Six Books You Never Knew You Needed to Know…You Know?

While helping a professor organize the floor-to-ceiling bookcases in his office, I stumbled across some titles that fascinated me and authors I never knew existed, silly me. I have built up a large collection of photos in my phone of these books. The other day I found myself thinking, “You know who might enjoy these? The people of Opus.”

Prove me right. Read ‘em all.

  1. The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde

Seems like one of those books that would inspire even the most writer’s block-y, cynical, jaded creatives. Whether you write, paint, glue recycled plastic together, capture photos, compose…it’s a gift.

  1. Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities by Olena Kalytiak Davis

She would be an author I’d like to sit down with over coffee (or something a little stronger) and sift through her love life with. This is a raw and unadulterated look into the human heart–unromanticized of course.

  1. The Confidence Woman: 26 Women Writers At Work edited by Eve Shelnutt

If you’re a lady who plans on having a career, get yourself this anthology and prepare for inspiration and gratitude.

  1. The Open Door: 100 Years of Poetry Magazine edited by Don Share and Christian Wiman

This anthology features an introduction by Christian Wiman that is, quite frankly, one of the most provoking reflections on poetry as craft I have ever read.

  1. Hannah and the Mountain: Notes toward a Wilderness Fatherhood by Jonathan Johnson

I mean, come on! Wilderness fatherhood! How beautiful and Walt Whitman-esque!

  1. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Book of Common Sense Etiquette

It was probably common sense then, and my LANTA do we need it now. Features helpful tips about eating with the fork in the left hand.

 

Deep appreciation for Professor Pablo Peschiera’s personal library.

~Sarah Kolthoff

Garrett’s Favorites List

As an English major, I have been blessed by professors and friends with a variety of acclaimed books and authors to investigate.  I’m often asked by good intentioned friends or family, “What is your favorite book?” While I understand this question may often have little more intention than small talk, it is a question which seems to necessitate much more than a simple title and author response.  Yes, I am fully aware this makes me sound like a nerd, and perhaps I am. However, the next time you get bored of your biology textbook, feel free to reminisce on Garrett’s Favorites List, and pick up one of these classics.

My first book is Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.  Wuthering Heights is a novel my AP English course was assigned for summer reading in high school.  I have wonderful memories of reading this novel in a lake house my uncle blessed my family with for a week.  Although northern Vermont may have provided an ideal reading environment, the beautiful imagery, metaphor, and character development of this 1847 novel caught my attention.  A cruel representation of love’s brutality paired with a tumultuous family makes for a non-superficial drama.

Next, I will speak of the great author, Fyodor Dostoevsky.  A gritty Russian fellow, once sentenced to death for conspiring against the Russian government, Dostoevsky had his time in the muck before realizing his authorship heroism.  One of the most appealing aspects of Dostoevsky to me is his Christian perspective. After being pardoned of his death sentence, Dostoevsky was assigned to a labor camp for ten years.  Amidst his slaving away, he had only The New Testament to read. As a result, Dostoevsky had a intimate understanding of the faith. However, unlike so many purely positive Christian writings, Dostoevsky is not afraid to debate the philosophy and morality of religion in his writings.  The Brothers Karamazov, a internationally renowned novel by Dostoevsky, addresses many religious and anthropocentric questions amidst an interesting four brothers and their father.

Finally, Ernest Hemingway.  I expect everyone reading this name has heard it before.  If not, you’re in an even better spot than those that do know the name.  You have just discovered one of the best American authors of all time (you’re welcome), and now you can gorge yourself on his realities.  I have been taking a course with Dr. Steven Hemenway, on Ernest Hemingway, this semester, and I have found almost every book we’ve read to be of my taste.  That taste being for the sublime, often uncomfortable and raw, representations of the human experience. The Sun Also Rises, A Moveable Feast, and The Old Man and The Sea are just a few of my favorites of his.  The Old Man and The Sea is barely over one-hundred pages, so maybe start there.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you, and now you can pick your next intellectual meal from my reading menu above.

Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

OPUS Movie Night

Hello everyone!

We understand that midterms are upon us and they are going to be a bit more stressful this year (thanks polar vortex). So, our editors have thought to have a bit of time to de-stress over the weekend. So, we proudly present Opus’s First movie night!

We will be playing Lady Bird in Dupree’s Cook Auditorium. Not only will we be showing the movie but there will also be snacks and hot coco. If you haven’t heard of Lady Bird before here is an amazing synopsis by Nick Ringanas:

“Going by the name of “Lady Bird”, the outspoken Catholic high school senior student, Christine McPherson, is dreaming big of finally leaving her hometown of Sacramento, practically on pins and needles to attend a sophisticated New York City college. However, with her average grades and her family struggling to keep afloat, attending a public university closer to home would be a lot cheaper and safer, especially after last year’s devastating 9/11 attack. In the end, amid grades, numerous college applications, a blooming teenage sexuality, and a strong-willed mother who is a real mother hen, Lady Bird must find a way to make her dreams happen. Can she survive life’s bumps and cracks?”

Save the date! And please join us on the 23rd in Dupree’s Cook Auditorium at 8:30pm.

 

An Obligation to Share

The craft of writing is often a deeply personal one.  In most cases, writing is practiced alone until the editing process begins.  Writers pour their souls onto pages, and then what?  The obvious answer is to share.  But, should that always be the case?  After finishing a semester of a nonfiction creative writing class focused on memoir in which I wrote some of the most personal material I’ve ever written, I find myself struggling with this question.

Some argue that our personal lives should remain private.  There are certain invisible, blurry lines that separate what is appropriate to share and what is not.  Our gross, icky, messy crap gets shoved in the closet, so that all everyone sees is our bed neatly made, our desk cleared, and our giant closet door locked, the key hidden beneath the mattress.

Part of this thought process is generational.  Young people today are more comfortable sharing their lives with the world, especially through social media.  But writers have been pushing the boundaries of sharing personal information for generations.  There is a reason that memoir is one of the most popular and rapidly growing genres today.  Readers love to experience other peoples’ stories of pain, loss, hardship, triumph, and growth.  It makes them feel understood, connected, hopeful.

I think there is strength and beauty in sharing your not-so-pretty stories.  You never know how others will receive them, and there is both fear and joy in that.  Although, I’d argue the joy outweighs the fear.  Art is meant to be selfless.  It is meant to be shared.

Of course, there are bits of writing that I have tucked away, but the great majority of it is public.  I write for myself and for the people who may need to hear what I have to say.  I believe they exist and that they’re listening.

 

Julia Kirby, Co-Editor

Sleepless Nights and Self-Awareness

It’s 5 am and I am awake. As a college student, I’m questioning why my body decided this would be a good time to open my eyes. It may have something to do with the coffee I drank about 12 hours ago. As much as I like to pretend I have a caffeine tolerance, and though I drink multiple cups per day, anything past 5:00pm typically wires me for a good while. No matter what my body’s reasoning for being awake is, there is no fighting it. I try fighting it, but it only it heightens my awareness. There is no falling back asleep.

 

Still, I cannot just settle that merely coffee woke me. As I walked across campus last night with my friend, Cassidy, we talked about some personal essays we had recently written for class. We’d both wrestled with the genre in our own ways. I vented my inability to tap into a new aspect of vulnerability as I wrote my essay. For a genre that’s centered around honest and self-discovery this proved to be a bit of a roadblock. At one point I even said to Cass, “I don’t even know if there is anything hidden within me to write about at this point.”

 

Cass, being the good friend she is, called me out immediately. She pointed out that although it might feel true, it just meant the subject was deeper hidden than what I was letting myself access.

 

I cannot help but feel part of what woke me up that morning was that topic. Somewhere within me, that untouched idea yawned, and my creative subconscious felt it and shook my conscious-self awake.

 

I have no idea whether or not I will be successful in finding it. It’s currently 5:37am, which seems a little too early for soul searching. Then again, maybe these raw hours are just what I need to achieve some self discovery. Wish me luck my friends. I will see you all in a few hours.

Creating for a Sharper Perspective

It is true that there are those who, by some stroke of luck, were endowed with artistic talent. Certain people have a sense of vision and creativity that comes naturally; an artistic sensibility that can’t be taught in any tangible or straight forward way. Certain people were in fact “born to be artists.” However, the idea that drawing or any other form of art “can’t be taught” or that people who aren’t good at it are beyond instruction, is not only utterly false, but it also discourages people from breaking the threshold of those first few bad pieces, and keeps them from discovering the benefits of analyzing and translating the world around them into their medium.
The novice artist is constantly confronted with all the ways in which their work falls short of reality and their own expectations. But the practice of an art form is something that I think everyone can benefit from. Once you are able to produce a work that is satisfying to yourself—even just a little—you will begin to see why art is so important to the world and how it can energize your own human experience with an appreciation of the beauty around you.
Often times the best part of my day is the walk back to my dorm after my drawing class. We’ve been doing a landscape mark making unit where we draw with charcoal in the style of Van Gough, capturing the movement and essence of nature. That kind of close and intense observation of trees and grass seems to always shock the mundane and marginal imagery of my routine full of a new sense of life and novelty.
Instead of just thinking of creative work as trying to depict the best illusion of life, think of it as a way of sharpening your perception. I urge you to take some time with technique. If your medium is visual art, watch some instructional youtube videos, give the shapes of trees and movement of water a second look, and figure out how you can communicate it on paper. With enough practice you’ll begin to notice how artistic rhythms in your work are present in the universe and how they all contribute to the amazing visual experience that goes unnoticed every day you pass through your path to school or work.
Writing also has this same effect on our lives when you reflect on your process. If you’re a poet and you’re posed with describing a flower, for example, you’re challenged to see and record that flower in a way that it hasn’t been before. Fiction writers are challenged with describing situations and human conflicts is new ways too. This trains your mind to attribute a lot more value to your own experience and you are able to see, think, and feel the emotions and aesthetics of your life in terms of its richness and beauty.
Mitch Van Acker
Art Editor

The Joy of Learning

Hi everyone!

I was reminded over break of how fun learning (simply for the sake of learning) can be. I came to this revelation while visiting my older sister’s Kindergarten classroom and reading to the little kids. During the visit, I got to see how enthusiastic all of the kids were to learn. None of the kindergarteners were stressing about grades or due dates; they were all engaged solely because they were captivated by the material. Regardless of the fact that none of them understood rhyming after twenty minutes of attempting to explain that the words “bee” and “bell” do not rhyme, these kids were actually hanging on my every word about the subject. I envied their excitement towards learning, and I made it my mission to model it in my own life.

 As a result, I have taken time out of every week since being back to pick up a random book in the library that looks interesting and start reading. I also decided to approach one of my professors about participating in another one of his classes without receiving a grade. Unintentionally, these two actions have resulted in the inspiration behind a lot of my recent poetry. Amidst the pressure to maintain a decent GPA and do well in classes, we often seem to get distracted from the main purpose of taking classes in the first place: knowledge. When we choose to focus on knowledge and the fun in learning, we gain more from it and learn to enjoy the process.

I would like to issue a challenge to anyone who reads this: learn something new this week; on your own and only because you desire to learn about that thing. This “thing” you learn could be anything from a skill (like cooking a specific dessert), to useless facts about an eighteenth century poet who few people have ever heard of. Most likely, these interesting endeavors will result in some unique forms of inspiration for art that you can produce, and maybe even a piece that could appear in Opus next fall!

Have a great week!



Ryan (Poetry Editor)

3 Bedside Essentials for Writers

If you’re anything like me, your sleeping habits in college are more than unusual. In the past, I’ve found myself cooking an intricate pasta dish, reorganizing my books by color, or embroidering a pocket of my jean jacket at 3am far too often. I was sure my awkward time awake could be better spent doing something productive for my writer self, so I made a small list of items to keep at my bedside that you may also find useful.
 
  1. A notebook and pen. It’s not revolutionary, but in case you aren’t doing it yet, use sleeplessness as an opportunity to write something profound. You can always edit when your in a clearer mindset.
  2. Your favorite book. No, don’t leave the new book you’re currently reading at arms length. Its far too easy to get sucked into absorbing chapter after chapter. Before too long it’s 6am and the suns slowly rising while you rush to find out if so-and-so is actually dead. When you have your favorite book beside you, you’re less influenced to binge read. Instead, it’s nice to hop around to brief favorite moments before dozing back asleep. I’ve found that when I do this, I wake up more inspired to write.
  3. A tape recorder. This can be on your phone, but I’d highly limit your phone use to avoid a social media downward spiral. With a tape recorder, you can record your nighttime thoughts without the filter of your handwriting. You can capture tone, hesitation, and context. Sure, it’s weird to basically talk to yourself in the middle of the night, especially if you have a roommate, but I’ve recorded some bizarro things on my tape recorder that I would never feel comfortable writing in a journal.
 

 

So basically, limit yourself to what you’re allowed to do when you’re unable to sleep. You can channel your insomniac frustrations into unique pieces of writing. If you’re a person of a different medium, curate your bedside to cater to that. Good luck and sleep tight!
 
Madison Veverka
Co-editor

Submit!

Hello, Artists and Writers!

We hope you all are just as excited as we are for another semester of Opus to kick off!

The first thing to be aware of is that our submission deadline for this semester is this Friday, January 27 at midnight. As a refresher, we a accept submissions of poetry, prose, and art of any medium. There’s a limit of 5 print submissions and 5 art submissions, so you can submit up to 10 pieces total. For print submissions, we ask that you attach each piece as a separate word document entitled the title of your piece, with no name on it. For art pieces, attach pictures of your work entitled the title of your piece as JPEGs.

If you have something from a class last semester that you feel proud of, this is the perfect opportunity to share it with the world! At risk of exhausting the age old, “don’t be afraid to submit” cliche, we especially want to encourage your oddities this semester. After completing a publication of Opus last semester full of strange, boundary defying, and spirited pieces, we are more excited than ever to see what creativity means to each one of you.

Finally, remember that Opus is still active after the submission deadline passes! We will be holding meetings every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9pm in Lubbers 224. As always, come when you can, and leave when you have to.

We are looking forward to reviewing your pieces!

Feel free to email us with any questions.

Grace Hulderman, Co-Editor

Collecting Experiences

As I reflect on the past few weeks, I’m starting to realize I let myself get pretty beat. My schedule has been flooded with group projects, last minute essays, prep for exams. The creative energy has been put by the wayside, and in the past few days I’ve realized how out of touch I’ve fallen with the work I’m most passionate about.
As soon as this rose to my consciousness, I started putting some pressure on myself to write more. I took my assignment-based, school-mindset and tried to apply it to my writing. As soon as I started putting expectations on myself to produce something good, something impressive my mind started cramping.
Mallory, one of my lovely art-adoring friends, realized she’d been doing the same thing and it wasn’t producing any results, so this weekend we decided to hit the road and cozied up in a new coffee shop in the closest big city we could find.
I’m happy to report that in this current moment I’m sitting with a savory pastry in hand and one of my best friends beside me. Maybe the caffeine will kick in at some point and give me some writer’s inspiration, but maybe it won’t. Either way that’s okay because sometimes what really matters is letting the experiences soak into your mind not in hopes of getting a good piece out of it, but simply for the sake of living life.