Our beliefs are generally comfortable to us — new ones less so.

Kerouac’s description of San Francisco (“October in the Railroad Earth”) — M liked the “clarity of California breaks your heart” (I think that’s the 2nd part) line — playful with words, not a mere dull description, yet could almost be nonfic (Esquire writer criticizes Jon Stewart the comedian, as if he’s being edgy by being anti, this writer. Whatever — to be “anti” is to also be predictable.)

[My in-laws] and nonfiction — their beliefs — but who has time to correct them all? I mean, maybe this is why people don’t try to disabuse others of their beliefs in ghosts, angels, Heaven — it’s just sorta rude. It’s condescending, and bullying, to say “I grasp reality — my ideas of reality are better than yours” — because no one can legitimately claim truth. I feel I’m less delusional than those who believe as described above, but there’s certainly no sense in which I can grasp or even start to conceptualize all the diverse perspectives, the unknowns about the world, the multiplicities of, multitudes of experiences (other peoples’ experiences).

So, there’s that part — but there’s also the reason not to do it that you don’t know that it matters if [my mother-in-law] believes in these unseen worlds, or that she would really agree with me even if it seemed like she couldn’t argue against me — we like to come to our beliefs on our own. We choose what feels right, I guess, or what we were given by tradition or parents. Our beliefs are generally comfortable to us — new ones less so.

It seems I want to talk about Kerouac again. What am I leaving out? His descriptions, word play.

He certainly never got caught up in bourgeois things like having a house and a job.

But his sensibility is only one way — doesn’t have to be the only way to write, or to describe. I like the idea of the nonfic descriptions being poetically loose — it’s the voice that can make those things interesting. George Will and other commenters must not feel the need to write creatively, to write in any but a straightforward, meaning-centric prose. Even Primary Colors novel is plain in style.

3 p.m.-ish: After I got frisbee down, then another frisbee up on roof and [I] got bobber, treble hook, and lead weight stuck on roof in a wife-entertaining, -amusing, attempt to get down the 2nd one. M: “One of the frickin’ funniest things you’ve ever done (not belly-laugh-funny but) ‘what the hell are you thinking’ funny. … For someone intent on forethought and planning, there was some bad forethought and planning on that one” (M said as I was writing). M said she could tell from my voice that I’d thrown it up there and fallen to my hands and knees.

I was thinking yesterday about how nonfic is what you (anybody) honestly think(s) — but politicians say things that may not even be their belief — but they may honestly think it’s the best thing to say at that point. But how do we resolve differences between peoples’ reality beliefs? (Gail Collins recently said Michelle Bachman has a “free-floating relationship with reality” — approximate quote).

[My in-laws’] reality beliefs are different from my own — any nonfic is not necessarily truth — like my recent “consider the source.”

4:30 p.m.: This pinching feeling in my left pinkie toe continues to come and go.

[From journal of Sat., 17 Sept. 2011, Journal 146, page 180-2]

‘I am words’: Exquisite Corpse lines, Spring 2023

Exquisite Corpse poems by M. Hagelmann and his creative writing students.

Happiness can be very subjective like a cold threat of death phases.

I never knew just what year is it, buddy.

Blue sky filled with rain is a soothing sound.

Bored out of my mind games.

See, that’s how it’s done. 

Putting up with it is a movie. 

Bread and butter is good is being quickly repeated and repeated and repeated over and over again and again. 

The future me will be happy places. 

Flower gardens need water quick is how I run. 

Stupid little shapes make up the world wonders.

Desire a lot of money is some people’s love. 

The periodic table stands in the corner.

Much-needed vacation is arranged marriage.

Please go to the store memory.

You will bargain with idiots if you’re not the brightest person. 

Words are hard to match the numbers. 

A noun is useless in sentences with no words. 

Sentences with no words rhyme.

Please don’t walk the fish in the sea. 

Season tickets to the fight or flight response is not really my problem solving.

Mom is a birthgiver that creates and creates. 

Delicacy is a fragile word of the night.

Wheat bread, for the birds fly in different directions to the laundromat.

“I don’t know” is better than “no dogs are allowed at midnight.”

Thunder is very loud and it came fast like a plane with no stop. 

Freedom is a wish for a kiss.

Poorly drawn characters usually die. I don’t want to.

You are punished for saving the innocent. The criminal was not.

Not a game, but a lie of truth that won’t take it for granted.

Sweet fruit juices seep into leather.

I love to dress up and down and around.

Snickerdoodles, and sometimes people, mess up. 

A crazy concept is my memory; it’s glamourous, shiny, bright beautiful flowers like the followers on Youtube. 

Birds are nerds of the sky.

The pepper had salt and pepper.

I hate running in sports; I’m the goat, like LeBron, a basketball player who had the recent clue on the board for the love of God. 

Camera takes beautiful memories like a bike or sky was gray with clouds. 

Clouds are like cotton candy stolen from the baby Yoda. 

You are so pretty colors.

I am words. 

Crows can fly so high to feel something other than pain.

You won’t be laughing soon as I finish the end of the end is near. 

Part of philosophy is the study: “‘Of’ is a strange word.”

Rochelle is a town where are my shoes.

Old man smells like stinky fish are able to play Guitar Hero with a Communist.

Today is an amazing day like the Monday when I was very little.

Men are people who can’t do it today, whatever.

I was meant to be a long day.

Say my name. Say something to her face and claim she’s kind.

Lungs can hurt when running from a gruesome past.

The walls are caving in the bathroom stall, crying yourself to sleep, because the sky is blue is the sky is as blue as long as you’re safe.

When I laugh, you laugh about the dog today.

I am wearing warm air.

Store the guns safely in a magical place far from okay but smiling widely at the girl. 

The girl is so nice to me for nothing at all. 

I wait to eat a whole cow with an annoying cricket.

You surely will keep surviving a terrible, ugly storm.

2023 is my year. 2023 is cold as a snowflake in the snow drops over.

Crazy girl is wild birds fly in skies.

A sleeping bag of many screws were all left behind the wall, staring creepily. 

Rhyme a word with the dead no longer.

The sky is blue whales on the television.

Time is on a clock of twelve numbers with frogs and lizards. 

Man-kind will suffer the consequences of radical and extreme candy flavors.

I am very bored but I can’t think about your life.

Red Chevy Bel Air / 

old people scare me/ 

time is much needed / 

to help a cat in the striped hat rhyme.

Slime is the reincarnation of is.

I can’t read what you are doing. 

Rochelle is a town of the living, gone but not forgotten, lore. 

The body will never be mine to claim and take away.

Soon the sun will set out of the sky full of night stars. 

It is snowing out of a bird.

I am stuck in the past with a sense of humor. 

Border Collie-graphy means to write on the line.

Feetsies need to be as kind as song.

Restaurant was empty in morning light, glowing in sorrow.

Wants are not needs not to be.

Power-stop using weird language, et al.

 Exquisite Corpse poems by M. Hagelmann and his creative writing students.

Looking out at the snow is like very cold hearts can always ignite.

Looking out at the snow is like very cold hearts can always ignite.

An Exquisite Corpse poem by M. Hagelmann and his creative writing students.

The dog can run to the very end of the word.

The dog can run to the very end of the word.

An Exquisite Corpse poem by M. Hagelmann and his creative writing students.


Poetry Bingo instructions

I’ve referred to the Poetry Bingo creative writing activity before, and I’ve published some poems that resulted from it, but I wanted here to post the directions I’ve been using lately, along with a couple filled-in examples (Day 1 empty form here; Days 2-3 empty form here; Day 1 filled in here; Days 2-3 here — I space this activity out over 3 class days, but that wouldn’t be necessary. Before I assign students the Step 3 part, I model it by leading a class through the process by asking several students what is their least favorite line of the current poem, and then replacing that line’s words by using other words from the original poems or chart, randomly looking up new words in books, finding synonyms or antonyms, or sometimes just writing a new line from my mind). What I love about this method is that it allows writers to put together essentially random words so that we can write things beyond the ideas we already have. Readers’ brains (and writers’, too) can’t help but find meanings out of even randomly associated words, and I love thinking things that I’ve never thought before. 

Here’s the poem I wrote (as copied from Days 2-3 above):

Notice lies of
disgraced iodine 
that carpet the memory 
of a cardboard lament. 
The soaring harvest 
of tall bells 
includes image expense.
Sinuous buds want 
convincing tells. 

‘Little chants today’: Poem

Little chants today: his positive diamond

puppy says vibration friendly warms, pleases.

He juiced rainbow’s purplest world ‘til 

laughter cried sunshine. Said Good: “Stop.”

Was our picture’s wonder alive to

give her moon no peach shadow?

Than today, over these, blood could – 

would – will dew through my feet.

— created by your humble genius, via magpo.com

Hugo’s ‘Writing Off the Subject’ and my notes

Here’s a PDF copy of the Richard Hugo essay “Writing Off the Subject.” (I’m posting this link for educational use only.) This is an essay I read with my high school seniors in my creative writing class. I tell them not that Hugo’s advice will help everyone but that his ideas about writing are worth considering. I first read this nearly 20 years ago, when I first started teaching creative writing, and this essay has shaped a lot of the ways I teach. Here are my notes on this essay that I share with my students (also copied here) (These notes below are similar to this post of a few years back, but, heck, here it is again!):

Notes: Poet Richard Hugo’s Advice in “Writing off the Subject”

 “I hope you learn to write like you.” – If what I say (or what anybody says) doesn’t work for you, let it go. You can become yourself. You can force yourself to write in many ways, but forcing yourself feels like work.  We do work to earn money. There’s very little money in creative writing, so write what feels good, write whatever you enjoy writing just for the sake of writing it.

Let truth conform to music: Pay attention to word sounds, and let the meanings take care of themselves.  (And they will – our brains can’t see two words together without looking for a meaning, an idea, or an image.)

You don’t have to know what things mean in order to write poetry [you can describe, stay concrete, play with random words, etc.]

— “How do I know what I think until I see what I’ve said – giving up control. You can try to control your writing, but that’s not fun – you’re not likely to be surprised, and your readers won’t be, either.

Don’t try to control it – throw stuff out, see what’s interesting.  This idea allows you to go beyond yourself, be smarter, more interesting, etc., than you know how to be.  If you plan out your writing, you’re probably not being creative. Writing can feel like play; if it feels like work, change.

You FEEL, instinctively or intuitively, that the poem is done.  There is no standard, model, or perfect poem. This is the beauty of creativity.  Yes, you can write a limerick and then you’d know you’re done with it when it has 5 lines, rhymes, and rhythm. But then you are just writing to a known standard – that’s creative, but at your MOST creative, there is no standard. You start out and see where it leads. Since there’s no standard to tell you when you’re done, you just have to feel it.

— When writing a poem, the next thing you write always belongs – it fits there because you put it there.

— If you want to communicate, use a telephone (or an essay…).  There is no reader over your shoulder. You are writing for yourself. Some ideas ARE important to share – but if you choose that topic, you limit your poem. 

— Be willing to say surprising things – a poem is not you. It isn’t about you, the poet.

— Knowing can be limiting – if the town’s population is 19 but the poem needs the sound 17, use 17.

— There’s no need to explain in a poem. In art, as in life, things happen without cause.

— It’s OK for a poet to make arbitrary rules for his/herself – it’s one way of prioritizing the music, the sounds of words. Also see his example about “cascade” as word-play.

— Take an interesting path. – Let “what’s interesting” be your only guideline. There’s no “wrong” way to write a poem but seek what feels best, what seems interesting.

— “Get off the subject and write the poem.”

— Final advice, from Mr. Hagemann: Now, forget all this advice the next time you go to write. You can’t write creatively by following guidelines (I’ve tried – it isn’t fun or helpful). These ideas may be useful to you, they may shape your ideas of what poems can be and your process for writing them, but it will likely not help to be thinking of these things as you write. Maybe the trick is to find what works for you and, after the fact, confirm that these ideas worked for R. Hugo and/or M. Hagemann, too. The only real way to become a writer, to develop your creative-writing ability, is to write.

But there’s something about being someone who records, who writes

But there’s something about being someone who records, who writes — there’s an awareness of self and of present place and moment that I value having (maybe other writers do, too) and that seems to be the action that really matters, more than, say, actions like building buildings or leading troops or starting a biz matter (those examples seem bureaucratic — let’s add actions that are thrilling: sports, rock climbing, etc., etc.)

[From school journal of Thurs., 26 Jan. 2023]


‘Where is MY 15 MINUTES OF FAME, Andy Warhol?’

And then a human person came up behind me and then she showed me a pass and it was an interruption but that’s OK, since school’s about interruptions – which is also not sarcastic: I mean, school has people, and people’s needs, individual’s needs – real needs, anyway – take precedence over lesson plans. And now I’m thinking of Taylor Mali and how he wrote poem saying he wouldn’t let a student go to bathroom just because [the student was] bored and now I wonder how long it was that he actually did teach. …

I WANT to feel more special than I sometimes intellectually know that I am, I guess. That’s the struggle with humility, of course – to be humble is to, well, is to resist something that is easy to want: fame, glory, adoration, etc. At least, I THINK I might want to experience those things – “Where is MY 15 MINUTES OF FAME, Andy Warhol?” – but I don’t really know how I’d feel. I heard somewhere – on TV this morning, maybe, that Lou Diamond Phillips and Reba McEntire would be guests on GMA or Kelly Ripa show or something – and I thought, I haven’t thought about either of those people much in the last 2 decades, but they’re still around, apparently still making commercial art – and they haven’t said anything bad online to get themselves mobbed and criticized. It’s a weird thing we have, this pop cultural world, where some people do get attention thru marketing or thru the media – the “editorial” work body-models seek as being more important than having their pictures taken for ads. And I’m not sure how I got to talking about models, or how I know this – except that I’m sure I read it somewhere, sometime.

[From school journal of Thurs., 22 Sept. 2022]