Sep 18, 2008

on the writing front

I haven't talked about writing in this space in a long time. Come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever talked about writing in this space. I'm pretty sure all of those thoughts, musings, and updates were left in the wake of old blogs that have long since been retired.

The main reason for this is that I haven't been writing. At all. OK, so there's the occasional melodramatic poem, but nothing of substance in the least. And I'm learning something, and that is that I'm a much better, and happier, person when I AM writing.

So I've started a little project. I'm half sure that it will end up saved in a folder right beside all of the other half finished writing projects that I've started, but who knows, maybe this one is the magic bullet. I'm working on developing some ideas for short stories. At this point I'm viewing them more as exercises than as something that I may seek to publish.

I've always loved the poignant and very direct style of Flannery O'Conner. I've learned from past exercises, and a few undergrad writing classes at AU, that imitation is not only a sincere form of flattery, but it is a great way to hone your own style and to find your own strengths. I learned this lesson very well 2 summers ago when I spent a few months trying to imitate T.S. Eliot. I chose characters in the world around me and then wrote poems about them in the way that I thought Eliot would have written them about those same people and in those same circumstances. Not that I want to be Eliot, quite the opposite actually, but the exercise helped me learn more about my own perspectives and about my own strengths and passions as a poet.

So here I am developing stories about people in the same way that I think O'Conner would have written them. The hardest part for me at this point is the sheer blunt brutality of human nature that shows its face in her writing. She stares the darkest parts of who we are right in the eye and shows the reader just how close we all are to being the kind of people that we claim to abhor. Long term, this probably isn't a style that I'll stick with, but it is teaching me to pay very close attention to characters and too look deeper inside them than I have before.

These short stories also provide a decent place for me to practice writing dialogue. So much of what I've done has been in a non-fiction prose format, that dialogue doesn't come easy to me. I can write 10,000 words about what kind of conversation my characters just had, but I can't seem to write the damn conversation. The short story format doesn't have the intimidating factor of length to dissuade me, so I can keep pressing on with dialogue, knowing that I'll be able to wrap it up shortly.

Anyway, that's that.

Sep 15, 2008

of Mordecai, Boa Bob, and the Slam

I recently learned that the concept of Slam Poetry was born about 8 blocks from my house. The Green Mill is a famous old club here in Chicago and it's perhaps best known as an old haunt of Al Capone. If, however, you're not into gangsters and you don't have anything to do on a Sunday night, then you'll find a remarkable subculture of poets gathering to read, to laugh and generally harass each other.

I'd been wanting to go for a while now, and last night I was finally able to get my rear end over there. A few thoughts:

1. If variety is the spice of life then the Open Mike Hour was the West Indies. Some were poignant, some were cliched, some were just bad. A few were remarkable. One was great.

2. First time readers at The Green Mill are virgins. First time readers anywhere are "virgin virgins."

3. Following the Open Mike there were 2 featured Poets (groups of poets as it were). The 2nd group was almost more sketch comedy than poetry, but one particular sketch about Segways was pee your pants funny.

4. My little itch to read, which used to itch like a little mosquito bite, is now a full blown case of poison oak.

5. I will become a better poet by going to these things on a regular basis. I'm learning the importance of hearing what I write, and not just looking at it on the page.

6. With every effort to bury any arrogance in place, I can tell you that I could hang.

With that said, I feel like I'm changing seasons.

Cryptic is fine and has its place, but so does openness. I've been hiding.

Sep 12, 2008

I was around 8 . . .

. . .and my world centered around these. I miss being 8. I like how the commentator says "You can tackle almost any hill," just as it drives over the flat side of a ruler. Awesome.

Sep 11, 2008


I finished part one of The Seven Storey Mountain and am taking a little break to read some candy. Mainly to help me sleep better.

I was listening to a Podcast of This American Life called "By Proxy" on the bus tonight on the way home from work, and I realized that I am now, without question, officially a liberal. How this happened, I do not know. The weird part is that I remain politically apathetic. Is that even possible?

Radiohead is my happy place right now. (I know . . . Thom Yorke is all angsty and the opposite of happy, but I don't care.)

I miss having a boring old cell phone with no email. The Blackberry (i.e. being accessible 24/7) is going to be the death of all us quiet, contemplative types.

I want to start a crazy long and epic novel after I finish the Merton autobiography; something classic. Open to suggestions.

I will be doing some cold weather camping this fall and I can't wait.

Still trying to work up the cajones to do some open mike reading. I think I'm gonna go to the Green Mill on Sunday night though, just to get inspired.

It's about time for a new laptop (I'm typing this on a screen that I can barely read through shattered LCD shards because I stepped on this thing.) I want to be uber hip and make the move to the Mac . . . but I'm in a dysfunctionally satisfying, codependent relationship with my PC's. Help?

Sep 10, 2008


Defiance. The words sound the same
as every other verse. Solomon's writ
can't hold them hostage. Running free
pages turn and the sun is never new.

Sep 7, 2008

city of . . . . crowds?

We have a standing joke about going to the Taste of Chicago every summer. It's the biggest nightmare you can imagine because there are just so.many.people. One year, J and I went with some friends and the crowd was so dense that we were all physically forced apart by the mass of people and it took us about 2 hours to be able to find each other again. Now when we're bored and we look at each other and say "I don't know? What do you want to do?" the answer is almost always, "Let's go to the Taste."

Having said that, I got on my bike yesterday and ventured down to the Red Bull Flugtag at North Avenue Beach. Apparently a few other people had the same idea. The fence in the picture below runs along Lakeshore Drive from North Avenue all the way up to Fullerton. That's 12 city blocks and over 1 mile. I took this picture at the Fullerton end of the fence and the bikes were that thick on the fence ALL THE WAY TO NORTH AVE.

It was pretty obvious that I wasn't going to get anywhere close enough to see anybody drive a homemade plane off of a pier into the water. This was as close as I got. Please note the sea of humanity eventually BECOMES the horizon.

What I'd like to know is just what are all of those people standing at the back of the crowd looking at? You couldn't see anything.

Sep 6, 2008


Notes (of a rather random nature)

1. Red Bull Flugtag today at North Avenue Beach. I'll try to get some video to post.

2. Still absorbing Merton, still finding it to be the refreshment that my heart has been seeking for longer than I care to admit. If you can't find me I'll be in a monastery.

That is all.

Sep 4, 2008

eliot nay

he speaks with grit
through yellowed teeth
and smoky, gutteral sloughs
the words. he knows
them all from somewhere deeper
than just his memory.
he syncopates. better than me
is his love of the words that
i always want to keep for my own.
i want to hear him read.