A Little Poetic Bragging

Hi, all. Just a little update. It’s the end of June and, so far, I’ve written about 310 poems since the middle of February, 46 of which have been accepted for publishing in various magazines. For some reason, I’m having bad luck getting the few haikus I’ve written published. I guess that isn’t my forte. Oh, well. You can’t win ’em all.

In other news, just yesterday, I was interviewed by Chris from the local paper, the Port Townsend Leader. He said his article should appear this coming Wednesday or the Wednesday two weeks from now. Pretty cool.

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.

Mixed Bipolar Has Given Me A New Book.

A mixed bipolar episode, for those who don’t know, means the afflicted is suffering from down-in-the-dumps depression along with higher-than-high aspirations at the same time. For the past few months, I’ve wanted nothing more than to jump headfirst into an active volcano and erase all that is Robin from the face of the earth. While thinking that, I also managed to write a book of poems. I still don’t know what I’ll call the collection but I’m hoping it’ll be in print by this summer or fall. I really have in mind one publisher to handle my book, Copper Canyon Press right here in Port Townsend. Their requirement is some of my poems had to have been published by other concerns. I’ve thus taken the liberty of sending out my poems for consideration in the hope that, if I get at least five or ten of them published, Copper Canyon would sign my book. We’ll see.

Amazon – A Recluse’s Dream (Almost)

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With all the news and hubbub over Amazon being denied the greenlight to set up HQ2 in NY, as well as Amazon being seen as a contributor to the homelessness crisis in Seattle, you’d think the number one online retailer would be labeled as The Evil Empire. I’m sure quite a lot of folks view them that way and their overlord, Jeff Bezos, as being nothing more than a steel-spined, mace-wielding dungeon master. But all is not so graven, though. Amazon is now so big, I’m actually surprised they haven’t branched out and started selling other items you can’t usually buy online, like cars. Or hot food. And that’s what makes them a recluse’s dream – almost.

As a near recluse, it’s easy to see why people become this way. Enya, the multi-millionaire singer/songwriter who lives as a recluse in a well-protected castle in Dublin, is an example of this. Who wants to deal with all the ornery, subjugating personalities that you encounter every day? People can be ruthless and smothering, and I’ve found that, over the years, it was best to avoid them all personally. I’ve actually given it a shot, several times in fact, from when I lived in an isolated reservoir in upstate NY to my lengthy stays in my car on the highways and byways of America. I really wish I could stay hidden forever, but one thing keeps dragging me out of my castle – restaurants.

I have a history of buying food and items in bulk from Amazon; they’re perfect for that sort of thing. 100 cans of chili here, 150 cans of Chef Boyardee there – all that goes a long way with the 100 rolls of toilet paper that’ll get delivered promptly to your door, no questions asked. But, if you’re like me, and you sometimes get tired of eating the same things day in, day out, you have no choice but to dine in one of the local eateries every so often. I suppose getting in a little sunlight now and then is probably good for the soul, so I shouldn’t complain. Still, I have a prediction: Amazon will offer a drone service where you can order any meal from any restaurant and have it delivered to your site, remote or not, within, say, 30 minutes. Now that would be the perfect recluse’s dream.

So…This Is What Complacency Feels Like.

After a late winter snow storm, Grosvenor Park, North Bethesda, MD, USA.

Yawn. I don’t know if I can get used to this. Let’s see. I’m 56 years old. In a sense, I’ve been to hell and back. I’ve suffered a stroke. I’ve been a drug addict. I’ve been homeless for years. I’ve been stabbed (left forearm) and shot (left shin). I’ve had my life threatened by a crazy drug dealer in L.A. and have hanged out with the worse people in the worst places in NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle. I’ve owned many musical instruments over the years which I eventually sold to pawn shops for a pittance. Did I mention I’ve been homeless in Rhode Island, NY, Nashville, LA and Seattle? I’ve been hospitalized for psychotic breaks and am now diagnosed as being autistic, diabetic, and suffering from PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea and gouty arthritis. Yes, I have abandonment issues and I’ve made one serious suicide attempt which landed me in a now-defunct psychiatric hospital (Creedmor) for two months. I’ve also been a tortured, miserable nurse for about 30 years and have had my share of near-death experiences driving a cab in snowy weather. Hell, I wanted to end it all when I became ultra-dehydrated and weak from riding my old, clothes-laden bike for two days (about 100 miles) in the hot sun from White Plains, NY to Saugerties, NY. Through it all, I somehow managed to study Jainism, play in bands, record a few albums, drive around the country, and write and publish some novels, screenplays, audio books, short stories, and so on.

Then, two days ago, everything stopped.

I’m complacent now. Thanks to SSDI, I don ‘t have to worry about food or a place to live. As a matter of fact, I’m in my dream home – an adult community in a safe, quiet, artistic, progressive town on the waterfront. I have good doctors and, even though I don’t have a car anymore, the bus service is pretty adequate around here. And even though I should, I don’t get out as much as I’d like – except to the food bank every week – because I have a big ass ROKU TV and Android TV to entertain me, as well as two computers (including this one month old, spanking brand new HP), a new 88-note semi-weighted keyboard, new audio monitors, and enough audio creation software, music, movies and games to keep me busy for the next 20 years or so. So what have I been doing for the past two days? Sleeping.

Maybe I miss the days when danger was just a few steps down the way, when, at any given moment, the police could suddenly roll up on me as they’ve done several times in NY, LA and Seattle. Maybe I miss freezing to near death in my car and then being forced against my will to do crazy things like break into a bank, a church, an abandoned building, or a police station. Maybe I miss the decrepit, dangerous, dark crack houses dotting the thorniest places from coast to coast. Sigh. I do miss ambling about naked in public parks and supermarkets, but that was my bipolar talking, not me. As it stands, technically, I don’t have to write books or music to try to make a living anymore; I’m already there. I suppose I can just get wasted every day and watch the world go by. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to be too thrilling, though. I hope all this complacency is just my depression, and our rainy/snowy winter weather, talking. If not, I don’t think I could last too long this way.