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Planning

Since I'm basically broke and have a three-day Memorial weekend coming up, what better way to spend it than designing my first e-book? I will have ample time to review old work, refresh/revise as needed, and put it together per the guidelines on Amazon (and BN, I suspect, though I haven't been there yet to check out their program). Now I have to figure out what theme my first book should be. Perhaps I should make it a poll! Well, perhaps not.
 
While I was working on a book a few years ago, I came up with a few themes:
  • Love
  • Sex
  • Gay
  • Anger/Emotional
  • Death/Solitude
  • Imbalance/Psychosis
Reviewing this list, and how much I've grown as a poet since I chose these categories, I think I have to reconsider. Should I try to use themes? Should I pick stuff at random, or poems that have tenuous connections? I welcome thoughts and suggestions as I try to bring my first e-book to fruition. Remember, I'm only looking to publish a small amount (12-15) of poems at a time to sell for a small price (a few bucks).

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Query

Does anyone know if there is a burn program out there that allows you to adjust the play speed for WAV files? I know you can adjust it on WMP when you're listening to it, but can you burn it like that anywhere?

Why do anything?

Linda Holmes, in her recent essay “The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going to Miss Almost Everything,” ponders that, no matter how many books or movies or television programs or songs we absorb in a lifetime, there is still an unnameable amount we will never know. Holmes describes the two methods we all use to deal with this baffling concept, culling and surrender. For example, I cull nearly all music released after 2003. Why 2003 specifically? It was the last year I spent as manager in a four-year stint at a CD store. After the decline of the CD medium and the rise of the digital download, I couldn’t keep up any longer with music. Also, much of it sounded the same—even the good stuff! Today, pop music on the radio is utter nonsense. And despite some of my friends attempting to introduce me to new, exciting, good music being made today by talented songwriters, vocalists, and musicians, I can’t muster any interest. I’ll stick with 70s disco and prog-rock, 80s New Wave, 90s Grunge, and the post-Nirvana pop of the late 90s to the early 2000s.

I do this partially for the second reason Holmes discusses, surrender. I know there is no possible way I can hear all of the good music being created today, not to mention catch up with all the good music I’ve missed in the last 50 or more years of popular music. So I have given up. Am I sad about it, as Holmes suggests I might be? Actually, I’m rather ambivalent. As I said, I’m sure I’m missing out on lots of good stuff, but I have such history with my favorite artists like Annie Lennox, the B-52s, Suzanne Vega, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Ben Folds, and P!nk. They make my brain happy when I listen to them, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

But there is another medium which, to me, makes surrender seem like murder. Any of you who knows me probably knows that this is poetry. I started writing poetry in high school (if not earlier) and have actually considered myself a poet for the better part of ten years. In the last decade, I have written hundreds of poems. I don’t claim that they’re all spectacular; by far, most of them were (optimistically) practice or (pessimistically) crap. But I have written what I suspect is some decent poetry. You should see my Curriculum Vitae!

But of the nearly seven billion people on the planet, how many have been exposed to my work? Say every person on my Facebook friends list has read at least one of my poems (though I highly doubt this). That’s 400. How many different people have heard me at open mic or feature readings since I actively began participating in the local community in 2004? Taking into account that I find myself often reciting to the same faces, I think it would be generous to say 250. For three years, I participated in an artist/poet collaborative called SightLines, which showed in three southern New Jersey galleries each year. How many folks might have been exposed to my work there? Another 300, perhaps? Let’s be generous and say 450—I’ll pat myself on the back with that one. Then there are folks who’ve stumbled across my published work, either online or in print: another 200, maybe?? (I’m not including any of the previously counted folks who have read such work due to my shameless self-promotion, since those folks would have heard or read my poetry already.) So the number of people who’ve ever read or heard even just one of my poems might be around 1150.

But maybe I’m underestimating. Maybe it’s a lot more! So, just for the heck of it, let me double that number to 2300. After all, I did read in Philadelphia that one time! But even taking into account that a couple thousand folks have read or heard my work at least once, only .00003329% of the people in the world know I have written a poem, any poem, at all. Holmes says this is sad, but also beautiful: “Imagine if you knew about everything you’re ‘supposed to…’ That would imply that all the cultural value the world has managed to produce since a glob of primordial ooze first picked up a violin is so tiny and insignificant that a single human being can gobble all of it in one lifetime. That would make us failures, I think.” Pretty words.

Still, .00003329% is really tiny. And we’re faced with tiny everyday, aren’t we? Just take more than a fleeting glimpse at a clear night’s sky, and think about all that space. The amount of space, in fact, that our planet occupies in all of that emptiness is a whole freaking lot less than .00003329%. Thinking about all of this makes me immediately suppose, “Why do anything?” I’ve often wondered how meaningless anything I do in the name of poetry or artistry really is. Yeah, Shakespeare’s words have transcended history, but ask any teenager on the street these days to name a play or recite a line, and the response will most surely be, “Like, who?” And I’m no Shakespeare, I’ll be the first to admit. So why do I do it at all? What’s the point? In a hundred years, if our species manages to claw its way out of the deeper and deeper hole it’s currently digging itself into on so many levels, will there be a trace of my words left in a Facebook fan page or a LiveJournal? How long will it have been that my physical zine eloquent with rage ceased to exist in any form except matter returning to the soil, poisoning it with chemicals from the paper and ink far more than my naughty poetry ever could?

Of course, by that logic, why brush my teeth? Why eat healthy? Why be nice to my neighbors? In the long run—the whole Why Are We Here?, Monty Python and the Meaning of Life, The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything kit and caboodle—what does anything matter? We’re living a blink of a life now, and in a few billion years, when the universe collapses, we’ll live it in reverse, so anything done will be undone, anything written will be unwritten, anything lived will be… unlived? That’s stupid. And it got me thinking: “Why do anything?” is a single extreme. So what’s the opposite extreme? “Why not do everything?” Why not bungee jump? Why not eat eggs more than once a week? Why not have unsafe sex? Of course, there are some things we shouldn’t do, if we are doing “everything,” just as there are things we should still do, even if we’re not doing “anything.”

For me, the option of not doing anything is daunting and mind-boggling. because I know how my brain works. I’ll hear a random person say a random thing and immediately start writing verse in my head before I even get to a computer or a piece of paper. On occasion, words have almost magically formed in my head and begun poems that have affected audiences to deafening silence or rousing applause. I even dream in poetry and wake up to race to the PC to type the words and images before they disappear as dreams do through the course of a day. How can I not write poetry when my mind is already doing it before I even think about it? It’s simply not an option.

There's one more thing. I have many friends in the local poetry community who would say I have already done everything: I wrote a poem a day for a year; I’ve repeatedly used visual art as inspiration for my work; I’ve attempted more forms, many of which I can’t even pronounce, than I can remember; I’ve been published and have won contests. And I've inspired others to become better poets. My peers are jealous and complimentary and occasionally awestruck. “How do you do it??” they beg. I’m a poet, I say. It’s what I do.

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Help me!

April is National Poetry Month and I am looking for creative assignments and activities to fill in my calendar. I'll be attending a couple of open mics, one day I plan to do a vid of me reciting a poem to post online, I have days set aside for writing in a specific form... stuff like that. What else should I do? Please give me suggestions. Your input is very important to me.

Thanks, and Happy Poetry!

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Hey, Tomaz...

A sonnet I wrote in response to [info]paterson_si, who asked "What makes you tick?"


Biology. Without the DNA,
the carbon, I would simply not exist.
There’s my sexuality. If “Teh Gay”
is all you see, there’s oodles more you’ve missed.
I savor fiction supernatural—
from Joss Whedon to Edgar Allan Poe.
My hands can’t draw or paint or sculpt at all,
which makes me relish Michelangelo.
In poetry, there’s solace. Hearing it,
writing it, reciting it gets me going.
I know I shouldn’t eat such greasy shit…
It only makes my LDL keeps growing.
An Annie Lennox disc will do the trick—
thus starts a list of things that make me tick.



Please follow me on Facebook.

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Poetry challenged

I've been having trouble with my Monday assignment for my yearlong challenge, which is to read OPP (Other People's Poetry). As I read, I find myself very critical of the poet from pretty much the moment I start. I think, "Wow, that's ugly," and "That metaphor means nothing to anyone anywhere except this poet," and "Ewwwww!" Occasionally, I've found some gems among the collections I've been looking at. Mostly, though, I find so many poets bland, boring, or just plain bad.

So I felt somewhat validated when I got Peter Murphy's bimonthly newsletter and read his Writing Tip essay called "Read Like a Writer." Here's the passage that struck me the most:

As you progress as a writer, you will be less taken in by other's words. More likely, you will find yourself wanting to move them around or chuck them out all together. You will become less interested in the content of the story, essay or poem and more interested in how well or how badly it is constructed.
Murphy goes on to say that we can keep a journal to write our thought of OPP, discussing their methods and themes, etc., or even write reviews for Amazon.com. I've been trying myself to write down my thoughts of the OPP I've been reading, but I mostly just say something like, "Meh." Not exactly the point of this part of the challenge, which was to read more poetry and then write about it to make myself a better poet.

I'm not sure how to liven this part of the challenge. I didn't look at so much as a haiku today. I'm open to suggestions.

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There's More to Fear than Fear Itself

It's becoming clearer and clearer that the union busting going on in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states has a focused purpose. Unions are the main contributors to Democrats in this country, by far. By disbanding unions and collective bargaining nationwide, Republicans ensure Democrats will no longer have the funds to compete against them in any way, in any contest, in any vote. Here's a brief essay about it.

What I don't understand is this: Why are more people not talking about it?? I'm an unknown poet living in southern New Jersey, and I don't have much of a voice beyond my circle of friends, family, fellow poets and arts community members and colleagues. Why aren't Democratic leaders screaming this from the highest mountain? Why aren't liberal-minded celebrities writing newspaper columns, à la Barbra Streisand, who seems to inject her two-cents into the press anytime she gets her... nose bent out of shame? Speaking of The Press, where are the editorials on NPR, who will be completely dismantled if Republicans have their way? What is Jon Stewart doing that is so important he can't bring attention this monumental assault on our liberty? Where is Bill Maher? Rachel Maddow? What the heck is going on??

Truthfully, I can't express how frightened I am of this. With the United States headed to one-party rule, I fear for my physical safety and financial security. Republicans preach smaller government yet want to regulate women's rights and bodies beyond logic and belief. They claim all life is sacred yet they want illegal immigrants who were brought here as children deported to a country of drug crime, police corruption, and widespread poverty. They continue to trot out trickle-down economics as reason to lower taxes on wealthy Americans. They warn of Obamacare Death Panels yet want to dismantle Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Worst of all, they do it with smiles and promises of a better America for all. If this doesn't scare you, it should. I'm sorry to say it, but not sorry that I feel it has to be said.

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid, more afraid than you've ever been. Be afraid now before it's too late, and don't be afraid to do something about it.


Edited to add: fritterfae pointed out to me that Rachel Maddow has been talking about this. I'm glad, very glad. Who else is talking about it? If you know who, please post a comment. Thanks!

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Block

I've occasionally stopped contact with former friends for a pretty narrow list of reasons. Mostly, if I found the give-and-take of the relationship was all give on my side and all take on the other, hasta. I've also disconnected from one or two people for being complete and utter assholes. One person, with whom I'd been friends for twenty years, took to belittling sarcastically everything I said regarding politics. At the same time, when she posted her opinions and I questioned her on them, I was being a dick. So that was quite enough of that.

Tina (not her real name) and I were friends for about ten years when she decided she did not want to be my friend anymore. We met in local poetry circles and associated in and out of the group. We attended concerts (something I rarely do to begin with) together. We supported each other with our work and personal lives. Suddenly, I found myself blocked from her Facebook page--not just removed as a friend, blocked. I guessed what it was about; she didn't like my tone when I posted on my Facebook and when I commented on her postings. She felt I was too abrupt and rude even, and also found me very cynical. Sure, some people find me cynical because of my staunch realism and scathing sarcasm. But I'm far from cynical, and anyone who really knows me knows that.

When i discovered I was blocked, I emailed her directly. Here's what I said in a nutshell:

I'd like to think I'm jumping to conclusions, but I'm a bit confused.

Did you deactivate or delete your Facebook profile? ...If you did, you don't need read any further. But if you didn't...

Then you removed me from your Facebook flist. I get that, too. For whatever reason, I've rubbed folks the wrong way before, and I know you and I had words (albeit nothing devastating) over Facebook before...

But... Did you block me as well? If so, I don't know what that means. Does that mean we're just no longer friends, period? ...are we not allowed to interact at all, now? When we're at the same poetry readings, should I ignore you? I really don't understand what it all means.

Once before, you told me how angry you got when I "shushed" you about something you and my friend B. were arguing about. It seemed very important to you. This, to me, feels like you've given me the ultimate shut-up. I'm not allowed to talk to you at all now, on Facebook, and not only that, you don't even want to see anything I comment or write.

I'm sorry, truly, that I've spoken out of turn, replied curtly or rudely, or have been insensitive. I would hope, though, if there were something I said that really bothered you on another level, that you would come to me, message or email me privately, and tell me about it. Or even call me and tell me we should talk. It will make me very sad if our friendship (if that's what it even was, concerts, the dancing, the private conversations away from husbands) wasn't worth that..

Her reply in its entirety: "Your provocations bring out the worst in me. Let's just leave it at that." I said back to her, "As you wish," which took great restraint.

In just a day or two, I found I was unblocked on Tina's Facebook. That's a good sign, right? You'd think so. Except that very shortly after that, she took to making unprovoked, snide, thinly veiled pokes at me. For instance, my friend O. talked about missing the open mics we used to do at a local restaurant. I replied to O. that I missed them too, and that I wondered if she'd be interested in getting together for a casual writing workshop at some point. Tina ignored my comment completely; it didn't exist to her. She commented on her own, addressed specifically to O., about how she and O. had discussed doing a writing night with two other people, and she named two specific people who said they would love to do it. It was an absolute slap in the face to me, the fact that she needed to post that after I suggested O. and I get together for a writing night. (Even O. contacted me privately about Tina's comment and asked what was going on; that's how obvious it was.)

The latest came when my friend A. posted a thoughtful status, which he is prone to do. Generally, he is insightful, but this time I felt he was a bit off-base so I called him on it with a constructive reply. He commented back to me and we had a short, polite exchange. Tina then took it upon herself to say to A., pretty much out of the blue, "Oh, A., your thoughts are so inspirational and spot on. I hope you're collecting them so that they can go into a book someday! Love you, bye!" (Okay, she didn't say that last thing.) It was at that point that I blocked her.

For the many months since this whole thing started, I've wondered, really if it was me. How did I fuck up this friendship? What could I have done differently? Should I just go see her, try to talk to her? Now I know for sure, there was nothing I could have done. And I don't feel badly about that. I just feel badly for all the energy I put into that friendship for so long. What a waste.


Postscript: There's one more thing. Tina knew well my opinion of a certain local sect of poets and how they've hijacked the local scene into their own utterly narrow vision of what poetry should be. We had discussed it at great lengths, in fact. Very shortly after she deleted me as a friend, I learned that she was now an assistant to one of the leaders of that poetry sect. She still is.

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