What's your medium?

Poetry and prose—how words offer the most accessible medium of all

From quills to the keyboard.
Photo: 
Editor’s Note: Ben Wrixon is on The Journal’s Editorial Board
 
Language is one of the first skills we develop as little humans.
 
The spoken and written word intersect to provide a direct form of communication between people everywhere. Widespread literacy means accessibility to art and information that can be enjoyed by many and created by all. 
 
For this issue’s column diving into why Queen’s community members express themselves in the artistic medium of their choice, The Journal sat down with poet and recent Queen’s alum, Monique Lee-Vassell, Artsci’22, and our very own Editor-In-Chief, Ben Wrixon, ArtSci ’23, to talk poetry, prose, and everything in between. 
 
Lee-Vassell has been filling notebooks since learning to hold a pencil. However, her taste for creative writing and poetry didn’t settle until she did her first year of university at the Bader College, Queen’s campus in England. 
 
“When I was learning about the artists and the writers in my English literature intro class it was all William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge—romantic poets who write about the English landscape and based their careers off of it,” she said. 
 
 “Whenever we learn about poetry in school, it can seem restricting because of the structures we learn about it, but I think anything can be poetic really. It doesn’t feel like I’m fitting into any mood [when I’m writing].”
 
Last semester Lee-Vassell organized a community event for live spoken word, inviting her friends and peers to perform in a space designed for creativity: the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre. Her first time reading her own work aloud proved to be a gratifying and rewarding experience. 
 
“It somehow all happened with divine timing […] before that I hadn’t really read my poems in public—only to my bestest, closest friends. It was like coming out as a writer in my own space with all of my favourite people and in my home base where I felt safest."
 
Her celestial perception of writing and connection weaves outer worldly sentiments with a search for oneself on a quest on how to be satisfied alone. When asked who inspires her, she referred to Reyna Maria Rolka, someone she has “completely immersed herself in.” 
 
“I’m more involved with his history now but his words would always pop into my sphere[…]his poetry makes me physically feel everything and I get goosebumps […] my body, my soul, my mind and spirit reacts to all of his writing.” 
 
She described her writing as hypnotic, echoing the pace of her train of thought. 
 
“I’m very very blessed to know what my [artistic] medium is […] I think words specifically open the door to my mind. When I write, my brain somehow turns my wiring neurons into this tangible thing that I can, and we all can, read.” Wrixon, though leaning towards prose, has similar beginnings as a creative writer. 
 
Scribbling stories in his journal that he proclaimed as “cringeworthy” was his favourite pastime growing up. Despite losing touch with his creative voice as a tween, he came back to the medium in high school. 
 
“I won a couple of competitions in high school and thought ‘okay, I might not be the next Shakespeare or Stephen King, but I think I’ve got something going on here,’” Wrixon said. 
 
The writing of Stephen King and Queen’s alumnus Iain Reed have inspired his work the most. From reading a never-ending supply of creative and clear prose to watching a talented Kingston based writer receive well-deserved recognition, the thoughtful simplicity that can accompany original pieces of works drives Wrixon’s storytelling. 
 
In stark contrast to his passion for creative writing, Wrixon’s work at The Journal requires structure and uniformity to capture the voice of a newspaper.
 
“When I’m writing creatively, I just sit down and do it. I’ve experimented with planning and organization—it never really works,” Wrixon said. 
 
He swears by the flow of ideas when it comes to writing, finding it is best to get everything out then edit later.
“What stays consistent whether I’m writing professionally or creatively is I’m a very meticulous editor—I just need to write and then go back and be diligent with it.”
 
A short story he wrote for The Undergraduate Review stands out to Wrixon as his favourite piece of work to date. The story, titled, “The Winning Numbers,” is both what he deems as his most original work and the one where he nailed the ending. 
 
Much like Stephen King, one of his idols, Wrixon’s biggest struggle as a creative writer has been writing the perfect endings to his stories. 
 
“After the work I did in high school, [“The Winning Numbers”] was the first story that I felt like I really believed in,” he said. “I don’t think it’s my best writing or my most descriptive, but I think from a narrative perspective it was probably the most interesting.”
 
For Wrixon, words are the ultimate challenge. “If you can illicit emotions from your audiences just by writing, I think that’s incredible—it takes so much skill.” 
 
Both young writers stress that words are the most accessible form of art, with no restraints other than finding a means to get them out of your mind and into the world. 

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