PROCESS OF Being
You’re in the process of becoming
Forget all that “be nice, don’t be bad,
Keep a little sadness in you;”
Just hold my hand cousin and let God
Break you; ride this stream; I hope now
You can get serious before you die
There was a woman with an issue
You may say, “What’s that got to do with me?”
She had tried all the remedies
Her own body turned against her
Like your cancer of blood
When the flesh clamps down on you
With its strangling hug; think of this lady
With the issue of blood
All the way sick
She was all the way healed.
Makes me think of the chittum
We once peeled
For medicine in those woods
They weren’t our trees; they belonged
To a man that weighed five hundred pounds
We stole in the innocence of our youth
Still it’s in my mind, a scene that we shared
We peeled the chittum trees
To the cold skin, and that howl in the forest
Some big dog or beast
Haunted us like the spawn of Satan,
Don’t worry, though you may be
Awake in the cold tonight
Death’s bark is worse than its bite.
That deep deep forest
It had a stand of white trees, we claimed
Our youth in its whispering breeze
Would you scold the pale woman
With the issue of blood? Or like Peter wish
For the hem you once followed in love?
At the edge of the forest, white trees
Bared; tick-tock, tick-tock
It’s time for me to talk:
Cousin; where are your legal pals now
Frozen pews who think law is still king?
Those whitewashed tombs now ignore you
Whitewashed in layers
They could never be porous; so
Things have they done? Remember 59? 40?
Peel your cure in the cold and don’t fear
Death’s bark is worse than its bite.
Tai-i-thacu-mi, I just felt His spirit move right through me
Only Jesus can un-sick death, so rise
From your sickbed my cousin
And go go go; don’t take two coats, no!
Just walk and pray and walk and pray
Till your clothes are rent and this sickness has gone
breathe breathe, my heart’s
Brother, my friend; ignore those in tombs;
But be careful in who you believe, for
If it were John the Baptist who rose from his grave
How many would that have saved? As for death
Know how its bark is much worse than its bite.
The woods of our youth were sinful and harsh
But we felt His touch, soft pliable hands
Dry rough bark close to our soul
We had no idea that he was the God/Man
We worshipped in Sunday school,
As we sang to Jesus songs so sweet
In retrospect, those songs ring true in my mind
Like Hawthorne’s scarlet-ed woman, alone I gazed
At the tumbling creek and hoped in the bark
That seemed to go deep in the woods and the dark
To arise in the winters and fall into springs
The springs of our youth; you were always persistent,
My cousin, my cousin; be that again.
Remember the fairgrounds and rotting wood benches?
You introduced me
To all worldly things, for that
I forgive you, as our past was a growing place;
We trusted each other and thrived in the summer
Country times – only half of me accepted your world
The other half wanted to leave berries and bees
Chittum and fern, and creeks and dry beds
For the city
Why would He care for us wretched poor beings?
He starts the sky yellow, changes it to blue
We’re killed every winter; then He brings back the dew
This sweetest of life is ours once again
Remember, my cousin, life can be yours
Again, I tell you, so many mornings I spent
On my knees for my own health,
For yours too now,
As that small yellow sun felt cold
My faith hardened, but my gait grew old
Imagine, you cheating your cold dead fate
As your old gray head bows to pray
And your skin gets peeled away you’ll see
That death’s bark is worse than its bite
And you are no longer young
Each breath you take will feel
Like it’s a stolen one.
Don V Standeford
INTRODUCTION: As I said in a previous article, it’s easy for writers, especially the “Romantics,” to have their writing hijacked by their intense love for literature. Often fiction writers, dramatists, and poets try to write just like the great writers of the past. So why do their imitations so often backfire on them?
1. VULNERABILITIES: Alas, we literary romantics are too immersed in our lovely Elizabethan sonnets, the intense rhythms and characters and imagery in Shakespeare’s plays, the imaginative literature of Poe, Keats, Chekhov, Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner…An astute writer is vulnerable to being kidnapped by the past. I’m sorry, but as soon as you pile on all those free classics to your Kindle, Nook or I Pad you give yourself away as belonging to the twenty-first century. Your heart may still be in the past, but we see you here in real time very clearly.
2. DEAREST AUTHOR: Don’t be deceived into thinking the 21st century has nothing to offer you. There is Romance in our hectic, I Pad paced life; you just have to find it. If you find your modern voice and still decide to go back to the 18th century as many have, you can write with surety knowing what your 21st century readers are expecting even in that 18th century fantasy.
3. FACING MODERN READERS: To go from imitating Edgar Allen Poe to penning the next fiction or poetry masterpiece may seem a daunting task. It is, however, a task you any serious writer must at some point face. Even historical writers need to know how to speak to the modern audience (Face it, eighteenth century England isn’t coming back even to read your books; you must work with modern day readers). Without modernization, the writer’s skills are incomplete. Decades of progress in criticism will be lost to them.
4. USE IT ALL: So the newbie is astounded when you inform them that a poem doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme. Why not skip Free Verse and write highly structured poems. My opinion is free verse poetry at its best incorporates the fixed forms. When I write a Free Verse I don’t forsake traditional fixed forms. Rather I use all my knowledge of subject, technique, imagery, music, sustaining of lines to create tension, rolling, gurgling climaxes along the road to release tension, blank verse, changing end rhymes to inner rhymes or off rhymes, slant rhymes, close rhymes, blunt stopped lines, run on lines, long lines, short lines, manipulation of stanzas, repetition, echoing of patterns, all things poetic I have absorbed over the years. That is free, truly free verse.
5. MODERNIZATION MACHINE: Join the 21st century. That doesn’t mean abandon past successes. All art and literature you’ve experienced thus far are a part of you still. But there has to be a reorganizing of all you know, worked out in you by the machine of modernization. Then the parts and processes accumulated within you can join to create something new. The writing genres have seen incredible advancement in the last few hundred years. Early fiction had long character introductions. The protagonist would talk about preparations made for a journey, their morning bath, the donning of their clothes or other daily events. In Dracula, the main character talks of his trip to Dracula’s castle, the terrible journey through a haunted forest at night when one’s soul is most at risk. So the emotions built up by the images and information feed the story’s climax with fuel. Modern fiction wants us to define characters and provide drama and comedy relief in the same sentence. So today fiction demands more from a writer.
6. TODAY READERS DEMAND TO GET STRAIGHT TO THE HEART OF THE STORY: This can be seen in Greek Literature. In Oedipus Rex, all the action happens off stage, most of it before the Act begins. Greek tragedy was mostly sequel, not many action scenes. Oedipus killed his father and married his mother as the prophecy said he would. But we get in on the story after that’s all happened. In Oedipus, the story’s drama is revealed to us as Oedipus learns minute by tense minute where he has come from and the true full extent of what he has done. And then he turns to look at his new Queen wife and with horror discovers she’s his mother. It’s because the author starts at the end of the timeline of the story that tension is built.
7. WHAT ABOUT THE LAWN? The preparations for journeys, the characters bathing, eating breakfast, mowing the lawn, can all be neatly summed up in a few sentences after significant action is bled out. Now writers are expected to work characterization in while doing a hundred other tasks in the same paragraph. No longer are we allowed asides to go into depth about our characters special strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and the like. How do we do that? I suppose we can show Johnny to be brave, mechanical minded, hardworking and loyal by showing him mowing his lawn in a lightning storm with a mower he constructed from scraps of metal while a hot blond flashes her naked body at him and taped to the mower handle is a picture of his girlfriend he gazes at whenever tempted by the sexy blonde.
8. THE GODFATHER: Even in an old best seller called “The Godfather,” the writer communicates many things at once. Certain chapters begin at the end of the chapter, with the details, hows and whys filled in once action has intrigued you. In one scene a movie producer awakens to find the bloody head of his prize racehorse in bed with him. After this shocking scene the not so exciting details of the story are filled in to intrigue our curiosity as to how this happened.
Conclusion: Hook the reader with action. Then use the curiosity of the reader to sneak in detail, the why and how, and to delve into some interesting psychological studies. So get thee to the Greeks. Entice your readers by getting to the heart of the plot, and then stun them with rhetoric and imagination.
Don V. Standeford
1. Introduction: Have you heard of the term “Objective Correlative?” The term was coined by T.S. Eliot to explain emotional connections between people and objects in literature. In a story if you want to summon emotion, you put that emotion into an object and the emotion is stored there. Later you can summon that emotion up in a powerful
2. The Old Rocking Chair: Like the man who walks past a rocking chair each morning and slows and gazes at it, tears filling his eyes. He then shrugs and continues on into the kitchen. So why did he take such an interest in the chair? The theater crowd watches your character do that and they store it up in the back of their minds. Then in Act three said character argues with his brother who kicks the chair. Said man goes into hysterics and says, “Leave his chair alone! You hated him anyway!” One day said character ceremoniously puts an end to his mourning. He calls St. Vincent De Paul to take the chair. Reluctantly he watches them drive off with it…his dead father’s favorite chair. So you’ve got the chair as an objective correlative. You pack it with emotion by showing how characters (often different ones) react to it in different ways. Perhaps other characters in the story won’t care for the chair at all, because they didn’t care for the guy who used to sit in it all the time.
3. Start Early On: Introduce an object early on, get your characters to react to it, and later in the story you can recall it to create the desired effect.
4. A Character Can Be Treated As An Object: It is possible to turn a character in your story into an Objective Correlative. After all, character is desire. What a woman wanted when she was young determines what she did when she was young, what kind of people she hung around. And all that goes in to determining who she is today. How other characters act toward her or in response to things she does or says is much determined by their past experiences with either her or someone she reminds them of. The woman may have a daughter she’s close to. She’s been that girl’s best friend all her life, and as adults they are like sisters; they do everything together. The interaction between mother and daughter has caused both of them, especially the daughter, to store up a lifetime of emotions, each in the other, so each time they see each other those old emotions are aroused. The culmination of all the positive and negative emotions has a great effect on how they feel about each other.
5. Pain Or Pleasure? We like what has given us pleasure and usually despise what gives us pain (unless pain gives us pleasure and pleasure gives us pain). People’s interrelationships are complex compared to one person’s action or reaction toward an object. The principle of correlation of emotions transfers from interrelationships to people-object relationships nicely though.
6. Cataloging Emotional Experiences: Objective Correlative works in fiction because it comes from real life. Our minds instinctively collect experiences good and bad and logs them away somewhere. At some point the mind catalogues the gentle and warm and connects them to an object or person (Not always the correct object or person). Negative experience is likewise catalogued. The sum of all those correlations influences a character’s action or reaction to others.
7. Paycheck Day: Imagine if on January second each year a short gray haired man came up your walk, knocked on the door, and presented you with a check for fifty thousand dollars. Each January second, you anticipate his arrival. For twenty January seconds, this short old man gives you a check. Soon you’ve got short gray haired man on the brain. You love old small guys. You laugh when you see them, even think of them. You want to stop and chat with him, maybe give him a pat on his little gray head. Soon you celebrate January second. You call it “Paycheck Day,” and refuse to fall to the mundane on “Paycheck Day.” The front door old gray knocks on is now sacred, and the walk with it. Nothing associated with old gray haired man is bad, empty, and barren to you; not after the second or third Paycheck Day.
8. Guilt Over a Debt: What if a short gray haired balding bill collector constantly harped you about money owed. Every gray hair on his head angers you. Then, after constant harping, you trade your anger for guilt. You feel guilty whenever you see him for the debt. You get nauseous whenever you see him. And pretty soon you feel nauseous at the sight of any short gray haired man.
9. Your Turn: So what objects or characters in your story/poem cause your main character emotional stress? He hates fat people because he’s a glutton? A lady has bad experiences with married men so she is uncomfortable around all married men because, “They’re all the same?” He befriends a kindly old man to replace the void in his life from the dead grandfather he once used to chat comfortably with on the porch?
10. The Dog Whisperer: Some have great sensitivity to correlations with objects. My wife collects knickknacks, pictures of people, furniture, plates, and watches – all neatly organized. Each precious object triggers a flood of emotion in her. It’s the same with her relationship with animals. When I met her I knew she wasn’t a pet person. She had a dog she kept in a pen outside and never talked to or cared much about. One day she took that dog and dropped it off in some neighborhood to get rid of it. Her dad heard about it and went and got the dog and took care of it himself. So, she’s not a dog person, right? Wrong. Our daughter got herself a dog and it learned to depend on my wife. My wife soon grew so attached to that dog that they were inseparable. I had to learn to sleep with that dog in bed with us. She loved dog number too just as much. How could she abandon one dog yet love others? The answer: the first dog, the one she despised was the family dog when she was married before me. She correlated that dog with her ex and all the hurts living with him had caused her. Each time she saw her ex with that dog, feeding it, petting it, walking with it, stored up negative emotion in her she correlated with the dog.
11. How Do They Relate? Where’s emotional correlation in your story? Record objects and characters from your story and think how they relate to each other. How does Tanya, a plain looking lady, view her boss after he made a pass at her then told everyone he thought her ugly to get her back for refusing him? How many positives to erase that negative? A son hates his mom for cheating on his dad. The foster kid walks sullenly up the walkway of his new parent’s house after being abused at his last two houses. The voter shakes his head in disgust when yet another politician promises change.
Find correlations, link them all together in a way you can understand your characters and scene, and your story will write itself.
Don V Standeford
Why Did You End That Line There?
In free verse poetry you should always know why you end a line where you do and start the next one. Your reason does not have to satisfy anyone else but you. But if someone asks you, “Why did you end that line there,” you should be able to tell them why. If they don’t agree, too bad; it’s your choice. But you must have a reason.
Play One Line off Another Line
You might experiment with lines that play off each other, so you read a line and think it means one thing but when you read the next line you realize it means something slightly different. And then you may read the next line and a whole new meaning is twisted in. For example:
She could’ve been a prophet
From some ancient time,
Sent 2,000 Years into the future,
Cross the globe,
An evangelist who’d seen Christ
Raised up on a cross,
Who had shed tears
Upon the lovely
Body, wiped the lovely blood
Off His own hands,
And whose words came
From the mouth of God.
I thank God, she was,
and that she was my mom.
We shared life lovely,
and life hard, our hands
Intertwined, our hearts
At the dining room table.
A Few Examples of Using Line for Effect
This is one of my poems written for my mom (Only a piece of it). The first four lines are ordinary, except the word “She” foreshadows that something is odd — a woman prophet? May be in some religions.
The word “Christ” shifts meaning
But when we see “Christ” it doesn’t make sense. Christian women usually weren’t prophets 2,000 years ago, or evangelists.
That she saw Christ “Raised up on a cross,” adds another spin
Now we find she supposedly not only saw Christ, but saw him lifted up on a cross. This adds to the previous. The image we get when it says “Seen Christ” is perhaps him healing people, preaching, etc. But she saw him raised upon the cross, far more serious.
Next line adds intimacy and inclusion
But in the next line we find she “shed tears.” So we know she cared. But in the next line we find she shed tears “Upon the lovely/Body, wiped the lovely blood/” So now we know not only did she care, but she was one of the chosen, worthy not only of being near enough to see Christ after his death but to actually shed tears upon it and wipe the lovely blood.” She was included into his group.
Who can argue with God?
And her words came from the mouth of God. This cements the fact she is a prophet, one close to the source, Jesus.
One line can change the meaning of the whole poem
Then, in one line the whole course of the poem is changed. “She was my mom.” (So see, one line can change all the lines before it. Now we’re jerked into the 21st century, and we’re not talking about anyone who actually lived in the time of Jesus.
Five lines sum up the poem
The last stanza finishes this new twist by adding a mere five lines on our relationship. First line, “Lovely,” second line “hard.” First and second lines contrast each other, giving reader a chance to see both ends of life’s experiences. Notice that I don’t end the line on the tail end of a thought. This is how it could’ve looked:
We shared life lovely
We shared life hard
Our hands were intertwined
our hearts were entwined;
We prayed at the dining table.
Line use adds to poetic quality of poem
This revision doesn’t have any of the poetic qualities of the original. Since one whole thought is contained in each line the lines seem disassociated from each other. (This isn’t necessarily bad for some type of poems, but only if you want those lines separated for effect. this is usually done using couplets)
Two ideas can share one line
So there is an effect you can get by splitting one thought into two lines. It tends to give continuity to the poem and layers on meaning line to line. If each line contains exactly one thought, there is no transfer of imagery, thought, ideas, etc., from one line to another, which is not good for most poems, though effective to use occasionally.
Do it your way
Free verse is a continual experimentation with doing things your own way instead of like form poems where everything is solidified. What I have shown you is a few techniques. There are many others.
Don V Standeford
In her slippery salmon swim
And red streaked Crawdads chute
Into her eddying pools
To stare at her from beneath rocks.
Whitewater rapids challenge men
To stand against her torrential frame
And face her, screaming out in pain
Torturous centuries of ecstatic rain
To be her solitary stone
To stand against her all alone
A true man to soften her cold soul.
And who’ll be her Reigning Lord
Echo her insanity
To lover her shade and slippery slopes
Crevices’ waiting, sharp inclines.
Once a current in the sea
So filled with green and mystery
To her a man did rarely come
Then, pulled up by curious shapes
Like lambs, in white puffs she flew
And traced her shadow cross the land
Till the puffs released her soul
In little flakes, gentle and slow
For a time entombed in frozen snow.
There men saw her as a sprite
Reflected in her cage of white
Men chased her form of watery light
In dreams that came hard in the night
Her body lucid, long and lean
A cold corpse, frozen to the earth
Blue hair, bent arm, frozen knee
The sun took pity, broke the back
Of the ice block and set her free
So through high mountains, cliffs
And rocks she trickled
In a gathering streams, in rivulets
Of tears, mouths open
Her bosomed skin slipped as ice
Pain built up the rage within
And sorrow brought it to the light.
Green – the color of fast and deep
White – the foam that came in waves
Along the long and joyous vein
She spreads her long body
Knee bent, her heavy breasts pinned
Blasted, rippled by the wind
She’s touched only by old earth’s hand
Its gravity like a naked man
Basking in her pools
Her faces and belly ghosting him, a mirror.
Watch her through the thickening trees
Her body sliding toward the sea
A torturous rape, a rapid ride
For all who’ve hung upon her side
Hearts pound, as she shrieks and sighs
With each down stroke a demon dies
Within the man who’s bourn the pain
Endured her crushing fingers round
Who’s felt the pound of her breasts soft
Been beaten by her to the blood
And awaits for centuries her cold flood.
Don V Standeford