Music Minute: Coalesce, a playlist featuring mellow songs by POC

Curated by Stephanie Chang, Blog Contributor

Coalesce, a playlist featuring soft and mellow songs by POC. This selection is best listened to during a rainy evening, chamomile tea in your favorite mug. Old honey sitting on your tongue while you reminisce all the sweet things you smiled upon today. An overcast sky battered with pinpricks of light; just about cold enough. Your heart in funny places and silence seeps in from the floorboards. It’s the best kind of quiet, the least haunting nothingness can be. Listen to the playlist on Spotify here.

  1. Fireworks – Mitski
    I will be married to silence
    The gentleman won’t say a word
    But you know, oh you know in the quiet he holds
    Runs a river that will never find home
  2. Boyish – Japanese Breakfast
    Watched her lips reserving tables
    As my ugly mouth kept running
    Love me
    Love me!
  3. Mermaid – Yvette Young
    The last time I felt love,
    The sun was a halo around your head.
    I saw clouds, I heard waves
  4. Oak Tree – Mirel Wagner
    So if you walk in the woods and you see
    A big old oak tree
    Thread carefully, please
    Cause I’m dreaming underneath
  5. Free – Body Language
    Tell me what you really wanna be
    Tell me, are you really free?
    Do you trust, do you care?
  6. Heartbeats – Dabin
    We had divine sense
    To know what to say
    Mind is a razor blade
  7. Cold Apartment – Vagabon
    And we said it’s not the end
    But she wore that white dress
    And I changed
  8. Two Hearts – Valerie June
    Then they fell
    Two hearts they fell
    What they felt
  9. Blank Maps – Cold Specks
    Head for the heart; does it break?
    Words may fall, the body remains
    And every map is blank
  10. Chasing Shadows – Santigold
    You find us where we fall
    We’re chasing shadows
    Here is the glow

 

Weighing In: The Purpose of Poetry

by Devon Balwit, Poetry Editor

What is poetry for? Lately, many have weighed in on this topic in the popular press. Why do big events like natural disasters, 9/11, or Trump’s election seem to call it forth? Why do many people hate it? Why do many others continue to produce it? How should one approach it as a reader?

A recent essay in The New Yorker titled “In Defense of Poetry” by Louis Menand examines a number of claims made about poetry’s utility or lack thereof. Of interest is his summation of Ben Lerner’s “The Hatred of Poetry”: “Poems simply cannot do what people want them to do—create timeless moments, or express individual experiences with universal appeal, or create a sense of communal identity, or overturn existing social mores, or articulate ‘a measure of value beyond money.’ All they can do is expose the impossibility of achieving any of these things by writing a poem.”

I disagree that poems “can’t” do these things. They do them all the time. To write a poem is to take a moment—historical or personal—and expand it, first, through the act of writing, and then again through the act of reading.  Does the moment become “universal”? That word is perhaps too large unless you mean the space of intersection with an Other and the finding of commonalities there. The commonalities may not even lie in identity or shared life-experience, but in the power of art to produce shared emotions: nostalgia, indignation, empathy, lust, etc. They create a space apart from the world. (Perhaps this is why we shouldn’t be troubled with liking the work of a poet whose politics we disagree with. Inside their work, we can encounter them in a different space, that of our shared language, or of the creative process itself.)

Poems also frequently overturn existing social mores—perhaps not in the sense of fomenting social movements or inspiring legislation, but in that of an individual sharing information that otherwise wouldn’t be shared publicly, or sharing it in language usually deemed socially inappropriate. We see this when poets write about being victimized, about perpetrating crimes, about acts normally performed behind closed doors. By bringing these taboo events and thoughts into the open, they challenge social mores.

Similarly, too, poetry celebrates a value beyond money. Few poets earn money through publishing, teaching, lecturing, websites, or workshops. Thus, the creation of poetry is largely unpaid as is its dissemination. In fact, I’d venture that this is the source of much of the scorn leveled at those who write and read poetry. Those caught up in the production or enjoyment of capital cannot understand dedication to something that doesn’t pay homage to the currency of this realm.

Menand also paraphrases Matthew Zapruder’s essay “Why Poetry?”: “Where people who are puzzled by poetry go wrong, he thinks, is in expecting poems to say something straightforward about life, to be useful. Poems are really about language—ultimately, about the impossibility of fixed meanings.” I want to step out of this grad-school lingo. Many poems, I’d counter, are quite straightforward. They use simple language and situate themselves in recognizable and commonly-lived experiences. Sometimes, even the most successful poems emerge from the artist’s personal experience. (I think of Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones,” about explaining death and evil to a child.) Poems are evidence of the writer’s grappling with a moment. The fact of a poem is like an intimate stain on a sheet. We know sex occurred. We can imagine it. We didn’t live that encounter with the lover, but the facts of it resonate within us. And what of the “impossibility of fixed meaning”? One does find meaning in or through poems. They don’t mean anything or nothing at all. Perhaps “fixed” is the key term as each reader might enter the poem through a different line or phrase, and the same reader may enter it by a different one the next time they read it.

Perhaps those people who are puzzled by poetry are not really puzzled at all, but rather offended. They don’t want to slow down. They don’t want the apparent slightness of a poem compared to a Netflix series, a movie, or a book. They might be affronted by the gossamer lines asking for “weighty” consideration. They may resent having to work for pleasure in their leisure time.

Menand also intrigues when he notes: “One of Lerner’s chief examples of misplaced expectations for poetry is what he calls ‘nostalgia for a poetry that could supposedly reconcile the individual and the social, and so transform millions of individuals into an authentic People.’” We imagine a “back then” in which children routinely memorized and performed poems in school, or when people kept notion books of notable lines or whole poems. We imagine the pool of poems smaller and thus shared and familiar. I wonder if we are romanticizing the past. Then, as now, only a fraction of extant poems are offered for such activities, usually the most accessible, the best-known, those with the most marked rhythm for ease of memorization, those most likely to carry the audience along. The rest, certainly the most daring or experimental, or those written by “margin-dwelling” writers didn’t find themselves “reconciling individuals into a People,” at best perhaps they brought together a group of friends/compatriots around a café table, or as now, rippled outward among a “friend group” on social media.

I take issue with Zapruder’s lines: “We find genuine questions everywhere in poetry because they direct the lines away from certainty and stasis. In the best poems, often the poet does not know the answer.” A poetry critic always runs the risk of elevating personal preferences to principles. For example: “I prefer ambiguity; thus, the greater the degree of ambiguity, the better the poem.” Many poems that I love examine recognizable themes in language that invites the reader in (see, I am doing it too: elevating my preference to an aesthetic ruler). These poems take the reader to what could be called a “conclusion.” The final line “makes sense.” The poet—gasp!—perhaps even knows where they are going and how they wanted to arrive there. This doesn’t render the poem “static.” We know any given wave will advance over the shore and retreat, but never the same way. Its movement isn’t ambiguous and enigmatic, only variable.

Without being churlish, I confess that I like the final two lines of Menand’s essay best: “I understand that the reason people write poems is the reason people write. They have something to say.” This, indeed, sums up the impulse. I see, read, hear, feel something, and it sparks a desire to respond. It opens the door to the room set apart, that strange room of the mind that is bigger than the whole world, that exists outside of time, unbound by it. The saying of the thing created there is pure pleasure, independent of whether it is read, understood, appreciated, or remunerated. The act of transmuting lived experience or thought into language is all-absorbing.

I would like to end by quoting Menand: “You read this piece…maybe it will change your life. If it does, the change will be very, very tiny, but most change comes in increments. Don’t expect too much out of any one thing. For although the world is hard, words matter. Rock beats scissors. It may take a while, but paper beats rock. At least we hope so.” Our brains are restless tools. Poetry, the making and reading of it, gives this tool its perfect exposition. It is the sought-after perpetuum mobile, the inexhaustible process.

Interview: In Conversation with Amanda Sinco

Our Art Editor, Carl Scharwath, recently interviewed Amanda Sinco, a fine arts photographer from Orlando, Florida. Read the conversation below, and stay tuned until the end of the post for some gorgeous samples of Amanda’s work!

A word from Carl: I wanted to share this interview I had with Amanda Sinco. She resides in Orlando, Florida and is a friend from our previous employment. When I first started to write, she provided my bio photo and two more photos for my first published short stories. Until now, she did not know that I was inspired by her work to begin my own journey into the beautiful world of art photography. Perhaps she will inspire you as well. Please visit her website: amandasinco.com.


What first sparked your interest in photography

Amanda: I was always interested in photography. My father was a photographer, and several people in my family are photographers, and we had a dark room at home. Growing up, I was exposed to the art but was never allowed to touch my father’s camera. He thought I might break his camera and told me it wasn’t a toy to play with. At the time, I’ve always composed a photograph in my mind when I look at the scenery or just different objects. I still do that a lot to this day, except now I have a real camera that I can use to take a picture. People who know me always hear me say this would be a good angle when I’m looking at something. It’s just how my mind works naturally.

What inspires you in general? 

A: Beautiful subjects like nature and sometimes even people and everyday life; the list goes on. I think nature is so beautiful and I would like to share that beauty with the world. I think a lot of people take nature and everything around them completely for granted. I also like to take pictures of buildings once in a while.  I am constantly experimenting with different subjects but nature is my favorite subject to photograph.

Which do you do more often: get an idea in your head then set out to get it, or go out trying to get ideas and then come across something you like?

A: I think I do a little of both. I go out to an area because I know the area is beautiful and I try to pick a time that would be ideal for the photograph I am trying to take. Then things just happen and I take the picture!

When you get this idea in your head for a photo, how do go about getting that shot? 

A: I look at the scenery and just take the picture that I think would look best. Then, I pick and choose from the pictures that I took.

How do you know when you get “the shot”? 

A: You just know when you take the photograph.

What type of camera and equipment do you use? How do you get such vibrant colors in your photos? 

A: I shoot with a Nikon D800 and use my 16-35mm wide-angle lens a lot.  I also have 18- 300mm zoom for close ups. I am not too fond of my tripod but I bring it with me in case I need it. On one occasion, I had to take over 200 exposures just to be able to capture lightning in the distance by propping my camera up with a windowsill. This was when I realized that the tripod is very important. For my photographs, I see the vibrant colors in my mind, so I make sure to make my photographs as vibrant as the way I see it. Then I enhance the photos through post-editing.

Any advice for first-time photographers? 

A: Experiment, experiment, experiment! I still experiment to this day and will never stop. Take the picture the way you want to take it, not because someone told you that this is the only way. I don’t believe in conforming to the standards of this or that. The only standard you should conform to should be the one you feel is best for you and your taste. There are several photography classes out there that one can certainly learn from; I would use that as a starting point. Art, after all, is anything you want it to be. As the saying goes: beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.


Samples of Amanda’s photography:

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To see more of Amanda’s work, visit her website amandasinco.com.            

Minute: Pursuit of Happiness & Writing Till the Last Breath

by Kinzey McHale, Prose Editor

I’ve been asked one question too many times over my short life: what do you think you’ll do in life?

To be truthful, I have no set plan for my life. My main goal is to earn my GED and then focus on developing myself. Learning what makes me happy. As of now, that is all my plan contains. No college ideas, no career ideas, no detailed life plan, no rush. I’m living as I go, and learning as I experience new things. I’ve had tremendous pressure on me, from my mom primarily, to excel in school and begin college this fall. My “plan” was just to follow her plan. Unfortunately, that plan fell through in late May of this year. My mom passed away from a heart attack.

Everything happened so quickly. After going to the hospital and saying goodbye to her still body, my little brother and I moved in with our older brother. It all went down over the course of a few hours, from the first signs of her heart attack to seeing her in the hospital. It was immediate and startling having to live with someone we haven’t lived with in years, as well as his girlfriend of two years. I hadn’t known her very well, but I knew my brother and I knew that whoever he chose to live with was a good person. So, we accepted the move to his townhouse in Laurel, Maryland.

It’s been almost two months since my younger brother and I were completely uprooted from our lives in Stevensville, Maryland. We’ve both adjusted fairly well, and are closer than ever before with our older brother and his girlfriend. I’ve gotten closer with her and consider her family, call her my “second sister.” My older brother, who is in his mid-twenties, has shown me business tricks and helped me further my interests. Recently, my laptop broke and he let me use the desktop for a while, until I started to want to write when he was working on it. My “second sister” offered her old laptop, the laptop on which I’m currently writing this piece. That kind gesture has allowed me to continue an incredibly therapeutic hobby.

My mom taught me how to write when I was six years old, citing it a necessary skill in life. Although I knew how to write, I didn’t know how to actually create art. I’ve helped co-workers design event posters, edit short stories, and assist with speeches. The ability to bind letters at a moment’s notice has strengthened numerous work relationships, attracting attention to me and my skill set. Above all the other things she showed me, she taught me how to weave life with words.

My love for reading and writing was nurtured from age six, continuing well into my teens. That’s one reason I’ve been accepted as Minute’s new Prose Editor! I always hoped that having an insatiable appetite for writing would bring me amazing opportunities like this. My hope is to eventually be a fully-employed writer for a magazine publication, whether it be a tiny advice column or a travel spread. Somewhere I can spread what I’ve learned to others, offer a place people can go to for fresh thoughts. I’ll work as hard as I can for a career in which writing is necessary, no matter how much it takes from me.

As long as I have a pen and paper—or in most cases, a laptop—I’ll be writing until my last breath.

Photoem: The Crux of Poetry and Photography

by Carl Scharwath, Art Editor

Is the photograph dependent upon the poem or is the poem dependent upon the photograph?

I love poetry and I love photography, but in my opinion, I find combinations of the two to be difficult to master. One or the other might have to be sacrificed to “fit creatively” with the other.

To borrow from  Frederick Sommer: “If we can feel that whatever finally happens was not done at the expense of the thing photographed, we are okay. But many things, not only in the arts, not only in photography, but in many walks of life, get us rudely tangled with the awareness that one thing has been done at the expense of another. Something was  skinned to the bone; something was absconded with.”

Why not think in terms of their working together, harmony, counterpoint, tension, and of course dialogue? Should we look for the poetry in the photograph or the words giving light to the moment in time captured by the camera? In my work the image is the birth of my idea followed by fragments of poetry to complete the reflection of thought. I have also worked in collaborations with another poet, where the photograph was presented to her and she created the poem to compliment. This adds a new dynamic of two artists attempting to enter the psyche of the others art.

As your new art editor, perhaps you will be inspired to attempt this. I would love to see your work published!

Musicality: What Makes Us Human

by Cindy Song, Editor-in-Chief

The steady flow of uneven beats courses through the cords of my headphones and into my ears. It carries me like a soaring wave, letting me drift away; washes me onshore. Just blue sky, the ground beneath me, and my music. Let us explore what lies awaiting on that fateful island.

Classical music is a night in a fairy tale that speaks of legends: princesses in ballrooms and princes sailing under a million stars. The sound of strings yearning with the deepest pulls from heartstrings combined with brassy crashes that incite apprehension for incidents to come. Every note tells a tale, one piece of a seemingly never-ending story. Crescendos into love, decrescendos into pain, accelerandos into horror, ritardandos into loneliness. The nuanced bits of classical music run the gamut of human emotion.

Classic’s night turns into day with the sunrise. Pop rock sends me bursting toward the sky. Society is united by a single sun. Warm rays shine on my skin, sending thrills of electrifying beat through my veins. Dance is not an option, albeit not physically; the movement of my imagination is enough. Underlying funky, repeated beats thread the foundation for a network of sparking optimism–it is fireworks in the sky. And it’s not even the Fourth of July.

Climb the mountain and you will find rap – makes you feel like you’re standing on top of the world. Ceaseless and timeless, the words wrap round and round your brain but instead of suffocating, they are freeing. Angst and power and experience thrive within the rhymes like a ruler watching over a kingdom. A cascading waterfall down that mountain leads to denouement, the ultimate mic drop.

On this island of musicality, there are many species. Not only is it an island of musicality – it is an island of humanity. Words and thoughts and ideas we cannot express we put into music. Not only the lyrics, but the collective effort of rhythm, meter, tune, dynamics, style, tempo, instrumentation, contrast, texture, and so many other nuanced bits that make music what it is. Music is one of the only outlets that is grand and complex enough for human expression. It makes us human, these divine sounds. And the best thing is it’s vast diversity. Angsty rap for a damaged image, a soulful ballad for losing a friend, free-flowing tune for a heartbreak, and loud funk for a night out. There is a song, a tune lying somewhere in the musical realm for every feeling. Like other places for expression such as writing and art, music is a space of freedom where all boundaries are broken down, and any seed of creativity or imagination can be planted. There is no limit to what humans can do and express with music, and that’s what makes it so powerfully humane.

A song may get old, but music will never get tiring.

First blog post: the story behind Minute Magazine

by Cindy Song, Editor-in-Chief

It was a Saturday morning and I was taking a walk around the pond near my house. And as it often is when I’m in nature, I became hyper-aware of everything around me: the gravel on the path below me, the sound of rustling grass, the dark and light faces of the clouds. And I thought, dang–wouldn’t it be so nice if someone could capture all this in words? Paint a picture with blocks and lines? And that is how Minute Magazine was born.

I started Minute because I want people to experience things they’ve experienced before but with fresher, newer eyes. I want them to appreciate the world and all its beauty, which lurks in even the slivers of life (hence the title Minute Magazine). There’s something beautiful in a poem / photo / description that captures a simple object, say, a glass of milk on the dining table, in just the right way, the right angle. Everything deserves appreciation, even the tissue-stuffed trash can sitting in the corner of your room. Even the coin sized dent resting between your second and third knuckles.

I’ve realized that starting a lit mag (and just starting in general) is more challenging than I thought. You have to set up the website, customize it, create pages and links, create social media accounts, inform friends and family, posting calls for submissions, hiring staff, etc. But I find the whole endeavor really fun and exciting — I got my first submission a few hours ago and I was ecstatic like…is this really happening?

There’s still a lot left to tidy up but I hope submissions start to roll in! The goal is to publish the first issue late summer 🙂

That’s it for now. I will post more with updates, so keep a look out for those. I’ll also probably start a blog series where I post about current events, pop culture, controversial issues, etc.

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