Nonfiction

Two very different uses of sighing

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…

Poetry

Drought/Draught/Draft

This is about the significance of small changes.

Once I began a poem in which a writer played a game with a lover. The lover, to motivate the writer, stripped bit by bit and then moved slowly closer as the writer completed pieces of a manuscript. The ultimate reward, of course, would come when the manuscript was done.

I originally imagined the story in the third person, and so the first version I considered “complete” looked like this:

Drought

She spent three weeks lounging naked around the house
while he revised his draft. She wouldn’t make love
until he had finished, and she kept moving closer with each word,
as initially she had one by one removed
an article of clothing for each penned paragraph. He couldn’t kiss her, even,
until he had put down the last period,
and then,
her body held over him like a storm cloud,
she gave him a kiss like the first drops of rain.

But one of my teachers, or maybe one of my workshop fellows, asked why it wasn’t in the first person. And they were right. It’s more powerful, more personal and direct that way. So for a long time, this was the final version:

Drought

She spent three weeks lounging naked around the house
while I revised my draft. She wouldn’t make love
until I had finished, and she kept moving closer with each word,
as initially she had one by one removed
an article of clothing for each penned paragraph. I couldn’t kiss her, even,
until I had put down the last period,
and then,
her body held over me like a storm cloud,
she gave me a kiss like the first drops of rain.

But yesterday, I pulled out the poem to show someone, and I wondered all of a sudden why the lover had to be “she”, and why it couldn’t be “you”. Wouldn’t that make things even more intimate, while at the same time opening up more gender combinations and making for a more inclusive poem? So here is that version:

Drought

You spent three weeks lounging naked around the house
while I revised my draft. You wouldn’t make love
until I had finished, and you kept moving closer with each word,
as initially you had one by one removed
an article of clothing for each penned paragraph. I couldn’t kiss ou, even,
until I had put down the last period,
and then,
your body held over me like a storm cloud,
you gave me a kiss like the first drops of rain.

So now I’m curious: what do you think?

EDIT: Corrected copy/paste error so that now the poems actually are different.

Nonfiction

Off-ramp

A short poem or snippet or thingy by Brian Andreas (source: Story People), which I like a lot, but which also needs a tiny bit of improvement. See that last little phrase there? Yeah, “& there are no words for that”, that’s the one. It’s nice because it calls up once more the opening lines talking about specialized cultural vocabularies. So it gives a sort of circularity to the poem. But what it expresses? That’s already included (and very strongly so) in the phrase immediately prior. 95% of what these last words do is already done and far better; they simply serve as a way to wrap up the piece—elegant, sure, but also unneeded, extra.

Here, try this: cover up that last, extraneous phrase with your hand, and then read the poem. See how the evocation of two lovers snuggling against each other in bed hits you, right in the solar plexus, knocks the wind out of you? That’s where the poem needs to end.

(The depiction also implies that that very snuggling is a language in itself, its own vocabulary—a suggestion that is not borne within the statement “& there are no words for that”.)

(Also, I am aware that I do not know the context for this snippet. Maybe it all makes sense in its original place. Maybe my critique is not valid. Maybe not.)