History Historical Badasses

Gertrude Stein, the queer feminist at the centre of the art movement

I first encountered Gertrude Stein through her avant-garde poetry in Tender Buttons, an evocative series of short poems that forced writing to its breaking point with sentences like: “Dirty is yellow. A sign of more is not mentioned.” I met her blindly, only through her words, yet I already fell for her eccentricity. I knew there was something wonderful behind the mind that put down on paper the bold tongue-in-cheek yet unbelievably serious statement, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. I just had to explore her art further. So I began scouring old journals and artist profiles to learn more about her. 

Little did I know that the radical art Stein created could almost be rivaled by the art that she nurtured in the artists around her. I found multiple sources that called her the ‘mother’ of modernism, but after getting to know more about her, I am sure that she would scoff at such a title. After all, she left the United States in 1903 to flee the pressures of gender norms. She was also bored with medical school and seeking an outlet to express her eccentric point of view, she settled down in Paris, where she intended to pursue a life free from heteronormativity. She opened a salon in her home for the world’s creative mind, including some of the world-renowned names such as Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. She was the voice of this ‘Lost Generation, the group of American expatriates flocking to Paris– and even coined the term.

The way I see it, she brought together these esteemed artists and in many ways, elevated them through her no-nonsense critique of their work. I had always internalized that a woman inspiring other artists (typically male artists) was a muse. That term is loaded, as there were often sexualized or romanticized elements typically tied to a muse. Instead, what I admired about Stein was that she was a mentor to the ‘greats’. I see her as a woman that had an undeniable presence in her time, respected by those around her. 

Nothing about her was conventional and she embraced her own strangeness, something that drew me to her further. Stein deserves the title of a trailblazer of the modernist period and of queer identity at the time. Stein’s essay Miss Furr and Miss Skeene were among the first story to be published about homosexual revelation, containing the first noted use of the word “gay” in published works to refer to same-sex relationships. She also hosted one of the first avant-garde exhibitions in the United States, funding it with the money she collected from her art dealerships. I have no doubt that every piece of art in the period has her fingerprint.

And she didn’t hesitate to acknowledge her accomplishments either. Stein didn’t believe that women must be modest, proudly proclaiming “I have been the creative literary mind of the century.” She never sold herself short, a habit I found myself doing as I presented my own poetry or other writing. I was still working with my own feelings of inferiority, belittling my stories as ‘just’ relevant to female-identifying communities. While she wrote about women and her partner, she didn’t restrict herself to writing women’s stories. I found it so refreshing to see her unabashed pride, as it reminded me to take hold of my own achievements and to be confident. No matter how unconventionally and ‘weirdly’ I experimented with my creativity, I learned that I could (and should) still demand to be taken seriously. 

Regardless of all this, I don’t think she should be idolized. I often like to give powerful women in difficult situations the benefit of the doubt, as do most of the historians and writers that grapple with creating a retrospective of Stein’s life. I witnessed a trend in the way that they wrote about her, that she was ensuring her safety as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France by making these questionable alliances with Nazi figures. As much as I respect her as a feminist and as the backbone of the Lost Generation of artists, I cannot excuse her political affiliations and ironic, confusing pro-Nazi expressions. 

At the end of it all, Stein didn’t strive to be accepted or allow herself to be molded by the society around her. She carved her own place into history and I believe it is important to commemorate it, lest she is lost in the shadows of her male counterparts. As a woman in the art world, looking at Stein as an example liberates me and allows me to embrace subversive expressions of creativity. 

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Life Stories Life

Being creative doesn’t need to be performative or productive

My hesitance with being creative started with a set of simple words on my screen: “Now is the perfect time to write your book!” I encountered variations of these words on Twitter, against the scenic backdrop of a forest in an inspiration post on Instagram. They seemed to follow me everywhere I clicked. These words became a trickling of an inner voice in my head that demanded one thing: write a book. Write the book. 

At the time, we were all in our first few weeks of the world-wide lockdown. There was a wave of posts that encouraged people to look at the bright side of staying home. After all, we had the many privileges that came with being able to have our own spaces during this time. We didn’t have to share a common eating space with colleagues and we could work in our pajamas. It wasn’t all bad, right?

Not to mention, while we self-isolated and stayed inside, our schedules had significantly cleared up. These reminders and gentle pushes served as an incentive for us to sit down and do the things we said we’d do if we had more time. My current circumstance, if I would have let it, could have been inspirational. This was the time I had been waiting for, so why wasn’t I typing away? 

I imagined myself as an artist who was finally in their own element with nothing but time and energy to create. Cocooned away in blankets, frantically typing away at her next screenplay, she uses the time she would have spent commuting to work to instead perfect her craft. Or perhaps I’d relate more to a woman whose hands dance in the warm light streaming through the window. There are paint streaks on her cheeks and the coffee in her mug has gone cold.

Then, there is also the image of a struggling artist who perseveres against all odds. Their hand is shaking, but resolute, as they photograph minute details of their surrounding, working with what they have. This artist scrapes the barrel for their inspiration, regardless of the clamor outside. Fair. But we need to remind ourselves these are heavily romanticized ways of approaching creativity. 

Reading the pandemic was the perfect time to ‘write my book‘ made me feel discouraged. I felt bogged down. I was in mourning for the perfect end to my senior year that now would never be. Trapped in my room, I felt the need to escape. Writing allows me to delve deep into myself – something I could not have been bothered with before the pandemic hit. However, as any writer can tell you, it is an incredible feeling to share your work, but writing can be a terribly lonely and internal process.  

I wasn’t partaking in much leisure creativity in those early days. Even writing my college senior project, a creative fictional piece, felt like a chore. All my energy went into listening to the voices that streamed out of my laptop during the last of my online courses.

All I wanted to do was scoop out my mind and leave it in a warm tub to rest. I watched movies, listened to music, and chatted with my roommates, using up the energy I had left on reserve. I didn’t feel inspired to produce some great masterpiece. But I had all the time in the world to do it. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, why wasn’t I writing my book?

Weren’t the arts meant to be those places where we could escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

Over time, I felt myself spiraling. I didn’t have an idea of what I would write. I just felt like I had to make something productive out of my time. I genuinely felt I was going to disappoint myself either way, whether I chose to pick up my pen or not.

This is all sounding gloomy, but actually, there were times when I wanted to be creative. When I felt that sudden urge to set off and start working on a new piece of writing or pick up painting as a hobby. I knew when I started working I would feel good about it, but the benchmark had been set so high that I felt discouraged.

When I was packing up to move back home, I stumbled upon a product of my literary past. I had written up a small outline of a short story sometime in January. Immediately, I wanted to drop everything, move aside the boxes from my desk, and bring the story to life.

I had an epiphany- this mindset of creating perfect art was (and is) toxic. Creativity doesn’t have to be productive. Weren’t the arts meant to be an escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

I am not wasting my time even if nothing comes of the writing– I am perfecting a craft.

Art didn’t need to be performative either. It didn’t have to wear the fancy label of a ‘novel’ or perform for an audience. I didn’t need to parade around and place a glossy cover over the pages. Instead, I needed to give myself permission to not even have to finish whatever project was in my drafts. Ultimately, I must accept no creative pursuit is ever wasted. I am not wasting my time if nothing comes of the writing. Rather, I am perfecting a craft. As for talent, there is no wasting that unless I don’t use it. 

The sooner I realized I could follow my creative instincts without oppressive expectations, the sooner I felt creatively liberated. Whether it be through sporadically writing a scene of a story or picking up (and putting down) a paintbrush when I feel inclined, I shouldn’t have felt pressured to fully pursue my creative urges if I didn’t want to. I should be allowed to surrender to that flurry of excitement and passion to simply express myself. Then, when the passion was over, to let it go. Truly, I didn’t even have to show my creative work to anyone or look at it ever again. 

I am teaching myself creativity isn’t meant to always be translated into something productive. The funny thing is I often did return to those pieces and paintings and continued to work on them. But that was only possible when I didn’t feel the heavy benchmark of producing a bestseller or a museum-worthy mural on my shoulders.

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Love + Sex Love

7 reasons why you should date a love and relationship writer

For many ordinary people, dating a relationship writer might seem like a pretty bad idea. If not bad, then probably a costly mistake. Everyone usually thinks that love/relationship writers have a scandalous occupation and spend their day reading erotica or writing articles about sex positions or vibrators and other ‘taboo’ topics. The truth is, dating a relationship writer is actually one of the best things you can do to involve yourself in a healthy, fulfilling, and trustworthy relationship.

When dating a writer who specializes in the love and health sector, you get 24/7 access to an encyclopedia of advice and knowledge followed by an enhanced understanding of human psychology, interpersonal relationships, and effective communication.

With that in mind, here are seven reasons why you should date a relationship writer:

1. Relationship writers are incredibly romantic

A male and female couple wearing backpacks while sitting closely and looking at green foggy mountains.
[Image Description: A male and female couple wearing backpacks while sitting closely and looking at green foggy mountains.] Via Pexels

We not only spend our day writing about love and health, but we’re also constantly immersed in a vast culture of romance, lust, desire, and passion. We breathe and exhale love as a language and directly implement what we learn into our real-life relationships.

2.  Relationship writers are (usually) smart when it comes to finding love

A White woman with a bun sitting on a white bed and reading a magazine that is sitting in her lap.
[Image Description: A White woman with a bun sitting on a white bed and reading a magazine that is sitting in her lap.] Via Pexels

We’re constantly reading advice columns, love articles, researching new slang terms, and modern dating phenomenons. Not to mention, we have first-hand experience of being played by fuckboys and a surplus of entertaining dating app horror stories.

3.  Relationship writers are reliable

A female couple wearing dresses and embracing on the beach during sunset.
[Image Description: A female couple wearing dresses and happily embracing on the beach during sunset.] Via Pexels

Most of the articles we write are geared towards providing advice to readers and curating dynamic content that improves other people’s dating experiences and relationships. We’re technically the “mom friend” who you always turn to when you need some solid, uncensored, and unbiased advice. We’re brutally honest but in a good way.

4.  Relationship writers have a unique way with words

A man and woman holding hands across the table while on a date.
[Image Description: A man and woman holding hands across the table while on a date.] Via Pexels

We can be incredibly confident and outspoken. So, a first date with us is guaranteed to be eventful, full of great conversation, and constant laughter. We have a great sense of humor because most of the articles we write are pretty witty and catchy!

5.  Relationship writers are always full of creative ideas

A blonde White woman sitting down on a bed while wearing headphones, writing on a notepad, and staring at a laptop sitting on her lap.
[Image Description: A woman sitting down on a bed while wearing headphones, writing on a notepad, and staring at a laptop sitting on her lap.] Via Pexels

We’re bursting with ideas since it’s part of our job to strategically think of topics and content on the spot and to tackle assignments on a tight deadline. Whether you need a supportive partner to help you found your dream multi-million company or would like ideas on how to improve your college thesis, we’re here to help you out!!

6.  Relationship writers can see the positivity in everything

A man wearing a watch is hugging a woman wearing a orange spaghetti strap dress from behind.
[Image Description: A man wearing a watch is hugging a woman wearing an orange spaghetti strap dress from behind.] Via Pexels

It’s part of our job to take a prevalent dating issue/problem (that is catfishing or ghosting) and try to twist it around to shed a brighter, more positive light on it. We’re trained to use this tactic in our own relationship lives and trying to see the beauty in every little thing.

7.  Relationship writers craft the best-handwritten letters

A woman sitting on a white bed holding a notebook and a pen with a cup of coffee sitting on the bed next to her.
[Image Description: A woman sitting on a white bed holding a notebook and a pen with a cup of coffee sitting on the bed next to her.] Via Pexels

Our writing is known to be heartwarming, eloquent, and beautiful, so it’s only natural that we’ll be able to write a killer happy birthday card or a thank you letter. And—wedding vows?? Oh, don’t even get us started. We’ll be having you bawling like crazy!

And there you have it, seven reasons why you should date a relationship writer! Relationship writers in all their pride and glory. If you were skeptical about what dating a relationship writer might entail, these points can break those barriers and encourage you to take a chance!

One final rule of thumb, however. Don’t get on our bad side, or else you might end up being featured in a future article we write about!!

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How absurdism taught me to embrace the chaos in my life

“A little boy in a cowboy suit, writing in a puddle with a stick, a dog approaching. Deaf or dumb, the boy is, like anyone, a little timid, partly stupid, ashamed, afraid, like us, like you. He is there. Picture the boy. See his eyes. Sympathize with his little closes. Now, break his arm. Picture violin section. The violins are on fire. (The following is said almost without anger as if it’s just another request) Now go fuck yourselves.”
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), Will Eno.

That’s a little absurdism for you there. The next few lines go into the character trying to sound like he’s fine, but he really isn’t. He is spiraling while trying to understand the colloquial term ‘whatever’ because he thinks it will describe how he wants to feel. Did you get that? I hope so. Because underneath the strangeness is a deep vulnerability– and joy in being alive. 

It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless.

At its core, absurdism is rooted in social activism and rebellion against the norm. At a time when everyone was taking art very seriously and enforcing standards on artist’s practices, absurdists challenged the system. They said, what if we make an art form that defies expectations by being intentionally bizarre? When everything around us is so devoid of reason, embracing irrationality and strangeness may be the next best thing. 

With the current pandemic, there is little that we can control. At first, I felt so powerless against it all. That’s when I turned to absurdism. It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless. The Dadaist slogan of “art for art’s sake” and absurdism’s love of nonsense is exactly the type of energy we need to be bringing into our lifestyles. 

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time). I spent most of my life, as I expect a majority of you did, trying to assign value to myself by the things that I achieved and the decisions I made. Wanting my life to mean something, I quickly grew desperate when things did not turn out as I imagined.

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time).

Take, for instance, applying to jobs or sharing creative work. There is a powerlessness that I feel every single time. I can’t help but think that I am putting myself out there to be judged– which I am, to a certain extent. Recently, after being ghosted by a couple of jobs I had applied to, I was starting to fear that the rest of the year would be the same. All my efforts seemed to be in vain. Keen to maintain a certain image I had of my life, I started reaching out to places that I had no interest in. But I soon became so thankful that things turned out the way they did when a professor reached out to me, excited to have me on board to work on her screenplay– something I deeply enjoyed doing.

Like that last line by Will Eno, I often forgot that life was full of surprises. I learned to be okay with it. More than that, to be happy.

By reading absurdist writers, I embraced the joy of being surprised. I found humor in unexpected things. There was a strength in accepting chaos that I did not find anywhere else. When it seems like the year is going entirely on its own path, I cling to these teachings more than ever. We can’t be stubborn and try to force the year to go in the direction we want it to. We are doing more damage by pulling on the leash and digging our feet into the ground then if we let loose a little and see where the year is headed. 

All in all, when things don’t work out, whether it is with your school, career, or relationship prospects, remind yourself that having ‘nothing’ going on shouldn’t be terrible. Just take Daniil Kharm’s The Red-Haired Man, where at the end he admits that he is writing nonsense and gives up entirely. This poem has gotten me out of all types of ruts, both creative and personal.

We can all take a note from absurdism. If we embrace chaos in this way, we can enhance our own sense of wellbeing.

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Tech Now + Beyond

5 amazing artists who are using technology in their work

Two challenging fields to make it in as a gender minority? Tech and the arts. Tech culture is infamously toxic towards women, as shown by the brave women who spoke up about their working conditions as #MeToo gained momentum. Womens’ artwork is also consistently undervalued in the art world and underrepresented in major institutions. Despite these barriers, there are many female artists incorporating technology to create interesting and innovative work.

Here are five of them:

Cristina Molina

Photo from artist Cristina Molina's website [image description: mirrored crystalline orbs hang with small video screens hang from the ceiling of a gallery]
Photo from artist Cristina Molina’s website [image description: mirrored crystalline orbs hang with small video screens hang from the ceiling of a gallery]
Cristina Molina is a video artist whose work often centers around female protagonists. Per her description, “Crystal Video is an interactive audio-visual installation that transmits sounds directly into participants heads. The video is shown in crystalline shapes hanging from the ceiling. However, the audio can only be heard when audience members bite down on a lollipop. The sound travels from the crystal base on the lollipop to the jaw and into the ear. The effect makes the transmission private, as if the figure in the video, inspired by Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, is telepathically communicating.

More projects and information can be found on the artist’s website.  

Emily Hermant 

Image from artist Emily Hermant's website [image description: screenshot of website with the prompt "Please change a word or two of this lie: I am serious about veganism, really." and the input "I am seriously a vulture, really"]
Image from artist Emily Hermant’s website [image description: screenshot of the website with the prompt “Please change a word or two of this lie: I am serious about veganism, really.” and the input “I am seriously a vulture, really”]
Emily Hermant is a sculptor and fiber artist whose work often explores women’s labor. Her project Lies, lies, lies… “explored acts of deception in communication,” and featured embroidered lies mounted on the walls, a lie booth, and an interactive website. The website allowed people to input their own lies and edit other people’s lies, creating a “Virtual community of lies and liars.”

One of her other bodies of work Hesitations illustrated vocal pauses such as “um” from recordings of intimate conversations, thus going from human to data to human again.

You can check out more of her work here, or read an interview here.

Aarati Akkapeddi

GIF from artist Aarati Akkapeddi's website [image description: rapid animation of various search engine queries on colorful backgrounds]
GIF from artist Aarati Akkapeddi’s website [image description: rapid animation of various search engine queries on colorful backgrounds]
Aarati Akkapeddi is a “transdisciplinary artist and creative programmer,” who explores the relationship between data and identities and histories. Part of her work, You Are What You Search, is a  “poetic visualizer” tool that allows users to view and meditate on their search histories, which are usually difficult to decipher after downloading. Another aspect of YAWYS is chrome extension apps called Autosurfers that breaks filter bubbles by randomly searching, thus introducing users to new things and obscuring users’ search history.  

You can download the apps and learn about more of Aarati’s work here.

AnnieLaurie Erickson

Image from artist AnnieLaurie Erickson's website [image description: 3 images- the first of a dark video screen in a dark room, the second a close up of a screen that is mostly black except for on circle of image showing cords from a server, the third of a squiggly trail of circles like in the last image.]
Image from artist AnnieLaurie Erickson’s website [image description: 3 images- the first of a dark video screen in a dark room, the second a close up of a screen that is mostly black except for one circle of image showing cords from a server, the third of a squiggly trail of circles like in the last image.]
AnnieLaurie Erickson is a lens-based artist whose work often centers on making the invisible visible. Her project Data Shadows examines “the physical apparatus of the Internet and digital surveillance,” through photographs and interactive media. The interactive component uses eye-tracking technology to illuminate small sections of a photograph visible on a screen as the viewer’s eye moves around. The path of their gaze is projected onto a wall behind the viewer for onlookers to see.

Documentation of this series and others are on AnnieLaurie’s website.

Ayoka Chenzira

Image from HERadventure website [image description: two women wearing all black and sunglasses staring directly at the camera.]
Image from HERadventure website [image description: two women wearing all black and sunglasses staring directly at the camera with text underneath identifying them as Ayoka Chenzire (Ayo) and HaJ]
Ayoka Chenzira is a filmmaker and pioneer in Black independent cinema. She created the interactive film HERadventure with her daughter HaJ, about an extraterrestrial superhero named Her. During the movie, viewers are able to join Her in her battle against Dark Forces, aiming to empower women and girls through gameplay.

You can check our HERadventure here or learn more about Ayoka and her numerous other projects here.

Though contemporary art is often mocked for its seemingly limitless definition (“How is that art?” “A five-year-old could do that!” etc) these women and many more are using that limitlessness to their advantage by forging into new territory. As Georgia O’Keeffe said, “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”

Love Life

10 things you can do for yourself on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here.

Valentine’s Day, is, in my opinion, kind of a trash holiday. The day itself is supposedly rooted in violence and sacrifices, according to one source, and although it has evolved into an opportunity to show affection, Valentine’s Day is so heavily commercialized that it lost its good intentions a long time ago. Think: White Castle reservations and endless jewelry commercials. The holiday is also promotes, almost exclusively, heteronormative narratives, which isn’t cool either.

If you’re single, Valentine’s Day and the hype around it can be stressful, obnoxious, or even triggering. At the very least, it can feel like a day that you’re not “allowed” to participate in, even though that’s completely false. If dating isn’t your thing, if you’re grumpy about Valentine’s Day in general, or if you’re looking for ways to show yourself love on February 14, we’ve got a list for you.

1. Take yourself out to eat because you earned it

A burger and fries.
[Image description: An image of a cheeseburger and fries]
So what if everyone is dining out with their significant others? If you want a medium-rare steak, by all means, go to Ruth’s Chris and order one. Going to a restaurant alone may seem awkward at first, but after you realize that you’re the best date you could ever ask for, it’s a lot less intimidating.

2. FaceTime a single long-distance friend so you can bitch about Valentine’s Day together

A woman looks at her iPhone.
[Image description: A woman sits on a blanket on the grass and looks at her iPhone.]
Since all your friends who are ~in relationships~ will have no time for you on this bogus holiday, this is the perfect time to reach out to friends who have moved away due to work, school, etc. Complain about those shitty NECCO heart candies that are hard enough to break teeth and the fact that capitalism has ruined love for you.

3. Enjoy a glass (or a bottle) of wine by yourself

A bottle and glass of wine.
[Image description: An image of a bottle and glass of red wine on a table.]
I think many of us would be lying if we said we’d never consumed a whole bottle of sweet red or Riesling (it can’t be just me) by ourselves on a night in after a crappy day at work or a week of exams. Or, you know, just because. No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.

[bctt tweet= “No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.” username=“wearethetempest”]

4. Get a massage to relieve the irritation of seeing happy couples everywhere

A woman about to get a massage.
[Image description: An image of a woman on a massage table with a towel over her back and candles in the background.]
On a more serious note, massages do provide many legitimate benefits. They can ease stress, promote flexibility, decrease migraines, and improve blood circulation. They are great for self-care because they have positive impacts on both your physical and mental health. I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.

5. Take a salt bath and float away from your problems

A woman floating in water.
[Image description: An image of a woman floating on her back in water.]
No, really, float spas are a thing, and I didn’t know this until recently. Float therapy involves pouring large quantities of Epsom salt into water in pods or dark rooms. The result is that you feel completely weightless when floating. Float therapy is good for meditation, joint pain, and stress relief. I know friends who have done it, and they say it’s trippy but amazing.

[bctt tweet= “I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.” username=“wearethetempest”]

6. Netflix and chill…

A TV with the movie "Gone Girl."
[Image description: An image of a TV with “Gone Girl” on the main screen.]
…by yourself. While other people are giving cheesy gifts to each other and showing uncomfortable amounts of affection, show your Netflix account some love by starting a new show or catching up on a series that you’ve neglected. There’s no shame in loving your TV and your bed.

7. Get outdoors and away from people

A woman on a paddleboard.
[Image description: An image of a woman on a paddleboard in a body of water.]
If it’s warm enough in your part of the world, rent a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy some peace and quiet on the water. Take a hike, walk your dog, or escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single. Other humans can get annoying. It’s refreshing to go off the grid, if only for a couple of hours.

[bctt tweet= “Escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single.” username=“wearethetempest”]

8. Start a new art project

Hands on clay pottery.
[Image description: An image of hands resting on a piece of clay pottery.]
If you’re creative and know how to paint, draw, sculpt, sew, knit, carve, or any other artsy endeavor, use the evening to begin a new piece of work. The best I can do is draw a second grade-esque stick figure with stringy hair and dots for eyes, so if you have the talent, please let me live vicariously through you.

9. Write your autobiography because you’re incredible

A woman writing in a notebook.
[Image description: A black and white image of a woman writing in a notebook.]
Reflect on how flawless your single self is this Valentine’s Day and write about it so the world knows. Or, of course, just write in general. No matter your chosen genre, it can be difficult to find time to write and edit your work, so being alone on Valentine’s Day gives you a prime opportunity to sit down and make progress.

10. Nap because sleep is better than jewelry from Zale’s

A bed.
[Image description: An image of a bed with light-colored blankets and pillows.]
I’m certainly biased, but let’s be real. No one ever said, “I got more than enough sleep last night!” so why would you pass up an opportunity to crawl into your cozy bed and ignore all your responsibilities?

Spending quality time with yourself on Valentine’s Day can be fun, liberating, and stress-free. If you’re single, take time to love yourself.

Gender & Identity Life

I never knew just how awful college would be. Then I saw where my money was going.

I always imagined how classes in college would be. I pictured a strained atmosphere in a silent classroom where all the students were listening to the lecture with full focus while jotting down the lessons in their notebooks. The professors enthusiastically explained some theories or mathematics solution, pointing to the screen full of notes or formulas and equations. A few times someone would interrupt the lecture to ask questions.

I thought once I got into college, my classes would be that way. Unfortunately, my expectations were completely off the mark.

Of all the classes I took in my first year, Business Mathematics was the only class I looked forward too. I enjoyed math. Although I’ve always been terrible dealing with numbers and formulas, nothing gives me greater satisfaction more than getting the answer right after solving the problem. I thought it was going to be my favorite subject and I was planning to ace it.

And of course, I was hoping this class would be just like those I had always pictured in my mind.

The professor was an hour late on the first day of class. But I kept my hopes up. My hopes vanished as soon as he started teaching. He just sat in front of the computer, turned it on and then searched for the syllabus for 20 minutes! Obviously, he wasn’t prepared for the lesson, but that wasn’t it. Once he started his teaching, the lecture became more and more tedious. Throughout the class, all he did was read what was on the screen, clicking the next button to make the steps appear one by one without explaining the math behind the steps.

This professor was in his mid-50s, which meant he had plenty of years to gain teaching experiences and improve his teaching skills. But what we had there was an expressionless man with no enthusiasm to guide us at all. Worst, he taught in our local language, which was Malay. I pitied those foreign students who relied on English as their only language of communication.

There was no group assignment or projects for the subject. But still, I had to endure the mind-numbing class for the whole semester. In the end, most of us failed and had to repeat the course. Including me.

For another class in my second year, this professor was no better than the previous one.

For the whole semester, the class was held for only half of the time allotted. The professor, a woman this time, also had a problem with time punctuality. An hour late, and then teaching for only half an hour. Most times she canceled the class and replaced them with quizzes she put online.

Luckily I didn’t fail that time, but my grade wasn’t great.

I hate to be the one student to give a negative evaluation to teachers in college, but I couldn’t lie just to save their career. There were few times when I got tired of their lack of interest and incompetence in teaching and one day, I told them about my concern in this matter. Even my other classmates have spoken out about this, straight up to these teachers who don’t teach. But in return, they blamed us for our lack of diligence and focus on their teaching. We weren’t  pre-school kids anymore and to them, we’re grown up enough to figure out things by ourselves.

My friends from another college are still facing the same issues. It’s all the same problems – professors coming late, canceled classes for no reasons at all and their passionless lectures.

I came to college with high hopes to learn, explore and strive for a better future. The only thing I want is education, but I don’t need to be spoon-fed or given an exact correct answer for every question. I never ask them to make the learning easier. In fact, I’d be up for challenges if that gave me more experiences to push my boundaries and gain more knowledge. It is highly unfair to pay a large amount of money just to receive their inadequate lessons and instructions. I’m facing an insane amount of stress and pressure every semester, yet the effort and works they’ve put in aren’t nearly as equal.

I’m really glad that there are few other professors and tutors that are worthy to be appreciated. They are the ones who are actually passionate and eager to share their knowledge. When they do, everyone can feel it, including me. These teachers are always enthusiastic and have their own creative way of teaching. However, other professors need to remember their job title as educators and not boring powerpoint makers. To better this world, we need to produce better students who have learned something at the end of the year.

Love Life Stories

When I confessed to my Desi parents about what I really wanted to do, they completely shocked me

Growing up in a society that put immense pressure on choosing a ‘stable’ and ‘definite’ career wasn’t easy. Like everyone else my age, I was constantly riddled with the anxiety of not making the right decision at the right time. But having supportive parents who encouraged my creativity was a silver lining in an otherwise gray sky. 

Choosing a career is a daunting task in itself, but having to choose from a limited number of careers, especially when you’re not particularly interested in any of them, can be especially terrifying. I was under the impression that if I didn’t choose a career that got me money and stability I’d be screwed.

Here’s where my parents came in. They were like knights in shining armor. They shielded me from the evils of a world that was telling me not to follow my dreams. My parents emboldened me. They gave me the confidence to follow my creativity.

My parents are brilliant people. They are understanding, open-minded, loving, and cute AF. It might sound unbelievable but despite being from a middle-class Indian family, I was never once pressured into doing something I didn’t want to do.

It started from the basics, like hobbies and classes as kids. If I said I didn’t want to swim or go horseback riding, I didn’t have to. If I said I only wanted to do dance class and not an art class, I only did the dance class.

I chose humanities in 11th grade despite having a ‘scientific’ mind, as my school put it. I was offered science but I chose humanities. And this baffled everyone except for my parents. They just wanted me to follow my heart.

I recognize this comes from a place of privilege. Not everybody has the freedom to do what they want and the kind of family that supports them. I’m grateful to have parents who provided me with a holistic atmosphere that allowed me to grow to my full potential, explore my creativity, and become the best possible version of myself.

Since my parents never coerced me into doing something I didn’t want to do, despite society’s insistence, I examined my options thoroughly and after changing my mind a million times, I finally knew what I wanted to do.

I decided to follow my passion. I wanted to become a writer, professionally. I’ve opted for creativity in a world hell-bent on choosing the ‘safe’ option. My parents have fully supported this decision. They have given me the freedom to venture into a field where job certainty and financial stability are as bad as it gets. My creativity might not make me rich, but they know it’ll make me happy and that’s all they care about. 

At a time when my friends were plagued with doubts about making the smart career choice, my parents never once tried to squeeze my dreams or sell me short. My friends were preparing for law, medicine, and other ‘professional’ courses and I was sitting at home, blogging my way to glory because never once did I feel the strain of choosing a ‘conventional’ career.

I know very well that choosing to be a writer or a creative could mean that I’m risking not just money, but also, success. Because, let’s face it, being good at what you do creatively and working hard doesn’t guarantee you success. Creativity is a lot of things, and as a field, it is highly ambiguous because nothing can absolutely guarantee success.

As a lawyer, you work really hard as an associate and you’ll become a partner at the firm eventually. As an academic, you work really hard, you’ll earn that doctorate and become a professor. But as a writer, you just don’t know. Talent, nepotism, luck, and discipline, all play a crucial role in determining your success in this field. And even then, it isn’t certain.

Nevertheless, my parents pushed me towards my so-called ‘unrealistic’ dreams. For them, it was simple: “If it makes you happy, you won’t care if you’re successful in the eyes of the world. You just will be.”

I still get anxious thinking about my decision and consider if it’s too late for me to do an MBA or something that won’t be so scary. But then I realize just how miserable I’d be working a 9-5 desk job, hating life. Do I want that all because it’ll get me a fixed salary at the end of the month? Or do I want to live a fulfilling, creatively stimulated life that makes me grateful for waking up every single day? Definitely the latter.

And knowing that my parents support me, are there for me, and will help me whenever I need them to, is a huge bonus.

Having parents that help you grow and make mistakes is the biggest blessing anyone can have. Your family is where your socialization starts. If they aren’t holistic and nurturing then it risks a lifetime of insecurity, self-doubt, and trust issues. It also means that you’ll never be fully confident about what you want and who you are.

I’ve been so lucky to have had parents who validated me when I needed them to, knew when to punish me, and pushed me towards my dreams all along. They made sure I didn’t make silly errors along the way but they let me make mistakes and learn from them too. They let me pick myself up and taught me to stand on my own two feet.

My parents have aided my creativity, encouraged my passions, and motivated me to be the best version of myself that I could be. They’ve taught me to be courageous and kind – creatively and otherwise. I’m eternally grateful for my parents because they are the reason I am creative today and the reason why I love my life and live it with so much fervor and enthusiasm.

Gender Inequality Interviews

Speaking out against sexual violence through poetry: An interview with Stephanie Lane Sutton

Stephanie Lane Sutton is a Midwestern poet, performer, and interactive media artist. Currently, she is a Michener Fellow in the University of Miami’s Creative Writing MFA Program. Previously, she lived in Chicago, where she was a teaching artist with After School Matters and a co-facilitator for Surviving the Mic, a workshop and reading series for survivors of trauma. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Day One,  Tinderbox Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Dream Pop Press, and littletell journal. She is a co-founding editor of |tap| lit mag. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and her personal blog. 


after Jan Beatty

this is for the hecklers/my stage time soiled with their catcall of approval/what did I expect being friends with male poets/this is what happens when you write good poems/for the man who asked my permission to stay silent/because it made him feel safer/because it wasn’t his rape in the poem he’d written/& for the man who took the poem about rapists personally/it’s ironic you feel victimized/it’s ironic you said it’s my fault/because there are men who show up/& call that organizing/& feel fine taking credit for work done by a woman/this poem is a gravesite/get yourself a shovel/here’s one for my former mentor/the one who fucks his students as soon as they’re 18/he said they’re old enough now/did you count down the minutes until midnight on their birthdays/& for the one who didn’t wait, with or without her permission/with or without sincerely trying to teach her anything in the first place/& for everyone who said I should be grateful for male approval/& the women who are grateful for male approval/as our tongues got minced or led to the slaughter/as we were shot by the man on the other side of the door we knocked on when we had nowhere else to turn for help/& our unconscious bodies were raped into a party trick/& laughter slammed us against the lockers every day/the only ones who showed up were the cameras/& all the histories we’d written got voted out of the cannon by a panel of men/yet our arms stay in the booth selling merchandise/yet our legs stay in case we’re asked to stand & be recognized/since whether or not you’re listening you won’t have to live it/this poem is your tombstone/get yourself a chisel.

The Tempest: When did you realize that poetry was your passion; was there a moment when you just knew that this was a part of you calling?

Um, no (laughs). I don’t think there was one moment when I knew I was going to be a poet, it kind of just happened for me and I think that a lot of people who are poets have this experience where they’re interested in other things and then they start writing poems maybe in a high school English class or in college or just because they see someone else doing it and want to give it a try. I started writing poetry in my diary when I was in middle school, really emo, angsty stuff, and I just kind of kept doing it and then I ended up going to college and doing it more. I think that poetry has always been really challenging for me. There are always ways to challenge yourself in a poem, there’s always a more succinct way of describing something, and that’s the thing that kept me writing. And now I just am a poet, yeah it just kind of happened over time. I just like to think I couldn’t have done anything else, maybe I was just meant to be a poet.

The Tempest: Can you please give us some background on your poem, Slammer?

Yeah, so Slammer is a hard poem for me to talk about, it’s not a happy poem but a lot of the poems I write are not happy. But when I was in my early twenties, I was sexually assaulted and I ended up turning to slam poetry to cope with that. I was living in Chicago and slam poetry started out there and it was just such a huge, vibrant community so I found my way to the slam in the youth community and I kind of grew up in it. Then, as I got older I became one of the adults on the scene, I started teaching younger poets and talking to other women on the scene and I started to learn how rampant sexual assault is in the poetry slam community and not only that I just started to have my own experiences with misogyny with things that made me feel traumatized in a way that reminded me of my own assault. So I ended up writing this poem, as I was inspired by Shooter by Jan Beatty. What I love about that poem is that she takes the violence that she’s experienced at the hands of men and makes it into a metaphor. I wanted to write in a way like that so I wrote about all the things I had experienced in the slam community and that other people had told me they experienced that had made them feel so powerless. I wanted to sort of call that out and metaphorically dig it a grave and bury it. So that’s where the poem came from. It was a poem that I had to write; I don’t think that I could have kept being a poet if I didn’t put that experience into words. 

The Tempest: What has been the most challenging part of being a poet?

A part of me feels like everything is hard about poetry. and at the same time, everything about poetry brings me so much joy. There’s no money in poetry really. You can find a way to teach poetry or you might get paid for a reading, maybe there are other ways to make money that I just don’t know about. You really have to be in it because you love it. For me personally, the most challenging thing has been finding my authentic voice, because when you do poetry slam competitions, there’s a lot of pressure to write poems in a certain way which will get you to win. I’m in a creative writing program MFA right now and in academia, there’s a different kind of pressure that I’m seeing now. Because sometimes my professors want me to change a poem completely and write it in a different way and I think that’s just something you might experience in whatever context your writing is that people want you to be more like them or what they think you should be and you have to learn to take feedback but then to also learn how to push back against that.

I feel it’s especially hard if you’re a woman or you’re queer or person of color because there are always these boxes that you’re being put into anyway. I feel like I am constantly pushing back in all these different ways but in the end, the purpose of that is to find who I am in a way, how I express myself and how I think. It’s difficult but it’s very rewarding and I guess that’s the challenge that drives me forward. There’s no formula for writing a poem, there are no rules. I think that’s part of the thing that makes poetry so valuable. It’s what makes writing poems hard but also what makes poetry matter so much.

The Tempest: Can you give some words of advice to anyone who is thinking about trying poetry, and yet has some fears holding them back?

I don’t think being afraid is a bad thing; I feel afraid all the time that at the same time if you are afraid of something you can also confront it, and that feels very brave. Feeling brave is the best feeling and that’s kind of what you have to strive for. I think if you’re afraid to write poetry, start there. Write a poem on why you’re afraid, or write 10 poems on why you’re afraid! I really believe that writing is transformative and if you put it down in words and confront it, you will feel brave and will transform. You’re going to find inner strength and that’s a magical thing that poems can do. Embrace the fear and move forward.

The Tempest: What do you hope readers take away after reading your work?

I think the most important thing for me right now is for other people who are sexual assault survivors or been through abuse to know they are not alone. I think Slammer might have been the first poem I wrote that was so direct about rape-culture, and right now that’s a lot of what I write and just stories about our culture and things that have happened throughout history and I just want people to not feel alone. And I think that if you’re not a sexual assault survivor or someone living with trauma, and you read my poetry, I want to offer a different perspective on what a poem can be and what a poem can do, whether that’s in form or content. I want anyone who reads my poem to feel that poetry isn’t dead and that it still matters and can make a difference! And if I ever write something which inspires others to write poetry like that that would be my marker for success.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.