Poetry Time: Rot of Days

February 8, 2011

(I was going through a phase when I didn’t capitalize anything or use punctuation.)

the days rot
calendar pages fall
–disintegration–
he could never spell the word
he came round the house
dragged his shuffleshoes
through and went out
he never punctuates
except his mustache the tilde
over the m of his mouth
as he cried mother
he never capitalizes
except in anger
his feet dragging–asymmetry
i never felt bad for him
never felt anything
only smelled the rot of days
as they hung from his teeth
his dirty fingers

The Subjective Eye

The WordPress prompt from a few days ago says…

We’ve all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you agree? is all beauty contingent on a subjective point of view?

Well, that depends on what kind of beauty you’re talking about. I’m assuming that this prompt pertains to physical beauty, although intellectual beauty or internal beauty is also in the eye of the beholder.

There are some people who are externally beautiful in such an intense way that almost everyone will look at them and think, That person is beautiful. Then there are the more ordinary people who may not be judged as beautiful by anyone except their lover and their mom. You may think a particular person is ugly and rude and maybe even stupid when you first meet him, but you later get to know him and see the beauty in him. The reverse is also true — after a long time of being with a person, you grow apart and you may cease to see that person’s beauty. So it’s not only contingent on the point of view but also the point in time or the emotion you feel toward that person.

Plus, in this age of selfies, we all seem to think we are beautiful because we’re constantly taking pictures of ourselves. Oddly enough, we take pictures of ourselves even if we don’t think we’re beautiful. We post those pictures to Facebook or Instagram or wherever to solicit affirmations from others who will tell us that we are beautiful (but we still may not believe it).

Now that I think about it, this prompt may not be talking about “beauty” in terms of human beings but perhaps in terms of art and objects. I think surreal art is beautiful, but I know plenty of others who think it’s weird and ugly. I love Sylvia Plath’s poetry and consider it beautiful, but someone else might say that it’s crap. My mom likes certain types of furniture that my dad thinks are pieces of junk, and so on and so forth.

What it comes down to is that I don’t think there is such a thing as an object (or human being or piece of art) on this earth that is beautiful to every single person. (Notice that I said “on this earth,” because in heaven, I imagine that everything would be so beautiful that nobody would argue otherwise.) :)

Nearing Completion

Another “thinking out loud” post!

RAFAEL, my current work in progress, has turned into a behemoth of 82k words. I honestly thought I was only going to write about a few key events that influenced what happened in STEPHEN (the story that takes place after it), but no… my characters always force me to write the next Great American Novel (that probably ain’t so great).

I’m almost done, though. I have about 3.75 more scenes to write, but they’re going to be long. I know I will be done with the story by November (and NaNoWriMo), and part of me wants to set a concrete deadline, but the other part of me is sick of deadlines.

Anyway, the story establishes the events and character changes that it’s supposed to: (1) Clark’s increased devotion to Stephen; (2) Kat becoming less Maxine’s friend and more her enemy; (3) Deirdre’s conversion to the “dark side” as she sympathizes more and more with Rafe; (4) Paul as a crazy kid who enjoys blowing stuff up and would idolize a guy like Rafe; (5) Rafe drawing power from Deirdre and Stephen, but he doesn’t yet realize that he is able to draw power in that way.

But it’s going to need major cleanup. Not sure whether to do cleanup immediately after it’s finished or not. I don’t usually do it that way, but it might be time for a change, and it might be helpful to do that so I can better plan what will happen in the rewrite of STEPHEN.

Talking to Strangers

The Internet is an odd beast. From the time you’re an infant, you’re cautioned to never talk to strangers (yet when you’re an adult, this somehow becomes OK, even though strangers can still be dangerous), but on the Internet, 99% of those you interact with are likely strangers — people you’ve never met in real life. You have no clue what these people look like or even that they are who they claim to be.

Blogging is an exercise in talking to strangers. It’s the equivalent of standing in the middle of a crowded area and holding up a sign saying “I’m here! Notice me! Read what I have written!” And by doing so, you invite anything and anyone, from trolls, stalkers, and creeps, to people who are friendly, genuine, and actually want to have a legitimate online conversation.

Strangely enough, it’s easier to broadcast your thoughts to a random array of strangers online than it is to walk into a room and proclaim, “Let’s talk about writing today!” Anonymity can cause people to behave in ways they ordinarily wouldn’t, and some people who are nice and sweet in real life turn into complete animals online and vice versa. However, there is safety in anonymity; you might feel more secure interacting with strangers while you are anonymous.

I suppose that starting an online conversation with a stranger is less intimidating than having a face-to-face conversation because nobody can see your face, your clothes, your hair, your mannerisms, and so forth, and that “stranger” may be more willing to consider what you have to say, when in real life, they may have made an instant judgment about you based on your appearance.

So the Internet might have made it easier (and more appropriate) to talk to strangers, but it’s not necessarily that much safer than in real life, and it’s definitely not private.

The Rise of the Superbook

Progress is so important nowadays, and progress is great and all, but do we really need superbooks? By “superbook,” the author of this article means a book that you can interact with, change the storyline of, and visualize on a screen. Sounds like a video game to me, and if I want to play a video game, then I’ll play a video game. I thought the whole point of a book is to picture the story and its characters in your own head and to appreciate the way the author has chosen to tell the story, not alter the storyline yourself. If I want to read a book where I can decide what happens, I’ll read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. (Or I could write my own story or fanfiction.)

I know that part of this “superbook” phenomenon is an attention-getting scheme. There are so many things vying for our attention all the time that a plain old book doesn’t really stand out that much anymore, and publishers are afraid of losing money from declining sales of physical books, so of course, they’re looking in to whatever market exists for superbooks. We’ve also become such an instant gratification–focused society that we want to absorb what’s going on in a narrative immediately. We don’t want to actually read the words and comprehend their meaning and picture things with our own imaginations.

This also reminds me of hypertext fiction, on which I took a course in college. Instead of having the typical linear narrative, you could choose from many different possibilities, and if you clicked on certain words on the screen, you could hear sounds or see images that supposedly enhanced the book for you. (It didn’t do much for me, and if I was a writer, I’d rather just write the freaking book in good old Microsoft Word and not worry about code… unless I had a certain type of story that would lend itself well to that medium.)

My two cents: The printed book isn’t broken, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — especially not in the name of so-called “progress.”