Is Poetry Important? Well, It’s Saved My Life.

There once was a fairly popular jazz singer from New York named Susannah McCorkle. She recorded quite a few albums, performed all over the place, and had a steady gig at the Algonguin Hotel at 59 W. 44th St. in Manhattan. (Yes, I’ve stayed there before. Gorgeous private wet bar in my room). But, you know how it is with businesses – out with the old, in with the new. As the Algonquin started hiring new, younger vocalists, the writing was on the wall – Susannah was about to go the way of the dodo bird.

Susannah had been a singer, and primarily just a singer, since she discovered Billie Holiday. She was in her early 20’s at the time. Dedicating her life to interpretation of the classics, she gained a bit of notoriety. All of that came crashing down when the management of Algonquin told her, when she was around 54 years old, to clear out her locker. A breast cancer survivor, and plagued for years by depression, she did what a lot of folks did with no other foreseeable source of income – take a flying leap out of their window. In her case, it was the 18th floor of her flat at 41 West 86th St. (Side note: I used to live at 313 West 81st St., eight blocks from her place).

Which brings us to poetry. There are all types of it: traditional, free verse, haiku, rhyming, ghazal, experimental, prose, etc. It’s almost endless. When you’ve lived for a fairly long time, believe me, the amount of stories you can tell is endless. And that’s what I’m finding out. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I started writing poems in earnest in the middle of February of this year, and so far, I’ve written about 220 poems. That’s quite a lot of stories, and I don’t even feel like I’m done.

Which brings us back to Susannah McCorkle. If I could could back in time, I’d tell her these things:

  1. Homelessness is not the end of the world. It’s just a temporary setback that, in time, will pass.
  2. Write poems about your life, your experiences, your loves and hates, but keep that ink flowing as if your life depended on it, because it does.
  3. Forget the naysayers who say you don’t have the gift of Shakespeare, Whitman, or Longfellow. Forge your own path. Let them keep up with you. In that sense, you’ve won. And congratulations from me.

The Synonym Junkie Rides Again!

Hello, wizards and witches. In today’s installment of “How to Dismantle a Bridge,” I discuss my obsession with synonyms. You can easily find examples of this in my short stories, poetry, novels, novellas, and what have you. No one “walks” in my writing, at least for the most part. They’re free to saunter, fly, jump, leap, skate, mosey, schlep, slide, sidle, tiptoe, crawl, traipse, amble, kneel, run, race, stride, ambulate, or whatever else I happen to conjure up at the moment, but walk? Too boring. Same thing for “says.” I prefer my characters to yell, scream, whisper, scat, hymn, sermonize, pray, praise, admonish, warn, belch, summon, beg, plead, shout, stammer, stutter, spit, call, whistle, sing, orate, mention, slur, murmur, mumble, sigh, sough, curse, cuss, cry, sob, vocalize, rap, double speak, or whatever else I happen to conjure up at the moment. Simply “saying” something is too plain, uninteresting, unimaginative and lazy.

This colorful literary fascination doesn’t stop with those two words. For instance, I try not to have “dogs,” “birds,” “flowers,” “trees,” “insects,” “fish,” or regular “colors” in my work. For dogs, I prefer pitbulls, Pekingese, Alsatians, dingoes, Lhasa Apsos, Dobermans, etc. For birds, they can be swallows, Peregrine falcons, scarlet ibises, barn owls, ospreys, woodpeckers, orioles, warblers, coots, etc. Flowers should be gladioli, anemones, irises, hyacinths, hydrangeas, peonies, dahlias, etc. Trees can be date palms, oaks, cedars, birches, redwood, pine, mahogany, etc. For insects, I’ve used grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, ants, wasps, etc. As a side note, concerning a lot of these and other animals, I sometimes prefer compound titles. Why have just an ant when it could be a fire ant. Longhorn beetles, ladybugs, stag beetles, click beetles, etc., get my attention. Why have fish when you can have mackerel, guppies, pikes, sunnies, cods, anglers, salmon, steelheads, and so on. And then there’s my favorite category for synonyms – color. Sometimes I have no choice but to use blue, green, red, orange, etc in my writing. Typically, though, I prefer emerald, crimson, azure, coral, roseate, tourmaline, lemon, lime, lemon-lime, khaki, gold, navy, royal, sable, ebony, etc. I can go on and on about these things and add other categories like “cats,” “fruits,” “cars,” “music” “reptiles” and their umpteenth variations, but you get the message. Color, color, color. That’s me. Hopefully it makes my writing interesting.


Poetry Update.

Well, it’s been three months (Feb to Apr) since I’ve sequestered myself to become a poet. It’s been a three-part expedition – study the rules of poetry, make contact with professional poetic concerns, and pen a couple of poems myself. So far, three magazines have accepted my output – Valparaiso, Picaroon, and Spark. I’ll create links to those soon on this site.

I’d originally intended to scribe just 40 or 50 poems, but as of today, I’ve written 100. I anticipate, in the next few months, I’ll get more acceptances. At that time I’ll start collating the best of my works into a book to present to poetry publishers.

As I’ve explained before, writing poetry keeps me on the straight and narrow. Even on those days when I just want to yell, “Fuck it!” I keep on plodding on, hoping my poems will see the light of day in some prestigious magazine. These days it’s what I live for.