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Monday, August 24, 2009

Art Quote of the Week

If you told me to write a love song tonight, I'd have a lot of trouble. But if you tell me to write a love song about a girl with a red dress who goes into a bar and is on her fifth martini and is falling off her chair, that's a lot easier, and it makes me free to say anything I want. (Stephen Sondheim)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Monk in the Marketplace

Sitting quietly, watching
the hummingbird highway
in our backyard sky,
speed freak avians
zipping and diving,
narrowly avoiding collision,
not so much rivals,
more contestants in the
labor to survive.

They feed or die, those
tiny-hearted birds,
twenty beats per second.
Mandevilla bloom
becomes their arena,
long beaks dueling for
one flower, until they
spy our four-hole feeder,
competitors no more.

Sitting quietly, watching
the laptop screen
on our backyard table,
variable speed poets
warping and weaving,
neatly creating their art.
Not so much competitors,
more partners in the
need to express.

They write or fade, those
big-hearted bards, one hundred
April images per hour.
Poetic Asides
becomes their stage,
longing for what’s due
their flowing thoughts, yet
loving each other’s works,
competitors no more.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writing about feelings

One of the most helpful guides to writing poetry I have found is Ted Kooser's "The Poetry Home repair Manual". He offers many useful insights, and since most of my own poetry is from my personal experience of life, his comments on writing about feelings are particularly valuable to me:

"Poetry would be a lost art if there were laws against writing about feelings, and the Poetry Cops would be very busy pounding on poets with night sticks... (still), to write a poem that is not just a gush of sentiment but something that will engender in its readers deep, resonant feelings, you need to exercise restraint to avoid what is commonly termed sentimentality...(however) the the absence of emotion is not what readers go to books of poetry for. we want some human heat. Each of us who writes must find a balance between restraint and expressions of feeling...One of the hardest things to learn is how poems can express strong feelings without expressly stating those feelings...Some poets have gotten the idea that they can say things about their feelings in poems that most of us wouldn't feel right about saying at the dinner table, as if writing a poem gives you permission to talk about things you wouldn't talk about in public. But we need to keep in mind that writing a poem is public, too. Your reader is right there on the other side of the table, politely and patiently listening to you. How long do you dare go on about the misery your hemorrhoids are causing you?...Self indulgent poetry almost always disappears in time, a victim of its own failure to engage the needs and interests of others. It takes a grateful audience to keep a poem alive. Expression of feeling ought to be measured against the reader's tolerance for such expression."

(500) Days of Summer

Let me start by saying that I have no idea why the creative forces punctuated the title in the manner they did. In fact, in a charming, heartfelt, and sometimes wacky summer movie, a number of days appear on the screen, but never "500". This is a fun, romantic comedy with a serious side. First-time feature film director Marc Webb uses his music video background to great advantage, particularly with small, hard-to-detect symbolism, in his choice of music, background, and even the books that people carry or read or talk about. There were a few things I could have done without - the wise-beyond-her-years little sister, the excessive use of karaoke as filler, and the narrator telling us things we should be able to see for ourselves. Beyond that, this is a delightful way to escape the summer heat. Zooey Deschanel is the big name, and she plays her role as the pleasure-seeking, honest and self-reliant Summer in the same way she plays every role, understatedly and consistently. The film unreels, however, from the point of view of romantic lightweight Tom, played nicely by Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("3rd Rock from the Sun", "Brick"). He is believably sad, less comedic than the writers might have liked, but, overall likeable. The film is achronologically presented, the story of the 500 days of their relationship, with Summer being up front about being in the now, and Tom wanting her to be "The One". In truth, he wants her to save him from his mediocre present, and she does, though not in the way he would hope. There is a fabulous use of split screen about three-quarters of the way through the film, a few startling but well done homages, and the final line must have been questioned for a long time by the creative team, but it works. Go see this film, before it is swallowed up by the noisy giganta-flicks of August, or the Oscar seekers of September.