IMPROMPTU #14: Brian Oliu

14 - napomo - 16 - oliu - site

Oliu - PortraitI very much consider myself a method writer: I feel like in order to embody my own work and to tell a story in a proper way, I have to constantly be “doing” the thing that I am writing about. Joan Didion talks about how she does not know what she thinks until she writes it down & I find this to be true as well–while I am surrounded in the moment of research, I am already questioning what it will mean & how I can parse it out when I decide it is time to sit down and write.

When I wrote “So You Know It’s Me,” a series of missed connections, I went to the places where I was writing about & observed as much as possible–I took note of every person that I saw; I ascribed my own projections to them. I immediately went home & started writing in order to capture the freshness & to exist in that moment. For “Leave Luck to Heaven,” a collection of lyric essays about 8-bit Nintendo games, I played each & every game until its completion, often taking notes and various blips of text that would later expand & sprawl into a larger concept & essay. For “Enter Your Initials For Record Keeping,” a series of essays about basketball & the arcade game NBA Jam, I played basketball every single day: sometimes just shooting baskets by myself in an empty gymnasium, other times inserting myself into a random pickup game where I would inevitably be overwhelmed by talent; a theme that permeates through the book–this “never enoughness”.

My current project, a memoir about translating my grandfather’s book on long distance running, involved me losing over 100 lbs & taking up long distance running, despite my disdain for exercise & not being able to run more than 4 minutes at a time. I completed my first marathon this past month & while I wish I could quit running forever, the book is not completed, and thus I continue to run. This allows me to think of writing as a collaboration: something that you can base your work off of so that the whole process seems less alone–there will always be a “text” to fall back on when the words just don’t come.

Set aside about twenty minutes of your day with the intention of “doing research” for a piece. Do not allow yourself to write about anything that you do not experience firsthand: if you are writing about the feel of water, or the taste of an orange, run your hand underneath the sink or get to the supermarket as soon as possible. Allow yourself to be immersed in your project & only trust “first hand research” instead of cobbling things together from various sources/the Internet–it will be there later for second drafts. If you are writing about a scene in a movie, watch that scene. If you are writing about a trip that you took, try your best to replicate that trip to the best of your abilities. Take notes, but don’t let the notes dictate your experience. After you have concluded your “research” begin writing immediately & without prejudice–don’t stop, don’t worry about linebreaks or punctuation, or word choice: capture whatever fleeting magic you have conjured until the feeling is gone.


Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of two chapbooks and four full-length collections, So You Know It’s Me (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2011), a series of Craigslist Missed Connections, Leave Luck to Heaven (Uncanny Valley Press, 2014), an ode to 8-bit video games, Enter Your Initials For Record Keeping (Cobalt Press, 2015), essays on NBA Jam, and i/o (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2015), a memoir in the form of a computer virus. He is at work on a memoir about translating his grandfather’s book on long distance running.

38 Comments

  • April 14, 2016

    Nathalie Boisard-Beudin

    Market day (and a rainy one to boot): http://spacedlaw.dreamwidth.org/154368.html

    • April 14, 2016

      Mark Staniforth

      Really nice, get a great feel for where you are, and it’s one I can identify with. Loved “earth-clad beets”.

    • April 14, 2016

      Misky

      A thoroughly enjoyable read.

    • April 14, 2016

      Amanda Earl

      I love how sensorial this is. Nicely done.

    • April 15, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      You had me walking through the marketplace myself, Nathalie! Lovely word imagery.

  • April 14, 2016

    Mark Staniforth

    Good prompt, but I struggle with the subjective stuff. Did the 20-min thing but grew frustrated and this is what is prompted: it might seem like a bit of a cop-out, but… https://staniforthmark.wordpress.com/impromptu/

    • April 14, 2016

      Nathalie Boisard-Beudin

      Your frustration feels real so I suppose the objective is met.

    • April 14, 2016

      Misky

      Your frustration gave me a smile at the end.

    • April 14, 2016

      Amanda Earl

      i keep coming back to this & your last few. i like the choices you made here. but i feel your frustration and empathize.

  • April 14, 2016

    A. Garnett Weiss

    Please note that I am working one day late. So the link to my poem for Day 13 was just posted there. Will make every effort to catch up today.

  • […] in a Storm prompt” QuillsEdge Press’ “If These Windows Could Talk prompt” Found Poetry’s “First Hand Experience prompt” Mary Carroll-Hacket’s “Wandering prompt” Apparatus Mag’s “Let’s […]

  • April 14, 2016

    Amanda Earl

    • April 14, 2016

      Mark Staniforth

      “It is the first one that didn’t end up resulting in a poem” – oh, I disagree here. It’s a wonderful poem. It’s jottings and fragments just leave so much to the imagination. You can read it in so many ways. I’d be SO disappointed if you tried to polish or curtail it in any way. Seriously, I would buy this if it was chapbook-length. It just says so much about so many things – modern life and the way we live it, etc. So irritated that I didn’t think to do similar. A great POEM…!!!

      • April 14, 2016

        Amanda Earl

        thanks, Mark. that’s an encouraging thing to say. you still have time if you want to do it again :)

    • April 14, 2016

      Misky

      I agree with Mark. This is so obviously the way to tackle this prompt. I was just too thick to realise it.

      • April 15, 2016

        Vinita Agrawal

        I’m glad I have attempted my poem yet on this prompt because Amanda, you’ve shown me the way with your splendid write! I’m inspired!

        • April 15, 2016

          Vinita Agrawal

          Reposting my comment

          I’m glad I haven’t attempted my poem yet on this prompt because Amanda, you’ve shown me the way with your splendid write! I’m inspired!

      • April 15, 2016

        Amanda Earl

        nah, there are so many different ways to do this, to do any of the prompts. we all have our ways 😉

  • April 14, 2016

    Stephanie Ellis

    Slightly retrospective 20 mins (but I was totally immersed – nature of the job), my poem, The Lesson is here http://stephellis.weebly.com/.

    • April 14, 2016

      Misky

      Nice. I like this a lot, Stephanie.

    • April 15, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      Nice work Stephanie!

  • April 14, 2016

    Misky

    • April 15, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      What better truth is there than spring…lovely line, Misky !

  • […] poem was written in response to a prompt posted by the Found Poetry Review, written by poet Brian Oliu.  It is developed using text […]

  • […] To read more about it, and to read about Brian, as well as the poems from other FPR Challenge participants: FPR Impromptu 14  […]

  • April 14, 2016

    JM Scott

  • April 14, 2016

    james (w) moore

    […] from Brian Oliu’s prompt, which encouraged writers to spend 20 minutes doing first hand research and then just write without […]

  • April 14, 2016

    james w. moore

    spending 25 minutes with 6th and 7th graders at lunch in my classroom – priceless. https://jameswmoore.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/2041/

    • April 15, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      Beautiful poem James. Flows really well!

  • April 15, 2016

    Linda Crosfield

  • April 15, 2016

    Vinita Agrawal

    Marvelous poem, Linda. Very true to the prompt!

  • April 15, 2016

    A. Garnett Weiss

    Again a day late; here’s the link to the less than free-fall experience that came to me in response to Brian Oliu’s prompt.
    http://jcsulzenko.com/day-14-prompt-from-brian-oliu-re-the-found-poetry-review-challenge/

  • April 16, 2016

    Melissa Crockett Meske

    On the Shelves of the Shop in Old Town

    I walk through this eclectic shop inquisitively,
    Hopeful the discovery of my real history waits somewhere inside.
    Repeatedly exploring the shelves and pathways,
    In search of something to call out and capture my eye.

    My attention, by means of my pocketbook,
    Leads me to revisit each corner and piece.
    The shelves display lost memories of families,
    Generations of people whose lives have gone long by.

    Is it pressed into that set of German saucers with raised borders
    That once upon a time my great grandparents might have owned?
    Or perhaps in those crystal sunflower-carved servers
    That seven decades ago had their stories trapped inside?

    Many treasures could piece the lines of my past together,
    Including the two discoveries I’m already taking home.
    But none quite as bold as the third tells its preface;
    My mom’s childhood, this vase of pink glass tries to disguise.

    –Melissa Crockett Meske, April 14, 2016

    • April 16, 2016

      Melissa Crockett Meske

      (Edited version)

      On the Shelves of the Shop in Old Town

      I walk through this eclectic shop inquisitively,
      Hopeful the discovery of my real history waits somewhere inside.
      Repeatedly exploring the shelves and pathways,
      In search of something to call out and capture my eye.

      My attention, by means of my pocketbook,
      Leads me to revisit each corner and piece.
      The shelves display lost memories of families,
      Generations of people whose lives have gone long by.

      Is it pressed into that set of German saucers with raised borders
      That once upon a time my great grandparents might have owned?
      Or perhaps in those crystal sunflower-carved servers
      That seven decades earlier had their stories forged inside?

      Many treasures could piece the lines of my past together,
      Including the two discoveries I’m already taking home.
      But none quite as bold as the third tells its preface;
      My mom’s childhood, this vase of pink glass tries to disguise.

      –Melissa Crockett Meske, April 14, 2016

  • […] Day 14: Brian Oliu […]