Attention all NYU undergrads: Our first workshop of the year is coming up! On Wednesday, October 19th at 7:30pm, join West 10th for a poetry workshop in Seminar Room A at Palladium Hall.Make sure to RSVP and check out the Facebook event, too!Bring up to two works of poetry (two pages maximum) to receive some feedback from your West 10th Editors. See you there!Just a reminder that we are still accepting submissions until December 15th!
Six decades, six brilliant LGBT novels
Su Young Lee—this year’s prose editor here. Currently a sophomore who hopefully and finally narrowed it down to studying English Literature, Journalism, and Creative Writing (fun fact, I’m indecisive). Why (How) I Write I see a man with his daughter on his lap, brushing her hair away from her small sleeping face as if they weren’t sitting in the middle of a crowded subway train. I like their intimacy and decide that maybe I’ll write about them someday. I never do. I sit in a café and eavesdrop on a job interview as the man becomes increasingly and amusingly anxious, visualizing his half-uttered sentences in the air, full of ellipses. I sit in my room on an especially bad day and decide that the imagined tragedy of how I feel will look good on paper, but all I can manage is jot down a few phrases that all sound like half-finished lines from terrible poetry—my poetry—and I throw the piece of paper away. You see, I like thinking about writing. Sometimes I convince myself I’m really a writer because all I can think about is how something will look on a page. Then I come to my senses and decide that a writer is probably someone who actually writes. This is discouraging because writing is kind of hard. I plan characters, conversations, odd little phrases but when it comes to writing them down and filling in the gaps I find that I’m not a writer after all. Not a writer I’d like to be, or maybe I think I should be, the clichéd artist tortured by the task of translating their genius onto paper. The only thing I’m tortured by is my fear, laziness, lack of inspiration. While everything I see and hear and feel I think about writing down, it’s rare that I actually do. This is partly why I sign up to a creative writing class. People say writing comes from the heart, the soul, from whatever other metaphorical body part, but honestly sometimes I just need someone to make me write because otherwise I never will. I have to make it inevitable because when I finally start writing I confirm what I suspected all along—that I hate writing. This is the process of writing that I loathe: in bed. I don’t like sitting on a desk because it seems like I’m doing work, even though writing is really hard work. I put on some music before I decide that it’s distracting. I stare down at a blank piece of paper—or Word document. I tend to start with paper the first few times because I think writing by hand is romantic but I throw down my pen and hate myself finding I have more scribbles and crossed-out words than useable material. Blankness is encouraging—threatening—and maybe promising. The ugly blacked out words, however, are sad visual reminders of my failure that I’m too conceited to stand. But if I hate it so much, why do I do it? Despite all the complaining and self-loathing, there’s something addicting about the adrenaline that comes with writing, beyond the effects of all the caffeine I consume. It’s the starting that’s hard, but once something is on the page the next words tumble after each other. I let myself ramble. When I finish the piece (the draft) it’s like finally letting out air after holding my breath. It’s at that moment when I close my laptop and go to sleep, because I conveniently write in bed, that I think I have found the reason I write. The feeling of satisfaction. There are a lot of other and often forgotten reasons too, like how I want to be eloquent but writing is the only way I can achieve it, how I like to hide behind the anonymity of words on paper, but how I also like the intimacy it provides. Sometimes I hate it because having to write something interesting is a reminder that my actual life is unexciting, but maybe I like that I can live through the pages I write. I don’t know if that’s sad. Sometimes I think being a writer means being sad—dragging up things that have happened, bad things, or things that never will. Ultimately though, being a writer means writing. I may hate the act of writing but I love its effects, a similar relationship I have to cooking and actually eating the food. Hate the labour, if you will; devour the fruit. If I want to be a writer there’s really nothing else for me to do but write. That’s the one thing that all writers of all genres have in common—writing words, instead of just thinking about them. No matter how bad you think you are or how much you dislike the physical act of writing, writers write. So to all you aspiring writers: give yourself deadlines, make others give you deadlines, find some way to force yourself to put words on a page.
Our prose workshop, our second of the year, is coming up! It will be on Thursday, November 19 at 7pm, at Seminar Room B in Palladium Hall. Here is the Facebook event page, you could also RSVP here.This workshop is open to all undergrad students! So bring up to 1500 words of fiction/non-fiction prose to receive some feedback and comments from your West 10th Editors.Just a reminder that we are still accepting submissions until December 8th!
Sifting through second-hand paperbacks at a musty bookstore on the Upper West Side I stumbled upon Das Energi, a hippie-spiritual classic from 1974 that I’d heard my friend’s parents talk about when they would reminiscence about times when music was political and LSD was legal. It was one of those popular books that everyone eventually forgot about as the decade passed and the peace and love mentality of that generation faded into the 80s.Usually these kinds of “Feel the world, heal the world” narratives can be hard to get through, mostly because they are repetitive and almost always vague, but this one struck a somewhat different note. Paul Williams manages to weave lyrical prose with hard slang into a strong and thoughtfully structured manifesto, a mantra for a new way of living life. The structure of Das Energi follows suit, each page as varied as the voice. Some pages are run-on paragraphs, set in a conversational tone Williams asks an obscure “you” why fear is so potent, why we choose to ignore the metaphysical implications of our existence. Others are only a line, something short and thoughtful to be repeated over and over again. Though he traverses a number of topics, from guiltless sex to our obsession with efficiency to the potency of religion, the one line he refers back to constantly is: “You are God”. Williams seems to believe that worshipping a separate and nonhuman entity is pointless and detracts from the self-evolution and discovery that is necessary to contribute to the energy flow of the world.In some ways Williams came very close to sounding like the stoned middle-aged gypsies you might bump into at Burning Man while waiting in line for beer, but it is his stylistic voice that separates him from the ‘wishy washy’ aspects of spiritual culture that mainstream society can’t seem to handle. He has a very forceful approach to his doctrine and often ends up sounding much more like Karl Marx than Gandhi. His constant reference to “shedding old skin”, “setting yourself free” and of “not seeking but finding” are dispersed between urgent didactic lines like “Here and now, boys. Or else spend infinite future fighting quarrels of endless past.” He pushes forward the importance of responsibility and even outlines three self-made laws of the economics of energy. Admittedly Williams’ inconsistency in writing is sometimes shaky—it is harder to sink into a piece that chooses not to commit to any tone or mood—but he is nevertheless an earnest and often charismatic writer with enough skill to pull off a book that could have been excruciating. His words are familiar the way an old jazz tune at a coffee store is; you know the basic melody but the vocal riffs and trumpet solo always take you buy surprise.--Michelle Ling, Art Editor