I'm very excited about this anthology. I'll makeo sure to post when Dark and Dangerous Things III is available for purchase. Final edits are being completed as I'm writing this, so I expect the anthology will be out this March.

Now that the shorts are done and gone, I'm continuing work on Mister Kiefer, a novel about a fictional and controversial author from Laneehackee, Oklahoma, being interviewed by a young journalist. Hijinks ensue. It's so far been a great deal of fun to write. I'm also beginning work on a serial that has resparked my interest: Stormborn. I started it as a novel for NaNoWriMo, but the story didn't appear to work well in novel format. An episodic format, I found, will work better. Stormborn will be a serial based around the character of Theo Tamsin, a young musician who is caught up in a prophecy that predicts that he will stop the end of the world.

If it sounds cliché, that's because I'm not very good at one-sentence synopses. It's a flaw that I think is funny in my circle of friends.

Stormborn: The Black Cat's Paw should be available this year, assuming I accomplish all my stated goals. So far, I'm being consistent in my one-chapter-a-week plan. I hope I have extra time to post some stuff here—to whet appetites, as it were—but I can't promise that. 

As one final note, I made a lot of changes to the Publications page on this site, so check that out to see the books my work is featured in, including the anthology for which I served as editor, Broken Worlds.

Now Playing in Theater B

It's here! My short story "Melt" is officially out on paperback and Kindle. It's the first story in the new anthology by A Murder of Storytellers entitled Now Playing in Theater B.

You can find more information about it on my Publications page. This is the blurb, which I'm also proud of having written:

Evil Dead. Grindhouse. Brain Damage. Motel Hell. Night of the Comet. There are no conventions that the vanguard writers of these films wouldn't eschew. There are no rules that they wouldn't break. These maestros of the macabre took everything we know about horror and set it on its head, all for fancy's thrill. For them, there is no caprice too bizarre to indulge. No limits. No precautions. Just you, a story, and the wind rushing past you with the ground fast approaching. Oh, and your bungie cord isn't attached to your harness. Your evil hand must have loosened it.

Maybe the voice living in the zit on the left side of your nose can help. Why don't you ask her? Oh, yes—your zit is a chick. The incarnate ghost of your dead great-aunt.

Theater B is a collection of short stories written in the same vein as the classic B movies that we fell in love with for their utter lack of shame. They are orgasms of creativity, sluicing imagination from every orifice. They are monuments to the raw idea, bereft of filter, spawned to electrify, to terrify, and to nauseate.
theaterb

Two new short stories I wrote will be released in Dark and Dangerous Things III, which is slated to come out some time soon. I'll pass on the information as I have it.

When you read "Melt" and all the other short stories in Now Playing in Theater B, I hope you'll leave a review. Those things are amazing not only for drawing in new readers, but for letting authors know how to improve. Five stars are welcome only when they are deserved.

In other news, now that I'm done with short-story-writing for a bit, I'm ready to take on a slightly bigger project. I've been working on political satire modernizing the well-known classic Don Quixote. It's a bit experimental for me, but I'm finding it a lot of fun. As I get closer to actually completing it, I might sneak some peeks out at you.

Winter Interlude III: M Strikes Back

Have you noticed the Star Wars theme? And I'm back with more...

26 Things About Me

K — Killed someone? Do you really think I’d say if I had? That having been said, no, I’ve never killed anyone. I hope you believe me.

L — Last time I cried. I think it's important to cry. It reduces anxiety, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and improves the immune system. When I was really young, I had plenty of family members tell me that “boys don't cry," which is quite possibly the most harmful thing one can say to a boy. If you do that, don't. Don't ever.

As for me, the last time I cried was about a month ago. It was amazing and cathartic. I also happily admit that I cried at the beginning of Up. I'm not a monster.

M — Middle name. Francis. I would include it in my pseudonym, but it didn't test well with audiences. Or it didn't test well with Adrean, and I trust her judgment. When I started writing as an amateur, my pseudonym was Jonathan Francis. I missed my last name, and jonathanfrancis.com was already taken by someone who hasn't done anything with the website. I think it turned out well; if you Google my name, the first two pages are jam-packed full of entries all referencing me.

Pseudonyms are all about marketing in the end.

N — Number of states visited. I had to pull out a map of the U.S. to work this one out. Let's see: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York...maybe Ohio? I'm not gonna count it. Twenty states in total. That's two-fifths of the country, or 40% of the states. I'm impressed.

Why didn't we do countries, though? The world is so much wider than the United States! My mom's told me that I visited Canada when I was very little. I can't be sure, so I won't count it. I have visited Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, France, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Spain, and Morocco. I was within a mountain crossing of Italy, but I never crossed the border. That's thirteen countries, including the U.S.

O — One wish. To continue to develop a healthy lifestyle that'll make my transition into middle age as delightful as possible. I know, I'm only 32, but it's important to be healthy now so that things aren't awful in my 50s and 60s. I'm consistently happy about being told I look about ten years younger than I am. I wanna keep the compliments coming as much as I can.

Oh, yeah. And there's physical health. A pretty face isn't everything.

I love everything about your work, Chuck Palahniuk! </fanboy>

I love everything about your work, Chuck Palahniuk! </fanboy>

P — Pen name. Of course. It's Jack Burgos. Granted, Burgos is also my last name and Jack is my nickname, so there's not much I'm hiding. I picked my pseudonym so that it was short and easy to pronounce. Some people aren't sure how to pronounce Burgos, though, so it's “burr"—like those annoying little fruits that stick to your socks or shoes with sharp bristles that hurt when they prick you—and “gōs," which sounds a lot like “ghost" without the “t." The “s" is hard.

Now if only Chuck Palahniuk would take some time to help us figure out how to pronounce his last name, that would be great.

Winter Interlude II: The G War

It's time to continue...

26 Things About Me

ash

F — Favorite Color. I don't think you have to do much looking to see that it's blue. I adore the color blue. So much so that I literally put it on everything that I can. My car, which I call Ash, is blue; many of my clothes are blue; my accessories tend towards blue; and my online name in many spaces is “bluejack404.”

Why the 404? That's a story for another time.

I like earth tones and dark colors, but I tend to stick with blue as my primary color for just about everything. So, for example, my car is blue with black upholstery and gray/silver accessories. I like how the darker colors make the blue pop.

I like purple too, but mostly as a complement to blue (as evidenced by this website).

G — Girlie girl? This is where I first realized that Erin didn't publish her list verbatim. Erin attributed her list to “a grumpy old dude” who calls himself Archon. In his, he asked himself whether ghosts were real. So I'll ask myself that same question as soon as I answer whether I'm a “girlie girl.”

No. I'm not a girlie girl. But I do occasionally squeal when things happen that I'm excited about. Is that what girlie girls do? I don't even know. I kind of hate the entire idea of calling girlie girls that. I feel like it implies that girls who aren't “girlie” are less girls. No. All girls are girls, all women are women. Femininity isn't a damn black-and-white concept.

There's been a lot of ado done about the differences between men and women, culminating in the publication of that atrocity called Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, which I refuse to link to. Research has indicated that there are differences between areas of male and female brains that has caused people to conclude that looking at an individual's brain could allow one to discern whether that individual is a man or a women. Worse, a lot of people seem to believe very strongly that there are such things as male and female brains.

This is patently false. An analysis of the MRI scans of over 1,400 human brains, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November 30, 2015, reveals that there is no dimorphism in the human brain. To put it another way, there are no distinct male/female differences in the human brain. Only about 0-8% of people had traits belonging predominantly to one sex or the other. Meanwhile 23-53% of people had brains with traits that were “mixed,” that is, having traits that were more commonly found in one sex over the other. To borrow a quote from Dr. Steven Novella, “This does not mean that males and females are the same, or that there are no differences. It does mean that individuals are individuals. People are not mentally defined by their sex.”

So screw the term “girlie girl.” Unless you're a minor, a female, and part of the fraction of that 0-8% of people with brains that match their sex exclusively, you probably aren't a “girlie girl” either. That's actually pretty awesome. As the lead author of the study, Dr. Daphne Joel, puts it...

We show there are differences, but brains do not come in male and female forms. The differences you see are differences between averages. Each one of us is a unique mosaic.
— Daphna Joel, PhD
Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University
"Men are from Mars, women are from Venus? New brain study says not", The Guardian
published November 30, 2015

 G — Ghosts, are they real? No. Next question.

Seriously, though. Occam's razor comes into play here. We understand a whole heck of a lot about the physical world. To believe that ghosts are real is to accept that our entire concept of physics at the macro-level is flawed. That's an absurd position for any scientific layman to hold.

Consider a fictional piece about ghosts. Now imagine you're writing science-fiction and not horror. I'm literally asking you to explain ghosts to me, scientifically. Try to do it without creating more problems than you solve. That's precisely the problem that scientists have when some of them try to develop hypotheses to prove the existence of ghosts.

I could go deeper, but I think this interlude is quickly becoming a research paper. Let's see what awesome things H holds for us.

H — Hometown. Hialeah, Florida! I was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, on July 11, 1983, at about 7:47 pm. I was premature, so I spent a few extra days at the hospital before my mom brought me to live in a pink apartment building, apartment 304, right next to the Palmetto Expressway. I have so many memories of that place. The last time I visited that building was well over five years ago, and that was me sneaking in with an ex-girlfriend to go be nostalgic. I took some pictures, but I can't find them.

I — In Love with... Life, my friends and family, my career (both writing and counseling), and pretty much everything. I have a lot of love to give, I think. Every once in a while, I wish that I felt less intensely about things. Then I remember that the passion that I have is what a lot of people seem to think is one of my greatest qualities. So I've opted to keep the feelings, painful though they might be at times.

J — Jealous of... Not really anyone.

Okay, that's a lie. I have envy, but I find that envy is only useful insofar as it's a catalyst to make one improve oneself. Jealousy feels like more of an inert word. A static self-loathing directed outwards, often against loved ones. I try not to indulge it.

That's F through J. Next time, K-O!

Winter Interlude

I feel a little overwhelmed. I've been working on several short stories, all with publication dates in February; I've been building a massive new website for my friends; I'm practicing for the National Counselor Examination for my license; and I've been preparing for the OWFI writing contest and conference. I keep thinking that my tendency to procrastinate had something to do with this.

But there's no time for blame. I'm taking a short break from my daily routine to write a post that Erin recommended. It's an alphabetical list about...well...it's kinda self-explanatory. Without further ado, behold!

26 Things About Me

jack

A — Age. I'm 32 years old. Some people might be hesitant to say their own age, but I think I've earned these years. I'm proud of them. And I think the fact that men tend to be prouder of their age than women is a sad sociocultural construction that needs to be shattered. Speak your age proudly, and fuck anyone who says anything. Be proud of the age you've earned.

Yeah, this isn't gonna be just letters and me talking about me. That'd be boring for me. What? Did you think I blogged for you? Selfish.

B — Biggest Fear. I have a small phobia of decapitation. You may say, It's not a phobia if it's a reasonable fear," but I'm telling you it's totally unreasonable. Like, I get the jitters if I'm up on a step ladder and a ceiling fan is too close to my head. Where the ceiling fan in question is on the lowest setting, and too close to my head" means it's within two feet of my hair. Terrifying.

Adrean loves to joke about how terrified I was on Space Mountain at Disney World because there was so much stuff passing over our heads. I wouldn't raise my arms at all. I should also mention that the guy in front of me did raise his arms, and he was over six feet tall.

Why hasn't a counselor, who knows that specific phobia is one of the easiest-to-treat anxiety disorders in existence (except for blood, injection, and injury phobias), sought treatment for this? Well, I think it's funny. I'd hate to lose that. Also, it's not terribly distressing. I get anxious on roller coasters and around fans, but the fear doesn't actually stop me from doing the fun thing (or the necessary thing, if I happen to be cleaning the bladeswhy are they called blades?!). So it's not a high priority for me.

harley

C — Cats. I love cats, but I have none of my own. I do essentially have one at Adrean's house. A cute little thing called Harley Quinn after the Batman villain of the same name. They're very similar, too, in that the cat is probably a psychotic murderer of small reptiles and insects.

I used to hate cats. When I was little, I had a little dissimulation of canaries. My mom used to keep them outside for me, on my second-floor balcony (the balcony was connected to the back porch by a back set of stairs and a sliding door that went right into my bedroom). One day, a cat got in, opened the cage (it was one of those doors that simply slide up), and ate them all. I hated cats after that.

It took me a while to forgive cats for being predators, but I did eventually. And now, Harley, a quintessential predator, is probably my favorite feline on the planet. She's loud, obnoxious, and needy, but she's so beautiful. If my allergies to those furry beasts were less severe, she'd be in my lap right now, cuddling.

D — Daughters. I have one adopted daughter, aged 23 years, going on 24. She's in grad school right now, and she's a talented artist. I won't say much about her because, unlike Harley, she has a right to privacy. Many people do want to know how a 32-year-old has a 23-year-old daughter. I point you to the keyword adopted." Too many people miss that you don't have to get them as babies.

Can you imagine? At nine I could barely care for a turtle, let alone a baby girl!

E — Everyday Starts With... Waking up. Honestly, that's the only thing that everyday has in common for me. Sure, I shower and stuff, but it's not always the first thing I do! And I've clearly been taking every single one of these questions seriously. They demand attention!

Also, it's the hardest thing I have to do in the mornings. Once I'm up, I want to shower. I feel gross in the mornings, and my morning breath is so bad I can feel it in my mouth like a thick film of oozy, old saliva. I'm also hungry, so breakfast isn't an issue. I'm tired, so coffee will come into play at some point. But waking up? That's the one thing I don't want to do.

Especially now. It's winter, it's cold, it's snowy; and my bed is warm and comfy and I want to stay there forever and ever. Ripping off the sheets is like ripping off a band-aid. I don't wanna do it. So, yes, everyday starts with a struggle to get out of bed and figure out what I'm gonna do with the rest of my day.

I think I'm gonna stop there for now. I'll work on doing these five at a time, but I promise detailed and exciting answers to each of the alphabetically organized question-fragments. Good day to all of you!