Welcome to StoriesEtc, a place where University of Wisconsin students can share their original works of creative writing with the community, whether it be poetry, short stories or anything in between. As a section dealing with the arts, it feels only natural to create an opportunity for students to share their creative talents.

With that being said, let’s meet this week’s contributor, UW-Madison student Rodrigo Smith.

The Badger Herald: Tell us about yourself. What’s your major? Year in school?

I am from the south side of Chicago, Illinois, born and raised, oldest of three, two little sisters. I am actually majoring in mathematics, not creative writing or anything of that nature. I have taken a creative writing class since I’ve been at Madison, though. I enjoy many things — I play piano, draw, I enjoy art immensely and it takes many different shapes and forms. I also enjoy creation and the passion it brings. When you are able to learn and create things there is a strong interplay that is immensely satisfying.

BH: Define your writing, authorship and perspective.

I try to tend to think my authorship and perspective is the same as my artistic perspective, which is to paint pictures. When I write, I want to portray an image or idea to my audience and readers. I attempt to use my words, tone, empty space, imagery, to convey that idea. When I’ve gotten the point across holistically, I then tend to engage with my writing in more detail, similes, metaphors, things of that nature. I mean it’s typically what any poet or artist does.

However, I tend to be more engaged with having more variety into how to perform a piece. I have performed pieces in many different ways to create a new mood for my idea. That’s the cooler thing about poetry — performance and tone can shift the overall feel of your portrait, and by portrait, I mean whatever you’re trying to convey. This is also the very reason I study mathematics, it increases perspective, creativity and it has beauty. Math is viewed by many as an art form and even that in itself is a strong perspective.

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BH: When did you start writing creatively?

Not many people know this about me because I’m typical the math and science dude, but I have been writing creatively for quite some time. I took it more seriously in college because I finally had a good enough way to portray some of the experiences and ideas I had. I also thought my creative outlet grew as well as my confidence to express some of my other passions.

I also was very good at personal statements, and contest essays, as well as understanding and analyzing the meaning behind poetry throughout my academic life. I’ve even written a couple of short stories (although I consider them completely awful), and it was nice to be able to play with some other writing devices and concepts. I also hope to be able to write a book someday, but that’s going to take a little more time. My family is also very artistically inclined, my father and uncles, and some of my aunts and cousins enjoy music and art immensely. Mathematics is my number one passion, so it’s as if I am actually the odd ball.

BH: Talk about your creative process. What inspires you, and how do you get from an idea to a finished product?

Well my creative process goes back to what I meant abouting painting a picture. For instance, in my poem Game of Life, there are many tropes and ideas that went into this piece, so I’d thought I share them for insight into how I go about creating a piece.

In terms of idea and inspiration, I listen to music and read heavily, so I usually wait for the idea to come and it can come from anywhere. For example, the title is actually a shout out to “The Game of Death” (a Bruce Lee film) and the Game of Life board game I grew up playing as a child. However, both are accurate portrayals of ideas I wanted.

Bruce Lee was a deep communicator of life, and the Game of Life is literally a board game in which life is simulated, so I thought “Game of Life” would be a good title. There’s a sense of deepness but also innocence, just like life, if you look at the title from this point of view.

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Then I begin writing in more detail, and I try to use real experiences to express deeper meaning. For instance, being that I wanted the piece to have details of games, probabilities and chance. This reflects my idea to express being at mercy of the universe, but to also show just how precious life actually is because of that. Furthermore, I used allusions to inner city youth, such as the simple act of going to the store may result in something negative occurring. I wanted to portray my life as an inner city youth from a violent area of Chicago through that line. Thus the piece also extends to show how everyone is at mercy of life, however some of us (especially lower income communities) are at less of a mercy due to the system in which we are apart.

I wanted to express how the “game” changes when you look at economic and social disparities. But also how life in general can be a difficult. Now I know that may seem deep, but some of my other works are more heartfelt, because as I said, inspiration can come from anywhere. Also the piece reflects my true losses I have had to random acts of gun violence in Chicago, and I wanted to emotionally portray that part of me through this as well.

Here is a sample of Smith’s work:

“Game of Life”

Soul rips, Soulful tips.

Advice from them. Soulful Tips.

That first death hits you hard.

Look in the mirror,
You become reminded.
Love, played roulette with my heart. Family, placed all their bets on me. Bills, why I don’t gamble
Credit, score is low
Life, triple 777s,
I never made blackjack,

HIT ME!
My life made out to be a hit.

My Life.

Place your bets, maybe I won’t make it pass this block.
Place your bets, I’mma head to the store real quick.
Place your bets, boy you betta call me when you almost home! Place your bets, where he bout to drop?
Roll the dice,
odd we live, even we die

Odds, Even,
I can’t Even begin to fathom the Odds.

His loss, her loss, their loss.

Life, Precious.

Death, a coin toss. Bet.