Monday, May 23, 2011

What Is This Thing Called Poetry?

[I originally wrote this as a guest blog article for Jessica Bell's The Alliterative Allomorph.]

Mozart claimed that his letters came from God. Seamus Heaney said that his poetry came from a metaphorical dig, to uncover the hiding places of his power. For each, the result could be referred to as the source of creative inspiration.

So what is it and where does it come from? There are concepts of poetry that developed in separate ancient civilizations, which had no contact with each other. Yet their ideas and notions about poetry had similarities.

From the beginning in Western culture, there has been a dual attitude toward this source. The poem is made not only by the poet, but it is given to him by a deity or spirit. From this tradition, we still equate inspiration with divine gifts or with some sort of spiritual enlightenment. We think of the very best poets, as those who submit to influences stronger than they are, because what they perceive to see seems inconceivable to them (things that as humans we can only have an inaccurate and vague notion of).

In the New World, the Mayan culture believed that poetry enraptured man, and intensified his emotions and perceptive powers. It enabled him to perceive what he (as a human) ordinarily could not. Once enraptured, the poet would speak the only truth on earth.

I do not subscribe to the influence of an enlightened spirit or Muse, or God. I see poetry as a way to plumb the depths of my imagination, through what I have experienced (especially childhood), and what I have read (here I’m talking about development of the intellect). For me, a poem is something that says more in a few words than a novel can in five hundred pages, with wit and word-play. It has an extraordinary mixing of music and thought. The job of the poet is to choose the right words, not only for sound (the music of poignant language) and connotation (landscape), but even for the countenance of them.

The poem corresponds to a centrifuge of sound, alliteration and rhythm. The reader will be walking into a world for the very first time; a world of terseness and parsimony. True poetry is derived from the poet’s peculiar type of knowledge, which is the fruit of his authentic inner experience, the result of intuition (perhaps this is the part many mistake for spiritualism). So the poem becomes a profound expression, through symbol and metaphor, of what the poet has intuitively and mysteriously discovered.

Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal, when discussing the creation of some new poetry, “I feel my mind, my imagination, nudging, sprouting, prying & peering.”

I could not have said it better.

Another person said, “What makes a good poem? A good poet.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Fedora

I have been a connoisseur of hats ever since I was a small boy. I even preferred them to toys (the exception being toy guns). But as an adult, I abhor real guns. Not so in the case of hats.

Me with some of my favorite hats.

Luckily for me, the Fedora is on the comeback, as well it should. Can you imagine Humphrey Bogart wearing a baseball cap?

I use my Fedora (The Sydney, by AKUBRA) as part of the persona created for the image of Tonto Fielding, the pen name I use for my comedy writing. Tonto is the author of The Hillbilly Vampire Chronicles, and the comedy blog—Hillbilly Vampire.

As Dr Who would say—Fedora’s are cool. Although there are those out there that would consider them to be a passing fad, I say that all those cool guys in the noir films are getting their just due, now that a few celebrities are letting us know by example, that you too can wear cool hats, and leave the ball caps in the closet.

Johnny Depp

Justin Timberlake

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is There a Word for Fear of High School Reunions?

News of my thirty-fifth high school reunion came only weeks ago, which is not very much time to prepare. As it turned out, my wife had a commitment to a scrapbooking workshop on that day. I wasn’t sure what I should do. In the end I have pulled a Ralph Perk. He was the mayor of Cleveland, who turned down an invitation to the White House during the Nixon administration, because it fell on his bowling night.
The event is tonight and here I am in Athens (the school is in Gates Mills, Ohio). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved.

Everyone knows how these milestones can create and foster exorbitant amounts of fear. We tend to revisit adolescent anxieties in our mind. Unfortunately for me, I am one of those peculiar people who can remember practically every day of their life. I can even recognize a person who I knew when I was six, after they have aged forty five years, instantly. I have vivid memories from when I was six months old, of my father and brother throwing snowballs at our window, as my mother holds me in her arms. My mother once took me to a friend’s apartment before my first birthday. I described the apartment to this friend almost thirty years later, and her jaw dropped to the floor. My description was accurate to the pattern of the oriental carpet.

So what does this have to do with high school? The problem for me is that the embarrassing and awkward moments have won the battle for prominence. The consequence is that high school has morphed into a nightmare. I have to force the good memories forward to balance the equation. Our school was small, but still large enough to have some cliques. I could be found straddled between the freaks and the geeks (if any of you remember the television show by that name). It took a long time to realize that life was so much more interesting as a geek. Hail the GEEKS! So now, to talk myself into actually attending my fortieth—I will have to remind myself, that by the time it arrives, most everybody will have been bitch-slapped enough by life, that any sense of entitlement will have been replaced by gratitude and humility, leveling the playing field.

Of course, at the same time, I know that I am not unique. There are others probably going through the same emotions.