Final Project Reflection

The Plan

When I came up with my plan for The Stories You Don’t HearI figured that I’d use my brain’s obsession with latching onto particular things to good use. The idea was that I’d write about stories and ideas that I really cared about, particularly things that don’t usually come to light. The plan I had in mind was for my project to become more of a research/investigative journalism type of blog, in which I could relate these stories to people while still projecting my own voice. The plan was for three 1,000+ word posts a week, which could be about anything I wanted them to be. There was no overarching theme, besides that they were topics I was interested in. There was an emphasis in research-based writing, since it was something that I didn’t really have much experience in, but had always wanted to try out for myself.

The Execution

It didn’t take long (just a matter of days, really) to realize that I may have bitten off more than I could chew. While initially I had some story ideas that I was excited to write about, such as my initial post about the US Men’s Curling Team, and The Meteoric Rise and (Possible) Fall of Logan Paul, those quickly dried up and I struggled to find inspiration (one can only write so many posts about Logan Paul). This often would result in my weekly quota getting pushed towards the back of the week, specifically in what I would come to lovingly refer to as “Marathon Sunday.” Because of this, the quality of my posting may have suffered, and it definitely seems like I would have benefited by providing myself with some kind of theme to not only tie things together, but also to give me ideas for something to write about. It often seems that when everything is a possibility, that somehow nothing becomes the reality.

Yet still, this reality in turn brought about a lot of variety to the project as a whole. While there were some recurring themes, for the most part every single post was completely different from those around it. What this ended up doing was making my project rather non-cohesive, aside from the fact that it brought to light many different aspects and interests of myself and allowed me to put them out there for other people to see.

When I wrote more news-based posts, such as The Conor McGregor Conundrum, written shortly after the infamous dolly incident, or Taking the Tennis of out Tennys, research was widely available to me and I could pick and choose whatever small nuances I found in heaps of articles. What I tried to do with posts like these was not just to regurgitate the stories that other people had already written (the project was called “The Stories You Don’t Hear” for a reason). I wanted to really transform the story to a different context, whether it was my personal feeling about the story, or what the larger picture was. This was challenging, but rewarding once all was said and done. Not only did these make me a better writer, but they also challenged me to think critically and see the whole story.

Other posts, such as Bathroom Graffiti at BSU: A Study and Assholes: A Self-Help Guide fit a different mold. While they were still based in research, it was a different kind of research that fit more in with the mold of personal experience. Therefore, in these posts, links weren’t really things that I could provide as much, and the reader was kind of just forced to go with it. It’s worth being said that both these posts were largely satirical, which goes along with that, but the purpose of both posts was larger than just to make people chuckle. In these posts, the goal was to take something rather vulgar and childish, yet sill make it hold a larger point, using humor to get that point across. These posts were quite enjoyable to write, but challenging in their own way, since I couldn’t rely on articles and outside sources to base my writing in.

In general, as the project went on, the writing did get easier, even if coming up with ideas did not. While I still wouldn’t consider myself perfect by any means, I feel like I did grow as a writer as a result of this project, particularly since I was trying out a form that I was completely unfamiliar with. Having a multitude of topics enabled me to use a multitude of styles to cover them, from a more scholarly tone, to a conversational one, to a humorous one, though I tried to always make sure I was staying true to my own voice throughout the entire blog.

How It Ended

As I finished up last week with yet another marathon writing session on Sunday, I can’t say I wasn’t relieved to be done with the project. Yet still, I do miss it in a way (in a similar way into which you go back into a toxic relationship). To put it in perspective, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing of the posts. That was never the issue. What I didn’t enjoy was the stress of constantly having to find a new topic and then stretch it out to over a thousand words even if I couldn’t think of anything more to say on the topic. In general, I think the word count was the largest source of stress for me, since it limited topics that wouldn’t allow for longer, extended posts. I ended with my final Logan Paul post not because I necessarily wanted to write about him again, but because I felt obligated to, to end where I began.

When I look at the project as a whole, I can say with confidence that it didn’t really go exactly how I thought it would. Yet at the same time, I’m pleased with the overall chaos that it became. Looking at posts that vary from ragging on Wyoming to condemning the word utilize to literary analysis of poetry actually seem to sum up the title that I gave my project in the first place: the stories you don’t hear.

I sincerely hope that ye hallowed few who ventured onto this blog during the project at least found some of what I had to say interesting. I’d like to thank those who took the time to like and comment on anything I wrote, since it made me feel like someone out there found at least some enjoyment out of my work. More than anything, I hope that people learned things from the topics discussed, since that was the major purpose of what I did: to bring light to subjects that often find themselves hidden in the shadows. I’d like to keep this blog going on at least a weekly to bi-weekly basis in which I won’t have to put so much pressure on myself. I think we’ll start with a post under 1,000 words about the furthest possible thing to Logan Paul that I can find.

As for myself, I learned a lot just from researching the stories that I wrote about. Writing about my own interests seemed to provide reasoning as to why I became interested in these things to begin with, which was an interesting experience to have. I learned a lot about how much research goes into making long, well-educated posts. While mine mostly just skimmed the surface of that territory, I now understand why novels can take years just to research. I also now understand the large difference between research and good research. These are valuable lessons to take forward with me in many facets of life.

But most importantly, I learned that an overuse of parenthesis is something you can translate into any medium of writing (the end).

 

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Logan Paul: The Beginning and the End

For the last post of this project, perhaps it’s fitting to end where we began, with the man who continues to haunt the mind of young, foolish college student who’s actually only watched one of his videos in its entirety. You know the name by now. So what, you may ask, has Logan Paul been up to lately? The answer is somewhat underwhelming, though that is relative as well.

It took some time, but Logan Paul may have finally learned how to “lay low,” though that really only implies that he hasn’t recently made headlines for his outstanding work in fighting for douche rights. Though fighting is still something that’s on his mind, with his upcoming fight against fellow YouTuber, KSI, getting finalized. The fight is set to be live streamed on YouTube, with viewership expected to be in the multi-millions. The fight is going to be promoted by the same company that brought you the famous Mayweather-McGregor fight, which is to say that Mayweather Productions is behind this escapade as well. With the combination of Logan Paul and Mayweather Productions, expect some antics that may enrage you, entice you, and make you cringe so hard your face may get stuck.

Though what really intrigues me is the dynamic between Floyd Mayweather and Logan Paul. This may be the first time in history in which Logan Paul will have come face-to-face with someone whose ego is larger than his own. Let that sink in. It appears that Logan Paul is at least, in part, having some semblance of training with Floyd Sr., though whether or not the training is legitimate is up to question. But regardless of what happens, this event signifies Logan Paul once again cementing himself in YouTube’s good graces by generating hype for what looks to be the largest live event in YouTube history.

And if you’re YouTube you have to simultaneously be drooling at the tantalizing amount of ad revenue you’re about to make when the fight goes live while also groaning at the man who’s bringing it to you. At this point, the situation is eerily reminiscent of the infamous Conor McGregor conundrum. All we need is for Logan Paul to throw a dolly through the window of a bus filled with his 12-year old fans, and we’ve got the greatest headline ever generated in boxing history. Yet it seems to be increasingly clear that YouTube and Logan Paul are like the on-and-off couple that breaks up every two weeks only to beg forgiveness and start all over again the next day. Try as they might, YouTube simply can’t seem to distance themselves from Logan Paul for the simple reason that as he benefits, they can’t help but benefit too.

Yet I’ve talked about this kind of situation before, in a post I already quoted verbatim and linked too. It’s a similar situation— the exact same situation in many aspects. That story doesn’t need to be told again. So what is there to talk about concerning Logan Paul then? Well, for starters we can point out that despite posting a new vlog every day, he has yet to update his YouTube bio to say that he is now 23. Shocking news, I know [LOGAN PAUL EXPOSED!!! (YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS)], though it is kind of funny considering an entire video is devoted to his turning 23. Perhaps that’s a point to touch on. Logan Paul is only 23 years old. All things considered, I’m only a little less than two years younger than him, and I can’t imagine dealing with even a quarter of the things he does on a daily basis.

Has Logan Paul handled himself well 100% of the time? Absolutely not. Yet at the same time, he’s a multi-millionaire at the same age most people are now faced with paying off student loans for the next ten years of their life. He has a camera on him constantly (though that’s mostly his own doing), recording his every movement. They can edit out some of the dumb things he does, but they can’t edit the Logan Paul out of himself. At this point, I’m concerned that the Logan Paul persona is indistinguishable from the actual Logan Paul. Deep down, there’s a real person inside of the screaming alpha male he’s turned himself into, but it’s been slowly disappearing for a long time. The problem with personas is that they don’t know how to deal with hard times and emotions. They’re personas, created to entertain and deflect. And at this point, all Logan Paul knows is entertaining and turning everything that he possibly can into new content (blah blah Suicide Forest).

What will happen if Logan Paul ever burns out? I’m actually concerned for him, since the persona he’s turned himself into is so incredibly badly adjusted to living a normal life. He’s made enough money at this point to be set for life, but can you ever picture Logan Paul settling down and retiring to a quiet suburb to raise his family? If Logan Paul ever stopped making videos, I think that there’s a huge chance that he’d actually go crazy. His mind seems to be so stuck on playing the main character of some fantasy world, that if that was ever taken away from him, I can’t even guess what would happen.

Perhaps that’s just me projecting too much on him. It’d be safe to say, considering I’ve never met the man, especially in a setting where the camera is turned off (if that ever happens). Yet if you ever wanted to learn things about Logan Paul, all one would need to do is look back through his thousands of videos. We’re talking a full two and a half years of a man’s life captured in permanence. I believe that it would be impossible for him to deceive his viewership as to the kind of person he truly is for that long, particularly when being filmed ever single day.

I guess the thing that I’m trying to throw out there is this: For Logan Paul, his videos are where he is the strongest, yet also where he is most vulnerable. If you ask people as to the nature of Logan Paul, they’ll point to his videos, and that could be anything from him spending time with fans to him tasering dead animals in trash cans.

When it comes down to it, is it he who made the videos, or the videos who made him?

Literary Analysis, or Something Resembling It

I’ve wanted to do a post like this for a while, so it goes to figure that I’d do it right as the project ends. I toyed around with the idea of writing something about what I’ve been reading for a while now, but this is the first time I actually followed through with it. I didn’t set out intending to write literary analysis, but that’s what you get, I guess.

When I read poetry, I’m not looking for poems with enchanted language, nor am I looking for poems that I necessarily understand. I’m looking for poems that make me feel something that I can’t describe, because only then do I know that the poem has power. When I write, those indescribable feelings are what I’m trying to convey, which I think is a common theme for many writers. In his poem Anniversary of Myself, Bruce Weigl creates a grim reality in the reader— one in which his poem almost creates a vacuum that lingers after the last line has been reached. You’re left with a feeling that what you just read is so powerful that it creates silence of even inner thought. Only when your thoughts return does its spell release you from its cold grasp.

Weigl starts the poem simply and abruptly. From the very first line, the voice of his poem grips you and doesn’t let you go. “A lifetime ago” is the equivalent for ‘Once upon a time…’ in this piece, so unlike a fairy tale right from the start. While the phrase would generally give the perception that he’s reminiscing, this is a kind of looking back that goes beyond simple memory. This is the reminiscence of rebirth. In the context of the poem in which the narrator presents a state of mind powerfully broken, it would be entirely plausible that even mere moments that transpire in the telling of the poem could be considered lifetimes. In the given context, “a lifetime ago” could mean mere seconds in the fragile state that the narrator’s voice comes from. “I squatted down on a curb/ in a frozen twilight parking lot// some fucking where” is all we are left with to set the scene. Immediately, where the parking lot is doesn’t matter, whether it be in Minnesota or half the world apart, only the feelings of cold and isolation that it creates matter. This feeling is then compounded on with the following  image of the narrator gazing up at the light in windows of apartment complexes, wondering about the lives of the people inside.

In the sixth stanza, Weigl uses alcohol as a metaphor for his actions. “Lit with a thousand watts of something/ I can taste and feel but cannot see” is not only symbolism for being drunk, but also for whatever it is in his mind that he keeps going over and reliving. You can taste drunkenness and feel it, but the feeling is not something that you can see, unless you count dizziness. Likewise with emotions, we can feel them, maybe sometimes so strongly that they seem to have a taste, but we cannot see them, only associate them with other images. When the narrator “flitters branch to branch outside your window,” it seems as if he’s likening himself to an insect or other small creature in the world, which not only encapsulates how loneliness makes you feel smaller and insignificant, but also brings to mind the image of how insects are drawn to lights and will flutter around them, always trying to reach the light, but never doing so. The addition of wing imagery always seems to bring forward thoughts of freeness and beauty, yet in this instance they bring about a sense of foreboding. Rather than birds that gracefully swoop and soar during daylight, the narrator flitters at night, a time we already associate with danger and gloom.  

The final stanza seems to burn with some kind of determination or hatred. He once again goes back to winged imagery, with the moth, likening it to a night bird, and contrasting it as image of dark and night, as moths are nocturnal and would generally not be seen in summer sky, which we would generally consider light and happy. In this intentional juxtaposition, he highlights the differences in the worlds between the narrator’s and the rest of the world. Everything― the parking lot next to lit apartment buildings, the gloves with holes, the feeling of disenchantment comes together to essentially say that the narrator does not belong. Yet despite this, the stanza insists that the narrator will not be dissuaded or killed by the world around him, however different from it he may feel. You can interpret that either as a sort of hurrah coming from the narrator, or rather as if an internal dialogue is being undertaken, and a deal is being made, that no matter how lonely they feel, they will not give up.

Much of the work of Bruce Weigl is focused on his experience as a soldier in the U.S. army, particularly the year of duty he spent fighting in Vietnam. Of his experience, Weigl wrote in his memoir “The war took away my life and gave me poetry in return…the fate the world has given me is to struggle to write powerfully enough to draw others into the horror.” In many ways, Anniversary of Myself seems to do just that. Rather than writing about the horrors of being in Vietnam, it tells a harrowing tale of life after Vietnam, trying to get across how exactly it felt. It would be hard to say that this poem was from anything else but his post-war experience and the trouble that he and many other returning soldiers faced in trying to readjust to life back home. He never comes out and says it, but that’s the point of poetry.  

The Vietnam War was unique in its regard that we were not fighting an enemy that many people in the country necessarily felt a lot of animosity towards. Likewise, public perception of the war was very negative, particularly in regards to young people. Returning soldiers sometimes had things thrown at them and were greeted with terms such as “baby killer” and all kinds of other nasty things. The loneliness that Weigl writes of seems to be that of a man outcasted by the very country that he just served and his struggles in trying to create life anew. What I believe is most interesting about the poem is the title itself. The term Anniversary of Myself seems to imply a birthday, which adds another layer to the poem. The fifth of whiskey may have been what he was supposed to use to celebrate it, only to find that there was no one to celebrate it with. Likewise, it could also be implying a rebirth of the narrator, as stated in the lines “A lifetime ago.” Perhaps this tells the tale of a major turning point in his life, or rather, sums up a period of his life in which who he was as a person was completely altered.

The structure of the stanzas make me wonder if they switch back and forth in the mind of the narrator, switching back and forth between the scene set in the frozen parking lot and flashbacks from Vietnam. The people disenchanted could imply the American public’s attitude toward the war, the seemingly meaningless reasons of why we were there in the first play, as well as the soldier’s mentality of how they felt in Vietnam. The ambiguity of the two scenes is most clearly seen in the lines “The fingers of my gloves had holes./ I didn’t know what I was doing.” In this, it would be nearly impossible to tell if he was talking about sitting in the parking lot or Vietnam, and it brings to mind images of both, which may very well be the point of the way they were written. It makes the point, or at least implies it that civilian life at the time may have felt like another campaign in Vietnam at certain points, and that Vietnam completely warped the fabric of domestic life. At a certain point the disillusionment and melding together of actions and thoughts creates the powerful feeling that this poem gives off, a mix of loneliness, desolation, and confusion, feelings that could easily be attributed to PTSD that countless returning soldiers experienced. Weigl’s words don’t come out and explicitly make that point for us, but they don’t need to. By themselves, they’ve made that point in a way that directly expositing it could not. Taking the reader into the parking lot with only a fifth of whiskey for company tells you the basis of what you need to know, yet the rest completes the picture.

What is important about Anniversary of Myself is that it doesn’t matter exactly where it takes place, when it took place, or exactly how it took place. What really matters is the why. “Some fucking where” suffices for all that we need to know about the place. The loneliness, the alcohol, the imagery of wings all points to some greater experience left unsaid. Like Hemingway’s Big Two-Hearted River, this poem approaches the ideas of a soldier’s PTSD without directly coming out and saying it, though hints are intertwined. What is often overlooked in wars is the battles that soldiers fight upon returning home, when they fight to bring some normality back into their lives when they know that they can never truly go back to exactly how things were before. Weigl lays these feelings out on the line for us in a way that can’t be ignored. He pulls no punches in his writing and lets his emotions overflow into the reader, creating this horrible sense of solemnity that still somehow manages to be beautiful at the same time. As we continue to acknowledge and address the issues of PTSD in our veterans, writings like these play a large part in our society, as they open the door for the beginnings of understanding. No two people experience the same thing in the same way, so these memoirs, direct or indirect, become invaluable.

What’s most important to note in this poem is the message that it leaves with, the notion of determination and unwillingness to give up. This unbreakable will is the closest this poem comes to anything in the realm of positivity, yet it is enough. In order to make from “a lifetime ago,” there has to be a driving force, which Weigl was shrewd enough to put into the ending lines of his poem. While frosted with despair and cold, the poem also has an unabashed willingness to look back on itself and say ‘but all that is not enough.’

Pain as/and/in Writing

I realized this semester that I have a problem. A problem with alcoholism, to be exact. At first I tried to deny it, telling myself that it was under my control and that everything would be okay. But through time I came to realize that some signs are just too strong to ignore and eventually you have to face facts. So here I go. I, Aidan Anderson, am an avid supporter of literature written by alcoholics. You see, during my American Literature class, there would be a pattern that emerged. Every time I really resonated with one of the assigned readings, my professor would then go on to explain how that writer had drank like a fish and died before 50, depressed as hell and with a liver that just couldn’t take it any more. Hemingway, Faulkner, Poe, Carver, Kerouac. Hunter S. Thompson for god’s sake, the man who treated substances like an all-your-body-can-take buffet. Even writers that lived to tell the tale, like Vonnegut and Denis Johnson find their way on the list. I read their stuff and it just clicks. Big deal, you might say. That’s most writers anyways. And you’d be right, to an extent, but the most profound of alcoholics seem to be the most resonant of writers for me.

It brought about a bit of psychoanalysis on my part, I will admit, particularly after a lesson in which my professor talked about how William Faulkner would just get incredibly drunk and then sit down at a typewriter and ramble, a practice I had undertaken just the weekend previous (I thought the writing was really good at the time, but it was far too philosophically overbearing to be of any use). A famous quote by Hemingway is that:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

He neglects to mention if the bleeding is the words or the alcohol seeping out of his pores. Yet every time I hear that quote, I now think of the story behind how Jack Kerouac wrote his famous novel On the Road, famously sitting at a typewriter for three weeks typing out his work on an enormous roll of paper, using coffee, Benzedrine, and who knows what else to stay up. Perhaps that was just Kerouac enacting that quote.

What these writers share in their tone is something that can’t be taught. You can teach a writer to punctuate and educate them on different styles and thematic devices, but you can’t teach tone. That is what makes each writer’s work different from each other. You can talk about a certain writer being influenced by say, a Hemingway-esque style, but you’d be able to differentiate the work from an authentic work of Hemingway in a heartbeat.

Yet still, these writers share this unique aspect in their tone that comes out in different ways, but is omnipresent in all of their works, and that aspect is pain. Every word written by Denis Johnson seems to be carved out of, Hemingway seems to spend all of his time trying to explicitly write about about it, and well, you can’t write like Poe unless you’ve got some major pain going on in your life. Kurt Vonnegut may turn his pain into humor, but even when one laughs at something, it doesn’t make it go away. And the fact of the matter is that these writers were all tortured by some kind of demons, alcohol and drug use included, but that pain allowed them to say things no one else was able to say. Kurt Vonnegut was a prisoner of war (surviving the fire bombing of Dresden while a POW). Ernest Hemingway lived with permanent excruciating pain from being injured in WWI. Hunter S. Thompson… Well, let’s just say that no amount of medication could ever make the man feel normal (though believe me, did he try).

What’s interesting to note is that many of these writers shared a similar fate— a stint in which they seemed to be on top of the world, reaching some kind of literary echelon that very few others could achieve, and then slowly fizzling out. You could argue that the same pain that made these men so special in the first place was the same thing that would eventually destroy them. Even the writers that survived their demons— for a time at least, would find themselves disgraced and forgotten towards the end of their lives. In time, they’ve been given their fair due, but in some regard the words written by these men haunt you in a way that you don’t find in the writing of other authors, which I think is the true power these authors have over me. They make me fully believe in the world they create in their stories, even if that world isn’t one that I’d ever want to visit.

Many people think that writers find refuge in writing, yet for these men I don’t think even that was the case. These men wrote because they had to. They wrote because if they didn’t, they would go crazy. For example, Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Slapstick, writes:

“He asked me politely how my work was going… I said that I was sick of it, but that I had always been sick of it. I told him a remark which had heard attributed to the writer Renata Adler, who hates writing, that a writer was a person who hated writing.”

“I told him, too, what my agent Max Wilkinson, wrote to me after I complained again about what a disagreeable profession I had. This was it: “Dear Kurt— I never knew a blacksmith who was in love with his anvil.”

Yet while Kurt Vonnegut never may have fallen in love with his anvil, many others (myself included) have fallen in love with the things that were painstakingly pounded out on that anvil. And if there’s any overarching theme to this post, it should be this: behind every great story, there is an ever greater one left untold.

So it goes.

Weekly Review

This week we again had a variety of topics to discuss, ranging from tennis (kinda) to social commentary, to poetry, to assholes. At this point I’ve realized that it’s futile to try to come up with a theme for every week. The best thing to do, I’ve found, is to just write whatever’s on my mind, and that’s what I did.

Back in high school, I was obsessed with tennis, and I’ve recently started to follow it more closely again. That found me watching Tennys Sandgren make it to the final of an ATP tournament, in which I remembered the whole controversy surrounding him during his Australian Open run. I thought that he made a great example for a point that I wanted to shed light upon— that we should all do a little thinking for ourselves and not be so quick to judge people. I wanted to state my opinion, but leave the facts for the readers to find and judge for themselves, similar to what Philip DeFranco does on his YouTube channel. Thematically, this was one of my favorite posts that I’ve written so far in the blending of two different subjects to create one multi-faceted post.

Next, I took a brief look at how poetry has shifted after the era of modernism. Using Allen Ginsberg and e.e. cummings as examples, I looked at how rhyme schemes have shifted toward a more free verse style of poetry. With the e.e. cummings’ poem, I looked at how you can create visual poetry through adaptations of form and line structure to create something really cool and unique. To this day, I still find that cummings’ poem to be one of the most fascinating I’ve come across, just due to the way he manipulates the language in it. It seems many people who care about poetry have very strong convictions about the shift in poetic style that has been going on, either loving it or hating it with a passion that surprises. Regardless of opinion, I think it is something that is quite interesting to look at.

Finally, we took another look at a subject I’ve probably written far too much about: assholes. What I’ve noticed is that everyone is an asshole in one way or another and rather than shying away from that, we should accept it, acknowledge it, and embrace it. Too many people are apologizing for far too much right now, and sometimes you just have to let your asshole be free and wave it in the air for all the world to see. Obviously, there are degrees to this, but you get the picture. The main point of this post was to get people to not take themselves so seriously all of the time so the writing style I used is one that tries to get that point across.

All in all, I would consider this to be a pretty successful week. Once again, I can’t really say what topics that you’ll be seeing on this blog this week, but isn’t that really the beauty of it? This posts on this blog are like a box of chocolates; some of them are good, some of them are bad, but all of them are at least filled with something.

Assholes: A Self-Help Guide

Look, this may come as a surprise to you, but I can be a bit crude at times. My phrasing or my approach may be grating or cantankerous, jarring, jolting, jostling, you get the picture. I’ll say some things that might raise some eyebrows, or bring me out of favor with people’s mothers. It’s simply the way that I am; I can’t contain the sarcastic asshole inside of me, though only a select few get to witness this. Written in my high school yearbook was this line: “Wow, I always thought you were so shy and nice, but you certainly proved me wrong this year!” Think of this side of me as my closet asshole that only comes out in certain social circumstances. When I’m around close friends and people I’m comfortable with, the door comes flying open to the sight of the great sphincter in the sky. You get the picture. Despite this, I’m not here to tell you that I’m a reformed asshole here to help you. I’m here to help you in a different way.

You see, humans are a remarkably stupid people. Sure, we’ve figured out how to fly, how to build, how to speak, read, and write. History professors will endlessly babble on about all of the great human accomplishments we’ve wrought upon our lovely blue planet, including Babylon. Scientists will tell you about how many cures for diseases we’ve discovered, the laws of physics we’ve learned, and what we’ve figured out about how the Earth itself works. Sure, this is all fine and dandy, but the people they don’t tell you about are the ones who put their shirts on inside-out, the ones who pull on the push doors, and the ones that use the wrong form of your.  These are the people whose most notable accomplishment in life will be dabbing in tempo with Smashmouth’s All Star. Their biggest discovery will be that before frozen pizzas became frozen pizza, they were simply just pizza. These are the people who need to laugh at themselves the most, because quite frankly, there’s an awful lot to laugh at. So please, don’t take their feelings into consideration, and let them know just how stupid they are. This is the asshole’s role in society. This is your role.

Now I’ve relayed to you the way that I’m an asshole, wholly and truly. The introspection now begins, because it’s your turn to figure out yours. Now before you protest, saying that you’re the nicest person you know and tell me about all of the starving African children you’ve saved, laugh at yourself, please, and then acknowledge the truth. Everyone loves the saying about opinions, that they’re just like assholes, but I believe that it goes beyond that. You see, everyone has an asshole inside of them, and everyone quite literally has an asshole inside of them. Have you ever read the book Everyone Poops? It goes a bit like that. There’s always room to spread shit around. If you still honestly think that you are in no way an asshole, think deeply. How do you act when your sibling annoys the crap out of you? What do you say to people who aggravate you? The most telling one may simply be: how do you act when you’ve just woken up in the morning? Hopefully by now, you are beginning to see a small part of the asshole inside of you. Don’t ask me why it’s there, I’m no proctologist, just acknowledge that it is in there, and don’t be afraid to let it loose.

A lot of people, upon discovering the asshole inside, may cower from themselves, as if they are no longer what they thought they were. This reaction saddens me. Just because you’re an asshole, doesn’t mean you’re suddenly the scum of the Earth. Assholes can still be good people, because what makes a person good is subjective anyways. What I will tell you, quite seriously in fact, is that the only way to get over this disdain for yourself is to embrace your inner asshole. Take that sucker and wrap it in tight, let it know that you accept it. Love your asshole. It’s a part of you, like it or not, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner that asshole can blossom into something beautiful.

Though I just told you to embrace your asshole, you must also use its power wisely. There are times when the asshole inside oversteps its boundaries and becomes something more, something far more sinister. This is the type of behavior that is dangerous, the kind that gives assholes like you and me a bad reputation. Here’s some examples of such behavior: You find yourself dissatisfied with the service you were provided at your local coffee shop, and want to scream profanities at the manager. You’re taking your dog for a walk, but can’t be bothered to clean up after the presents it leaves in your neighbor’s yards. Your son clearly committed a foul in his fourth grade basketball game, but you want to scream at the referee anyways in hopes of salvaging his chances of earning a scholarship. If you ever find yourself about to overstep basic human decency and cross the border between assholism and just being scum, remember this acronym: ASS. (A) Assess the situation. (S) Suppress your inner demons. (S) Suck all that pent up assholism back in to save for another day. The ASS method is a great guide to learning the limits of how far an asshole should go, and is the only method to be endorsed by yours truly.

For balancing a healthy and happy existence for you and your asshole, I strongly recommend 2-3 servings a day of letting loose. It is important to note that one serving is still rather small, remember, you must exercise proper portion control for the best results. An example of a serving could be anything from ‘forgetting’ to text your mother back when she asks fifteen questions in one text message, a good-hearted roast of your friend when they say something profoundly stupid, or one act of passive aggression of any kind (recommended particularly for Minnesotans). Using this this system, I was able to temper my asshole’s aggression, and learn to exert control over it.

I know all of this can be a lot to take in at once, and many of these changes that I recommend may take time to implement. That is perfectly okay. Assholes are a delicate inner working that take time to fully understand. But the results speak for themselves. With just a little time and concentrated effort, you can go from Martin Shkreli levels of assholedom to mere high school hockey player levels in a relatively short amount of time, just trust me, I’ve seen it happen before. Those around you may be jealous of your newfound knowledge and self-growth. They may try to infringe upon your asshole. But it they ever try to tell you that you’re full of shit, I’d just like to point out that that indeed is what assholes are for, is it not?

A Quick Look at Poetry

As we continue past the turn of the century, literature is continuously evolving, with new genres gaining popularity and all forms of writing intermingling in influence with one another. Poetry is no exception, and may be the genre currently undergoing the biggest changes. While poetry has always carved out a unique niche in the literary world, the function of that niche is constantly changing as poetry takes on characteristics from other genres that it had separated itself from previously. Modern poetry is not the poetry of old, to the dismay of some and to the joy of others. Like anything, styles change, and what defined the past does not define the present nor future. As we move away from the strict meter and structure of our past, the entire genre has undergone a large shift as it has taken influence from elsewhere. But make no mistake— the fundamentals of poetry are still there, they’ve just changed in how they’re implemented.

A somewhat common quip that you may hear from poetic ‘purists’ is that contemporary poetry no longer adheres to any meter or structure and is therefore just reduced to “words on a page” that are no longer a poem. They would argue that poetry has, and always will be, defined by that structure that we used in the past. Without it, they argue that writing cannot be “true poetry.” But as poet Billy Collins has argued, we haven’t altogether done away with rhyme, meter, and structure. We’ve simply changed how they are used in contemporary poetry. With many olden-day rhyme structures, rhymes placed at the ends of lines played a pivotal role in how the poem itself was structured (AABB, ABAB, ABABC), and in how the meter of the poem worked. In contemporary poetry, rhyming is not completely obsolete, but rather rhymes have shifted to inside the lines rather than at the end of them, and is not usually uniformly distributed, leaving meter to be a lot more imaginative and manipulatable.

As well as seeing meter being manipulated in various ways, we’ve also seen the lines of the poems themselves become manipulated more and more often. Perhaps the most known for his visual manipulation techniques, e.e. cummings’ work challenges the reader to not only think about the words mean on their own, but how the visual inflections that he intertwines shape our understanding. Take, for example, one of his most famous poems:

l(a

le

af

fa

ll

s)

one

l

iness

 

The poem itself is composed of just one phrase and one word: loneliness and “a leaf falls.” On their own, the two make a rather shallow connection with one another, but when combined in the form that Cummings has created, they become something cohesive and incredible. By shifting the phrase “a leaf falls” inside of the word loneliness, Cummings translates the sensation of loneliness to being synonymous with that of a leaf falling, which by itself is a powerful image. But in manipulation of the words so that the poem itself resembles that of a falling leaf is what truly makes the poem special. The simplicity of this poem also becomes its complexity, which opened the doors for a different kind of poetry. While this poem was written almost 60 years ago, it still can be considered one of the poems that paved the way for a new kind of poetic movement that has grown into a larger part of contemporary poetry.

Examples of metric change can be found throughout Cummings work as well, though the way he manipulated it often was through the strange visualization and formatting that he applied in his works. As with the poem above, there really is no set way for you to read such a poem, other than to just read it as you would normal prose. Cummings’ style of free verse differentiates itself from any other poet’s, even today.

Another pioneer of free verse style poetry was another strange figure in the poetry scene: Allen Ginsberg. Best known for his poem “Howl,” Ginsberg’s work was criticized for a great many things, as was the man, but to say that he didn’t shake up the poetic landscape would be a grave injustice. A figurehead of the “beat” movement, Ginsberg’s work was often laden with sexual, homoerotic imagery, societal outcries, and profanity. If ever there was a poet to be the antithesis to Robert Frost, it would have to be Ginsberg. In terms of paving the way for greater acceptance of free verse, which is now incredibly popular in contemporary poetry, Ginsberg played a pivotal role. Drawing inspiration from Walt Whitman’s long verses in his famous poem “A Song of Myself,” Ginsberg incorporated similar long, rambling verses in his poem “Howl,” and in his other poetry. Ginsberg was noted to have on multiple occasions called the use of meter “archaic”, and not applicable to reality.

While Ginsberg was a greatly controversial literary figure, his outspokenness against things that were considered staples in poetic practice did much to change the minds of people about what exactly poetry should be. His unmetered, free verse style of poetry challenged the traditional forms that poets were expected to use at the time, while his emotionally-charged lines pushed boundaries about what was socially acceptable material.

Ginsberg and Cummings were just two out of hundreds of poets who challenged the norms of 20th century poetry. Much of the progressive work was met with staunch resistance, but it’s plain to see that in the 21st century, much of what they worked towards has become commonplace. Free verse poetry is now more common than versed poetry, which has allowed for creative freedom to expand into prose poetry, slam poetry, and lyricism incorporated into other genres. Poetry’s influence has expanded not only to just the literary world, but to the rest of mainstream culture as well, with the rise of rap and hip hop music, in particular. That the lyricism of rap and hip hop should take so much influence from the older rhyme structures while implementing all kinds of new meters and rhythms, the genre could be considered a complete immersion between old styles and new.