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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

21W.762 Poetry Workshop by Cami M. '23

some poems from the class!

This semester, I decided to take 21W.762 Poetry Workshop taught by Ed Barrett. I’ve always wanted to learn how to write poetry, being too afraid to really just dive into it since it felt cringey or awkward. This workshop has taught me to really lean into those feelings and that discomfort and so I have decided to share my (bad) poetry and my peers’ (good) poetry with the blogs. I love writing about and highlighting the humanities classes I’ve taken here at MIT and 21W.762 is no exception. It’s a great class that’s showed me how to be more comfortable with my writing and take more risks. Though my poetry isn’t good by any means, I thought it would be fun to share some with you. I asked the class to submit poems if they wanted to be featured and I got some poems in response! I absolutely adore everyone’s writing and everyone in the class is super, super talented and inspirational. I hope to write like them someday.

The poems below are in the format of Poem Title by Author (poetry form)

Table of Contents

I Did Take ‘9.13: The Human Brain’ Last Spring by Alisa Hathaway (Blazon)

my room contains a giant looking glass of a closet

every glance, i notice oddities and peculiarities that i have never seen before, amidst staring at my reflection for 21 years.

it’s quite easy to stare at myself

and ramble off changes

i wish i could make

the biggest: the strange shape of my two eyebrows.

both caterpillars — one ready to metamorphose into a butterfly

the other ready to cocoon for the rest of time.

i stare at my hands, crackling from efforts to cleanse myself of burdens

they lead to my arms

which are sticks

unable to carry weight dumped on me

shouldn’t have skipped arm day everyday last year.

i run my tongue along my slimy, chalky teeth

the more I brush

and poke

and evaluate,

the more the mirror starts growing into me.

Let me out

Let me out

Let me out

 

i bang my head against the mirror,

again &

again &

again

 

I awaken, enclosed in a kaleidoscope of shattered glass

A new bruise! The lined purple black conglomeration used to worry me — just like overnight oats they absorb

and shift

and blossom

in such a short period of time.

Now, I see that my skin is capable of change

Through a crooked angle I spy my scrawny arm, as pale as ever. I stare into this broken reflection & think of how my arm is not strong,

it will never be the biggest

or best

or bulkiest

but it does give out wonderful hugs

I stare at my peeling hands and chipped fingernails in disgust,

and melodies and soothing piano sounds come flowing out.

And my teeth!

They are not organized in perfect rows

after 5 years of metal torture

but they give away smiles asking for nothing in return.

Through the looking glass I begin to see

what lies underneath my clothes

underneath my skin.

My lungs that breathe air as I hike over mountains,

swim through fjords,

dance with my best friend.

My heart that feels love

and pain

and heals

and provides to anyone in need.

My brain that learns

and matures

and dreams

and realizes that there is so much more to me than the surface.

Untitled by Cami Mejia (Prose)

It is pain, as you see him collapse. His body struck and skewered, limp and lifeless, donning your very armor. It’s the closing of your throat, raw and rough with your screams and cries. The saliva that pools in the back seems to drown you. It’s your vision blurring, hot with tears as the salt stings in your eyes and you grasp onto anything to ground you.

I’m sick with longing for you. There is no more shattering blow that I could suffer.

It is rage. It sits deep in your belly with the hollow thrum in your chest as you crack and crunch and kill and break, your splintered pieces embedding themselves deep into the hearts of those who have wronged you, as their bodies collapse to the ground and a deep red blankets your feet. There is no amount of death that can avenge him.

Like a frenzied god of battle tramping all he killed and the earth ran back with blood.

It is triumph. The feeling that fills you now, glowing in your chest and shining bright on your battlefield. No one dares to approach you, as you wear the stains of roses like badges on your dirtied skin.

Come, friend, you too must die.

It is agony. It is the slice to your heel that causes your collapse. Oh, how your rage carried you so far but not far enough. The sweet taste of victory, gone now from your lips as the blood pools in your mouth. How you die with a smile on your face at the thought of being with him once more.

Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed.

It is love. It escapes your mouth in your final breath as your body slips to the other side, as your ghost dances pretty on the battered battlefield in search of your lover. It wraps your corpse in an embrace, finally settling your pain and your rage, your triumph and agony, and leading you to him.

Never bury my bones apart from yours, Achilles, let them lie

together…just as we grew up together in your house.

 

(poetry commentary here)01 When I don't know what to write about, I write about my favorite media. I remember there was a TikTok artist that blew up with a song and she said that when she wrote it, she pretended she was Bella from Twilight. This was (obviously) inspired by The Song of Achilles. I think about that book daily and I really just wanted to write a poem about Patroclus and Achilles because I think their story is heartwrenching and memorable and it's stuck with me for a while. I don't think this poem does the book justice, nor will I ever get to the point where my writing does, but I just wanted to have a nice little ode to them.

blood doesn’t mean shit by Cami Mejia (Triversen)

my father knows nothing

about me, or my hopes and dreams,

my wishes and desires.

 

i feel like for a man who

has raised me for twenty years

we should know each other somehow.

 

but all i see when i look at him

is a stranger that i share in nothing with,

but dna, double helices tethered to me.

 

i am too afraid of what will happen,

so much so that i refuse to sever it,

no matter how it frays at its seams or droops in the middle.

 

because at the end of the day

i am his flesh, i am his blood,

i am his offspring.

 

and while i say desperately, loudly,

“blood doesnt mean shit, blood doesnt mean shit,”

i still take the string, worn and tired, in my hands, and hold it together.

 

(poetry commentary here)02 I always joked about how this class was going to be me writing angsty poetry about my relationship with my dad every week, but surprisingly this is the only angsty piece of poetry I have about my dad. It was healing to write, but I think this poem is definitely so surface level and obvious and just so overdone/trite that I'm kind of disappointed with how it turned out. The phrase 'blood doesn't mean shit' is one I borrowed from my ex boyfriend, who used to say it a lot when I would feel bad about disliking my dad sometimes. It was comforting to hear.

the rotting and fettering corpse of our love sits quietly in a corner as we argue by Cami Mejia (Sestina)

To have and to hold, as you carve my heart

out so carefully and delicately, taking the organ from my corpse

with bloody, bloody red dripping down. I feel it: desire.

Like the moon to the wolf, instinct overtakes me, this raw feeling.

As you lap up what is left, I am swallowed up in you. I fear

you consume me, body and soul, addictive and raw like nicotine

 

In my veins. Sweet, sweet nicotine.

I take a drag from my lips and puff out smoke, feel it flow to my heart,

but as I close my eyes I see it, not you, and fear

strikes again. The black behind my eyelids transforms into its corpse.

It lays there, still, eyes open and empty, devoid of all feeling.

And yet I see you in the back, looming over it, your body painted with desire.

 

How? How is it in all of this you still feel this ache, this burn, this desire?

This perverted want to be my addiction, to be my nicotine?

Do you yourself know what it is? This grand complex you’re feeling?

Not just the sex, not just the lust, but that thing that pinches at your heart.

That causes it to beat a little faster, that breathes life into your walking corpse.

You know what it is, and it’s exactly what you fear.

 

And for your whole life, that’s what has colored your every moment: fear.

To drown it all out, you throw yourself into the pleasures of it all, feeding into your own desire.

And when it’s not enough, you shove it all down by picking apart at the corpse.

By thumbing at the bullet holes and swallowing your pills and inhaling your nicotine.

It’s your tactic to mute it so that one day your beating heart

will still and you, too, will become nothing, numb to the feeling.

 

But as long as I am here, you can’t escape it, you can’t run from what you’re feeling.

And though it paralyzes you, that fear,

I will be here through it all. So eat my heart

out if you need it, tease me, ravage me, undo me completely if it’s what you so desire.

Drag it out, long and slow, taste it on my tongue, that nicotine,

until it’s all left behind: the dread, the killing, the corpse.

 

Take all that you need of me until I am nothing left, a corpse

of a man that you once loved, that gave you feeling,

that sucked on your shaking fingers, stained with nicotine,

and kissed you so hard as to swallow your fear

and put there in its stead desire,

and took your hand and placed it on my beating heart.

 

Call it what it is, (love), let me be your nicotine no longer, nor your plaything, nor your corpse.

Call it what it is, (love), let me the reason your heart beats, the thing that gives you feeling.

Call it what it is, love. Let me quiet your fear and be the man that breaks your resolve, that lets you tap into that desire.

 

(poetry commentary here)03 $10 to someone who can guess what inspired this poem. This poem was really hard for me to write and I definitely need to practice writing sestinas because the best written sestinas are the ones in which you can't tell there's an intended form, whereas this one it's pretty blatant and clunky. I wanted to write something a little darker and the thing that this was based on has pretty dark, gory themes so it was really fun to touch into that.

Untitled by Dien Nguyen (New Form)

New

My professor spent her college life in New House

and still is proud of that.

New House is not that new, trust me,

New House is well lit.

 

New Vassar

I hang out with my folks in New Vassar,

the funny love-hate relationship makes the place interesting.

Railroad view and Briggs,

people who are just trying to finish their year,

and people who actually enjoy it.

 

New England

The oldest part of America,

the newest part of us,

we both found sanctuary,

a dorm, a family, the folks.

 

McCormick

The sun is rising in McCormick,

like it was last week in New House,

we stay up too late, friends,

but that’s how we stay young.

 

Pi Lambda Phi

Call it whatever you want,

but I value our new form of walk.

We rushed to your frat on Bay State to get flour,

and discussed void fraction on our way.

Untitled by Dien Nguyen (Blazon)

Have you ever seen the Charles river? frozen, melted, frozen, melted and sparkles in boston sunlight

crossing the bridge, people don’t look down crossing you, i don’t look down

i look at your hair, it looks unintentionally complicated

the wind mixes those layers with boston sunlight

and my imagination.

 

Have you ever seen your hand?

nails match your flannel shirt

holding the pencil in the most unconventional way

conventions are made up, so you put a band-aid on your index finger

 

Have you ever seen your smile?

comforting and light like

winter sun in phoenix

after long hours of perseverance

finally, we are here, and i put a smile on your face.

Untitled by Leela Fredlund (Sestina)

Cloying stability sirens from scattered “Do Not Eat”s and xanthan gum

(literally); security is finding the hidden Best-By date on a bottle.

Things meant to  be consumed proclaim, “I see the day I poison myself.”

But dates are like dogs, all backwards in the mirror.

It’s the same immutability which means numbers don’t slip;

it’s the same adage which always makes water thinner than blood.

 

When I was young I needed blood

to fill the whiteness clinging to my gum.

Ten months was too small for the white to stay on the hospital slip,

twenty IVs, and a suckling bottle.

All the faces staring through a one-way mirror,

a circus, just for me to not recognize myself.

 

I wish they knew I wasn’t myself,

not yet, with quiet veins of watered blood.

And that a puddle of tears reflecting doesn’t make a saltwater mirror

any more than testing little fingers stealing my mother’s gum

was a blind leap off a cliff that led to the bottle.

For just because I stumble doesn’t mean I will slip.

 

My first poem was goldfish stuffed into a slip.

It was my handwriting, but I didn’t peel myself

as though my pen could stab my heart into a bottle,

as though the ink staining her fingers was my blood.

I wanted it to dye, forever in her hair like gum;

I wanted her to cut it and see me in the mirror.

 

I’ve loved again since, fought my blush in the mirror,

but I’ve held lye too and known everything will slip.

They say it takes seven years to let go of gum,

but I don’t hold things together, can’t sweet-pickle myself.

Oak-barrels aren’t my skin, nor teeth-staining wine my blood.

Oh, to live life a maple, and be drained into a bottle.

 

Does a sailor think less of her skill because her ship is in a bottle?

No; so too can my laser eyes see through my clothes in the mirror,

now see past the paper to the stolen blood.

But it is mine, and though my tongue may slip,

I’m no longer the folded Post-It girl; I KNOW MYSELF,

even if it means plugging the holes in my heart with gum.

 

The twice-chewed gum clings to the rim of an opaque bottle,

and I watch myself dissolve into film in my mirror,

wishing my see-through slip didn’t smell of blood.

The Earth Is Round for a Reason (or haven’t you heard?) by Leela Fredlund (Prose)

handwritten version of leela's poem

40,000 skin cells a minute, more than ten million now, and if I die tomorrow, where will they be? Moments are better than minutes for the real cartographer, meaning captured in a snow-globe screenshot, a cell, if you will. How many moments—sobbing, leaking, mascara-running moments, laughing, bubbling, swing-set moments, first smiles and last breaths—have those cells drifted into? I’m sure that everybody who’s ever ached their neck searching the sky wished their mirrors as black as forever and wished for a Newton (or even a Galileo; we settle for human gods) behind their shoulder (pointing, what else) has known in their soul that we are stardust, and so we will return (etc.), but we make constellations from light; we don’t believe in path-independnece. The moments our cells drift through silverly before they are vacuumed into an eternal loneliness are all we have left when Galileo joins us (nevermind the church; surely the Gods aren’t path-independent either). Inkblots are out of fashion, so I’ve been told, but even with your eyes closed you must see some destination—your chair, her bed, Mamma’s kitchen (maybe not a sight, but a sound, feeling, smell—Venn diagrams of ways to measure moments. Eureka! Archimedes would be proud.) Wind whips because it stings to know you can’t control the in-betweens, and like water bubbling onto the crusted stove, residue is turbulent. Argus, with his thousand searching eyes, could never see more than the made-to-die straw wrapper—stardust, reflecting light—that floats an inch further into the unknown each day, a free-falling Magellan even Galileo must envy.

 

  1. When I don't know what to write about, I write about my favorite media. I remember there was a TikTok artist that blew up with a song and she said that when she wrote it, she pretended she was Bella from Twilight. This was (obviously) inspired by The Song of Achilles. I think about that book daily and I really just wanted to write a poem about Patroclus and Achilles because I think their story is heartwrenching and memorable and it's stuck with me for a while. I don't think this poem does the book justice, nor will I ever get to the point where my writing does, but I just wanted to have a nice little ode to them. back to text
  2. I always joked about how this class was going to be me writing angsty poetry about my relationship with my dad every week, but surprisingly this is the only angsty piece of poetry I have about my dad. It was healing to write, but I think this poem is definitely so surface level and obvious and just so overdone/trite that I'm kind of disappointed with how it turned out. The phrase 'blood doesn't mean shit' is one I borrowed from my ex boyfriend, who used to say it a lot when I would feel bad about disliking my dad sometimes. It was comforting to hear. back to text
  3. $10 to someone who can guess what inspired this poem. This poem was really hard for me to write and I definitely need to practice writing sestinas because the best written sestinas are the ones in which you can't tell there's an intended form, whereas this one it's pretty blatant and clunky. I wanted to write something a little darker and the thing that this was based on has pretty dark, gory themes so it was really fun to touch into that. back to text