Reading Cover to Cover and Smile to Smile by Dom Witten

Friday, 16 October 2020

My name is Dom, but I am known in circles as Domo, Nikkie, Dominicki, Sunshine, Dominoque and of course Dominique. I write poetry and I guess that makes me a poet. Well on second thought, one of my Poetry Club babies knitted me a hat that says “poet” so I guess I have the credentials to be a poet. While wearing said hat a person with a guitar asked me if I was a poet, and I said I was trying. They asked what I meant by that. I said I’m getting an MFA in poetry and they said I’m not trying, I’m doing. So, I guess that also means I’m a poet. Funny how poets are bashful about this title. Anyway, enough about that, this about what I’ve been reading.

While in my Structure of Fiction class we had a visiting author come to speak to us. When asked what would be good for us as writers to read, we were told to read everything we could get our hands on: biology books, astronomy lectures, old advertisements. With this in hand and thinking about what to write about for this blog, I’ve been thinking about reading differently. Per this advice I should be reading a diverse selection of literature.

Well currently, I am reading the label of an Ice Mountain black cherry sparkling water bottle. It has zero calories, natural spring water and is flavored with “natural black cherry flavor with other artificial flavors C02.” There are varying measurements, but the bottle is 16.9 fluid ounces. The label is a pinkish purple with black berries trying to swallow the Ice Mountain logo. The back of the bottle is attempting to put “sugary sodas” out of business. I think to some degree it is working. My friend has at least 10 trash bags full of these bottles in his storage unit. He’s waiting until the lines for bottle returns are shorter. Which is fair. As always, I find that there is a trash bag filling up with these bottles. This sight brings me a certain peace.

My friend overhauled his life about a year and half ago and started exercising, eating a lot of chicken Caesar salads and stopped drinking pop. In doing this he lost about a hundred pounds. And yes, I’m happy he was able to surpass his goal of weight loss but I’m happier that he is happy. He always smiles that big smile like the one when I first met him during my second semester of freshman year of college. He was wearing a sweater; I assume it was wool the way the fibers unfurled at his neck. He was doing magic tricks with cards and I am not only a literal child when it comes to these things, but I am also easily impressed. And after all these years, I still don’t know how he did the card tricks. I’m sure I could ask him but there is something special about learning to read a person. The day we met, I assumed he would another person I would meet and eventually forget. Today I am proud to call him one of my best friends. When the Rona first was taken seriously by the United States government, he let me sleep on his couch because I didn’t feel comfortable staying in the dorms. I was a Resident Advisor in my senior year at the time and students kept asking me questions I didn’t have the answers to. His house is where I went when I needed to feel safe. His teal retro dining room table is where I find myself typing this blog post. He isn’t home but nevertheless I can still feel that smile he has. Partly because he bought an air bender jacket that is hanging on a chair and partly because I see this trash bag filling up with sparkling water. He’s always there, even when he’s not. He lives in back in my home state of Michigan and I have come to visit from North Carolina. We try to call as much as we can. Before I left for North Carolina, we ordered Five Guys burgers and milkshakes. He assured me I wasn’t going to die just because I was moving. He was right; I’m far from dying.

As I return to my trip home from Michigan back down to the Southern heat, I find myself reading a Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Coffee Beverage. The can says it contains guarana, B and ginseng. In all honesty I have no idea what guarana means, and I am honestly too lazy to go an find out. I assume it is edible and won’t cause me to have health issue later on. This beverage is my drink of choice whenever I have had little to no sleep or pulled an all-nighter. Given that I drove ten hours yesterday with one five-minute stop for and gas I am extremely tired and so I take the risk with the guarana for the sake of staying awake for the day. I remember the first time I had this drink. I was in under grad at the University of Michigan and it was finals week. The scariest time to be a student. Anyway, I had the Doubleshot Energy Coffee Beverage and a 5 Hour Energy and let me tell you, worst decision of my life. My heart was beating so fast I couldn’t feel it. My hands were shaking, and my thoughts were racing at top speed. Horrible idea in retrospect. I am amazed to this day that I didn’t fall over and pass out from the amount of caffeine in my system. For the ninety’s kids, remember the scene in the movie Over the Hedge where they give the squirrel some caffeine and he goes crazy, that was me. I vow to this day to never mix energy drinks.

On a smaller note, looking at this can reminds me of the time when I found out someone I knew swallowed the tab on a pop can and I was petrified for their internal organs. They lived to tell the tale, but I have never truly gotten over terrified I was for their well being.

People always want to know what writers are reading. While I can’t speak for all writers, I can say this is the kind of thing that writers find interesting. A bottle of sparkline water and an energy drink can be the catalyst for something, I don’t dare to say greatness, but words on the paper at least. Most days my goal is for words on paper and I worry about structure and “goodness” later on.

In my experience it is the attention to details that creates something special in a poem or any piece of writing. And as I writer, this is what I strive to do: make people aware of the unseen. I want to tell the stories of people others are likely to meet because to me these stories matter. I like to read people’s brands on clothing. I like reading the insignias on people’s hats. I like reading the signs taped on hallway walls. I love reading smiles. Some peoples smile with their teeth hidden, some smile with their bodies and other smile with their eyes. Most of all I like reading people and what they do when the think people aren’t paying attention to them. Sometimes I put on headphones and don’t have anything playing just so I can read a room. Sometimes people are going through break ups, stressing about an assignment or reading a poem to a barista friend they are afraid to share with the world. I wish I could read that. Some of the best writers are those who have never published.

And yes, I read books of course. I’ve been reading a lot of books this semester for my structure of fiction class a favorite being The God of Small Things. Without giving too much away about the book it is about a family that comes together after a lot of time has passed and what happened to a set of twins during their youth. Something referred to as “The Terror” happens with a character named the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man. This is all learned in the first chapter, so this is not a spoiler in any way. The reason I love this book is because the story rests on poetic prose and bringing attention to the unseen. Arudhati Roy writes this novel for those who love the little idiosyncrasies of the world. One character has a watch with the time painted ten-to-two on it. Another character doesn’t speak and as the novel progresses the reader is trying to find the exact moment when they stop speaking.

What am I reading lately? The answer is everything. I am reading anything that can be read and attempting to expand what can and has been read. I am reading the time, its thirty-five past two signaling that I have been trying to figure out how to express this idea for a very long time. So I guess if I had a goal it would be in accordance with the visiting writer we had in my class, read everything you can get your hands on.

Dom Witten is an MFA candidate in poetry at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Category: Creative Nonfiction, Essays, Students, Uncategorized

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