Retro…

I wrote this poem when I was relatively new to writing.  I still don’t consider myself any great shakes with poetry but I enjoy looking back and seeing my baby steps of progress.  I’m even happier to realize that I feel the same enthusiasm for words that I always did.  I held the typewriter on my knee and typed this poem in the passenger seat on the way home.  We couldn’t wait to begin 🙂

 

‘SILVERETTE’ TYPEWRITER (2006)

Hei Ho Silverette

My literary steed

Let’s fascinate them, fibrillate them

With a click clack ribbon read

I know that you’ve been put to pasture

You and all your breed

For the greener grass of technology

And so long as it’s at speed

They call it progress

But they fail to notice

You have stories of your own to tell

And even as I wonder now

Some history seems to linger

If only you had a little paper

If only you had fingers

Then you’d put your keys to use

Story-teller over alphabet, rushing

Tell us of Miss So-and-So

Her paid fingers tapping

Some frustrated poet, wiping his brow

And how you came to sit

On an auction store shelf

Not even able, now, to talk to yourself

And from the shelf you saw them

Short, fat, skinny and tall

Browsing, shrugging, wallet hugging

Still not needing you at all

Then I hobbled in one day

You hailed from across the store

You hailed, canary loud

I didn’t need to look any further

Now I hope I do you proud.

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The Pain of Prison Things

I wrote this poem some eight years ago regarding my personal struggles with disability and sexuality, among other things.  It remains near and dear to my heart for the torn hope it represents in the cycle of human potential.  Enjoy.

My breath flies, hot and pacy

Through widened nostrils

I’m stalking up and down my cage

My paws are growing thin

I have no use for claws

When there’s no flesh to overcome

And the deafening roar

I bellowed, once,

Returns unaccompanied.

I wonder of all the pride, why me?

Why the keepers made me live

Behind iron bars

And threw away the key?

Every day the people gather

They take photos with their eyes

I wonder what they see –

What they couldn’t just find in a magazine?

They don’t understand the pain of prison things

Don’t know the wonder of being free.

Six-by-ten doesn’t seem so wrong

Because they haven’t seen where I belong

In my mind, I’m crouching, low;

Twitching, hungry,

In the golden grass

Oh, to again have those kind of bars

The ones that sway

Like metronomes in the breeze

And I can come and go as I please

The sun riding warmly on my back

And I can change my spots

Without the dream-breaking crack

Of the lock being opened

And it’s dinner on a hook, again

What I take and do not earn

What I could do without

As I mill and yearn

For when paparazzi eyes

Are a thing of the past

And the Africa of my dreams

Is mine, again, at last.

I don’t know about you, but I think…

The modern fictional character has largely gone the way of the dogs. Call me a cynic.

In my personal opinion, Fifty Shades of Grey was a new low point in modern story telling; in that there was no story to be found besides routine bonking and an over-abundance of adverbs. (Gasped, paled, blushed, groaned…) I read – most – of FSOG. Almost couldn’t bear it, but I had to know what all the fuss was about. The passage that stood out to me the most, and which many others may have overlooked, was when the main character took a long trip in her car. That was literally all that was written there. It looked like this, in a matter of three lines or so:

The MC (main character) got in the car to go to destination X. It was a long trip. MC got to destination X.

She was simply driving on a page. Zero scenery or weather or landmark descriptions.

I believe that fiction should be, and can be, tangible. As close to non-fiction in that realism as possible. This is how readers connect with characters, and the only way. I believe implicitly in BACKSTORY. If I walked up to you in the street and said, “A character in my novel, Nell, is only 22 and she dies in a horrific car accident”, I’m sure most people would agree that a car accident is a gnarly way to go. However, there is nothing much more that I can elicit from you in terms of emotion that that fleeting ‘Oh, shame’ sentiment, because, quite frankly – you have to know someone in order to care about them.

Getting to the nitty-gritty of a character’s makeup is one of the best parts of writing. Every living person has a history, and so should a character. To ascribe details to a character’s life, I focus on building around certain themes: MOTIVES. FEARS. FLAWS. PROBLEMS. GOALS. SECRETS. Subtlety is also a dying art, and is underrated. Secondary characters should be just as colorful and just as alive as MC’s, because we’re all the main actors on our living stages, so how are secondary characters to know that they are not the main characters in their story?

My first, and my eternal inspiration for writing short, powerful word pictures was through the lyrics and music of Joni Mitchell. I quickly learned that she could tell me more about the feeling of living through life than one hundred How-To writer books ever could. The point? She has been there. She is sending back postcards.

I’m not suggesting that everybody has to listen to Joni Mitchell in order to learn the subtle art of the metaphor. I’m simply saying that we need to dig a little deeper than the average mainstream dross we’re fed from every direction in the 21st century – from endless sex-scapades to seen-it-a mile-off punchlines and one-dimensional characters. We need better heroes, to become better writers – to better our readers’ experience.