Poem: the dirty sheets of paper

6 inklings - saturday

the covers are like a torn up book
that shrug themselves over
a little girl’s shoulders
as her mind flips the pages
of corridors flooded
with jagged darkness and slopes,
she elopes with the enemy
but her father brings the love affair
swiftly to an end.
she has no friends
she slips away from the margins
charging like a haunted stallion
to the sheer
peering over
as the majesty dribbles pebbles down her front.
enter
enter
the next chapter

she slices her words clean
the sheets which she envelops herself in at night
hold too much emptiness between.

- cumuloq <3

Why a good book is a secret door – Mac Barnett

Childhood is surreal. Why shouldn’t children’s books be? In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder — and what real kids say to a fictional whale.

Hey there!

I thought I’d share this video with you guys ’cause I know many out there, like me, hope that one day we’ll be great writers or poets. Often times, we do it for ourselves, we do it to express ourselves more clearly and be able to share our fictional and non-fictional experiences and adventures with others. Sometimes, I personally get lost in the idea that I want to share a story that I forget who I’m writing my stories for. I’ve written before of why I write. Often times it’s to find that small space between the real and the make-believe. During that time I wrote that post, I didn’t quite consider who I would be writing for, that there would be readers out there who might respond to a story that I want to write and want to understand themselves through the spaces in-between the everyday and the out-of-the-ordinary.

This video made me realise this more concretely. It’s both entertaining and inspiring. So if you have a seventeen-minutes to spare, say while you’re eating your lunch, I really hope you watch it. It made me both smile and go ‘aww’. Mac Barnett is a wonderful speaker, and even though I’ve never read any of his books (esp. since he writes for children – which is something I don’t explore much of nowadays) I can see that he is trying to do something enchanting with a child’s imagination.

Till next time!

cumuloq <3

Being a Kid: Ask Questions

2 childlike ideals - tuesday

 

Hey guys,

Currently listening to this awesome cover of “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran by Drew Tabor (that voice!)

kid-asking-questions

Credits go to /hannahschildrenshomes.org

So I did something yesterday that I realised was somehow oddly satisfying that I want to share with you guys. Basically it began when I past by Reddits’ “Ask Like I’m Five” thread, which basically has a person asking a question and people on Reddit will answer the person like they are a five year old kid. This is an amazing tag for people who have really tough questions, esp. philosophical or scientific, and have people answer them in the most straightforward and simple way – oh, if only life was that easy and people we pass by on the streets or our teachers or parents or friends could be just as straightforward.

Well, this thread inspired me, for a day, to write down and take note of all the random questions I had in my head. Over the course of the day, I realised that I was asking and being more inquisitive about things around me, I was asking questions that I did not know I had – but genuinely wanted to know. This also made me feel more guilty. It made me guilty of the fact that I had never been proactive enough to actually find out the answers to my questions and that, at my age, I should already know the answers to them by now.

Such questions included:

  • Why does Stephen Hawking use the electronic voice when there are voices like Siri nowadays that sound a lot more humanlike?
  • If you Google Search “am i on the internet” what will show up?
  • Why do fingers prune in water?
  • Why do eyedrops need to be thrown away after a month?
  • What is the Lousiana Purchase?
  • Why do leaves need to be swept off the street?
  • Why do smells trigger memories?
  • How does toothpaste help burns?
  • How many times can you use a face mask in a week?
  • Why do humans ask so many questions?
  • What is swastika?
  • Why did the Nazis use it as their symbol?
  • What is the origin of the phrase “by the way”?

As mentioned, there was something oddly satisfying about listing down all the questions I thought in one day and to find out the answers. I guess it is visual proof that I am learning something useful in that day and that it is not all gone to waste.

And imagine the number of questions a kid asks!

Maybe I’ll make it a regular practice to spend one day a week actively noting down the questions I ask and writing down the answers. I found this a really enlightening experiment.

Till next time!

cumuloq <3

Thank You, Maya Angelou

Credits to womenscouncil.org

Credits to womenscouncil.org

Maya Angelou’s death, this year, on May 28th 2014, never really struck me deep. At that point in time, earlier this year, her name was one among many authors and poets that I had heard in passing, acknowledged but never really took the time to know of. So when it was informed, only three words passed through my mind: “That’s a pity.” And life went on.

It was not until recently that I began reading her novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I chose to read it (and am still reading it) because I thought it was a nice transition from when I previously read the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Like the protagonist in Speak, Marguerite Johnson in Angelou’s novel deals with selective mutism.

And, because I’m reading it (excruciatingly slowly), last week I came across a particular paragraph from the novel that really struck me. In the novel, the young protagonist is made to go to a funeral of a Mrs. Florida Taylor. It begins (and captures my attention) at these lines:

At first the news that Mrs. Taylor was dead did not strike me as particularly newsy bit of information. As children do, I thought that since she was very old she had only one thing to do, and that was to die.

At this point in the story, I felt guilty as these words somehow resonated to me about anyone who was elderly – that the next predictable destination was death and that there was nothing to it.

Angelou then writes this:

The inevitable destination of all living things seemed but a short step away. I had never considered before that dying, death, dead, passed away, were words and phrases that might be even faintly connected with me.

But, on that onerous day, oppressed beyond relief, my own mortality was borne in upon me on sluggish tides of doom.

It felt – and I can’t quite summon the perfect adjective to describe it – unnerving reading these words, especially from an author who had only recently married herself to those terms “dying, death, dead, [and] passed away” … I sat there reading those words as if Angelou spoke to me from those pages. (And this is me reflecting on how words are as though we time travel both to the future where we no longer exist as authors and to the past to have conversations with the dead.)

Photo of Maya Angelou

Credits go to principalaim.files.wordpress.com

I reflected on how, writing those words, Angelou never fully pictured herself gone from this earth and the words on the page speaking on her behalf. And I imagined the same of myself – how right now I can’t imagine those words connected to myself but inevitably they will be.

(Well, aren’t we funny creatures to so vehemently – my new favourite adverb – protest and proclaim the impossibility of our deaths … until we are dead and gone?)

When I read those words on my bed I almost teared. I felt as though the tides had turned, that I was Marguerite Johnson attending the funeral of Mrs. Taylor.

And personally, I feel like now’s better late then never to thank Maya Angelou for her poetic words and for her accomplishments and milestones in literature as a “Phenomenal Woman”.

I only wish I had read and known you sooner. Reading your novel now, I feel as though I relate to you in a million small insignificant yet all too significant ways. And so I quote one of your recent passages that plucked my heart out of its chest while I was reading on the bus earlier; while it was directed for the black community, I feel like anyone who has felt in the position of the minority can share the sentiments written in your words …

It was awful to be Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense. We should all be dead. I thought I should like to see us all dead, one on top of the other. A pyramid of flesh with whitefolks on the bottom, as the broad base, then the Indians with their silly tomahawks and teepees and wigwams and treaties, the Negroes with their mops and recipes and cotton sacks and spirituals sticking out of their mouths. The Dutch children should all stumble in their wooden shoes and break their necks. The French should choke to death on the Louisiana Purchase (1803) while silkworms ate all the Chinese with their stupid pigtails. As a species, we were an abomination. All of us.

Till next time.

cumuloq <3

 

 

P.S. Looking through her photos on Google Image search and writing these words almost did make me cry. This is my personal belated mourning of a marvellous woman – but hopefully it is more heartfelt to have gotten to know her through the pages of her book and then said goodbye than to have said words that only now I realise I truly mean from deep down within my heart (and may I add, soul).

Poem: have a heart

6 inklings - saturday

It’s been a while since I’ve created a poem that rhymes so completely as the one I just wrote below. Lately I’ve stuck with free verse because it (duh) gives me so much freedom. But, for me, there was always something so appealing and seductive about a poem that rhymed so perfectly and completely. I’m not so sure whether this tiny poem fits both criteria – but it’s something.

is my heart an anchor
where this sinking feeling lies?
or venom like molasses
coated over despondent sighs -
this muted cry of ravens
in a valley in the dusk
like those who, with brittled fingertips,
pluck away the husk
the wooded shavings whispered
off the workbench, without thought
my heart was never mine
if it was sold, and never bought.

- cumuloq <3

What I Read and Why I Read

6 inklings - saturday

Previously I wrote the post “What I Write and Why I Write” – I thought it was about time that I wrote the companion post to it, “What I Read and Why I Read”. It kind of helps that one of my recent class assignments was to write about this. Below is the modified version of it – I have taken none of the substance away, just beefed it up in certain areas.

I was always a library camper, whether it be in my school or communal libraries. From the age of seven I knew how to reserve books, how to borrow wisely till the maximum amount I’m allowed to carry back home in my heavy library canvass bag, and how to read the shelves and find my favourite authors and genres.

If there was one crime I ever actually committed when I was a kid, it was accidentally stealing a library book from my school – I vaguely remember it being about Santa Claus. I devoured books by Mem Fox, Libby Gleeson, Enid Blyton such as The Magic Faraway Tree and Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act. My school in Australia had a subscription to Scholastics and I bought books every month – much to the frustration of my parents.

A few years later on I’d giggle at the trivial hilarity of The Bugalugs Bum Thief and Captain Underpants, and delved into classics such as Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. (I got the exact covers of the books I actually read below.)

When I was eleven in Perth, Australia, my teacher, Mrs Daventry, introduced my class to a life-changing novel called Alanna: The First Adventure written by Tamora Pierce. The character, Alanna, was probably my first proper fantasy heroine.

Prior to being exposed to the genre of fantasy, I mostly entertained myself with Jeanne Betancourt’s Pony Pals and Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High. Mrs Daventry one day caught me in class reading the latter and I remember specifically that she called it “junk food”. She then proceeded to tell me of a book store in our neighbourhood where I could get discounts for good books. Learning from her was such a joy. With every book we read, we learnt about the history behind them, the vocabulary that surrounded them and the characteristics we aspired towards.

When the doors of the fantasy genre gaped wide open I never looked back. I devoured the genre, reading series after series by authors such as J.K. Rowling, Lemony Snicket, Gail Carson Levine, Philip Pullman, Garth Nix, Libba Bray, James Patterson and Dianna Wynne Jones. For me reading was very much escapist in nature. Coupled with sketching and writing, my twelve-year-old self created worlds that were imitations of the characters, plots and settings I read. The fantasy worlds shaped much of how I saw the world when I was young, filled with magical potential and gateways to alternative realms. That’s why I identify so closely to the narrator of Gaiman’s novel:

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.” – Unknown Narrator, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My purpose for reading altered when my parents made the decision that we would move to another country. There, I admit books were my shields to the curious eyes of my new, strange classmates. For a decent year, because of my introverted disposition, my confidantes at the time were mostly the characters in the novels I read and the stories I created.

In my new school I was introduced to more canonical works, such as that of Shakespeare. There we tackled Twelfth Night, Macbeth and Merchant of Venice. Other novels included Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (which I memorised more than understood) and Robert Louis Stevensons’ Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which I found fascinating till this day). It was also during that time that I got enraptured by culturally-stemmed beliefs – spiritual myths of seances and ghost visitations. A lot of the books I read during that time were dark – but not necessarily scary. Like how a child may be more fascinated than terrified of Coraline, I was more fascinated than terrified of the world beyond the grave.

It was when I moved country once more and underwent a tertiary education that my reading for pleasure habit slowly dwindled. There I was introduced to some of my favourite novels such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. But it was also where I learned to grapple with R.K. Narayan’s The Guide – a book which, till this day, still reduces me to coughing up bile.

It was also during this period where literature transformed into something I loved to something which I no longer understood. I was forced to wrangle with poetry in a void. I was mostly silent in class, petrified to give the “wrong answer”. Reading for pleasure was bulldozed away and in its place was planted desperations of not failing, and not being alone.

And maybe my saving grace was giving literature a second chance and choosing it as my degree. During my four years in uni, I could once again engage with and discover newfound love in other literary genres. It was in uni that I fell in love with novels such as Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, and Jean Rhys’ Good Morning, Midnight.

My main interests during that time lay in (post- and) modernism, feminism and Gothic literature. I decided to combine two of them for my FYP and wrote about representations of the living dead in women – It was also an excuse for me to analyse Resident Evil.

However, I can’t quite say that during those four years I read for pleasure. My reading during that time was limited to the reading lists of the courses I took. So the final stage of my reading journey thus far was during my eight months of contract teaching. Thanks to this blog (and also from creating an account on Goodreads.com), I managed to finally read for pleasure and read whatever I wanted to – the way I did when I was eleven.

I first of all started with the Young Adult fiction that I missed out on during my uni days, i.e. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. This was followed by Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, John Green books, i.e. The Fault in Our Stars, Looking For Alaska, and Paper Towns, Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner trilogy and Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

Of course, I didn’t spend all my reading time catching up with YA. I also delved in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Neverwhere. It was safe to say that during those eight months I read and completed more books in my spare time than during the six years within the rigid education system of my new homeland.

At the end of the day, reading for me has always been a means for me to understand and see different perspectives to the world. It was a means to make sense of things that no longer made sense. The covers were my shields, the characters: my friends, the enemies: a representation of the challenges I should be tackling. At the end of the day I would not be the person I am without books. It’s a shame that reading today is less than it was – less time for books, less words in books, more competition for attention among the million other attention-grabbing devices out there in this world.

I offer anyone who is willing to share their reading journey to send me a link to theirs in the comment section below! Let us all preserve the pastime and love of reading together!

Till next time!

cumuloq <3

 

Disclaimer: The book covers featured are not mine and belong to their respective owners. I take no credit for any of the photos featured in this blog post.

Songs to Refresh Your Week

4 my soundtracks - thursday

Mid-weeks are rarely fun. All the work you refused to do in the beginning of the week is biting you in the behind (keeping it PG here), people pushing you for deadlines, asking you questions you guiltily have no answers to, and then you still have more days before this week ends.

Here are a few songs that hope to make it all better.

For the Early Mornings

Great Escape – Mike Dignam

A UK singer and songwriter for your ears. If you like this song, I strongly suggest that you make the rest of his songs your anthem for this mid-week. I recommend the song “Young” as well.  Check them out at his Youtube channel.

Talking Dreams – Echosmith

Echosmith, an indie pop band from LA, is currently my go-to music fix. Sydney is unbearably gorgeous and her brothers, Jamie, Noah and Graham, are solid players. They’ve been getting quite a lot of hype recently ’cause of their single “Cool Kids” – but I think “Talking Dreams” and some of their other songs are deserving of more limelight.

For the Late Nights

Raise Your Love – Rhodes

RHODES is another talented musician from the UK. His more popular song is “Breathe” which is amazing beyond belief, but I thought I’d share his performance of “Raise Your Love” under the Mahogany Sessions instead because it really showcases his unique voice.

Till next time!

cumuloq <3