I’ve been practicing reading my work—a misleading term because I feel it’s more like performing, almost acting. No, it is performing. Even though it isn’t acting. Maybe live voice acting, or something close. I actually have a lot to say on the subject, but I’ll save that for another post. (Tl;dr: simply reading is boring; adding gravitas to words produces “poet voice,” which is silly; you need to express—act—the emotions of the work.)(Tl;dr the tl;dr: feel the emotions in your body, let them out in your voice.)
Instead, right now I’m just going to share a quick practice recording that I did for a friend. It needs work (e.g., on the plosives), but it isn’t half bad. In fact, I daresay it’s a damn sight better than most of what you’ll encounter at poetry readings across the anglophone world. (Just to be clear, I’m not talking about content—amazing poems can be read poorly, and poor poems can be read really well. I’m talking only about how the content is presented vocally.)
I’m for the moment just posting this because I find it an interesting example of how a single artistic gesture can be used to greatly differing effect in two different works. (Not that this should be surprising; but it’s nice to see it done so well and so differently.)
Anyway, listen to the two songs below:
Hear the sigh each singer uses? How do they make you feel?
Of course, a sigh isn’t just a sigh, nor is it sighed in isolation. The musical context contributes heavily, creating the atmosphere that the sigh breathes. In the case of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”, it’s creepy and disturbing; even more so for the way it works with the whole song—thetremulous voice, the quiet, tender melody that worms into your head carrying the initially unremarkable and eventually deeply dark lyrics—to create something profoundly unsettling, and unsettlingly attractive.
Meanwhile, in Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah”, there’s a hell of a lot of sex appeal. Buckley notably trims down the lyrics to focus almost exclusively on those pertaining to love and desire. And the inhalation at the beginning, as if Buckley had just been touched for the first time by a long-desired lover…
I just wanted to share with you all this excellent short poem by Jack Bennet. I absolutely love the unabashed quirkiness and the evocativeness of the opening image, and how the poem moves you so inevitably through the steps of each line to the simple, powerful conclusion.
I’ve got two bits of exciting news today! First off, we’ve been getting a bunch of new visitors from various places lately, which is fantastic! I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all of you. It’s so nice to see you here! Please, kick your shoes off and stay a while. And feel free to leave comments—civil, creative discussion is encouraged!
Second, you may have noticed the new orange button off to the right, just under the banner. Well, my Patreon campaign, which I’ve been secretly working on for several months, is now live!
What is Patreon? you ask. Simply put, it’s a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, except that instead of donating one large sum to help finance a single project, fans can contribute smaller amounts on a monthly basis, allowing artists to have a stable, reliable sort of regular salary. So if you want to support what I do, please click the button and check it out. Your help goes a long way toward making this site possible.
I’ve got this crazy idea that’s been banging around in my tin can for almost a year now, and I want to share it with you. Now, don’t get your hopes up too high—it’s not a creative project, per se. But I realized that I have a lot of books. A lot of them. Maybe not the most ever, but enough to make moving a real pain in the back. More significantly, though I’m ashamed to admit it, a good many of these books are ones I have never read. (Gasp! And I call myself a reader, a literary man.)
So here’s what I’d like to do to rectify the situation: I’d like to methodically read through every single book in my house.
To make it a bit easier, first I will be selling off or donating about 90% of them.
Just kidding. I’m not going to do that at all. Instead, I’m going to create a spreadsheet with the bibliographic information for each book as I read it. I’ll post the link somewhere on this site, and maybe on others, so that those who are interested can follow along. I think I’ll make it all-access, just for fun. And if I feel up for it, I’ll write a little critique or review of the book after I finish it and share that with my patrons. Or maybe with everyone, and also link to a GoodReads account. We’ll see.
Or this is what I hope to do. Right now, it’s just an idea, the smoke of something yet to take form, and many other, more pressing, more solid concerns are manifest before me.
A colleague of mine a couple of months ago turned me onto The Guardian’s pieces on how to write a novel in 30 days. Admittedly, their title is misleading (and mine might be, too), since the process they tout (created by XXX) really only (“only”) has you create a sort of very thorough and detailed outline that (they say) should practically count as a first draft, or at least make your first draft potentially your only draft.
But I started looking at the process, and I’m intrigued. As an experienced (but, silly me, practically unpublished) poet, I am familiar with, and comfortable, writing short pieces that I can revise in great detail ad infinitum, until they feel perfect. This procedure doesn’t really work for novel writing, though, and so I’ve become interested in various authors’ systems for getting their bigger stories down on the page. I’ve tried the Snowflake Method (helpful for me in some ways) and 5KWPH (which has dramatically improved my ability to ignore errors and let go of my tendency to tinker endlessly with the tiny details that might make or break a poem but would be of infinitesimal significance in a novel). Now I’m trying this one.
But here’s my idea: like others before me, I’m going to blog about my process. Maybe I won’t follow the method to the letter—I do have many other things to manage in my life—but I’ll follow it all the way through and talk about what I come up with. Maybe show you some cool things. And at the end, maybe I’ll have a novel!
New year, new face, renewed self. Despite all the horrible news in the world, I am positive: already much good has also come out of the bad, with millions organizing and becoming active voices in their local, regional, national, international communities. That alone is inspiring, but on a more personal level, I am also coming alive and active in different ways. Looking forward to exploring that here! Stay tuned for a change of pace, and a change of space.