Icon Breaking Creativity

Creativity is a force used not only to express, but also as a form of tribute. Whether we write a short story in tribute of a childhood memory, or take photographs of a natural disaster, or compose a song in tribute of our current circumstances, our creative endeavors end up becoming much more than some words scribbled down on paper. Our creative works pays tribute to current social issues in the world around us, whether they be issues of identity, sexuality, race, religion, or others. While I don’t think this is always consciously created, often, our creative art becomes a reflection of our fingerprints in our current time.

In their upcoming March 2016 issue, Harpers Bazaar Magazine, a culture, art, and beauty magazine, [teamed up] with ballerina Misty Copeland of American Ballet Theatre, who was recently named the first African American Principal dancer, to create a reproduction of Edgar Degas’s renowned ballet watercolor masterpieces. Degas’ work captured fleeting moments in everyday life. His paintings of ballet dancers capture the “movement of the human body, exploring the physicality and discipline of the dancers through the use of contorted postures and unexpected vantage points”. I find this so earthshakingly significant because having Misty at the center of these creations presents such a juxtaposition of what has been deemed classical, traditional, and molded in both the historicity of art and ballet, and cracks the binding frame of tradition.

 Misty breaks the traditional prima ballerina icon, shattering everything that has been typical for dancers before her who achieved the role of Principal in worldwide esteemed companies. In the New York Time’s 2007 article, “Where are All the Black Swans?," race finally became a talking point around the dance world. For the aesthetics of ballet, gracefulness and uniformity, pale and tall Principal dancers, both male and female, fit the part better. Misty’s black body doesn’t fit the frail, long muscles, and tall stature of ballerinas. Her figure is much more muscular with toned port de brass and strong, chiseled thighs and calves. Standing only 5’ 2”, Misty’s body breaks the ballerina icon, as does her background.

I recently viewed A Ballerina’s Tale and learned more about her atypical dance training background. The traditional path of ballet dancers who make it to world renowned companies like Royal Ballet of London, New York City Ballet, or Boshoi Ballet Theatre of Russia, goes as follows: from traditional ballet training from a well-known studio ages 6-13, private training from 13-16, getting accepted to study in a professional school connected to Company at 16, and then finally being accepted as part of the Corps of the ballet Company. Misty though, comes from a childhood of hardship. Taking her first ballet class at age 13 at a local Boys and Girls Club, working painstakingly to gain the technique and strength to dance en pointe and being accepted to study with the ABT school at 16, working through the Company from Corps de Ballet member to Soloist and finally to Principal June 30, 2015 at age 32 after miraculously making a recovery from shin surgery.

Art forms are always crossing and interloping, whether we are both writers and musicians; artists and poets; or dancers and photographers it is our passion for creating art in any form that fuels us. Even our subject matters cross paths with other forms of creativity; we write poems about art we see, we compose songs after watching a film, or we choreograph dances after famous watercolors.

Misty’s icon breaking progressive achievements not only pave the way for atypical body types, various backgrounds, nontraditional training paths, and multi-racial opportunities in the dance world, but her achievements carve new paths for any art form. Her story provides inspiration not only for a dancer/poet like myself, but for anyone striving to share their art with others. The dancer in me resonates with Misty’s story.

I only started dancing in high school but I think our fires are fueled with just a bright a love for this art form even if we didn’t start learning it at a very young age. Even though my body isn’t the ballet-perfect silhouette (It’s a stocky 5’3” with short arms and large calves.) I’ve found a graceful power behind dance. For me, dance expresses emotions that I just can’t quite pin down in a poem. Often, if I’m experiencing something too intense, whether it’s joyful or sorrowful, and I need more of a release than my pen will give, I turn to dance. Like poetry, dance helps me connect with other people and experiences and channel my energy into something constructive. Whether we are musicians, poets, photographers, artists, or sculptors, we can break through traditional icons no matter our gender, race, sexuality, background, or training. The important thing is that we fuel our creative passion and create. 

I see Touchstones as a place where we as creative people come together to push our fingerprints into the clay of our current times and leave our tributes to our experiences, both personal and collectively.

Poetry Editor

Shauntel Peterson

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                          “Three Dancers in Violet Tutus”. Photo taken by me in an art gallery this summer during the English Department’s Study Abroad to London.


                “Three Dancers in Violet Tutus”. Photo taken by me in an art gallery this summer during the English Department’s Study Abroad to London.

What's the Use?

“So what is the use of poetry these days

What use is it What good is it

these days and nights in the Age of Autogeddon

in which poetry is what has been paved over

to make a freeway for armies of the night…”

 --Uses of Poetry, Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Like countless other poets, Ferlinghetti asks my own question in words that are so much more effective than my feeble attempts. I’ve considered this greatly over the years, and the answer is a difficult one to come by. Why do we pursue the pristine metaphor, the striking juxtaposition, the whirling twist and perfect landing of a poetic turn?

Our poetic inclinations are rooted deep. The earliest written lines reach back at least 4000 years and the oral tradition reaches back to time immemorial. It makes sense that we continue charging forward with poetry into our technological era. To write poetry is to become human—of particular importance in Ferlinghetti’s “Age of Autogeddon.”

To take a page from the father of modern linguistic theory, Ferdinand de Saussure, language is not simply a name-giving system or reflection of our reality. Language is our reality. Without language there is no thought. Language divides an amorphous and unspecific reality into building blocks with which we can construct ideas, formulate concepts, and, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, attempt to process our oftentimes confusing existence.

To my sensibilities, therein lies the “use” of poetry. All art grapples with the human condition, but poetry wrestles reality. Through visceral, savage entanglement with language, poetry challenges our preconceived notions of what constitutes this physical existence. When we grasp the world around us through a heightened sense and mastery of language, we are able to alter directly the very matter of our thoughts and, by extension, the world around us. To create poetry is to take charge of our linguistic experience and mold our world.

In his brilliant essay “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose” (which I feel can be extrapolated very effectively to poetry), Jack Kerouac stated that one of the essential aspects of writing well is the inclusion of the “unspeakable visions of the individual.” Kerouac’s oxymoron outlines just what we need to do as poets: speak our unspeakables.

The unique visions each of us garner from our individual lives often fall outside of conventional linguistic scope. Creativity and audacity are the substances that fill these gaps. If this seems paradoxical, that’s because most pure attempts at art are. We are using imperfect systems to reach for perfection—telling fundamental lies to arrive at truth. It’s a beautiful and uniquely human struggle. To take from Kerouac again, the best we can do is “Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea.”

At Touchstones, we have the surreal and humbling task of working with our writer’s constructions of reality. Every poem we encounter contains the staggering weight of a new paradigm of thinking—each a unique vehicle racing toward Truth or some semblance of it. It’s an experience I’ll never forget nor take for granted.

Thanks for letting us in on your unspeakable visions. Keep them coming.


Jared Price

Poetry Editor


Submissions Deadline and Reading Night Are a Thing of Tomorrow

If you have a piece of prose or poetry that you would like published, you are just in time to submit to Touchstones this semester as the deadline is tomorrow, Feb 11. And don't worry about choosing among the pieces you have, because you are allowed to submit as many as you want. Who knows, you might just get something published. What could you lose? 

One unique thing about our journal is that once we publish your piece, we give the rights and ownership back to you, so you may submit it and publish it again to another journal. What's also cool is that if we accept your piece, we will workshop it with you like crazy, giving you the chance to make it ooze amazing, remarkable David-Bowie-magic-dancing effect and meaning. After publishing with us, you're poised to go higher. Why not send it to The New Yorker, Ploughshares, or Tin House. 

Also, whether or not you submit, all Utah Valley University students are invited to our open reading night, which is the day after submissions: Friday the 12th. The night works like this: each piece is read through by at least three real regular Utah Valley University students who will each evaluate the piece and determine whether they believe it is Touchstones worthy. After every piece has been read by three people, we have a discussion about them. Joining us on this night gives you experience with all types of prose and poetry that have been written at all types of skill levels. It gives you the chance to see what kind of writing really stands out, and why.  Your writing can't avoid improving after a night like reading night. And, tons of professors will give you extra-credit just for attending. You should ask if yours will. Maybe we'll see you there. 

Justin Duckwitz

Touchstones PR Manager

Words Like Monuments

      “The aim of the poet and the poetry is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual work into the larger work of the community as a whole.”

     -Seamus Heaney, writing about Yeats


         Though my personal affinity has always been for poetry, I would suggest that this quote could apply to anyone who works creatively. Touchstones has, more than anything, shown me the valuable service that creative people can provide. They can tell us who we are, where we are, where we’re going, and where we’ve been. That is what makes artists and, more importantly, art so valuable. Touchstones is not about individuals flexing their creative muscles or showboating their talents. Touchstones is about all of us, together, at once, saying “This is who we were” to whoever might care.


         When we sit down to write, to sculpt, to paint, to draw, or to sing, we can do it with the intention of showing off our talents and exorcising that which torments us, but it’s much more satisfying to make something for somebody else. It’s much more worthwhile to invent an animal and then send it down a hallway full of strangers. Without the artist there, who will the animal brush up against and sniff? Who will run their fingers through its fur? Who will find that, if they listen, they can understand its every bark and howl? Who will it bite? Who will look into its eyes and, instead of seeing the artist lurking inside, waving for attention, see their own reflection but in a new way that is unexpected and sublime?

        There are those artists that are so good at giving us what we need that we elevate them to celebrity status and call them heroes, electing them to speak for us and show us the way through the dark. But we all have at least one poem or story or painting that has, by itself, followed us home. We remember these far longer than the people who crafted them. When something is created, the creator is just an incidental part of the process. What really matters is the creation and what it does to the people who find it.

          To me, Touchstones is a community of creative people working together to show us who we are. Touchstones is a place for art and writing that helps us identify and understand ourselves.

      I want to sign off with a line from Josh Ritter’s ballad “Bone of Song.” 

“I’ll remember your song - but I’ll forget your name.”


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Looking into the Spring

           Passing through each semester, we swing from one vine to the next. As we’re in the down stroke of spring, we anticipate the momentous journey that the staff and student body are about to embark on. Last fall, the Touchstones journal staff made a lot of progress which we want to continue with this spring issue.

            Last semester, Jordan Freytag lead as Editor-in-Chief and helped us connect as a creative writing staff. The fall 2015 issue brought the creative writing community together at UVU. Now, as Editor-in-Chief for the spring issue I can say we’re more excited than ever considering how far we’ve come as a journal. We plan to keep building the strong sense of community, as well as reaching out to new writers and artists. We want to urge and welcome the student body to submit their creative works and be a part of the journal.

            We’ve updated the Touchstones website and will actively post on our blog each week this semester. Every member of our editing staff will have a chance to write and post about their thoughts. We invite you to be involved in our crafted literary journal, whether it be submitting your prose, poetry, creative nonfiction, or art of any medium. If anyone is interested in a valuable experience as a writer and editor, then come to reading night where you can help vote for the published pieces. Anyone who is willing to come help at reading night will be credited for their work in the journal and will also be considered for future staff positions. Submission deadlines for writing is Feb.11th by 11:59 pm. Reading night is Feb.12th in room 206a in the SC building at 6:00 pm. Art submissions are due by Feb.25th by 11:59 pm.

We look forward to your creative work and hope to see you at reading night.


Caitlin LaVange.

Editor-in-Chief, Touchstones