Strategies to Combat Sleeplessness

Sleep and I have a love-hate relationship, in that I love sleep, and sleep hates me. Sometimes my brain just refuses to shut off, no matter how tired my body is, and so I draft blog posts at 1:23am that include a list of tactics for helping one fall asleep:

  1. Piano music on Pandora. This is one I learned from my little cousin, who is a ball of energy, but needs sleep just like the rest of us. She listens to this station every night as she falls asleep. Now this isn’t a particularly useful tactic if you don’t have a premium account since ads will wake you right up, but it can be modified so that you get the meditative effects by combining this with option two which is
  2. Tire yourself out doing simple but mildly productive tasks. Some nights when I can’t sleep I throw my hands up in the air and get out of bed and start cleaning the kitchen. I try not to do anything too noisy, so as to not wake the other occupants of whatever sleep space I am inhabiting, but I’ll often tidy up by drying dishes left in the dish rack, or using minimum amount of water (for both environmental and noise reasons) to wash plates, dull cutlery (no one wants to go to the emergency room at 2:00am because they cut off a bit of finger washing a steak knife) and pots, etc. When I lived in a dorm without a kitchen to clean I would tidy my room, or go and brush my teeth. While doing all these I will often listen to relaxing music such as above. Bonus points if you’re productive activity is drafting a blog post.
  3. If tiring yourself out productively doesn’t work, I recommend Sudoku puzzles, because nothing tires out my brain at night like logic puzzles. Crosswords will sometimes work, but sometimes I’ll get caught in the trap of looking something up and getting caught in a Wikipedia spiral. Word search is also an acceptable task. In whichever case, I recommend trying to find yourself a paper book to do these in, because looking at screens is bad for you.
  4. That said, there is another option, to be used with caution, that is my mum’s method, namely putting on some random TV show or movie that you’ve seen a million times and don’t actually bother watching, just closing your eyes and letting the 90s slang sing you to sleep. (I’m looking at you Clueless). The problem with this twofold: firstly, looking at screens right before bed is bad for you, and secondly, you might get too engaged in the show/movie and end up actually watching it. The second has always been a problem for me, and the first is even worse on my end because of the multiple concussions I suffered from towards the end of my sophomore year of college.
  5. Similar to option four, but without the detriment of having to look at a screen, is the option of listening to a familiar audiobook. I recommend that it be an audiobook for something that you have already read for two reasons. The first is that if you already know what is going to happen you won’t feel compelled to stay up to find out what happens next. The second is that if you fall asleep but don’t know exactly where you drifted off it doesn’t matter because you know how the story ends, and you don’t need to be constantly guessing whether you feel asleep twenty minutes in or thirty minutes in. If you are like me and don’t want to pay for audiobooks and yet deeply disapprove of pirating material, I recommend investigating whether or not your local library is part of OverDrive, which is a website that lets you borrow eBooks and audiobooks from your local library. As a bonus for those of you who also live in Massachusetts, if you go in to Boston and are able to provide evidence of your Massachusetts residency (which I know is difficult for a multitude of people for a multitude of reasons, but if you can) you’ll be able to get a BPL card, and I know for a fact that they partner with OverDrive, so it should work for you, even if you don’t physically enter any branches of the library again before your card expires.
  6. Turn on a light and read until you fall asleep on top of the book. I recommend a hardcover because they are less likely to tear if you fall asleep on them.

TL;DR quiet music and/or books.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s 2:15am, I’ve been listening to option one and it’s gotten me fairly drowsy, so I am about to go enact option five in combination with action three.

Sweet Dreams,




Note: Despite some minor editing because typos, this really was written in the wee hours of May 21st, 2018.

Book Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

From the first line about Monday mornings and having an existential crisis I just knew that I was going to love Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. The premise of what is now my new favorite YA novel is that Jordan Sun, a student at the fictional Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, has been rejected from one too many musicals. In the depths of her dismay at the rejection, she gets the idea to take advantage of the lack of communication between students in her own theater department with those in the music department to create the identity of Julian Zhang, the newest member of the Sharpshooters, an elite, all male, a capella octet on campus.

When I was weighing my options on what my next read would be I was hesitant to choose this book, primarily out of worry over whether the novel would pay proper respect to the very real challenges that trans people face, since the character Jordan is a cisgender female. I am happy to report that my fears were groundless, and Jordan as a character is incredibly self aware of herself and her privileges in the novel.

My hot take text to my roommate after finishing Noteworthy

I have to admit that I do not remember the book of fiction that I read where I genuinely enjoyed being in the headspace of the protagonist. Often I find characters to be insufferable, but Redgate managed to write a character that, while I disagreed with some of her actions, was compelling, authentic, skilled, and willing to grow in to herself in a way that demonstrates both an awareness of her own ignorance and the capability to take steps to rectify said ignorance.

I wish I had this novel when I was a teenager, because it hits all of my buttons. The main character is a bisexual woman of color, which there are plenty of in the world, so having more of them in our fiction is fantastic. So many of the characters are unapologetically out, and yet those that are not do not receive extra criticism for it from friends in the know. That isn’t to say that there is no homophobia or transphobia, because those are real factors that are considered by the characters, but the majority of the relationships that exist are full of loving friendship and apathy. That said, the stakes are played high in this book, and while I do consider it a light-hearted and easy read, there were a few spots where I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough, I was so absorbed by Jordan’s journey.

A recurring and important theme in the novel is the fact that Jordan is a student at Kensington-Blaine due to a scholarship, and so while she attends an incredibly expensive boarding school, her family is incredibly poor and struggles to make ends meet. The juxtaposition of Jordan’s situation with those of her wealthy classmates and friends could be seen as a stereotype, or be ignored, but Redgate integrates Jordan’s experience in a way that is authentic but not exploitative. There comes a moment in the middle of the novel where Jordan acknowledges her poverty not as something to be pitied, but as something that she considers mundane. This causes her to ponder over whether her rich classmates can say the same about their own wealth, and is just one of Jordan’s incredibly self-aware moments that make me again wish that I had been more like her in high school instead of worrying about not having all of the same expensive gadgets as the kids at my private high school who weren’t there on scholarship.

As a former aca-bopper and theater kid myself, in particular as one who didn’t know a lick about it before joining a group my freshman year of college, I delighted in Jordan’s confusion turned to confidence when it comes to the music and the friendship shared by the Sharpshooters. Even so, I’m certain that I would have loved this book even without my musical and theatrical background[1] and I’m confident that anyone who is even mildly interested in YA would love it too.

Happy reading!



[1] Especially since I have very much let my skills lapse over the years.

On Poetry and Translation

I think that poetry is a beautiful and important part of our history. Poetry allows us to express our thoughts and feelings in a therapeutic and elegant way. Poetry is important because it presents a way for people to connect with one another in with deeper expression than with prose. For me, the most important part of the poem is the flow. The form of expression can be just as important as the content when considering a poem whether you are writing it yourself or it is a work of translation. The form should match the content, because the tonality of the work can be utterly changed with format.

Take for example, the Irish folk song Green Fields of France. I am a firm believer that music is a vivid form of poetry, and this song is no exception. There are many versions, but my two favorites are both by The High Kings. In one, the song has a slow and graceful melody, that makes it a quite beautiful and meaningful song. The other version is no less meaningful, but has an upbeat tempo that makes the song bigger and more enthusiastic. Both takes on the poetry of this song are quite lovely, but the first time I heard them I didn’t even realize they were the same song until I examined the lyrics.

From this we can understand that tone and flow are some of the most important parts of a poem, and yet they are also malleable, depending on who composes the piece. Everyone writes poetry differently because poetry is a reflection. For some that means a reflection of the self, or of an experience, or of knowledge that the poet is comfortable with. My poetry contains my thoughts and hopes and dreams, and I make my own mark with everything I write.

Here is when I fully turn to translation, that delicate art. Aside from authors and poets who translate their own works, the translator is taking up someone else’s voice, and changing it into another tongue. The translation is a different entity from the original, because it requires a leap of faith towards oneself and one’s abilities to reimagine the work in a new context. In his essay An Act of Imagination Philip Boehm notes that “what allows us to summon a new creation from the original and give it a life of its own is our empathetic imagination.”[1] So when I translate a poem, I am not only shaping the words through varying amounts of linguistic prowess, but also putting myself and my imagined consciousness into the poem.

That said, every time I look at a poem that I have translated, or even more so poems I have written myself, there is always something I want to change. The poem is always forming itself, even as I go back to it again and again. During my independent study last semester, I was hesitant to share my poems with the professor because I never felt like what I had done was enough, and I was revising right up until hours before my selected poems were due. Maybe I was overdoing it a wee bit, but honestly, I don’t feel like I was.

Tomorrow I head off to Middlebury’s 3rd Annual Bread Loaf Translators’ conference, and I couldn’t be more excited. In preparation for my workshop I have been reading through The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Language in Translation as was directed by my workshop leader, Idra Novey. We only had to read part I, but I read all four because I’m a nerd and translation is my passion. Also, because I read ahead whenever possible, and sometimes even when it shouldn’t be. I already quoted one of the essays, but let me quote another. In Pierre Joris’ A More Complex Occasion he speaks quite a bit about poetry and translation, and one quote speaks out to me:

[W]hat many years of practicing (and thinking about) poetry and translation have lead me to is a sense that the often-stated difference in nature between the supposedly pure and unalterable ‘original’ poem and an always secondary ‘impure’ poem is much exaggerated. […] A poem is […] a variable thing: the poet’s hand-written poem is not the ‘same’ poem when first published in a magazine, which in turn is ever slightly different when published in a volume, then a selected collection, and later in a posthumous collected volume. The poet’s public readings of the poem, its being set to music by a composer, its translation into one or ten or however many languages ― all these events do change a poem, enriching it, making it into a more complex occasion.

If we acknowledge the poem to be such a mutable complex of occasions, then nothing is more translatable, nothing demands multiple translations more than a poem ― and nothing enriches the poem more than being translated.[2]

I realize that is a very long quote, so I’m going to stop this post here, giving you just a little food for thought.


Slower version: Green Fields of France
Fast-paced version: The Green Fields Of France


[1] Boehm, Philip. “An Act of Imagination.” In The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Language in Translation, 27. Washington DC: National Endowment for the Arts, 2014.

[2] Joris, Pierre. “A More Complex Occasion.” In The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Language in Translation, 68-69. Washington DC: National Endowment for the Arts, 2014.