Distance makes the heart grow fonder….

Distance makes the heart grow fonder―or so I hear from colleagues, family, friends, and those few people in my life that I can’t imagine life without. But under what circumstances is this true? I’ve recently been with a man who flip-flops his focus and emotions: sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s his family, sometimes it’s people he feels he needs to help, but infrequently me. That is to say, rarely can he make time to see me or go on a date. In the first few months I was the centre of his desire and in the second number of months I’ve been demoted to the bottom of the list. The time we do spend together is electric: Gatsby-themed parties, a wedding on top of Blackcomb Mountain, and even the simple nights of couch-surfing. Who doesn’t enjoy a lazy night?

Over a week ago he left for Europe with some friends. Hopefully, to have the time of his life. For the seven months I have known him we have not missed a single day of texting each other, whether it is a conversation, a thought of the day, or a simple good morning. He hasn’t e-mailed me, nor have I e-mailed him. Where does this leave us?

I’ve been waiting for the day he stepped on that airplane to Europe, knowing that time apart would be a catalyst in the development, or fragmentation, of our relationship. Emotions are in no way simple. I was certain the change would happen in him. At some point in his trip, probably later than earlier, he’d have to think, “Hey, what’s going on with Marlow? I haven’t talked to her. That’s different.” Who’s to say this is a positive or negative difference, him being a man scared to acknowledge the positive things in front of him because he then has to acknowledge what he currently, in the moment, does not have. I can’t begin to know what is going through his mind, because, to my surprise, the catalyst occurred in me.

Many times in life it is much easier to look outwards than it is to look inwards. Entering a place and head space where I no longer focus on him, I’ve been forced to look at my life as an independent woman. That’s not to say a single woman. This week has been a whirlwind of remembering my dreams for my future career and regaining the steps to achieve those goals. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, each one of us can only take those steps on our own. Do I miss him? Yes, but every time I’m hit with that feeling after seeing a photo of his smile or the two of us standing next to each other, I tell myself, “No, I cannot miss him. I cannot think of him.” I say this knowing how loneliness can creep up on me and render me unmotivated in my endeavours.

This first awakening occurred on the fifth day. Until then, he never crossed my mind and I had began to think that out of the two of us, I would be the one to walk away despite his fear of commitment holding him down. While I was on the usual bus route down 64th Ave to school, I had a moment where I discovered I didn’t need him to love me; I only needed him. Suddenly I was flushed with a sense of freedom, like the weigh of our relationship had been lifted off my shoulders. How confusing this was to me? I’ve always been the girl who wants a committed relationship with a future in sight, but suddenly the only future I saw was my own in my career. Despite losing what I valued most, I was more happy than I had been in our relationship for months.

A catalyst doesn’t always occur in a single moment, but in a series of events. When I saw another picture of him pop up on my cell phone screen, I couldn’t help but think, “I love him.” These were the emotions I had been pulling back in the last month so as not to have my heart broken. Even still, throughout these brief minutes of desire for him and desire to be solitary, I have not been able to hit send on the e-mail server. How is one suppose to know if that’s the right thing to do with such a relationship? Does distance make the heart grow fonder? Time can only tell as I sort through contradicting emotions that come out of thin like breath escaping my lips in the final thaw of Spring. I cannot know what he is going through, whether he has similar questions, or whether he is the cliché of “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Maybe I’m waiting for him to know where I stand like I’m gathering all my emotions to throw at him as if to put him in motion? However, I wish to come to my own conclusion separate from the man I thought would be in my life forever. I only know there is more to come.



Cross-genre Art

“Art cannot be criticized because every mistake is a new creation.” Take a look at this video which merges the genres of art and music in the most contemporary pop culture way. See if you can relate what you see to the process of writing and the form your writing takes.

The video moves forward in time as well as moving backwards in time. Not all pieces of writing are linear, the lyric essay certainly is not. What are all the possible ways you can manipulate time? Also take a look near the end of the video where the speakers merge in the city skyline line. In the lyric essay the greatest tool is association and the blending of two images so they run together seamlessly.

Lessons of Craft: The Lyric Essay

I started my next Creative Non-fiction class this winter and the first assignment designated to each student is to write a lyric essay. But what is a lyric essay? After talking to fellow students I learned that I was not the only person trying to decipher its structure. A lyric essay is not something that can be pin-pointed such as the memoir, a travelogue, or a short fiction piece. In fact, the more I read about the lyric essay, the more confused I felt. Unlike a glosa or a sonnet, a lyric essay has no specified form. However, by taking the leap into my own writing and allowing the words to guide me, I can now share with you a few tips to get you headed in the right direction.

  1. Personal Essay Transformed

Think of a lyric essay as a personal essay. The personal essay is meant to interweave snippets of memoir in relation to specific research on a topic which is interconnected. Look at the non-fiction piece, Chimera, by Gerald N. Callahan. His fragments of research on the immune system correlate to his personal experiences with memory, such that mannerisms, smells, or images can recall memories of people we have lost in our lives. Specifically, his ex-wife. The lyric essay takes on the same elements of the personal essay, but transforms them poetically.

  1. Poetic Language

Unlike the personal essay, a lyric essay uses more poetic language such as alliteration, rhythm, and above anything, the metaphor. The lyric essay still uses the elements of all non-fiction and fictional pieces: characterization, voice, and tone, but the words chosen become more specific to what you would find in a poem. Each individual word carries more weight.

  1. Metaphor

Between all the interwoven pieces of a lyric essay runs a metaphor connecting and giving meaning to each fragment. In extended cases, the use of conceit is considered to be a better fit as a conceit is an extended metaphor running from the beginning of a piece to the end. The metaphor, or conceit, often covers a topic which is deemed philosophical, a question folding in on itself, sometimes even unanswerable. However, the writer must still remember to take a step forward. There is a reason to writer and connect each of these moments. This is what the reader needs to be able to decipher, even if it is not bluntly stated, as it often is not.

  1. Fragments

Although no writer is forced to stick to this structure, I have found that most lyric essays are written in fragments, generally numbered, and organized by association. This means the fragments do not need to be presented on a linear time line. In fact, the beauty of the lyric essay is in its non-linear format.

  1. Association

Like poetry, the lyric essay is knitted together to follow a pattern of association. When one fragment shows a specific image in question, the next fragment gives the answer while simultaneously transforming the first question into a new question to be answered later. Or to look at it more poetically, each fragment is strung together similarly to a poem where one concrete image is linked to the metaphor which develops into the next image portrayed. The writer and the reader should be able to string each fragment or moment together fluidly.

Across The Universe

Musicals on film are often a hit or miss. Some belong on Broadway, while others like Across The Universe (2007) portray an era both accurately and artistically that is too often forgotten. The story follows Jude (Jim Sturgess) from Liverpool to New York City. Jude goes to America to find his father and instead finds himself amongst an eclectic group of friends trying to survive through the counterculture and anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. Jude’s life story alludes to John Lennon, one of the four Beatles, which the music in the movie comes from, as both Jude and John Lennon came to New York City from Liverpool and followed an artistic career. John Lennon, however, was not deported like Jude at the end of the movie.

The 30 songs chosen for Across The Universe covers events from 1963 to 1969, but is condensed into a two year period for the film. The movie alludes to people and celebrities that the Beatles either had some form of relationship with or stars that rose around the same time the movie takes place. For instance, Sadie (Dana Fuchs) represents Janis Joplin, which can be seen through her drinking habits and heard through her rough singing voice. The scene where Jude uses strawberries for an art piece parallels Stuart Sutcliffe, once a bassist for the Beatles. Jude creates a splatter-paint portrait of a strawberry, a Jackson Pollock-like style, which Stuart was also heavily influenced by in his own art. The bus in the scene with Dr. Robert (Bono) is the same bus the Beatles used on their Magical Mystery Tour. It’s also very similar to the bus Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters drove. At the party before the cast gets on the bus they can be seen drinking “electric” kool-aid referencing Tom Wolfe’s novel, Electric Kool-aid Acid Test.

The director, Julie Taymor, did well by referencing accurate events and places. For instance, there was a violent student protest in front of Columbia University in the Sixties and an explosion that occurred in a New York townhouse on West 11th Street due to an organization called “Weather Underground”. The last scene where Sadie and the Po Boys are singing on the roof top is referenced to the Beatles concert on a rooftop in London where the police stopped them during the song, “Let It Be”. Cafe Huh?, the club where Sadie and Jimi Hendrix sang in the movie was the same club in Greenwhich Village, called Cafe wha?

Along with an authentic portrayal of the era, artistry comes forward in the film through the blending of dialogue and music transitions. Although the Beatles music can be listened to on loop, the music video portion of the movie doesn’t take over the rest of the screenplay as it often does in other musicals. The music videos are more or less used to cover exposition and montage within the screenplay. During the use of “Let It Be”, the scene covers Daniel’s (Spencer Liff) death and his funeral as well as the funeral of little boy in the war who first started singing the song. This was a simple set up to show that war was bigger and affected more people than just the few characters in the movie. One of the best uses of transition in Across the Universe is the scene where Max Carrigan (Joe Anderson), Lucy’s (Evan Rachel Wood) brother, goes off to war. The song, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” plays in the background. As Max reports to his official he sees the poster of Big Ben singing “I want you, I want you so bad.” He is then placed on a conveyor belt, denoting him to one of thousands of soldiers portrayed like G.I. Joes. The music video ends with Prudence (T.V. Carpio) sitting outside the apartment window admiring Sadie and the scene is back to the life of Jude and his eclectic friends.

What could have been a terrible portrayal of the Beatles music, turned out to be a fully thought out portrait of the Sixties. Across The Universe starts out in a simple fashion by looking into Jude’s eyes as the camera zooms in. The camera does the same thing in the end when we see Lucy standing on the opposite rooftop, ending the movie in a relatively similar way. This loop allows the audience to tie up any loose ends and have a sense of completion. Across The Universe is a nicely wrapped present of artistry and authenticity.

Found Fiction From Facebook

Me forgetting headphones = me having to hear fourteen year old girls talk about how stupid their boyfriends are because they don’t have “swag”―fuck my life. The English language has been reduced to but a mere shadow of its former self. And all I hear: Wobbledy, wobble, wo-wo-wobble, wobbin’. That same moment you send a message to the person of topic―face palm, like a bag of crushed assholes. Get it while the gettin’ is good. And now for super vaudevilliany. I saved 3 bucks on a blender today. I had to kill 3 people to get it. Just living the minimum wage dream. Lmao UGH. My first attempt at jellyfish shots. Been free-boobin’ it all day. Pre-party yo! Now seriously regretting not getting that panda bear onesie. Guess it’s time to get my shop on. Bitches love cake. But, love is just greed. I hereby declare that I am Count Chocula. Baba booey. Baba booey. Baba booey. Sometimes when you’re stuck in traffic it helps to scream at the top of your lungs. I’ve been obsessed with Supersize vs. Superskinny lately. If that shit doesn’t send you running (quite literally) for the hills, nothing will. Like the guy at Safeway: “So my sister just got pregnant―I mean, whatever I guess, YOLO right?” Loling? That’s short for like lollygagging or something, isn’t it?

Be young. Be dope. Be proud.

Shots right away! I’m gettin’ a garbage disposer installed in the shower tomorrow. Yes, dinosaurs were created by the CIA to discourage time travel. FACT. Culture Fighter fights the drive. Oh dt―ur hilarious. And I read: Mars rover finds something. Head of mission says it will change history. No one says what it is―nobody says anything. At all. There are two self-promoting sides to every story. If v-neck was a colour, it would be my favourite. And here’s a casual talk:

Lyke Omg skyp3 me!
Broken, only u kay thx
Send pix

Damnit! They drew all over my face while I passed out drunk―I’m a horrible babysitter. And they say: Happy Birthday Mr. Dressup! Thank you for giving us the gift of tickle trunks worldwide! As part of Mr. Dressup Day you should add some new junk to your trunk! Nothing says Friday like a beer during your after work bowel movement. Didn’t see this coming, going to go pick up B from her period surgery. The weekend gives me so much ping pong power, it’s great. I killed a unicorn. Ahh the hypocrisy of the pro-lifers. What the F is cray cray anyways? The guy who named chimichangas should be given more authority to name things. The only intelligent thing:

If matter cannot be created or destroyed, that means what you are has always existed and will always exist. So what makes pre-existence and post-existence different? In the words of the late, great Mark Twain, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Almost Famous

Almost Famous (2000), written and directed by Cameron Crowe, is an honest look into the life of rock’n’roll stars in the 70s. William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a young writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, follows a band called Stillwater around the country as he steps away from the boundaries of his regimented life. The film is loosely based on Cameron Crowe’s life, who also wrote for Rolling Stone magazine, and the band Stillwater, is a composite band of all the musicians he wrote about during his travels. While being awarded two Golden Globes and nominated for numerous awards, Almost Famous breaks the rules of screenplay.

Early in the movie William befriends the editor of Creem Magazine, Lester Bangs, a music fanatic who likes to hear his own voice. A common rule of screenplay is to have short dialogue between all the characters in the scene. However, as Lester and William have a meeting about music in the café, Lester does all the talking. The scene is approximately three minutes long and besides a few three-word lines, William hardly talks at all. Although this defies the rule of screenplay, this sets up the expectations of the audience for William’s life to go haywire when thrown into the rock scene. Lester says, “You came at a bad time for rock’n’roll, the war is over.” Near the end of the movie this battle between the infamous passionate metal and conveyor belt metal comes to a head when the band Stillwater doubles their shows, abandons their bus, and flies to a new city nearly every day, all for the money.

The most heart-throbbing scene is when no one does any talking at all except for two lines by William and Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) near the end. Tiny Dancerby Elton John, plays in the background as the audience watches a montage of the bus on the road and the members of Stillwater relaxing after an argument about the band t-shirts which only featured Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). William says he has to go home, one of the repeated lines throughout the movie. Penny Lane leans over and says, “You are home.” It takes three words to sum up what it’s like to be on the road in the 70s.

Absolutely my favourite movie for the richness of culture and Crowe’s atypical screenplay. The story is not only about William Miller, or Cameron Crowe, and how he got started as a writer, but how he influenced the people around him. William’s character only changes a fraction, although he experiences a lot of new things such as love, sex, and drugs, but he changed the outcome of Penny Lane’s suicide and Russell Hammond’s morals. William was able to find deeper meaning in rock’n’roll beyond the groupies and throw-down parties. A story about accomplishing dreams, big and small, and as Penny Lane puts it, “It’s all happening.”

The New Dead Poets Society

We are first led into a parking garage on Granville Island, a secret location behind the parked cars and unfinished drywalls. Red carpet covers the cement ground. Surrounding the hidden room are tables lit with candles, a bar with wine and beer in the structure of a little house, and benches around a heat lamp littered with books by Jennica Harper, Elizabeth Bachinsky, and Marita Dachsel.

Taryn, my Misfit Lit co-owner, and I are initiated with a simple pink string tied around our wrist. We are then handed a warm blanket to cover our legs as we sit at the table reading the poetry we are about to witness as performance art.

In the first round of the three performances we are led to a back room of some unknown building across the road. The walkway to our seats is curved in the shape of an oval so we can’t see where we were going, only the single person leading us around the bend. After the line halts, a quick glimpse around the dimly lit tunnel reveals the stools in which we take our seats. In front us is a wall with holes to fit our face and peer through like a looking glass. The lights come on and everyone stares at each other’s newly painted bodies surrounding the holes. I had previously read What it Feels Like For a Girl so I knew the narrative beforehand. There are two actors: one girl of fifteen years old and a lady in her thirties. Although the two characters in the poetry book are both in highschool, the main narrator, Jennica,  wrote the poetry book as if looking back on her life. The oldest actor parallels this concept of age; in between the scenes, she narrates her opinions on the new experiences that are thrust into her world. This is an ingenious take of a solid written book where the absence of a fabricated setting and complex props have the most to say.

The second stop of the night is in front of an abandoned warehouse. The rusted white door slides open and we walk into a cluttered garage with biohazard buckets and smog blurring our vision. It’s as if the fog breathes heavy along with us in anticipation. Elizabeth’s performance is not a narrated story like Jennica Harper’s, but a collection of poems strung together to paint a portrait of Ukrainian identity. The three performers instantly catch our attention when they walk up to our row and glare into our eyes only a couple feet away. Sometimes we don’t know whether to keep connecting with the performer or look in another direction. Again the props are simple, but we are able to interact with the tin can photographs handed out to us as we take a seat on one of the biohazard buckets. A couple times we are asked to move around for different settings and videos projected on carpentry plastic.

The final stop before being uninitiated from the night is Marita Dachsel’s house of poetry. There are six rooms, each with a different poem recited in a different setting. The first was simple: head phones, the sound of a frying pan to match the sculpture in front of us, and crushed eggshells litter the floor. Even the stench of rotten eggshells adds to the overall piece in a pleasurable way. My favourite room contains an antique dresser with a mirror. Taryn sits on one side while I sit across from her. We place the black top-hats on our heads and check ourself out in the mirror. Not until the the end of the poem does the mirror turn into a window and we find ourselves staring into each other’s eyes laughing at all the vain things we might have done when we thought the other wasn’t looking. The final room is a white hallway with billowing curtains covering the windows, a place that reminds me of the freedom of childhood.

What becomes of something we typically read on paper under the lamp light in our bedrooms is an interactive performance where we not only listen, but feel, touch, and smell the poetry. Even the second time seeing Initiation Trilogy, the magic still crawls through my veins.

Tree of Life

My surprise is when I walk into my University Writing for New Forms of Media class and Ross Laird has set paint on the tables. Yes, we are painting in a University class and most of us aren’t art majors, but our objective is to get in touch with our creative side, to find meaning beyond the distinct lines of ink on paper. The goal is not to paint a detailed scenery or landscape, but to brush emotion onto a blank canvas. This isn’t an exercise created for fine arts students, every one participates, even the artistically impaired. Being creative doesn’t only mean playing an instrument, building sculptures, or writing an award-winning novel. Creativity applies to the structure of a business, to advertisements, to a new product, building a website, or just about anything else you can think of. My idea of creativity is getting in touch with my emotional side, allowing those emotions to flow from me and produce a combination of mediums in my writing I would not normally think of.

What appears as a tree in my painting stands for so much more. In the swipe of brush strokes I get to thinking about my outlook on life and how much it has changed over the past two years. Previously I would get caught up in the negative aspects of my life, deeply unsatisfied with my lack of accomplishments. I am always looking at the things I haven’t achieved. However, I learnt that this particular outlook is only going to drive me down further. Life is a tree. The cliché for the tree of life shouldn’t be chopped up to a literary metaphor and overlooked so quickly. On one side of my painting there is a red weeping willow, the strokes pulling you back down towards the ground. On the opposite side is a living tree, its branches stretching upwards towards the sky. It’s no coincidence the colour green represents inspiration and creativity.

Most of us would like to chill out on the right side of the painting. Sometimes we do, our life takes a positive turn and we are enthralled by our career, friends, family, or hobbies. Then sometimes something less positive happens in our life and we ask ourselves, ‘Why can’t everything in our life just go well for once?’ My experience in my studies at University have been a positive experience for me. Creative writing: my classes, my individual projects, my poetry readings, have taken off faster than I expected. This leaves me smiling when I go to bed. However, sometimes my social life, my relationships, the cost of school can get me down. Before I would allow these negative aspects and heartbreaks to make everything in my life seem unfair or disappointing. Well, the truth is there will always be negative and positive aspects to our life. We have to choose what direction we are going to focus our attention. As we climb higher, our roots get deeper. The question here is which side of the tree are you going to climb?

Identity, what?

Lately I’ve been thinking about my identity, who I am. I used to believe it was an easy question to answer. I was a ballet dancer and so I that is who I am. Too many people mistake what they do and their titles; doctor, lawyer, supervisor, with who they are. I lived and breathed dance and spent five or more hours a day in the studio. When I improved in dance, pointed my foot stronger or lifted my leg higher, I was also improving myself. I started to associated my dance ability with how special I was. When I had to quit dance I lost all self-confidence. Not only did I lose one of my greatest passions, but I lost myself. Afterwards I tried so many career paths and hobbies, I needed to know where I belonged. It was a couple years before I started to piece together who I was and found another passion: writing.

Our identity isn’t made up of one thing, but many. Most of us come to associate who we are not only by what we do, but where we come from, how we dress, our family, and even the small things such as tattoos, piercings, hairstyles, how we talk, etc. Recently I’ve been working on a personal essay for my non-fiction class tackling this topic. I find that lots of us cookie-cut ourselves and mistake a larger cultural identity or family identity with our own individual identity. Often times we also appear to be someone we are not, or maybe it’s simply that we are a lot of things? Even where we grow up becomes a part of our identity. For example, it seems that a lot of British Columbians feel vulnerable when they visit Alberta because they are used to the mountains acting as a shield or another form of protection. Albertans, as I’ve been told, feel restricted in British Columbia. Alberta has a flat landscape of farmland as opposed to the two or three mountain ranges one crosses when driving the Trans-Canada Highway in B.C.

For a while I dyed my hair every possible colour, even rainbow. This happened after I quit dance and needed to find a way to make myself feel like I had something special. You can call it what you want. For a while it worked: I dyed my hair every two months and enjoyed all my friends reactions when they didn’t recognize me. But this was only a facade, an external version of who I am. I’m not going to tell you that this was just a faze which didn’t matter at the end of the day because even though I just have brown hair with no extra colour at the moment, I still feel self-expression is a big part of who I am. Creativity is pushed forward in many ways. We are all creative, but we simply find it through different interests. Colouring my hair was just a way to express my artistic side and share it with the people I meet in my day to day life.

Without stepping too much on my personal essay in the works, our identity is like a puzzle. We all have different nuances that make up who we are, but until we fit them together it’s hard to answer the question: who are you?

For me, at this moment in my life, I can say, “I am Marlow and I’m still in the making.”

What Do You Know?

I was just taking a breather from my endless pile of homework by watching a few episodes of the first season of Once Upon a Time. For a moment I was able to live in a fairytale, but was struck by one line the main character, Emma, said to Snow White: if something doesn’t feel right it’s because it is generally wrong.

This wisdom felt like something I should have already understood in my life. However, sometimes as individuals with different thoughts and feelings, we can come to live certain lessons without actually being able to place a finger on what we are learning. For instance, the times when we take a bite of hot food, fight to swallow it, and repeat. We know that it hurts, but we do it again anyways. When we are in the centre of an issue we often get lost in it. It’s the cliché: blinded by love. However, from a distance, situations and relationships can look so much different, almost revolutionary.

I was just in a relationship that felt so right on the surface. We connected instantly and shared some pretty amazing moments. We went from playing golf to swing dance, painting his apartment to poetry festivals, and weekends in the wild to nights out on the town. As great as it was, I remained very guarded. Something about the beginning of our relationship didn’t feel quite right. When Brian and I met I was dating another man, at least I thought I was. Whenever we went out we were either a couple or just friends, but never both at the same time. However, Brian swept me off my feet and showed me that he wanted me. I never had the chance to figure out exactly where I was with this other man, nor end it on any understanding or clean note. Well, just as fast as Brian and I started, we ended.

After I heard this line: if something doesn’t feel right it’s because it is generally wrong, this whole situation became so clear, as did many others. Pay attention to how you are truly feeling and your intuition. Don’t lie to yourself. Instead, ask yourself, does this feel right to me? Not only in your relationships, but look at every facet of your life: your social life, your job, your career path, and even your hobbies. And I ask you (as I was asked in one of my writing classes), what do you know?



*Names have been changed in this article