Sunday, July 13, 2008

Musing on Writing

I went down to Starbucks last night to write the second chapter of my novel (many of my writing projects get finished there) but it just didn't work. I wrote five pages, but unfortunately those five pages encompassed three aborted attempts to open the chapter. This is where I miss my laptop. On computer, I would have copied, edited, re-arranged sentences and paragraphs, and probably have mashed out a chapter. On paper, I had all these sheets lying around with different ideas - it was a lot of rework. I am going to try again tonight on my home computer.

I think some good came of this (besides all the interesting ideas I generate from the exercise). My first chapter worked well, and flowed, as I knew exactly the point or focus of the scene - the point was to introduce the main character, and the lens used was a pistol duel at dawn. For my second chapter, I obviously did not have my focus properly worked out - I was just writing for the sake of writing. So I am going to attempt to extract the one main important theme or idea, and once I have that, just write the scene with that angle in mind. It should then just write itself.

We'll see

Monday, June 02, 2008

F--- Me I Love Keats

Thanks to Clare for pointing me to Bridget Jones Diary for the title! Title censored 'cuz my Mom might read it!

I just finished the Complete Poems of John Keats. For a poet who died at age 26, he sure left behind a large body of work! My paperback is over 450 pages. I was familiar with his famous stuff, but I was amazed by the rest of it - I don't think Keats ever wrote a bad poem.

What struck me about Keats was he summed up everything we stereotypically believe a poet to be - flowery, ornate, classical, and with a lovely touch. Of course he was much more. He could write scathing political satire (The Cap and Bells) as well as Wordsworthian phrases (I Stood Tiptoe). He will always have a soft spot in my heart for his "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer", which opens Swallows and Amazons.

To me, Keats combined love of nature's beauty and a deep interest in the Greek and Roman classics with an earthy sensuality that could only have been expressed in poetry without being scrubbed by the censors. All his poems are great, here is one of the best



SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.


Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fight On!

Okay, what have I been up to lately? I think I'll do it in reverse order. Coming up, I have the car undergoing an operation in a couple of weeks - Brian is going to redo the exhaust so I will be in Kitchener-Waterloo on Sat June 7 during the day if anybody wants to say "Hi", or needs me to pick up or drop off something. We've got Thomas all sorted out for his Bruce trip, and that will free up the Wii for more Guitar Hero time for me. I really should be writing instead of playing a video game but I am obsessed right now - I five-starred all 70 songs at Easy Level this week, so now I am doing them all at Medium, then I will do Hard and Expert, then I will forget about the game because it will be done (I am both boring and methodical). After experiencing Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me" I may also have to do a thread on worst song lyrics ever.

On Wednesday (May 28) I have my recital. "Fugue for Tinhorns" from Guys and Dolls is back on. Its a trio, so we got together last week to practise and our accompanist did not show, plus the other two guys had not memorized the piece. You can imagine my slow burn. We are supposedly practising it Wed night half an hour before the show! Also I am doing "Non piu andrai" from Mozart's Il Nozze di Figaro (it's the piece that everyone knows). I am having trouble with the "o" sound in "riposo" but it's too late to fix it now! God I hate recitals (that I have to perform in).

Tonight we are going to Michael's year-end string concert, and I am really looking forward to that. It's always awesome. Michael discovered this weekend that he has lost his music to Dvorak's 8th Symphony *sigh* (and he lost his wallet and his bus tickets). This weekened I had to get up at 5:00 am (!!) to cook breakfast for the participants in Thinkfast, which is a 25-hour fast for young people designed to raise money and awareness about world hunger. The Knights always cook a breakfast for them on the Saturday morning after it ends. Last weekend I was in Toronto as a voting delegate for the Knight of Columbus State Convention, so that was a wasted wekend.

I have many writing projects on the go, and though I am not quite as successful as Mary, I did get an article published in "Fight On!", a magazine dedicated to re-vitalizing the "old-school" spirit in RPG's. So I now have a more-or-less regulated writing schedule: Toastmasters Bulletin, K of C Bulletin, "Fight On!" magazine, Toastmasters speeches, and my damn novel whenever I find the time between all the others. Let me reiterate - DO NOT write a historical novel! It is way too much research.

Oh yes - our fund-raiser for Wayne Little raised $6998.50. We had Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and John Denver perform. I'm thinking Helen should become a Carly Simon impersonator - $500/night isn't too shabby!

I'm sure I did lots of other things that nobody cares about, so I'll sign off now.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

William Blake

Well I just finished the works of William Blake, and I am a bit disappointed. Most of his good stuff is his well known stuff, and the obscure is very uneven. Blake recycled a lot of his work, and the sameness of the images and the extravagance of his hate for the establishment gets wearisome. For example, this encapsulates Blake's world view, from "Auguries of Innocence"

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour

but the rest of the poem is crude and mundane. Or his statement

If a thing loves, it is infinite

shows the way to his view that any imagination confined, any self-denial, is contrary to God's will. My favourite of his prophetic books is "The French Revolution", a mythic poem with cohesion, vivid imagery and meaning For anybody wanting to start his myth cycle, that would be where I recommend. If you read Blake's work with an eye towards his championing of women, the working class, and the abolition of slavery, as well as the overthrow of the tyranny of the Church and State, you will get more out of it. As generally I find only snippets of his work to be consistently interesting, there are few poems I can display that show Blake at his best. This one is justly famous, so I leave you with it

Preface to Milton

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

OK, finished the second half of my Lyrical Ballads poetry book, featuring Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A friend of Wordsworth's, his poetry is nothing like, despite avowedly similar aims. Coleridge's stuff is more like people expect from a poet, with fantastic subjects and flowery language. He is till quite readable, however, and many of his poems are pastoral, which links him thematically with Wordsworth.

There are poets who are consistent in quality, and easy to read, like Wordsworth. And there are the inconsistent poets, who leave some things unfinished, but occasionally have such beautiful passages of words that you could die happy if you were the one who wrote those passages. Coleridge is the latter. He is (deservedly) known for his Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Khubla Khan. His cautionary Ode to France, written after the revolution, eerily parallels modern America. But my favourite passage is probably this stanza from his elegiac-style benediction for his infant boy:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree

Just beautiful stuff. Here's the whole poem


The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud--and hark, again ! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings : save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed ! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village ! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams ! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not ;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

But O ! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come !
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams !
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book :
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike !

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought !
My babe so beautiful ! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes ! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe ! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags : so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher ! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw ; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.