Heatwaves: The Art of Indoor Tanning

Heatwaves: The Art of Indoor Tanning (Reposted from Nov. 2013)

Heatwaves Tanning Kutztown | A Beautiful Destination

This December, Heatwaves Tanning–located at 218 West Main Street, Kutztown–will celebrate its 15 year anniversary. What sets Heatwaves apart from the strip mall stereotype of indoor tanning is owner Bri Kramer’s dedication to professional and responsible tanning. Bri, as a small business owner for 15 years, has worked hard to combat the negative stigma associated with indoor tanning facilities.

Smart Tan Certified, Heatwaves Tanning personalizes the experience by setting up individual exposure plans that best suit the customer’s needs, not just wants. A great feature of Heatwaves is the commitment to educate patrons on how to tan responsibly, because the foundation of this business is quality & knowledge.

A Cut Above the Rest

As a facility certified in the administration of Ultraviolet light, Heatwaves knows how to advise clients on what type of tanning bed is best for their needs and on the duration of their UV exposure. It’s not uncommon for inexperienced tanners who have used unregulated tanning salons in the past to enter Heatwaves with a misconception of how the industry should work. Bri is an advocate for restrictions on tanning beds, because some places provide the service as a marketing tool. These unregulated facilities aren’t enforcing protective eyewear, or pairing the tanner with the proper bulb.

“It’s like if I started doing hair here for $5–whatever you want, but I don’t know what I’m doing,” Bri explains with a chuckle.

The integrity of Heatwaves counters the image portrayed by these “fast food bulb” businesses.

Bri is passionate about responsible tanning, and her passion is what drives her business to be about the art of indoor tanning, not just the net profit. I can contend from personal experience that Bri is a straight-shooter, because Heatwaves is not the kind of business that will sell you a $45 bottle of lotion when the $19 bottle is a better match for your skin type and exposure plan.

Years ago when I needed a base tan before my tropical getaway, I chose Heatwaves because of the mentality quality first.  A benefit of using an indoor tanning facility is the controlled environment for smart tanning, and at Heatwaves, it’s not okay to “burn a little.” After my initial experience, I realized that indoor tanning is not just about cosmetics.

Only the Bimbos in Bikinis

The obvious stereotype associated with indoor tanners is that we’re all bimbos in bikinis with orange-tinted skin.

(Although I did ask Bri what causes those orange tans portrayed on television, and she explained it’s the DHA bronzing agent used in certain lotions paired with tanning daily.)

Heatwaves attends tanning expos and personally tests out lotions in order to pair each client with the appropriate product. This means you won’t find yourself looking like a carrot.

Bri explains that she’s had all kinds of customers from: college students to farmers, professionals to athletes, travelers to retirees. Regardless of gender, clients also utilize indoor tanning for treatment of skin afflictions, such as acne and psoriasis, long-term depression, S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder, bone density imbalance, and more. Especially during the gray months of December through February, tanning even once a week is the vitamin D pick-me-up I need to bare the brunt of winter. Even just those few minutes of light and warmth seem to make the week more manageable. Customers of Heatwaves exhibit a great loyalty to the small business, because in addition to its professionalism, the atmosphere is super-friendly.

Let the Good Times Roll

Stepping inside, a customer can expect a greeting from one of Heatwave’s furry friends, Otis and Avery.


Bri has crafted an extraordinary environment where employees and patrons alike are in good spirits. Unlike commercialized facilities, Heatwaves is an emblem of independent business.

“We love to keep it fun here. If you catch the staff at just the right time, we might be line dancing or instigating a full round of belly laughs. If there was Tan-ertainment,
then Heatwaves would be the world headquarters!”

With music always playing, Heatwaves is a relaxing and easy-going place that reminds you of the importance of “me-time.”

Bri’s compassion and love for animals goes beyond Heatwaves’s resident companions and is reflected in her nomination for philanthropic activities by Profits for Passion. Heatwaves supports the One by One Cat Rescue and contributes to the rescue of injured sea turtles.

 Bling Indie: A Retailer for Fine Metals

In addition to being an active member of the community, Heatwaves also supports local craftsman Robert T. Graham. Graham produces handmade and custom sterling-silver jewelry, which are only available at retailers Kennett Design and Heatwaves Tanning.

Graham explains, “The way I see it, I work in three mediums: metal, clay, and students. …Transformation has been the underlying theme in my work, no matter the medium. In metal I look to transform found and unconventional materials into works of art.”

Graham crafted his unique jewelry and sold them throughout college at Kutztown University as he worked his way towards a B.A. in Art Education and a B.F.A. in Crafts, with a concentration in Fine Metals. He is a gilded craftsman and offers a variety of unique gift shopping. Stop by Heatwaves to see Graham’s hand-crafted jewelry up close.

Let’s See Those Pearly Whites

Heatwaves Tanning also offers Bleach Bright teeth whitening services, because everyone should be able to afford whiter teeth. This self-administered teeth whitening system is dental grade bleach & polish designed by two dentists. The pre-filled soft mouth piece is easy to use and the process yields immediate results. Why waste money with OTC whitening strips that never seem to work.




Bleach Bright features “state of the art technologies that are safe, industry unique, and cost-effective.” This means you can see your teeth 2-8 shades lighter in 15-20 minutes.

I’ve used the Bleach Bright whitening system myself and was surprised at the ease and legitimacy of the process. Depending on your lifestyle, the LED whitening will last 6 months to 1 year.

Escape the Ordinary


For 15 years Bri Kramer has been an energetic and positive business member of the Kutztown community. With fun weekly discounts, you walk into Heatwaves feeling more like a friend than a customer.

So stop in at Heatwaves and escape the ordinary.

Photos obtained from             Heatwaves Tanning

Muse Monday: Why My Boyfriend Can Melt Your Boyfriend’s Face

I know, I know, everyone thinks that his or her partner is the cat’s pajamas. This glorified sentiment also includes but is not limited to kittens, babies, puppies, and best friends. However, my boyfriend is legit as a muse and here’s why:


1. Jimmy Kleffel Can Melt Faces

Is melting faces good, you wonder? What does that even mean–to melt a face? According to Urban Dictionary, Face Melting is:

The condition in which, due to an extreme exposure to an event of epic Awesomeness, Horror, or any other emotion on the more extreme end of the spectrum of emotions, one loses all perception of space and time including (but not limited to) a brief lapse in physical awareness.

Commonly used in reference to metal, face melting is associated with the ability to both compose and perform intense and effective music. So why is this good? The journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences says:

Of all the problems that may confront a music psychologist, none is perhaps more important than to explain listeners’ reactions to music. Some kind of musical experience is the basis for every musical activity, regardless of whether it involves composing, performing, or listening to music. Several studies have suggested that the most common goal of musical experiences is to influence emotions: People use music to change emotions, to release emotions, to match their current emotion, to enjoy or comfort themselves, and to relieve stress.

Jimmy executes precise consideration in how he shapes his music. For example, saccharine pop-love hits or most metal on the scene intend to to incite mirrored emotional responses with their hyper-fluffy and hyper-aggressive lyrics, respectively. Jimmy, however, cultivates an unique emotional experience for listeners. Never contrived, his craft focuses on manipulating sound and emotion to encourage the listener to explore the murky depths of one’s latent feelings. Not sure what I mean? Listen to The Comfort of You. This is an example of non-metal face melting.

As a creator, the ability to affect your audience on such an intense emotional level is amazing. It’s the Holy Grail. It’s the great white whale. It’s what all artists claw for. Jimmy’s music is a perfect exhibition of the dynamic relationship between the artist and the audience. And this makes him muse worthy.

Although you might not be impressed yet. But here’s why you should be:

2. Jimmy Kleffel Composes, Performs, and Records All of His Music

Think about all of the music you’ve ever listened to. The cacophony of assonant and dissonant sounds, the artistry of lyrics, the harmony of instruments playing in accord, the mastery of aligning pre and post-production dynamics. Now imagine one person balancing all the elements that go into a single song. Listen to this and picture one dude not only creating the raw partnership of sounds, but performing, recording, editing, and executing a cohesive piece of music.

This video doesn’t even scratch the surface of how much time and consideration goes into creating and perfecting an art. Which brings us to muse worthy point 3:

3. Jimmy Kleffel is Hardcore Dedicated to and Disciplined in His Craft

Imagine waking up. Imagine making yourself a cup of coffee. Imagine going through the list of things you want to accomplish on your day off. Now imagine spending the next 10 hours straight meticulously writing, performing, and editing your work, because art is work. Now imagine doing this at every waking opportunity between time spent at your full-time job. It’s easy to write off accomplishments as “natural talent.” But make no mistake, true art takes practice, patience, time, and commitment. And this dude is one committed mofo. If you asked Jimmy today if his songs are complete, he could recite a laundry list of elements that need to be reworked, rerecorded, rewritten. He’s the only person I know who wishes there were 28 hours in a day and 8 days in a week, just to have more available time to work on his music. Despite constraints, Jimmy has written, performed, and recorded over 300 original songs. And that kind of dedication makes him muse worthy.

As a writer, you could equate composing a song akin to composing a short story: an independent piece that is a part of a greater whole or collective. Each segment is designed to work independently as well as cohesively to tell a broader story. Jimmy has created a series of autonomous songs that when strung together, reveal a deep perception and oftentimes dark commentary of our world. Most of his lyrics contain double or triple meanings, which takes an exorbitant amount of consideration that I admire as a lover of both economy and the written word. This devotion to details is just an example of to what lengths Jimmy considers all aspects of his music.

4. Jimmy Kleffel Isn’t Defined by Genre or Image

A bona fide Renaissance Man of music, Jimmy isn’t defined and confined by one genre. He crushes the boundaries of conventional music systems by creating not only “the kind of music [he’d] want to listen to,” but whatever music speaks to his emotions and mind frame. And as a genuine artist, Jimmy doesn’t feel the need to look or act the part of what he is creating. He might be the only metal artist I know without myriad tattoos and piercings. He doesn’t subscribe to a boho left-bank sense of style to craft acoustic folk, or a smooth player swag to produce sexy r&b songs. And if the mood strikes, don’t be surprised if he pours out Radiohead-esque electric jams or even full-out rap beats. As a musician, Jimmy encourages exploration of emotional, mental, and spiritual capacities. If there’s a genre he’s interested in delving into, like jazz or Bossa nova, he’ll set out to teach himself. His albums range from the smooth acoustic rock of New View to the sharp metal edge of Speak of the Devil to the dream pop rock of Out of Body Experience.

And he’s not reserved about getting creative with blending sounds and genres. Jimmy incorporates his inspirations from well-renowned musicians, personal experiences, theology and spirituality, natural elements, and even aliens, conspiracy theories, and mysteries of the pyramids to experiment with thought-provoking and inciting pieces.

5. Jimmy Kleffel is Self-Taught

Jimmy takes auto-didacticism to a whole new level. More than just teaching himself new musical styles, Jimmy delves into all aspects of learning his craft. He taught himself how to play the drums simply because he needed drums in his music. Every instrument in his compositions is a reflection of the ferocity he emits towards making music. This vigor extends beyond just learning how to play. He’s spent hours reviewing instructional videos on how to delicately restring, retune, and rebuild his instruments. He’s devoted his time and energy to studying the unspoken art of composition. He’s labored for years to produce the best quality sound he can with antiquated technology, making him a MacGyver of home audio engineering. Jimmy isn’t hindered by inadequacy. If there’s something he doesn’t know how to do, he’ll figure it out. Want to know how he makes an electric guitar scream like a monkey? Well, that’s a trade secret. But it did take the old-fashioned guess and test method.

Jimmy stumbled upon his passion when at the age of 4 he discovered his father’s guitar behind the couch, picked it up, and began to strum. From that moment, he’s pursued and cultivated his life-long love of music. If even half the artists in the world exhibited as much passion and persistence as Jimmy, there’d be no more faces left to melt. We’d all live out our lives in a constant state of emotional apexes. We’d all be blown. A muse like this makes us humble listeners want to transcend ourselves and give whatever it is we love all that we’ve got.


About Jimmy:

Cresting the barren slope, the earth exposed in all its majesty, its history. All of its swirling and tumbling, rising and falling, growing and dying, is too slow for me to perceive. But it won’t be the same tomorrow. The cooling dusk air, replete with salty earthen crystals, made pins and needles of my cheeks under a backdrop of stars peeking timidly through the decaying rainbow sunset of the abandoned Southwest, my sky now in favor of 80 light years to 8 minutes. I carried my hands over the cooling soil. I was created by the same swirling and spiraling elements. This is my brother. I was made to experience you. I dug my feet into the sand and looked above, to my mother. I was made to experience you. Like living on the tail of a firework in slow motion for all my senses, every moment, every day, the grandest piece of art ever made. I sing back. In celebration, in tribute, and in harmony with the shifting, swirling, spiraling dissonance of the universal ingredients, too slow for me to perceive. But the song won’t be the same tomorrow.

Source: SoundCloud/Jimmy Kleffel

For more videos check out: Jimmy Kleffel on YouTube

Upcoming Albums: The Mad Ape Experiment and Hyde was the Doctor

This predominantly instrumental metal album features innovative sounds and a killer 8 string to depict a dark, imaginative commentary on human behavior and the inevitable retribution that follows. “Evil given for evil done.”



USA by RAIL: How to be prepared


So you’ve purchased your Amtrak USA Rail Pass for either 15, 30, or 45 days of train travel. You’ve looked over 10 on-board tips, and you think you’re ready for “All Aboard.” Have you diligently scoured the internet to prepare yourself for your journey? Trick question. You can never be fully prepared for the rail ahead. But here’s advice on how to give yourself an edge and that little extra sense of security.

The Backpack

When loading up your backpack, suitcase, or generally over-sized handbag, you need to remember economy. In most instances, a backpack will be your carry-on of choice, and it’s important to keep in mind weight and practicality. This means after you’ve scrutinized your luggage, give it a twice or even third evaluation. When selecting a good pack, try and spring for a durable, load baring one. This can run you about $100 a pop if you’re looking for the real deal. And while you’re there, pick up a solid water bottle. Don’t get crazy and opt for an 80L  if you’re a tiny woman. And if you’re traveling as a pair, don’t plan for inflicting the burden of your extra contents on your partner. There will be resentment after walking a few miles around a new city, waiting for check-in.

Check out this site for additional help on selecting your size.

The Wardrobe

Think climate. If you’re traveling for an extended period of time, you may find yourself going from hot and humid Miami to the chilly coastal airs of Northern California. Time of year matters, so research the states’ and cities’ weather conditions in advance. Don’t rely on stereotypes. “California is sunny and warm.” With that ocean breeze, you may find yourself resenting the 7 pairs of shorts and tanks you stuffed into your pack. Be versatile. Think layers. You’re going to want at least 2 pairs of pants and a comfortable sweatshirt or pullover. There may be a good week between having access to a laundry room, so think ahead about your needs. Sweaty feet syndrome? Maybe squeeze in a few extra pairs of socks. Which brings us to shoes. Shoes shoes shoes. Think longevity. Consider a pair of boots or shoes that are comfortable, durable, and will provide some kind of foot/ankle support. This means forget your dress shoes, heels, flip flops, and other fashion footwear. And remember your Dr. Scholl’s, because regardless of where you’ll be, you’ll be on your feet. You don’t need a new “outfit” for each day, so leave your closet at home. Accept that there will be times you wear the same t-shirt 3x a week, so pack your favorite. And, very import, bring a good coat. Especially depending on the time of year, you want to have a coat that will sustain you throughout varying elements: rain, snow, desert heat, and even the icy chill of the train cars at night. Don’t weigh yourself down with a sherpa lining (remember: layers), but don’t leave yourself exposed to nature’s whims. Everything will not go as planned. Waterproof is your friend. Waterproof backpack, waterproof coat, waterproof shoes.

The Accessories

Reusable water bottle. Check.

Electronic devices with compatible chargers and headphones. Check.

Over-the-counter meds secured in a convenient Ziploc bag. Check.

Travel-sized HBC products also secured in  a convenient Ziploc bag. Check.

Weird little things that might come in handy but probably won’t think of: nail clippers, tweezers, bottle opener, small scissors, pocket knife (there’s no TSA, but knives are still on the no-go list, so pack this at your own discretion), chewing gum, floss, hair ties, and a couple extra Ziploc bags. (Why extra baggies? Get caught in the rain or when hanging out on the sandy beach— bags are a sure way to protect your smartphones, iPods, and other small electronic devices. Additionally, your tiny tube of lotion can bust and that extra baggie can save the integrity of your clothes as well as the day.) Check.

Locks for your backpack. This will give you more peace of mind when you’re “sleeping” on the train, or even when traversing new streets. Check.

A notebook or daily planner, a couple pens, and stamps if you’re preemptively excited to send postcards. (In which case, don’t forget to bring the addresses of everyone you’re leaving.) Check.

Lightweight protein bars and breakfast snacks. Check.

And… a  mesh laundry bag (or plastic grocery bag if that’s how you roll) to stow your dirty unmentionables separate from your clean gear. Check.

The Research

As mentioned, you’re going to need to research the climates of the places you’ll be visiting. But in addition, you’re going to need to have done a bit more. The obvious modern day research methods include:

1. The Internet. And your #1 site should be Amtrak. because you’re going to need to this baby in order to have any idea about your travel itinerary.

2. Friends, family, and acquaintances who are familiar with the areas you’re traveling to. You can get firsthand tips on places to stay, snazzy cafes to eat, and horrible, scary, murderous neighborhoods to avoid. Oh, and the wonderful spots for sight-seeing.

3. Books like USA by Rail Plus Canada, travel guides, an atlas…

4. Google maps and other GPS apps for figuring out where you’re going and how to get there in the new cities. (Keeping track of train station and lodging addresses in your handy notebook is a must.)

5.  Public transportation information sites for the unfamiliar bus, BART, metro, and light rail schedules and fees.

6. TripAdvisor for reviews on everything and anything. Plus, the site can give you ideas on local activities, tours, and happenings.

The Rail Pass

You must not lose your rail pass, otherwise your exciting journey will be sorely short-lived. So make sure to tuck it in your fanny pack and keep it close. Jot down your rail pass ID number (as well as your partner’s) in your notebook or daily planner–you will need this to schedule any of your segments (i.e. trains and thru buses). Right next to your ID number, jot down Amtrak’s phone # (1-800-USA-RAIL) for booking. The rail pass is not a free-for-all. You must call ahead to book seats on any train; the rail pass affords you prepaid travel, not prepaid seats. In order to use your rail pass effectively, you must must must know your train schedule. So look in advance! Do not wait. Waiting and teetering on the unknown makes it very difficult to coordinate future lodging and transportation. Know your timeline. If you already know you want to leave New Orleans (NOL) and head to Tucson (TUS), you should know your travel dates, your segments, your route, the duration of travel, what time of day or night you will depart and arrive, and how far the station is from your booked stay. For example, The Sunset Limited from Louisiana to California does not run every day. Just like in the name, the train is a limited route. You could find yourself having to stay in the city an extra unplanned night after you’ve already checked out. These things happen. So be flexible. Like I said, everything will not go as planned, even when you are on the ball. So do yourself a favor and eliminate any conceivable possibilities of additional, unnecessary stresses.

The Lodging

Vet your lodging. This is what all those scathing Internet reviews are for. You might think you’re saving yourself $$ by opting for the “only $49 a night!” motel. But you’ll be paying the cost later when you need to shell out for bedbug removal. Maybe you value your beauty rest. But maybe that hostel you booked is directly above an all hours nightclub. These things matter. Keep into consideration the location of your hotel/hostel/Airbnb host, especially if you’re set on getting around by foot. Know the proximity of your lodging to the train stations and locations of interest. Those taxi rides can add up (and also be a particularly unique nightmare), so do yourself a solid and download the Uber or Lyft apps if you have a few days in major cities. “Your friend with a car” is half as expensive as a taxi cab and in most cases, more reliable. For extended stays, consider renting a car as the most cost-efficient option if you’re interested in checking out multiple cities in one state. And if you’ve never stayed in one before, a hostel can be a particularly cost-cutting boarding option. For $60 a night you can get a private room for two. Know your perks. If you’re traveling on a budget, take note of which hotels and hostels include breakfast with your stay. You’ll resent needlessly spending an extra $15 every morning when you could have gotten your coffee and toast for free. Some boutique hotels even offer free cocktails during happy hour, saving you and your partner $20+ a night, so take advantage of your amenities.

The Neighborhoods

Researching the cities you’re visiting is essential for safe travel. You may find yourself stranded outside the train station in Oakland at 11 pm. The closest BART is a 15 minute walk taking you under the freeway. You don’t want to be under the freeway. Know where you are. This is also important for booking your room. That affordable place in the Tenderloin might seem like a good idea, but come nightfall you’ll wish you paid to stay in a better neighborhood. Check out a breakdown of neighborhoods on a city map, and take the time to do “best” and “worst” searches. Keep in mind areas you may we walking through and around during your visit. Even scenic city parks can often become temporary housing camps for an increasing homeless population. When exploring a new city, be aware of state laws and regulations. That fruity hurricane you toted around with you in New Orleans’ French Quarter will get you fined in most other cities. (Note for Europeans: Open container laws are enforced in the majority of the United States.) Strolling around discretely puffing a joint may be overlooked in Northern California, but will get you arrested elsewhere. And similar to New York, many West Coast cities are putting the kibosh on public smoking. Don’t light up a smoke walking around anywhere in Coronado, CA–the entire island is smoke-free on any public property.

The Costs

And if you’re a particularly fastidious person, keep a record of your expenses to stay on budget. In advance, researching the costs of hotel stays, hidden booking fees, downtown restaurants and hot spots, popular tourist sights and attractions, and transportation options will give you a better idea of what you’ll actually be spending in each city. Additionally, that coach seat might not cut it on a 55+ hour haul from the east to the west coast, so plan for the unexpected. Give your wallet breathing room when mapping out your rail journey. Opting for a ticket upgrade may add an unplanned $200 to your segment, but it might make the cross country travel more bearable. And when booking lodging or rental cars online, remember that you need to present the physical credit card when checking in or picking up. Don’t leave yourself stranded. So give yourself an edge, and do your research.

USA by RAIL: 10 on-board tips

So you want to travel the United States by rail. If you’re planning on using Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass, here are 10 on-board tips to prepare yourself for your 15, 30, or 45 day adventure.

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  1. Forget about every romanticized anecdote you’ve heard about train travel. Traveling by rail can be time-consuming and often, arduous. If you have a set destination in mind across the country, you’re better off buying a plane ticket. But if you’re set on seeing America’s landscape…
  2. Bring your own food. On a 55 hour Sunset Limited train from New Orleans to LA, you will inevitably need to eat. Your diet options are bagged salty snacks, microwaved hot dogs & burgers, cup-o-noodles, candy bars, and overpriced cans of Budweiser. If you think hey, I’ll check out the dining car instead, be prepared to be disappointed. Remember, there aren’t sizzling grills and open flames on a confined train. This means even the “freshly prepared” dinner car options are nuked frozen dishes. After a 26 hour Silver Meteor stint from Philadelphia to Miami, your pallor and disposition will rapidly deteriorate. Unless of course you’re used to a steady diet of prepackaged junk food. It’s not the worst to supplement your breakfast bars or other foods you’ve managed to squeeze in your bag prior to the train with a dining car breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But remember, you will be paying exorbitant prices for even a standard continental meal. With a partner, even the most unsatisfying meal for 2 will probably cost you $40 a pop. Times that by 3 meals a day on a multi-day stint and your food costs will add up quickly.
  3. Pack a comfort sleep item. These can include small pillows, a blanket, or in my case, a versatile towel, which doubled as both a pillow and a blanket. You can buy these costly items on the train, but if you have the space, bring your own. Train travel affords the passenger the opportunity, in most cases, to stretch your legs and walk about the train. Bonus if you’re on a double-liner with an observatory car. But most of the time you will be sitting. After 24+ hours of being stationary, you will wish you had that extra neck support. A travel blanket will be clutch because, and I can not emphasize this enough, the train will be cold. At night the internal temperature gets lowered to degrees in the 50s, if not less. Perhaps this is a ploy to sell those comfort items available on the train I mentioned. You don’t need to be excessive. Some passengers cart their entire bedroom set–queen-sized comforters, fluffy pillows, slippers. This is just weird. Plus, once you’ve de-boarded, those items must follow you. Think small. Think practical.
  4. Don’t forget your over-the-counter meds. Sleep aids, ibuprofen, antacids, nicotine patches for you smokers. These items are not available for purchase on-board, so think ahead to what you may need for the duration of your journey. Going back to the food options, you may want to consider vitamins and some kind of probiotics to help keep your system balanced. For those of you who get traveler’s tummy and find it hard to stay regular, probiotics can help, in addition to nature’s laxative, prunes.
  5. Don’t neglect your hygiene. Train restrooms are basically glorified bus bathrooms. Sometimes the smell is worse, if you have a few hundred people crammed into a limited space. Keep your oral rinse handy, in addition to, facial cleansing wipes, hand sanitizer, and wet/feminine wipes. Not having access to a shower for a few days, in conjunction with your questionable diet, will make wet wipes a treat. (Especially for ladies if your time of the month unfortunately syncs with your travel itinerary.) It’s hard to really “freshen up” in a train bathroom, so if you attempt to cart your hbc products or toiletries, you may also want to pack a small travel bag for this reason.
  6. Accept that you will not sleep. There will be a cacophony of coughs, sneezes, chatter, cell phones ringing, bags crinkling, rail screeches, doors opening and closing, babies screaming, overhead announcements, and general clamoring, rattling, and undulating movements. You will not sleep. Time will pass like a sick bay. If you remembered your pillow, eye cover, blanket or make-shift blanket, sleep aids, and (#7) your headphones, you will have a better chance than many. But it will not be satisfying, and your arrival at your destination will be both a victory and a daze. Nodding in and out is an inevitability, but don’t expect REM.
  7. Bring your headphones. If possible, your very expensive noise-cancelling Boise. You will need these to hookup to one of your many devices, whether it be smart phone, iPod, laptop, iPad, or all of thee above. You will not be able to use audio without them. In addition, don’t forget to pack your devices with appropriate chargers. If you have the data, you will need these electronics to get you through the long hauls. Most trains don’t provide free wifi, and when they do, sorry, no streaming. So make sure your data plan can take the brunt of your Netflix binging.
  8. No matter how tempting, don’t get drunk on the train. First off, this will only be cost efficient if you manage to squeak a flask of hard liquor in your bag. Who wants to spend $6 for a Corona? I mean, you’re not in Miami (yet). This is totally possibly, since there is no TSA to pat you down at the train stations. However, you may quickly find yourself on a boat without your sea legs, and no amount of dramamine can save you. Second, if you are a smoker (and did not remember your nicotine aids: see #4) you will suddenly find yourself more miserable and more irritable than imaginable. Yes, there are stops on the train course that do allow for a step-off to stretch your legs or smoke. They are few and far between. And if you find your ride is with a particularly salty conductor, no announcements will be made in that regard. You will see the deserts pass by and wonder, when? when? when can I smoke? The answer is never. Or at least, not until Tucson. And third, if you do manage to step-off for that sorely needed fresh air or smoke, even the clearest of minds can miss the “All Aboard!” call. I have seen this. It’s not pretty. Forgotten passengers screaming and chasing after the train that has departed without them, yet with all their bags and on-board possessions. This happens, so stay sharp.
  9. Evaluate your funds and consider the roomettes if you’re losing it. When you purchase an Amtrak Rail Pass, you will discover that your ticket is only good for seating in coach. You will also (sometimes quickly) discover the vast class difference between the coach and the “sleeper” passengers. Yes, the attendants are nicer to the ticket-holders with rooms. If you’re taking the Coast Starlight from LA to Seattle, you will hear the announcement for wine & cheese tasting in the exclusive “parlor car” and wonder why not me??? Because you’re in coach. Sometimes, the attendants will rapidly traverse the cars, speeding past the restless coach passengers for “reservations” in the dining car. If you miss making your reservation, you miss eating in the dining car. You are left with the prepackaged cafe car options: see #2. There are 3 tiers of ticket-holders. Coach, Roomettes, and Sleepers. The roomette is basically a tiny mobile prison for 2 where you are allotted privacy. A sleeper accommodates up to 4 passengers, and unlike the roomette, provides a small shower in addition to a sink and toilet. However, the sleepers are much more spacious. Don’t let your parents get a roomette, unless they are very lean and nimble. Someone must climb up to the top bunk. And with both bunks set up, you only have room to stay in bed. With each roomette or sleeper upgrade (which can cost you up in the hundreds of dollars on top of your rail pass) you get your dining car meals included. Score! But, and this is important, when traveling with a companion, make sure your partner’s ticket is marked as accompanying the purchaser’s roomette. You must explicitly make sure Amtrak knows that you are a pair. Not all employees will do this automatically (thanks for nothing, Miami). If you luck out and a gracious Southern employee (thank you, Charleston!) notices this, you and your partner can board together, both of your meals included. You do not want to watch your loved one get carted away like a prince or princess at 6 a.m. while you have to sit, alone with the other coach passengers waiting, stagnant until you can board and hope to eventually find your privileged companion somewhere in the labyrinth of sleeper and roomette cars, which, trust me, are on the other side of the train.
  10. Laugh. You must be able to laugh about the trials and tribulations you will face on your rail journey. If traveling alone, make sure to keep your friends and family up-to-date on your misadventures, because laughter is the best medicine. Actually, laughing might just keep you sane. So that boisterous group of elderly Southern ladies are cat calling and slamming down their dominoes from the seat behind you in the observatory when all you want to do is peacefully watch the new Grey’s Anatomy?? It’s okay, they’re laughing. And that’s nice. Their trash-talking is actually pretty funny. So all you want is the godforsaken train to take you away from whatever godforsaken city you are desperately trying to escape… when you overhear “radio issues,” “malfunctioning,” and “we’re going to need a new engine.” Three hours later your train is slowly reversing back into the station from whence it came, and all you have is half of a sad, mealy grapefruit. Don’t worry. Just look at your partner–and laugh.

USA by RAIL: 45 days around America introduction


2015-10-06 16.27.33

His & Her Backpacks

As Jimmy & I prepare for our final stages of packing, I’d like to thank everyone who gave us such a warm farewell. We will be heading out on Sunday, October 11th to our first destination Miami, Florida. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the rail pass, let me clarify. Our 45 day USA rail pass through Amtrak will allow us to take 18 “segments” during the 45 day period. Each train constitutes as a segment, thus we must map out the cities we’d like to see based on the number of segments it would require to do so. If you take a look at the Amtrak system map above, you’ll see that navigating the country by train is not linear, haha. This means that in order to get to one of our must-sees (New Orleans!) from Miami, we’ll have to take the Silver Meteor (up the east coast) to Washington, D.C., then get transferred to another train (the Capitol Limited or the Cardinal), until we take our final train City of New Orleans down into NOLA. For further clarification on train routes, see picture below.

USA15_MAP_P229_Amtrack colored routes

His & Her Backpacks

Hopefully that will give you an idea of how organized I will have to be to diligently keep track of departures, hotels, and timelines. The first 3 weeks will be fast-paced, because Jimmy & I need to get to the Phoenix, AZ area by Halloween for the Monster Mash Festival in Tempe, featuring headliner Tool (and Primus). Exciting, exciting. Post-Halloween, Jimmy & I will either head up the west coast and back towards PA through the badlands, or double-back to check out more cities on our must-see list. Feel free to contact me along the way for any questions (or concerns, haha). I will be updating Facebook regularly with photos and stories from the rail.

Kate Must-See: Charleston, SC. / New Orleans, LA. / Austin, TX. / San Francisco, CA. / Salt Lake City, UT. / Denver, CO. / Portland, OR.

Jimmy Must-See: Atlanta, GA. / New Orleans, LA. / Anywhere in the desert like AZ. and NM. / Portland, OR. / More of the desert / Nashville, TN.

Although we won’t be able to make it everywhere our hearts desire, we will be allotting time to see our favorites: Xavier in Miami and hopefully, B Dubs in Orlando. And yes, Ali, I will totally take pictures of the new Harry Potter world if we can get hooked up with tickets to Disney. ; -D

Muse Monday: Classical Composers

   Classical Music & the Creative Mind

For the past two weeks my top muse has been Fryderyk Chopin–Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era. My Chopin Pandora station has been accompanying the progression of my current project Amazing Grace. Similar to Chopin, check out Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt.

Pourquoi Mozart?

Ever hear of the Mozart Effect? It’s the idea that listening to Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music will increase spatial-temporal reasoning. The BBC wrote a brief article on the effects of listening to Mozart/classical music/any music really on increased brainpower. Although there are skeptics, I favor those who contend ambient noise can improve creativity and stimulate the brain.

Similar to the Mozart Effect, new studies boast the power of Baroque period music like Vivaldi on increased brainpower.

Ambient Noise 

Here is the scientific article from the Journal of Consumer Research everyone keeps referencing regarding the study of ambient noise (i.e. background noise) on creativity. Although, we’re more likely to read this one from Sci-News summarizing the research & results. However, the creativity I’m talking about isn’t “getting creative” with which fruit-shaped hand soaps or bohemian prints to spruce up your home. My beef with referencing this article as an artist is that the focus is on increased creativity for consumers.

“Creativity is ubiquitous in the realm of consumption. On the one hand, we as consumers engage in everyday creative behavior such as home decor, fashion, or planning meals with limited resources.”


I’m talking about that sweet writing zone.

decibel chart70 Decibels

BUT, the research does suggest that a moderate level of ambient noise–at like 70 decibels–is enough to distract our brains from all the noise pollution, allowing for a greater possibility of higher creative thinking.

To give you a range of sound, fireworks clock in around 120 decibels, while the ticking of a watch is about 20. The sweet spot chimes in around the average radio murmur or normal street noise (70 decibels). Some might prefer the softer side of ambient noise, like the soothing sounds of a babbling brook (40 decibels) or the lulling rustling of leaves (20 decibels). Normal piano music falls between 60 and 70 decibels.

Noisli is a fun site (similar to A Soft Murmur) that lets you access a variety of ambient sounds and white noise, including birds chirping, rain falling, ocean waves lapping, etc, etc. In addition, you can make your own ambient playlists so to speak, customizing what sounds you want to hear in conjunction with others.

+ Here’s a site featuring 3 apps for ambient noise and an interesting anecdote about Hemingway.

+ Weird–there’s even a site/app exclusively offering the ambient sounds of a coffee shop for those who enjoy the bustle of cafes. …But isn’t that what actual coffee shops are for? Well, that and coffee.


The overriding correlation seems to be that moderate background noise is good for creative types, because you can still retain focus while allowing your mind to open abstractly. And furthermore, a little background music/ ambient noise can make repetitive tasks go by easier. Proofing tedious papers? Kick up your mood with your favorite (classical music? bird chirps? crashing waves? instrumental ballads? electronica?). Studies indicate that lyrics can be distracting, as SparringMind.com explains:

“Since listening to words activates the language center of your brain, trying to engage in other language related tasks (like writing) would be akin to trying to hold a conversation while another person talks over you… while also strumming a guitar.”

Although, sidebar, I do enjoy passively listening to french music. Foreign music can substitute as your background noise successfully, particularly if you aren’t entirely fluent. One of my faves:

This site also mentions using movie or video game soundtracks as your ambient noise.

Noise Noise Noise

Some people prefer listening to white noise in place of music, silence, or ambient noise apps while writing or working. In addition to white, other examples of colored noise are pink and brown.  So what’s the difference?

SimplyNoise.com,  a free color noise generator, explains:

White Noise – Contains sound across all frequencies. White noise is the most effective at blocking distractions because it covers the largest spectrum range. It’s great for reading, writing, studying, and anything else that requires focus.

Pink Noise – A blend of high and low frequencies that produce a mesmerizing waterfall effect. Pink noise is great for melting away stress while keeping you alert and energized. The airy pulse creates a therapeutic environment that relaxes your mind and body.

Brown Noise – Utilizes the lower sound frequencies to generate a deep ambient rumble. Brown noise is excellent for aiding sleep, pacifying children and pets, and even masking Tinnitus. It’s also great for breaking in audio equipment and soothing migraines.

…I can’t imagine writing to anything in that regard other than brown, so I better stick to the classics.

Classical Composer Lists

Here’s the top 10 most famous classical music composers:

1. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

3. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

4. Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

5. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

6. Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

7. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

8. Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

9. George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

10. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

[Poor Beethoven, whose early works were shadowed by Mozart. Can’t mess with Moonlight Sonata (Sonata No. 14).]

The most famous list above is similar to the top 15 greatest composers of all time, except it excludes these notable contenders:

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)

and Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Your Own Beat

So whether you prefer classical music, colored noise, ambient sounds, or even electronica, bottom line is that moderate background noise can help stimulate your creative juices. Every author has his or her own particular preference. This site talks about the daily routines of 12 prominent authors– For instance, E.B. White preferred organic background noise to music:

“I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions.”

And for those of you who just really aren’t into classical music, check out modern instrumental pieces like Explosions in the Sky to help get you into the sweet writing zone. Or better yet, if you’re into bands like Tool or Deftones, you might prefer Isis:

Side note: For you sound geeks or meditative types, you might want to check out studies on 432 hertz or “Verdi tuning.”

Writing Genres You Didn’t Learn in College

So you’re a post-grad and want to submit your works to literary journals, only the call for submissions asks for genres you’ve never heard of. Remember when everything was simple– fiction, non-fiction, poetry. Scroll through literary databases now and you’ll come across (sub)genres they didn’t teach you in undergraduate writing courses. Flash fiction? Speculative fiction? Fabulist writing? Found poetry, erasure poetry, slipstream, cut up, steampunk, cyberpunk, and more. You might ask yourself why all the writing samples you have from college aren’t fitting into the modern mold. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly these niche publishers are looking for, because it certainly isn’t the cut and dry “action,” “crime,” “comedy,” “adventure,” “fantasy,” “horror,” etc, genres of yesteryear. There are open calls for submissions that align with those familiar styles from your undergraduate days, but this blurb’s intent is to highlight some of the not-so-proverbial styles of the 21st century.

Note: Although some of these (sub)genres aren’t “new” per se, they are more popular in today’s writing community and therefore are more widely exhibited & defined. Additionally, some known genres have multiple nomenclature and are listed here to further clarify. (And If you took a specialized course in college, or had a concentration in an aspect of creative writing, then you may be familiar with these terms–this article is intended as a writing overview.)


Narrative nonfiction  Narrative Non-fiction: i.e. creative non-fiction. Non-fiction, or fact-based writing, that incorporates literary devices seen in fiction writing, such as character development, setting the scene, imagery and sensory details, metaphor, etc. etc., with a compelling narrative that propels the reader. Think Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (published 1966). A form of creative non-fiction writing is the memoir, or an autobiographical account of a person’s experiences and memories–an example of this is one of my faves, Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (published 1993). Both examples use literary conventions to communicate real information in a way that reads like fiction.

Hybrid nonfiction  Hybrid Narrative: Similar to Fiction’s cross-genre writing, which combines elements of multiple genres–for example, prose and poetry, action and comedy, science fiction and westerns, etc. etc., the hybrid narrative is a non-fiction style that implores the writer to craft a non-fiction narrative that juxtaposes more than 2 elements. The piece can be fragmented, segmented, braided, etc., with sometimes conflicting elements, which create a journey for the reader to interpret.

More simply, “Hybrid novels [are] novels in which graphic devices like photographs, drawings and experimental typography are integrated into the written text. Within hybrid novels, word and image combine to create a text that is neither purely written nor purely visual.” (An example of this can be seen under my current projectsAmazing Grace is a non-fiction essay that braids the narrative with journal entries as well as excerpts and images from books, poems, movies, etc.) Also see: Alternative Labels: Jane Addams’ Travel Medicine Kit  by Terri Kapsalis (published 2011). This essay in book form, as part of the Jane Addams’ Hull-House Museum exhibit, combines documentary, biography, & mystery by blending historical facts with quotes, excerpts, and exposition.

food writing  Food Writing: Topic-centered writing that is not quite considered a “genre,” but incorporates a range of traditional genres. Although food writing can refer to poetry or fiction, this style of writing predominantly focuses on food as a cultural phenomenon, and in the literary sense, about providing readers with an aesthetic experience regarding food, not just communicating information. (An example of food writing can be seen under my writing samples here.) One of my faves is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (published 2007).

Travel writing  Travel Writing: This genre, commonly associated with guide books for tourists, also includes documentations of real traveler’s experiences and accounts of foreign cities and countries. Think On the Road by Jack Kerouac (published 1957). Niche (sub)genres focus on the natural or geographical aspect of long journeys and explore the environment and living/surviving outdoors. At its core, travel writing is intended to educate and inspire readers and is not limited to serious accounts. CNN lists these 15 as the funniest travel books written in English. This type of literature can be fictional in the sense that the work is based on real journeys. Think Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (published 1899).


Fabulist fiction  Fabulist Fiction: By definition, a fabulist is one who writes or tells fables. Fabulist fiction stems from magical realism, which tries to convey the reality of one or more actual worldviews and depicts real circumstances or people, with elements of the miraculous. Think George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm (published 1945). This animal fable was a social commentary on, and satirized, Stalinist communism and totalitarianism. Check out this list of 10 modern fabulist novels for an applicable understanding. Simply put, fabulist fiction combines elements of non-realism with a greater cultural or artistic meaning. Think Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (published 1865). This popular literary mag publishes “Fables, yarns, & tales” online and in print.

Mash up novel  Mash Up Novel: Derivative of cross-genre fiction, a mash up novel is a work of fiction that combines a pre-existing text, often a classic work of literature, with another genre, into a single narrative. Often this hybrid style blends horror with the antecedent text. Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith with co-credit to Jane Austen (published 2009). This bootleg writing is accepted under the fair use doctrine of copyright law when the imitated work created is a commentary on the original or a parody thereof. This BBC article highlights the 2014 changes to UK copyright law which may mean trouble for mash up writers if their parodies convey a “discriminatory message.”  [The literary canon is also derivative of the music industry term mash up, which is a composition created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs.]


flash fiction  Nano or Flash Fiction: A style of fiction that exemplifies extreme brevity, or shortness of speech. These “palm-sized” stories are generally 300 words or less, with a cap of 1,000 words. An example is the shortest complete short story ever : For sale: Baby shoes, Never worn, attributed to Ernest Hemingway. “How short can a story be and still truly be a story?” This sub-genre might be a result of our society’s shortening attention spans, but famous authors like Kurt VonnegutFranz Kafka, and H.P. Lovecraft bring legitimacy to the craft. Flash fiction is also accredited to being a style that dates as far back as Aesop’s Fables (5th Century B.C.).  This niche within a niche writing entails that “You will learn to kill your darlings,” by being hypercritical about what text is necessary to the plot. Here are some tips for writing flash fiction.


Speculative fiction  Speculative Fiction: By definition, a collective term that encompasses any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. More specifically, speculative fiction can be assigned to those stories “on the fringe,” i.e. ones that don’t fit perfectly into the genres of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror. Think The Twilight Zone series written by Rod Serling (1959). Think Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories. Basically, this is a “super-genre” that categorizes a spectrum of “weird fiction.”

Writer & blogger Jill Williamson put it this way:

“Where all types of fiction tell a story of a hypothetical situation, speculative fiction often tells a story that takes place in a hypothetical story-world that is different from our own. Speculative fiction can take place on earth, but often takes place in other worlds envisioned by the author.”

Think J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy (published 1954) or C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (published 1950 – 1956). An example of contemporary speculative fiction is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (published UK 1997 – 2007).

Cyberpunk  Cyberpunk: [The “punk” of all these speculative fiction subgenres is derived from the music industry term punk, which implies a style that is gritty, raw, urban, etc. In addition to that DIY mentality, punk refers to a counterculture living on the fringe of “mainstream society,” and aesthetically, the fashion style of punk is stereotypically choppy, confrontational, and destructive. Basically, a subversive, anti-establishment scene that embraces anarchy and social chaos, while maintaining a romanticized, low-life ambiance.]

Cyberpunk is a literary subgenre that simply put, focuses on “high tech and low life”  and is inspired by the Information Age. The prefix “cyber” refers to cybernetics, a termed defined by Norbert Weiner in 1948 as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” Cybernetics is an umbrella for systems-related scientific fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, information technology, virtual reality, etc. This dissertation further discusses the themes of cyberpunk.

Editor Lawrence Peterson of the fanzine Nova Express explains:

“Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.”

 This (sub)genre highlights the microcosms of individuals in an often near-future dystopian setting that is littered with prominent hopeless sentiments and the struggle of maintaining a sense of morality and humanity in a perverse, technologically-advanced society. Think Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (published 1968), known as the movie adaption Blade Runner (1982). Other examples can be found here.

Steampunk  Steampunk: A science fiction and fantasy (sub)genre with themes centralized around technology, inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery. The genre is notable for incorporating and reimagining the aesthetics of the industrial revolution with modern technologies in our contemporary world. Popular settings for this style include Victorian England, the American West, and post-apocalyptic societies. The conflicts generally embody “an emphasis on the empowerment of individuals in the face of industrial standardization and the advance of modern bureaucratic government.” The term steampunk was coined in the 1980s to categorized Tim Power’s Anubis Gates (published 1983).  Think H.G. Well’s The Time Machine (published 1895) and Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (published 1870). 


breakfast of champions Slipstream: Referred to as “the New Weird,” slipstream meshes the fantastical with real elements while borrowing from literary fiction and conventional science fiction genres like speculative fiction, fantasy, and horror. The term, introduced by Bruce Sterling in 1989, explains that slipstream “…is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange… .” The overriding premise is that “the world is inexplicable, but that there is some feeling of connection nonetheless” and often in spite of, the fantastical nature of the stories that “slip” between the real and the weird. A famous example is Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery (published 1949). Other popular works include The Invisible Man (published 1952) by Ralph Ellison, and more contemporary, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (published 1972) or Breakfast of Champions (published 1973). What is remarkable about this genre is how the authors blend and weave recognizable human characters with elements of the bizarre. Here, the reader accepts the story without question, because the writer delicately crafts the normalcy of these characters within the backdrop of strange circumstances. These “impossible elements” color the story with something that doesn’t exist in real life.


found poetry  Found Poetry: “Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.” Found poetry is the art of taking existing passages, phrases, or words and crafting them by altering the text–adding, deleting, or even simply rearranging spacing to shape a new meaning. John Hollander, 20th century American Poet & Literary Critic explains, “Anyone may “find” a text; the poet is he who names it, “Text.”

 This style of derivative poetry allows the author to layer contexts, thus giving the poem more meaning. While “true” found poems consist entirely of the original text, some famous authors play with this genre by combining external excerpts with their works. A example of this is T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922). Here Eliot crafts the poem using extracts from “Wagnerian opera, Shakespearian theater, and Greek mythology.” Think Ezra Pound’s  experimental collection The Cantos (written 1915 – 1962).

 Check out this comprehensive article on Found Poetry, contended as more of a technique than a poetic genre, from  Arc Poetry Magazine. Two types of Found Poetry include Erasure and Cut Up Poetry.


erasure poetry  Erasure Poetry: A poetic art form created by “erasing” existing text to craft prose or verse, which can be framed by the blackened-out text. Also referred to as “black-out poetry.” In line with found poetry, this style’s intent is to give new meaning to an existing text, and at its best, requires deliberate and precise erasures.  “Some erasure poems work with or against the original text; some erasure poems look for completely new and unrelated meanings than the original text; and some erasure poems are just complete nonsense.” Here is an example of a passage from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (published 1957) transformed.

On the Road


Cut up poetry  Cut Up Poetry: Similar to the craft of erasure poetry, this poetic art form, also called “cut ups,” requires literally “cutting up” different texts and crafting the pieces to create a new text. However, as demonstrated by author William S. Burroughs in the 1960s, this style can also be comprised of original works to create experimental pieces of cut up writing. See: The Soft Machine (published 1961) as part of a cut up trilogy, The Nova Trilogy. Burroughs used material from a preexisting manuscript, The Word Hoard.


pantoum  Pantoum:  Originating in Malaysia in the 15th century as a short folk poem, the pantoum was typically made up of two rhyming couplets that were recited or sung. However, as Poets.org explains, “the pantoum spread, and Western writers altered and adapted the form, the importance of rhyming and brevity diminished. The modern pantoum is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first.”  The beauty of a pantoum is the ebb and flow of the text, which subtly takes on new meaning as the poem progresses and lines repeated. Think Stillbirth by Laure-Anne Bosselaar (published 2007). Other modern examples can be found here. Here is an example of a borrowed lines pantoum I wrote called Kisses are a Better Fate (2013).

Post It Poem  Post-It Poem: One of the most analyzed modern poems, This is Just to Say (published 1934) by William Carlos Williams, is speculated as a type of found poem because its interpretation is ambiguous and left entirely for the reader. “This type of response poetry is more about the viewer—what do you see? What do you feel? What do you wonder?” It is also claimed as not being a poem at all, but rather a note left for his wife. While a Post-It Poem does not literally need to be written on a Post-It note, the idea is brevity combined with the autobiographical nature and intent of a jotted down message.   These nano-poems have no set rhyme or rhythm, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a definitive description of the cult genre that is most simply defined by the limited space an author has to craft the poem. An example of a Post-It Poem I wrote is Love, Mom (2013).