Category Archives: knowledge

The issue

The paper product, emergent from the box-
standing at attention, waiting on the swap,
when a user has to clean their glasses or to sneeze,
then pulls the tissue out with seamless ease.

And doing so, this draws a sibling sheet
up to the outside world with no retreat.
There, in place, arisen from the fold
a new page stands now, vigilant and bold.

This act is oft repeated in response
in times where sudden need is vital, the ensconced
leaflets follow on – each one the same.
Standing firm to meet the need is their acclaim.

And this should be a model for our deeds:
pull up those who follow us, to lead.

Clearing the cobwebs II

It is time for me to – again- clear the cobwebs of my brain and write about anything. Sometimes it is hard for me to focus creatively. I consider myself, first and foremost, a poet, yet I wonder if I sell myself short sometimes by limiting the genre that I write. I’ve been trying to change that a little over the last year or two by writing different things, some of which I share – some of which won’t see the light of day. It is difficult, because when I write here, I want to create something artistic. Yet, deep down, I aspire to some semblance of the “writerly life,” and I figure the only way to eventually get there is plug away, head down, and try to broaden my approach. I know the blogging world is filled with such dreams, and people who write about their struggles with their craft. What makes my struggle unique? I don’t know…It’s me and I am unique.

What I am thinking about

Earlier this year, I converted this blog over to its dot com domain.  I figured I have a lot of writing invested here and should work to keep it organized.  Also, I have recently been using the Upwork app to peruse freelance writing opportunities, just to gage what is out there and how I might fit in.  I’ve applied to a few opportunities over the last year, but have not gotten any nibbles.  I want to get my feet wet with a writing opportunity that isn’t necessarily driven by my own time-table just to see if I can get it done.  Does anyone else out there use Upwork? Do you have any advice about using the app or the application process? Are there any other freelance boards or websites that work for you?

The political climate in this country is making me ill

It started with me during the election of 2016 (like most people), and the elevation of rude discourse and name-calling and gas-lighting as debate, rather than research and fact-based discussion.  45 is not fit for this role as president and the Republican leadership shows no interest in trying to maintain a balance.  We have seen enough and need to put a muzzle on the current administration before any further damage is done.  Elections are coming up.  Do your diligence about learning the facts about issues from multiple independent sources – not just someone’s opinion or interpretation or spewed nonsense from 45.  And if you want to read opinions, select a balanced view – from both sides of the aisle – and at least try to understand both opinions  – and VOTE.

What I am reading

I am currently in the middle of a couple mystery/thriller novels:  The Alienist by Caleb Carr and Origin by Dan Brown.  This genre of novel is my wheel-house for reading. While growing up, I read a steady diet of mysteries (Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen) which lead to espionage thrillers from Jack Higgins and Tom Clancy, and later in my life, other mysteries/thrillers by Kathy Reichs, Steve Berry, Dan Brown, et al.  I enjoy the pacing in these stories and the details that get embedded in the books.  It makes me wish/hope that I could research and write a novel like that someday.  But mostly, I enjoy following the journey to solving a mystery.

What I am watching

I caught onto the new Doctor Who fever with the series premiere a couple of weeks ago.  I like Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor and I am still undecided on the companions.  As with all previous transitions to new Doctors, it will take a bit for the show and the characters to take hold.  Leading up to the premiere, I got to revisit old episodes and saw a couple of my favorites:  Blink, with the introduction of the Weeping Angels is still a top episode in my opinion.  The Eleventh Hour gave us the introduction to Matt Smith as the Doctor and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, and is in my opinion, the best that the series has done with introducing a new character (two in fact, three if you count Arthur Darvill as Rory).  The Angels Take Manhattan, another solid episode involving the Weeping Angels – gave us Amy and Rory’s farewell.

Halloween Time

Tis the season for scares and bumps in the night.  I’m not much for modern horror movies.  The recent glut of slasher and gore movies doesn’t really appeal to me – and how many times can one antagonist (Jigsaw, Michael Meyers, Freddie) stay alive… AND how many times can someone remake the same movie (Halloween – Geesh).

Horror movies I do like include:  It (the recent theatrical release was awesome), Ghost Story (from 1981, starring Fred Astaire, John Houseman, and other legends – a great adaptation of Peter Straub’s novel), Insidious (the 1st movie scared the be-jezus out of my family – I haven’t bothered with the sequels) and The Shining (Stanley Kubrick’s film is, hands down, the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel – though I think the recent release of It has righted a lot of wrongs with Stephen King films). I recently watched Army of Darkness and enjoyed it – less scared by it than amused. I admit that I also enjoy the campy and understated horror of the Hammer Studio films from the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Have a thought or opinion about anything here – leave a comment!  Thanks for reading.

John

 

 

wood would knot

It’s a reminder of dead branches in a tree trunk.
A natural thing. When processed and managed, it is a would-be imperfection that could be nice to look at, causing a waving grain, adjusted in directions exploited by purpose. It is decorative and agile in its language, but still a defect.

A flaw to the strength of wood, it leads to weakness for tensile and compression, especially when under perpendicular forces or being pulled in opposition. This would be structurally unsound to build upon. The knot can lead to cracks and would not be of benefit in building because of the warp, the check and the shakes.

Some who construct would know the impact.
In a dissonant chord, it is the note that sings loudest and rings a disjointed sound.
In a poem, it is the missing iamb of a sonnet, tripped and stumbled upon. In a house, it is in the failing wall or a cracking joist, unable to stand the weight of heavy burden.
In speaking-it is missing a word and rushing over – leaving a hole. Such work is helpless and unsound.

What remains would not be usable.

Dispatching the Doldrums

It is time to clear the cobwebs and write about anything.  Blog writing for me is  a way for me to exercise my creative skills and (bravely) share what I’m writing.  Every now and again, I like to share what I’m thinking/doing/reading/listening to/watching.

Watching

A week ago, I just finished watching Band of Brothers on Amazon, which was based on the book of similar name by Stephen E. Ambrose.   I  know I’m a little behind ( it first aired on HBO in 2001).  But, I didn’t subscribe to HBO then, and never invested in DVDs of the miniseries.  Wow.  An incredibly well-done set of vignettes from the history of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne during WWII in Europe.  It was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks – it has much the same feel as Saving Private Ryan.  Each episode centers around a different event and focuses on a different character’s perspective.  My favorite episode involved the Battle of Bastogne, and told the story from the perspective of Doc Roe, the company’s medic.  He displayed courage and a singular ability to keep going in bone chilling cold under relentless bombardment, while keeping the men is his company in fighting shape and providing care to the wounded.  The scenes are graphic and the emotion is raw.  The miniseries drives home the point, that in war- there is no rest.  Even when you think you may get a weekend leave, something happens to call the company back into the fray.  After battles, you move on to the next line.

Reading

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a slow reader and one who is prone to start multiple books to find one that captures my interest.  Right now, I think have five books in various stages of reading.  Most recently, I started reading Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, by Richard Grant. It is a true tale, a collection of tales actually, of a British travel writer (Grant) and his girlfriend after they decide to buy an old plantation home in heart of the Mississippi Delta.  Stories of Southern tradition, along with the tenuous combination of gentility, race and class, are told without judgement – but with a keen perception of the relationships involved.  This book is a great look into this forgotten region of the country.  Truth be told – I am related to people who grew up in this area of Mississippi, and am very familiar with the themes of this book.  The Delta is a both a wasteland and a land of riches.

Listening

I have eclectic music tastes.  I will listen to almost any genre, depending on my mood and as long as it is well done.  In recent years, I have become interested in Americana/folk styles.  I like the realness of it and how it can impact you emotionally.  With that in mind, I want to recommend music by a friend.  I met Mark Currey in high school, when we both attended a Gifted/Talented Summer Camp.  We were in the choral program, and were introduced to many different genres of music in the program.  We were encouraged to be creative in our free time, and it was obvious that Mark was a songwriter even then. I wrote in my journal in my free time- ain’t life funny.  We weren’t best friends, but we got along well. After that summer, we parted ways (like most everyone does), only to reconnect many years later via FaceBook.  I found out he had recorded an album, his first, in 2017.  The classic story of the Late Bloomer – I can relate.  His record, Tarrant County, is part Country, part Americana – and I encourage you to give it a listen. Mark has a very warm vocal style (he’s a tenor), and his lyrics are real storytelling.  You can download it at the either of the links above, or you can find it on streaming services.   There are some really nice musical moments, some thought provoking lyrics, but never overdone.  You might find something you like.

Thanks for reading.

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A Cappella Friday: Choose Something Like a Star

A cappella music (without instrumental accompaniment) is particularly enjoyable for me to listen to. As a poet (and an avocational musician), I am drawn to the similarities that poems and a cappella music have. Lyrical phrasing, meter, rhyming, and onomatopoeia mean so much to a cappella music, because it relies so heavily on the human vocal element.
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Anyone that has followed me since my origins here with Taps and Ratamacues may recall this as a semiweekly feature for a while, but I haven’t written about specific music/poetry combinations in quite some time. Again, as in other entries, this is not an a cappella piece specifically, but the positive interaction of music with poetry is undeniable.

This entry came about as a result of phone conversation with my mother and father, both life-long musicians – now retired. They both have an impeccable memory for musical anecdotes.

We were discussing the word taciturn, as it described a friend of theirs going through rough time, to which my father said the only other place he ever recalled hearing that word was in a choral setting of Robert Frost’s poem, Choose Something Like a Star.

My curiosity was peaked, and I went searching.

Frost wrote the poem in 1916. It is a remarkable piece that addresses humankind’s need for reassurance from a greater being.  It contains elements of philosophy, religion, and science – the trifecta of sought meaning.  It is one of Frost’s more direct and driven poems.  We seek meaning in life, and can choose things to convey that meaning. We expect these icons to give us direction and explanation.  “To be wholly taciturn is not allowed.”

Frost’s point was that in choosing “something like a star”, something distant and far off, we can be comforted in the fact that it exists and “it burns” despite our desire for clear explanation.

Randall Thompson (1899-1994) wrote a collection of songs using Frost poems as lyrics, entitled Frostiana (Seven Country Songs). In 1959 Thompson was commissioned to write a piece commemorating the bicentennial of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. It was decided that the piece should include lyrics comprised of Robert Frost’s poetry, as he had lived in Amherst for a number of years. The town originally lobbied for The Gift Outright, which Frost later recited at JFK’s inauguration.  Not believing that poem to be appropriate for this occasion, Thompson gained permission to select poems himself.  He eventually  chose seven texts – including the well-known poems The Road not Taken and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  Also chosen was the poem Choose Something Like a Star.

The vocal arrangement starts ethereally, with sopranos singing the ‘O star’ phrasing as if it is a far away object and the other voices of the choir building in the harmony – pushing outward to meet this fairest object in sight.  Thompson is masterful in his use of chord structure and phrasing with Frost’s poem.  There is tension in the unanswered questions, there is calm in the resolution.

Frost and Thompson knew each other and held great mutual respect for each man’s work.  Frost was in attendance at the premiere performance of Frostiana, and was so delighted by the performance that, at the conclusion of the piece, he stood up and shouted, “Sing that again!” In fact, he was so impressed by the composition that he banned any other composers from setting his poems to music.

We seek meaning in the universe, and often we can find it in the beauty and unexplainable mystery of existence itself.

Books and Thoughts

If you’ve happened upon this post – Thanks for visiting. Normally, I post poetry because this is a convenient outlet for expression.

If you’ll indulge me, I don’t feel much like writing poetry today, so I think I’ll just write…

Books I’ve read/am reading

I just finished An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. I bought this second-hand on my birthday over a year ago. It is an ambitious novel, and the premise is intriguing – to tell the story of a crime from multiple points of view. The story is filled with twists, perspectives, unreliable narrators, and Dickensian description and dialogue – this aspect which made it difficult for me to engage (which is why it took me so long to finish it). The ending was worth the effort. And in thinking back on how the story was told and the details that the author integrated into each account of the tale, the work was well done.

As I tend to read books in batches to find one that latches my interest, the next book I finish could be among these: A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin, A Killing Term, by Robyn Sheffield, Bloodline, by James Rollins, or The Shack, by William Paul Young. My reading interests are diverse. 🙂

What to do about Confederate Statues

I find the debate of what to do about statues to confederate civil war icons (note I did not say heroes) and symbols both troubling and cathartic. I will state upfront that I am a southerner, born and raised, though I have live much of my adult life in the midwest. During my childhood, I was enamoured with the romantic view of the south (Antebellum plantations, the Lost Cause, Civil War history). As a young reader, one of my favorite books was the Robert E. Lee biography in the “Who was” juvenile biography series ( along with JFK and The Wright Brothers!). My continued experience and education has helped shape a more well-rounded view of these events. I still have an interest in Civil War history and writers of that period, but do not hold such a romantic view of the South’s intentions and reasons for seceding. Nevertheless, I consider it an important part of our country’s heritage and growth.

Statues are reminders of history and should be contextual in their placement. I think it is impossible to not have statues of some of these figures of history, even if they were on the wrong side of the Civil War. Exclude those explicitly guilty of war crimes (You don’t see statues of Nazi leaders-and rightfully so- for this reason). Statues of Robert E. Lee and others are appropriate in certain locations – war cemeteries, battlefields, museums – but less so in other places – every deep south courthouse or public park (what is the historical significance?). I don’t understand why there are statues to Lee in Montana or Ohio. There is common sense that could be applied by local governments. Confederate flags should not be on display at public buildings, but are appropriate symbology at confederate battlefields and cemeteries (It’s probably OK at NASCAR races, too, because I don’t want to antagonize THAT many people) 🙂

What is troubling is the amount of time being given to extreme viewpoints and attempts to legitimize them, when their only goal is to disrupt peaceful discussion and incite hate and violence. Further, they have taken the iconography of confederate civil war symbols and combined it with the message and symbology of nazism and white supremacy. This is not American, nor does it reflect the context of our history. They don’t get to abduct this part of our history and manipulate it for their ends. Our nation was founded on principles of compromise and civil discourse. There are differences of opinion, and there are cracks in the foundation because we are human. These groups don’t get to weasel in between the cracks and put up walls to divide us. As Americans, we should not stand for hate or divisiveness. We’ve already fought over that and learned good, albeit painful lessons.

American history is rife with right and wrong, and lessons to learn. And too often, I think we place our 21st century perspective on events of the past without first seeking to understand the past. What is most important is how well the history is recorded. I see history as way to learn (as a society) from mistakes as well as point to moments of success together. Is there equal balance in books and essays and can the information be taught to succeeding generations so they have a good perspective of the issues of the past, the philosophy of the era, and what was learned from it. We should never aspire to go back to the way things were, but we need to shoulder our history and learn from it ways to improve moving forward. As long as we have books, and we teach and discuss the historical subjects openly and without bias, our history won’t vanish (as some of our fear-mongering ‘leaders’ have implied). Statues without stories give us nothing to keep the historical perspective and invite bias. Bias invites extremism and silos of isolation (people who think like ‘we’ do), along with walls and media outlets that fuel and inflame. And if we continue to build walls around (literally and figuratively), all we will accomplish is division. Abraham Lincoln had something to say about divided houses.

We are all engaged in telling the story of America much in the way I tried to describe the book I just finished. There are events that are observed and experienced by different people who bring different perspectives. The different stories can be skewed by personal motives, some are unreliable and others rooted in fact. America is still a young country by global standards. Yet, we fight battles as old as civilization itself – and it is important to remember -prejudice and hate have no place in our discourse. Don’t be fooled by prejudice disguised as patriotism – Our history defines our path very clearly on this.

Metathesis

Raw material
thought unneeded and defective
on snows of paper-
Coloring the outlook in real pigments,
a gradient in between the
two-tone coloration anchored
by the evil absence of light.
It must be a bitch
or at least alien logic
to walk thru or wear on
in such complications.

On the timing,
don’t rush or force the ending.
Science waits-
wins out over time and darkness-
increasing the demand for
beautiful poems.