Journal

The Undoing: 2017 Reflection

Photo Credit: Joanna Keilson

Photo Credit: Joanna Keilson

Last December I stated that this year will be a year of undoing and doing by a means of faith and writing and with much reflection this year has been beautifully and painfully, exactly, that.

Through my writing, I have undone much fear and at the same time, many treasured comforts that have kept new horizons at bay. In my faith, God has used many of mistakes and failures to undo faulty thinking patterns, undone my constant need to get it all right, undone several habits and sins that have easily beset me and much more. God has shown me His love for me in ways I never could have imagined, he’s brought me out of strongholds and belted his truth around my waist.

Honestly, much of what has been done and undone is beyond explication. It has been an excruciating process, yet in all, my heart beats in joy. Even in the struggles and heavy pain, God was in that place with me, and truly it took losing nearly everything to see His greatness and my failure in clarity. I can even say, in honesty that, in the last couple months of this year, within my refining fire furnace, I have smiled so much more and felt so much joy than the year in total. And that simple thing alone excites me for what is to come. 

Although much of this year has been of loss, I did have several blessings and moments that I will cherish for years to come. I completed graduate school, completed a thesis, and had several poems published. I began and am working on my manuscript in which I hope to have published, if God willing, sometime in this coming year.  

ICYMI: Check out these poems that I have been graced to have published this year: 

The Building With the Scaffolding (The Rising Phoenix Review, November 30, 2017) 

Our Crooked Teeth (The Rising Phoenix Review, November 20, 2017)

The Lazarus Inside (The Rising Phoenix Review, November 7, 2017)

Making Boardwalks Out of Borders (The Deaf Poets Society, Issue 5, 2017)

At First, It Was Just a Game (Downtown Brooklyn, Issue 26, 2017)

If I Die Tomorrow [W/ Daniel Vidal Soto] (Visceral Brooklyn, Issue 3.2, 2017)

 

Photo Credit: Joanna Keilson 

Photo Credit: Joanna Keilson 

As the saying goes, I lost and I loved. If 8 is symbolic of new beginnings, 2018 will certainly be a new beginning for me in more ways that I can express. I know that the act of undoing will continue on into this coming year because to undo and do is the cycle of life and is a necessity of my heart to be continually undone by God’s amazing grace, the process of sanctification, continual repentance, and the blade and shears of his living word.

As the year undoes itself in the night, I have prayed, declared and decreed that 2018 will not just simply be new beginnings but that, it will be a year of awakening.  2018 will be a year of spiritual awakening, gift awakening, vision awakening, mind awakening, and much more. It is my declaration that everything that was closed off, unknown, buried, asleep, unrevealed to me in twenty-seventeen will be awakened to me in this coming year. So here's to new beginnings in writing, love, friendships, relationships, spirituality, and every facet of my personhood and life.

Five For Five: Post MFA

FullSizeRender.jpg
"Lydia...Lydia Flores came to the program fully formed as a poet but no one knew it at first, because she seemed so shy at first, and guarded as if she was testing all of us, and probably with good reason, but eventually as she grew more confident the intensity of her poetry swept over all of us hurricane style and she just got better, more confident and more trusting in herself as well. She's been one of the guardian spirits of the MFA program and has been an inspiration to all of us. Her thesis, a book of poems, is titled, The Shape of An Apology.."—Lewis Warsh

 

 

Program: Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing | School: Long Island University Brooklyn

 

1. What will you miss most about your MFA program?

I think I will miss the community the most. The program was small and close knit, everyone was understanding, there for one another and made whatever accommodations needed to make your time there work with your life outside of the program. My classmates and professors were silly, honest, encouraging and open. They definitely challenged me, guided and encouraged me whilst in new territory, and brought out the best in me, through my personhood and writing, so I definitely will miss them.

2. If it is possible, what is the most valuable piece of advice you receieved or the most important thing you've learned from being in the program?

I've learned so much in the program,  I suppose for simplicity sake, I would say that the most important thing I've learned was to trust myself and my response to my own writing... so when l am looking at my work say, during revision, and I'm questioning wether to take a line out or if something makes sense, just trust that I am doing the right thing for the sake of the poem..to not second guess myself. One instance of this is, I use to feel a little insecure because I tend to write lengthy poems but I learned to trust the length of the poem as well as know when the length is working or not working, so now I don't feel insecure, now my friends and I make jokes about my long poems.

3. When you started your program, what did you envision happening afterward?

When I started at LIU, I didn't have a post grad vision for myself. I chose to get my MFA because I felt that it was what God was calling me to do in that season. All I cared about was enhancing my craft and becoming a better writer. Maybe I was too head over heels with writing that I couldn't see it in context with life itself, (the make money part of life because we all know society does't value poetry openly nor see its value through an economical lens) so I didn't have any specific plan or vision, I just focused on writing. Now that I have graduated, I am learning to trust God as he's leading to and through different ways of living life while being able to still write and use my writing to impact others. Even though I didn't prepare myself the way "normal people" do for life stuff outside of writing, I don't have any regrets,  my vision now is being constructed by prayer, trusting in the unknown and taking chances.

4.  Describe your thesis and its process. What was the hardest part of your thesis?

My thesis is titled, The Shape of An Apology; it is a collection of poems as a social and personal investigation of identity, femininity, and the black body. These poems question and explore race, gender, sexuality, grief, vulnerability, and healing. We are constantly having to apologize for our bodies, for our skin, for all we cannot change, and these poems are a testament to both the defeat and the triumph of self-love and the refusal to be sorry.

it’s important to me and for me to write no matter what. It doesn’t mean I will write full poems every day, but as long as I am writing I am okay; even if it’s journaling or writing tweets and instagram captions.

The process of my thesis was both challenging and fun. When I began I didn't feel like any of the poems that I wrote throughout my time in the program fit with what I wanted my thesis to be, but the more I looked back I was able to find many of them worked. I knew what I wanted my thesis to be, or least I thought I did, but as I continued to work on it, it ended up becoming a new shape and that was surprising and exciting. The hardest part of my thesis was coming up with the order of the poems and the title. 

 

5. What are you doing now? Have you’ve been able to make time to privilege your writing?

Post MFA, my living situation has been difficult and so has the employment process but to say the least, I am trucking through life with poems on my back.

As for writing I am continuing to work on my thesis and getting myself a book out into the world.  Needless to say, even though I am not writing every day I am still writing and engaging in the process. I feel that no matter how busy or chaotic my life may get I will still find time to write because passionate about it, so it's important to me and for me to write no matter what. It doesn't mean I will write full poems every day, but as long as I am writing I am okay; even if it's journaling or writing tweets and instagram captions.

Bonus Questions:

A. Do you ever have any regrets about getting an MFA?          

Not at all, I know that it was necessary, worth it and all according to God's plan for my life.

B. What was the first  thing you wrote post MFA and what are you writing right now or have written recently?

The first thing I wrote post MFA was a cover letter for a potential job, but seriously as for poetry, the first poem I wrote post MFA was called "Love Isn't All I Need" and right now I am working on some poems but they don't have titles yet.


Five For Five III.

Five Minutes for Five Questions series

wake.pray.slay

1. When it comes to writing, what is something that you regret most? or what has been your biggest mistake?

You just gotta go and be in the midst of the community and beautiful poetic atmosphere, even if you don’t talk to anyone there.

I  regret all the readings I didn't go to because I wanted to take naps and be lazy or because I don't know of the writers that were reading. I think readings are awesome but more importantly, necessary so that has been my biggest mistake so far, not going to readings and it will probably continue to be a perpetual mistake because, lets be honest. there will be plenty more times when I will find an excuse; that's just something I have to work on constantly.  Not attending readings...

especially not going because you never heard of or know of the work of the writers that are reading is stupid. I mean who knows, they may not be your cup of tea but at least you went you know. You might meet someone in the audience or a reader might have one line that sticks out to you, so you just gotta go and be in the midst of the community and beautiful poetic atmosphere even if you don't talk to anyone there. Go to readings, don't be a dummy dumb dumb (I'm telling this to myself but also everyone else) it's one less regret and another great asset to your power as a writer and student of life.

2. Whose your poet/writer crush? or celebrity crush?

Uhh, I don't know... Drake? lol.. he's pretty handsome, I've always been swooned by his looks But actually you know... Laroyce Hawkins, he plays Kevin Atwater on Chicago PD. yes... Chile...he's fine.. he's probably my celeb crush right now.  

3. Name a poem or favorite poem by someone else that you wish you wrote

I don't like to think that or wish that because then that plants a tiny seed in the brain, even when I/we don't think it does, that, what I am capable of isn't as good as whatever that poem is or the idea that I am not as good as that person/poet. What I wish I wrote was all the poems that I let pass by because they came at inconvenient times. The times when I was dead tired and all I wanted was to sleep. Those are the poems I wish I wrote.

4. In terms of writing, what scares you?

What scares me is that you know.. as poets and writers (and readers too) we are pulled by the gravity of beauty in language and all that, so it's scary sometimes to think we can and we do miss the truth because its all dressed up in the beauty and that's what scares me. I'm all for a beautiful, awesome line/poem but I don't want to be so swooned by that, by the metaphor, by the sound that the truth is buried or misplaced or even nonexistent. I'm always on edge when I'm writing to make sure that doesn't happen. Also I am very committed to what I believe from a Christianity view, so sometimes I get nervous when I write and I have to work hard to make sure what I write isn't disrespectful or goes against God's word or that I don't use a metaphor in a way that I shouldn't be.. It's a scary thing to do that and I don't want to do that, with anything not just the Bible but with any topic or issue. Which is why I try to be extremely careful and precise and I make sure I am prayerful and I study, research--etcetera-- before and after I write. Basically I want a truthful/truth-filled poem over something that looks, sounds, is beautiful and also finding that balance-- because it is possible to have both though is not as easy as it sounds.

5. When it comes to your writing process, what do you struggle with most?

I struggle a lot with titling my pieces. A title can do a lot for a poem but it also can give too much away or not do enough. Aside from a recommendation or requirement, we decide to read a poem based on the title but sometimes we decide not to read a poem because of its title and that's just a conundrum in of its own. I think I will struggle with it for the rest of my life and that's okay... everyone has their thing you know and I'm not the only one. I mean after all... titles are like the weather sometimes; they can be great and annoying at the same time. We can love and hate them at the same time. You know how people say, "I love summer! I can't wait for summer, its the best season ever! " and then when it gets here.. it goes from enjoyment to complaint, " it's so hot.. I just can't.. ugh!" Lol that's exactly how I feel about titles which is why it will be a life long perpetual struggle. 

 

fiveforfive-3.jpg

2016 Reflection: In the Rearview Mirror of Writing

This year began as a journey of dismantlement and discovery and as this year comes to a close it ends with an uprooting through forgiveness. In terms of my writing, this year, I discovered many new ways of expressing myself, discovered great things about writing, faith, and myself in general. I learned how to dismantle fear, conventions, judgements and self-sabotage as well as discover poems that I never knew I could write. This year I learned to uproot many bad behaviors, uproot anger, hurt, and all the things I was suppressing and refusing to acknowledge and through that process, I learned and began to let forgiveness in my wounds, in my poems, and in my heart.

Even though this year is ending and a new one is beginning, the journey of dismantlement, discovery, uprooting and forgiveness will continue. This journey has brought me far from where I used to be but also stretches hope out and allows me to see myself differently and see beyond myself. It helped me to see how limitless I am through the power of a limitless God as he shines his light and truth on and through my writing. I say with peace and thanksgiving that I am not where I used to be and this year has pushed me farther and harder than my previous years have.

It helped me to see how limitless I am through the power of a limitless God as he shines his light and truth on and through my writing.

 

It’s simple to say that I am at a different place now, in my writing, artistry, and personhood, then I was when this year began, but this change, this movement, this growth was not all neat nor simple. There was a lot of vulnerability, tears, refusing to write, denial, and refusing to try, there was a lot of praying, workshop, revision, rejection, frustrations, tragedy, fear-facing, drafts, torn sheets of paper, deleted Microsoft Word files, and more. Even in all the mess, this year has been great and I can honestly count it all joy. 

Where I am in my writing now versus where I was in January, is an unbounded space beneath the sky full of stars. In the book of Genesis, a vision of the Lord came to Abraham, ‘And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars if you are able to” (Genesis 15:5) That is where I am in writing. I am outside my tent—outside my comfort, safety, self, familiarity—and I am looking toward heaven, toward the blank page speckled in stars that I can’t count and with my pen taut, I am believing in myself but greater in him when he tells me. . . “So shall your offspring be."  (Genesis 15:6) --Many poems, much writing (in whatever genre is meant to be) shall be as the many stars.

 

If I could recap the many great and significant moments of this year as it relates to my writing there would be a long list but here are the few that truly made an impact:

 

  • Trying my hand in the genre of Non-Fiction:

I took my first Non-Fiction course and got to work with an awesome professor who helped me to branch out of my comfort zone of poetry. In the course, I wrote three essays that explored language and silence-it’s constraining and freeing usages- through the art of personal narrative anchored in place, history and memory.  

  • Meeting, poet and author, Idra Novey:

She was a visiting writer for my course, Writers on Writing. In that course, I was chosen to submit my own work to her, as part of her visit, and having her workshop; give feedback/critique my piece. For that day, she workshopped my poem “From the Melting Pot” in which I explored what it felt like for me to be Puerto Rican and Trinidadian and not feel completely part of either nationality/culture.

I also got to take a full poetry workshop with her on, "The Art of the Line Break, or of No Break, and Other Lyrical Pursuits in Search of Meaning and Surprise", which was a very amazing experience because I wrote many poems that I never thought I would. I really got out of my comfort zone and my classmates, as well as Idra, were very encouraging and effective in their workshopping.

  • “From the Melting Pot” poem published in Snapdragon Journal

you can view that poem as well as view the other publications I received this year by viewing the "Publications" tab below in the navigation bar.

  • The Loss of my mother:

Although this seems a bit weird to put on this list, it is here because it was a very significant moment of this year. With all the ache and sorrow, I wouldn’t be where I am today without going through that hardship, in which I am still going through. Through this I learned to hold on to hope through grief. I learned to write through it, I learned to love and accept love through it, and I learned to lean not on my own understanding. I learned to be strong for others, namely my family, to pray with and for others boldly and in confidence. I also wrote a poem, for my mother, which appeared on her funeral program, titled “The Morning in Mourning” And it is through this loss I learned to look to the morning in mourning.

  • Winning the Esther Hyneman Award in Poetry:

The awards were named for Professor Esther Hyneman, in recognition of her creative engird and her years of dedicated service to the English Department (at Long Island University Brooklyn).

  • Getting a scholarship to attend the Slice Literary Conference

Honestly, at first I really didn't feel like going to the confrence and I also felt a bit unsure about it because it focused more on fiction and non-fiction rather than poetry. However I had a really great time and  attended some awesome panels. 

  • Poetry collaboration with Danial Vidal Soto:

I have a passion for collaborative work, especially poems, so this year I got to work with a dear friend of mine. We wrote and performed this poem, “IF I Die Tomorrow” at LIU Brooklyn ‘s Fall MFA Reading. It was truly an awesome experience and an audio version of this poem is now published in Visceral Brooklyn’s current issue, you can view/listen to it by visiting the publications tab below and clicking the link. 

 

The new year always comes with the hope and attempt at resolutions in which many fail to keep but I always work hard to keep mine. Instead of looking toward resolutions as something to resolve I look to them as realistic, attainable, specific goals. Yet, If I had to say what my writing resolution is for 2017 it is this: to complete a collection of poems and get that bad boy out in the world. Are you ready for it? because I am. 

I look forward to all that this next year has in store. If this year was a year of dismantlement, discovery, uprooting and forgiveness, 2017 will be a year of undoing and doing, through the means of writing and faith. There will be much more discoveries and more forgiveness. More writing, more rejections, more revisions, more hurt, more failures, more workshopping, more pushing myself to work and write when I don’t feel like it, more prayer, more vulnerability, more drafts, more no’s, more yes's and trusting the creator with his ways and miracles that shall manifest through my writing. There will be a whole lot more looking up at the heavens, at all the stars that I am unable to count outside of my tent and counting Him righteous for as many stars are as many as my offspring—my poems, writing, influence, and his glory through me and these things that I write and do.

 

Adios 2016, Hello 2017. Heres to louder, softer, fiercer, kinder, sweeter, more honest, more truth-filled, out of the box, out of this word poems, essays, journals, collaborations, mixed-media, Instagram captions, blurbs, tweets, stories--or whatever may writing have it!

 

Five For Five II.

 [Five Minutes for Five Questions series]

 
30440956860_9ac068ee76_o.jpg
I’m certaintly more than just a writer but I don’t know me or want to know me without it.

 

1. What is a line (if you can remember) from the last poem you've written? or you can give the title of the poem if you don't remember.

I like that you said "if you remember" because I struggle with remembering half the stuff I write (lol). But, just for the safety and protection of the poem I'll just give the tile. The last poem I wrote or worked on, rather, is currently titled "Chino"

2b. what is that poem? about if it isn't too much to  ask or what inspired that piece?

Chino is my tío's (uncle) name. His first name is Tommy but he was affectionately known as Chino. The poem is just about what I remember of him, I was a little girl when he passed, how I imagine him to be if he were here today and how I miss him. What inspired the poem was the idea of time and the long ago dead...about how when someone dies and years and years go by and no one talks about them anymore or even mentions them. How many years does it take till you stop bringing up them and the memories? Why do we mention some but not others after a certain amount of time? etcetera.
 

2. For some, writing is cathartic is like that for you? What does writing do for you?  if it does anything. or should it do something?

Sometimes think that it will be at times, but I don't look to writing as something that is supposed to be cathartic, though it can be. I don't know what writing should do, for me, It probably does something but I don't know what that something is because I don't think about writing like that. I just do it ya know? It's just a part of who I am and what I do. I'm certaintly more than just a writer but I don't know me or want to know me without it.  I think more importantly that. writing probably does, and should do, more for the reader and world than me solely. 

3.  Who are your favorite poets?

I don't like the idea of naming names under that bracket because then people get left out. Plus, my idea of what is my favorite changes daily.

3a. Okay, lol. What was the first poem you ever read that made you love poetry? 

"Let there be light and there was light." from the book of Genesis. that was poetry to me when I didn't even know what poetry was. But then later, somewhere, I read "Sonnet XVII" by Pablo Neruda and I was in love. 

4. What was the last poem you read?

Not including my own right? because the last poem I technically read was something I wrote because I was working on it (lol). The last poem I read that was not my own was "Finding the Wound" by Joseph O. Legaspi from his book Imago.

5. What is your number one piece of advice you give to other writers?

Oh lord, the beloved writer advice question. You know that's such a cliche question right ? but I'll answer it anyway. I don't know if I can say its my number one piece of advice but its somewhere on the 1-to-5 rank. It is to be lose handed. Don't hold too tight to the poem that you keep it from growing, from making mistakes, from breathing, from becoming and unbecoming. 

fiveforfive-2.jpg

Five for Five

[Five Minutes for Five Questions series]

 

the act of me writing or writing a poem is a success even if I’m the only one that reads it.

Q: What was the last thing you’ve read & What are you reading right now?
A: Text messages don’t count right? Lol last thing was, 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane & I’m currently reading, Omeros by Derek Walcott 


Q: Do you have any kind of routines or rituals that you follow when writing/photographing/and or creating?
A: prayer first, always & reading, both the bible and other text ranging from my own poems & others to interviews and beyond. but after that, before creating and during creation, I have to do other stuff like watch Netflix or scroll Instagram or window shop online LOL i have to both procrastinate & get distracted.


Q: what was the last thing you’ve written recently?
A: does the caption from my last Instagram post count? Lol. I mean as far as poems…The last thing was a poem (which i only started, haven’t finished) about my mom and like the history of Puerto Rico


Q: How do you measure or determine success as a poet?
A: I don’t measure it or determine it, I just… Well, much of success, for many people, is determined by popularity and financial gain, & things like publications ect– but I don’t care about any of that so.. I mean, I would say that just the act of me writing or writing a poem is a success even if I’m the only one that reads it.


Q: Other than yourself, who was or were your first reader(s)? Who were the first people or person you shared your work with? Are any of them still/current readers?
A: my mom. She has always read what I wrote but when I wrote /shared my first poem that i could confidently call a poem, it was Mrs(?) Fredd, my seventh grade English Language Arts teacher. & as far as if they are still readers…well, my mom passed away so … I mean maybe she’s reading from heaven I don't know; and I’ve lost contact with Mrs Fredd, but maybe she’s somewhere in the world reading the work I have online. Who knows. *If you're out there Mrs(?) Jenna Fredd. Look for me, I have something to tell you and give you. (: *