Erasures and Other Fun Things to Do With Words

Even when writing is the thing that my body craves to do, I still have to remind myself now and then to have fun with it. There are endless amounts of activities to cultivate spontaneity and freedom within the form. That playfulness begins by seeking out other’s art first.

All art is made from art. We constantly recycle other people’s words and thoughts all the time, and upcycle these ideas into our own creations. Art can be anything, as it is everywhere and in everything we see. A body, a leaf, a turn of phrase, the way that a teabag drapes over a mug’s lip, an old book or painting, etc—all of this is art. Which is why we must keep our eyes wide open. Observe as much as you can. The world is your prompt, the world is your material. From the world, we make art. Art is the thing that draws a person’s attention to something they may have naturally ignored or passed by unknowingly.

Here are a few of my favorite artists who make something new out of something old:

Will Ashford‘s work combines text with art in a really lovely way. This piece with the umbrella especially makes me happy.


Mary Ruefle has made over forty-five books of erasure art. Erasure is “the creation of a new text by disappearing the old text that surrounds it.” The words she uncovers blink at us as if appearing from behind a ghostly fog. Ruefle says of her work: “The books have been called “found poems” but I don’t consider them as such. A found poem is a text found in the world, taken out of its worldly context, and labeled a poem. I certainly didn’t “find” any of these pages, I made them in my head, just as I do my other work. In the erasures I can only choose words out of all the words on a given page, while writing regularly I can choose from all the words in existence. In that sense, the erasures are like a “form” –I am restricted by certain rules. I have resisted formal poetry my whole life, but at last found a form I can’t resist. It is like writing with my eyes instead of my hands.”  Read more about this unique art form in Ruefle’s essay, “On Erasure.”


My good friend from University of Michigan, the talented artist Esha Biswas, has kept a book of found poetry since I first met her freshman year. She continues to astound me—the way that she can spot the sparkling of diamonds within text-heavy pages, and then effortlessly threads them into her own story. You can see many of her pages on her website. .


In addition to using existing books for material, I have recently been introduced to two exercises to try when you want to stir up the pot a bit and let loose on your control for perfection . The page is our playground, why not have fun with it?

Spandrel: The word spandrel refers to, in architecture, the space between two arches or between an arch and a rectangular enclosure. We can use this idea of “extra space” or “leftovers” in terms of writing, too. Sometimes, in the editing process, we are forced to cut a great line, perhaps because it was unnecessary, irrelevant, or redundant. But no writing ever has to be swiped from the face of the earth! Writers are some of the best hoarders on the planet. Many writers I’ve met keep a “graveyard” file on their computer for all of the little bits of text that didn’t make it into a final piece, but still may have value later on. For class, we were encouraged to rummage back through our old journals and “graveyard” files to pick out little scraps of writing and create something new using an amalgam of just those scraps. In a way, we were finding poetry from our own word landfills.

Homophonic translations:  Print out a poem or song lyrics in a foreign language that you can pronounce but not necessarily understand. Translate the sound of the poem into English (e.g. French “blanc” to blank or “toute” to toot. While much of the “translation” will be pretty nonsensical, many lines on their own will be unique and original images that could be tucked away for later use. For example: my homophonic translation of the Spanish song “Cucurrucucu Paloma” was as follows:

The dice of the night have been thrown
We have no mass, let’s sleep
We are pure, you and me

The dice that never comes
We have no mass, let’s sleep
Tomorrow will be purer.

We’re heroes of the same sky
How we suffer, poorly
Hasting towards death
Let’s call the fire what it is.

The Lesson: Sometimes the best discoveries are those chosen by random, those products of accidents and misunderstandings.  Let your eye be drawn to what excites you. Wherever you land, art will be found there.

October in Montpelier

It is only my first October in Montpelier, and I am already smitten. My favorite parts so far are probably the technicolor trees; the sound of rain that rings out when leaves fall and hit branch branch branch ground crunch; the smell of leaf piles which makes you feel a little dirty and clean all at the same time. Just wait until Halloween rolls around!

To take a break from all of the homework, reading, editing, and freelance writing gigs, I went out for a walk today and ended up going on a bit of a photo safari. At first, I thought I was just going to buy a loaf of bread or maybe find a place with pumpkin-spiced tea, but instead, the wind swept me up and took me on a wander through St. Augustine’s Cemetery, around neighborhoods and somehow I ended up at Three Penny Taproom for a pint! I also met a delightful black cat who followed me for a little while, but alas, the little one was camera shy and ran before I could take his picture.

In the next post, I’ll recap some of the schoolwork I’m doing, including works we’re reading and about my latest stint in translation with the amazing poet, Ruben Quesada. I can’t believe that is almost the end of October already! November brings NaNoWriMo and writing and holidays and then December…but for now, let’s take it one day at a time and enjoy the scenery. Vermont and my life here at VCFA are both too good to let slip by carelessly.

P.S. What I’ve been listening to lately: “El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel; “The Shrine/The Argument” by Fleet Foxes, “Pulaski at Night” by Andrew Bird, “Familiar” by Agnes Obel, and “Growing Pains” by Birdy.


Amelie and Apples

Last week was my 23rd birthday. Birthdays are my favorite holidays. Not mine solely, but all birthdays in general. How special it is to celebrate the very day in history when a person you love didn’t exist for one moment and then suddenly did. I was nervous for this birthday. Mostly because it was my first time celebrating it really away from home and family. And yet, my nerves were for naught. The night’s festivities brought eight terrifically thoughtful and talented ladies from my MFA program together. It’s incredible to me that just after a month of knowing each other, we can connect on such a familial level. We went out for sushi at the local Asiana House and then came back home to watch Amelie, one of two movies in the world I could watch forever. It was wonderful.

Speaking of adventures and familial love, yesterday my closest friends here and I went to Peck Farm Orchard in East Montpelier to go apple picking and walk through the corn maze. I took a lot of pictures, because the Vermont landscape in autumn just begs to be photographed. The honeycrisps were magical – they are the closest thing to experiencing solid apple cider. Two of my friends had never been to an apple orchard before. To see their faces brighten at the simple pleasure of crunching into a hand-picked apple was so worth it!

Today, I’m working most of the day on writing a story for class, which hopefully turns into a novel. I love the main character and am really excited with playing with the interplay between language and format. We are to turn in a maximum of 25 pages for a workshop, which is difficult because my original idea for this story was in terms of a novel structure. I think it’s harder to condense a novel idea into a story, rather than finding the pleats in a short story to expand it into a novel. But, I am focused and determined to give this short story my all. Perhaps, I’ll make a big push in the novel for NaNoWriMo. Note to self: I need to create a story playlist on Spotify. This is a tool I discovered a few years ago. Organizing songs that get me into the mood of the story and the mind of the characters really helps me write and visualize scenes. (If you don’t already read the LitHub playlists inspired by classic novels, I suggest you check it out now! Here’s the link for Lolita, To the Lighthouse, Beloved, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

Other updates: I should probably clean my studio (how it’s so easy to put this off) and I have three various freelance projects to work on. I finished Tales of Falling and Flying and loved its simplicity and absurdist-spun fables. Now, I’m double-fisting The Catcher in the Rye and The Areas of My Expertise. They are definitely for different moods. Catcher is useful for the particular voice I’m trying to capture in my own story, and the intellectual, but superbly preposterous made-up facts of The Areas of My Expertise is the exact silliness I need to read to help me go to sleep at night. Perhaps next on my to-do list is to also re-read Einstein’s Dreams, which is one of my all-time favorites.

And eat lots of apples, of course!

[time of death (plus orb)]

As a dreamer, a night-wonderer, a star watcher, and one who definitely has stayed up late many a night to dance with the moon,  I am supermoon overjoyed that my piece, “[time of death (plus orb)]”—about growing old, imaginary friends and how our bodies never really lose those friendships, even when our minds let go of concrete memories—is in the debut issue of Moonchild Magazine, which you can read online:

…Why can’t it rain sand outside? she asks the skull. She’s named him Roy because that just seemed like a good skull name. Her words wend through one of his sockets. He keeps her words captive-caught in his strong boned smile. But she likes to play hide and seek. She sees Roy’s reflection next to hers in a brass orb she calls the Sun. I wish I could stay with you always Roy. When the hourglass runs out, she turns it back over so the rain shower shall never end…

A huge thanks to Nadia Gerassimenko at Moonchild Magazine for publishing it and being wonderful to work with!

My inspiration came from this film by David Michalek.



Reading Pile, October 2017

My goodness, I am in a foggy, mystical happy place here in Vermont. I’m feeling the positive energy from my cohort, my professors, and the full-blown autumn air!  Generative exercises in class are allowing me to free my grip on being “perfect.” Instead, I’m suddenly a literary scientist, content on adding a dash of this, a beaker of that, and putting it all into a cauldron to see what transforms, what changes state, and what explodes entirely.

I’m also super excited to begin my new volunteer position at the library (because there’s no such thing as being around too many books!) More on that later.

And now for a brief message: If I could go broke buying only one kind of item in the world, it would be books. I am quite frugal when it comes to clothes, food, even entertainment. But bring me to the bookstore and I lose all sense of frugality. I’ve always felt a certain kinship to this quote by Erasmus:

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

That is all. Absolutely no shame. In fact, I love to buy books sometimes because I think about in the future, when maybe I have my own little human rummaging through my house, and I imagine he or she searching through my shelves and pulling a book off the wall and we would sit down together and begin to read it, and I would say, “Ahh! I remember reading this book when…” Perhaps this is silly, but I find a deep comfort in this slice of my future life.

And now, to the reading pile of October!

I’ve already started Ben Loory’s Tales of Falling and Flying and am very much enjoying it so far! It’s a read you can ingest voraciously, so I’m trying to slow down and savor it.

I picked up John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise because I was intrigued by its wordy cover (which is kind of like a book in itself). It’s pretty hysterical and will be great for afternoon slumps in case I run out of coffee.

I brought The Catcher in the Rye with me to school, mostly because it’s comforting to know it’s in the room with me. But the last time I read it was in AP English class in senior year of high school. I am a very different writer and reader than I was back then, and I’m curious to know what I think of it now. I’ve always had an affinity for Holden and I think his voice might be the perfect muse for one of my new writing projects.

In other news: it’s Birthday Week! So let the wild rumpus begin! Hieperdepiep Hoera! (which is the Dutch and in my opinion, far-superior, way of saying Hip Hip Hooray). This little boy needs a little practice on saying it, but he’s so darn adorable.