Working on a bit of art that’s definitely my style but a different subject matter. Lately, the image of the ‘gun’ has been in the forefront of my consciousness. My views on guns are a lot more complicated than one might expect, and the symbolism of guns is something that I find endlessly interesting to explore and use to illustrate ideas that have nothing whatsoever to do with guns.
Every Stephan is a Stephanie
or a Mike – Every day but now
Long haired and maybe
or definitely – A ridiculous prayer
Every Stephanie is a Stephan
or Michelle – Every now today
Long haired and never
or possibly – a serious dance
Every Stephan finds a Stephanie
or a Mike within
Close shaved and always
or beyond – a perfumed beauty.
Every Stephanie is a Stephan
or Michelle without
Close shaved and now
or closer – a pale smooth flesh.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging lyrics or style or genre. I’m not judging at all. I’m talking about what brings a person to life. I’m talking about watching notes explode in their eyes and words make them cry and have them say things like, “When I die, you have to play this at my funeral.” I’m talking about laugher so raucous their toes curl and their belly muscles are pulled. I’m talking about the kind of connection to songs that forces them to learn to sing them, and play them, and share them with everyone they know because it is so meaningful and uplifting to them.
So, the “C is for Cookie” is just as beautiful in this regard as Metallica’s “One”, and classic tunes like “Eine Nacht Muzik.” This isn’t some endorsement or judgment of any style of music or song, it’s really a call to search out that poetry of life that lifts you up and makes you feel too deeply to explain in just one lifetime. And it’s also a call to admire and respect that poem, that lyrics, that tune in every one you meet. Everyone. Every stranger. Every son. Every daughter, wife, mother, aunt, uncle, grandfather, friend of a friend, salesperson, and cashier. All of them live to some tune, some poem you need to read. Dont’ forget that. Just – don’t. You need that in your heart, whether it is happiness or ache, suffering or salvation. I’m not telling you what music to listen to, I’m telling you what music to look for.
One of my great joys as a father is to see my children revealed in their passions and loves – their music – because I see that I didn’t raise a boy and a girl, I raised a man and a woman who are unafraid to fail, who are courageous enough to love, and who are as kind as they are brilliant, as strong as they are tender, and as loyal as they are beautiful.
One of my great joys as a husband is to see my wife revealed in her passions and loves, because in her I see that I didn’t marry just a pretty face, I married a beautiful woman who is stronger than me, more fearless than me, more courageous than me, more brilliant than me, more kind and more decent. When I put on her music, and listen to the songs she loves most, that’s what I hear.
I wish every husband could see his wife the way I see mine. I wish every father could see his children the same way. People wonder how an artist sees the world so differently from them, and I suppose it depends on the artist, but for me, I see it through the music and the lyrics. I see life through the unfiltered lens of poetry.
So, yes, I believe music is even more than a reflection of the musician or the listener. The music each of us choose to play, to sing, listen to – the music we choose to love – also affects who we are. So, I suppose, that explains why I am always searching for new songs, and connecting with new people. I am on an endless search for those songs that make might make me who i want to be.
I keep saying songs, and of course, I do mean songs, but i also mean poems. I find it completely un-confusing, but others might disagree. I do not differentiate between the two in this sense.
I’m a very simple man.
I think there are three keys to writing great poetry, give or take a dozen. I don’t want to really pretend like I have all the answers, even if I do have all the answers. It just seems sort of pompous. Besides that, I’m sure a dozen very learned professors have already said whatever I should actually say, and will shake their heads sadly at my ignorance.
That said, I really do think there are three keys, and I’d like to hear you’re thoughts on them. If you disagree, please let me know.
Key #1: Read Poetry
If you want to write great poetry, you have to read great poetry. To me, this is the most important thing of all. It’s a matter of knowing what has gone on before you, what has been said, how it has been said, why it was said in it’s time, and why it was said where it was said.
If you want to get out there and produce writing that is interesting, that is witty and deep and worth the investment of time that someone will have to make to read it, then you have to know what they may or may not have read. And you have to have an actual experiential knowledge of the art.
I would like to also add that I used the words ‘great poetry’ on purpose, even though it’s impossible to define. To my thinking, “great poetry” means poetry that has survived over a long stretch of time, or has been vetted by the masses and found interesting and good enough to buy and share extensively. I know there is a lot of great poetry on the internet, but it is very hard to be sure what is good and what is not, particularly if you haven’t read a lot of poetry. So, I tend to go back to the classics and the ‘big names’ and start there.
So there there is my number one. Read the damned poetry.
If you want to write poetry, you have to write poetry. That means that you have to actually do it, not just think about it, or occasionally toss one off for all to ogle and marvel at.
The truth is, if you just write once in a while, the ogling and marveling will be quite limited. You need to really write often, not only to generate sufficient volume to give you a ‘productive feeling’ but more importantly to hone your skills. Writing is definitely an art that improves with practice.
Talking about writing. Thinking about writing. Imagining writing. These are all fun, but really they’re not that productive. The second key to being a great writer is to write.
This is the most complicated of all the keys I think, but every bit as important. People want to read interesting things. They want to read thoughts that they’ve never thought, and be spurred on to imagine things they’ve never imagined. As a writer, a person has the responsibility to do that for them.
Great writing takes complicated or important ideas and connects them to grand or small ideas. Understanding that concept of connection is huge, but it’s only the first step to thinking differently. The next step is connecting things that are not easily connected – logically or illogically.
In the case of prose a writer can take a little story about something very mundane and connect it to the audience because everyone knows someone in that particular situation, or they’ve been in that situation, they make the story interesting by adding little twists, whether they’re internal/dialog twists, or external forces acting upon them, and the story is only as engaging as it is unpredictable. The reader does not want to KNOW the ending, they want to be brought there and have it revealed to them. In situations where people know how the story ends (particularly non-fiction) they want to see how the characters will move forward after the events.
Poetry is really the same as that. Readers are looking to be taken through a thought and arriving somewhere they didn’t expect, or, if they get where they expected, they want to see some glimpse at a new future or thought that never occurred to them.
This imagining is not easy. And while I do think there are techniques that can help a person see the world in a different way, I believe everyone has to find their own unique way by themselves.
If I could give any advice here, I think it would be this – be a prism for ideas. Take disparate thoughts, and splash them together to see the patterns that arise where they intersect, or the shapes of the spaces between them when they do not. Prose or poetry, non-fiction or fiction, take every idea and divide into as many parts as you can, look at every part from every angle, and then take another idea or image or sense, and divide and reconnect them together.
I’m very abstract there, which might not be helpful, so let me be more specific.
Take a spider.
The spider is an idea.
It is also a thing.
A spider has eight legs.
Look at the spider from the end of each leg. Look at the spider from above from the side, from below.
A chair is an idea.
It is ALSO a thing.
The spider and the chair have no immediate relationship.
However, if you look at the spider from some angles, they are proximate or not. The chair is an obstacle or a danger for the spider. The chair means nothing to a spider. The chair, if moved, might mean death to the spider.
The chair has half as many legs as a spider.
The person has half as many legs as a chair.
The legs define each of them.
The spider means nothing to the chair.
The chair is to the spider
as a building is to a human
The chair is to the spider
as the skyline is to a human.
continue on. Break it down. These ideas are still mundane, but if you keep abstracting it, if you keep putting the prism to the two ideas, and consider how they intersect, how they relate to each other, how they relate to us – eventually, you find something interesting to write about. Eventually you find that you are thinking about things differently than everyone, anyone else. THEN you can write great things.