Sunday, August 19, 2012

Everyone Is Jumping Off A Bridge

This is kind of a hasty rant.* Something that used to nag me once in a while and now commands my daily thoughts is the lackadaisical, almost apathetic way we go about choosing what to feed our brains. I probably think into this too much, but it's hard for me to grasp how people can be more choosy over what color frame to put on their cell phone than what information they ingest and possibly commit to permanent memory.

The appropriate disclaimer here, I guess, is that I'm more than kind of a snob about this. My existence sometimes involves a struggle between strictly regulating what I see/hear/read and being open to new-to-me material (I believe I usually maintain a healthy 70-30 mix of both). And that's not to say all lowbrow stuff should be off one's radar; if I stumble onto a Keeping Up With The Kardashians marathon, I will, more often than not, watch an episode or two. It's those that limit the contents of their minds to reality television or other material that (arguably) isn't intellectually stimulating that worry me.

I don't usually like to judge people, for the most part; I'm a very "live and let live" person who celebrates differences over sameness and conformity, and passing judgement is just not what I do. Hence why I've been putting off writing this post. Because, why not let people take in utter drivel 24/7 for the rest of their lives, if that's what they want to do? Fair enough. But what happens when they breed, and we've got parents that don't know who Anne Frank is? Or, how would you feel if the lady teaching your kid at school spent her summer (whoa, True Story alert!) reading nothing but the Fifty Shades trilogy. Seven times. And nothing else.** It's become disheartening to me, maybe, because I no longer come across this suggested intellectual laziness once in a while - it's everywhere.

I read The Giver trilogy this past week and realized that if you go back far enough in time (which isn't that far, this one only being two decades old), you can find well-written fiction for young people. Fiction with plots that don't involve teens with perfect features and done-to-death love triangles. I wonder if people would see how disappointing contemporary YA/teen series are if they read something like The Giver series, because, negating the illogical premise - even with the suspension of belief Lowry requires - they are well-crafted stories with important messages (albeit hammered in pretty hard) and characters you can respect for having more on their resume than two attractive boys in love with them.

It's really about time we stopped allowing ourselves to be served our own intellectual makeup by faceless people and companies that determine what we should and should not be fawning over. I've lost count of how many customers I've served who buy a book for no other reason than, "I just want to see what all the hype is about." What? Aren't your money and time and mind more valuable than that? Just because something is at the top of a bestseller/box office/TV ratings list doesn't meant it's good or worth your effort. It's okay to seek out mental stimulation that people aren't talking about. I suppose that requires more work than saying, "Hey, I'll see the movie that's playing on four screens and everyone else is seeing." Not everything that goes mainstream is necessarily of poor quality, but more often than not, it can be watered down and effortless. And again, if that's all you're feeding your mind, I fear the loss of history and critical thought and intellectual progression for future generations.

I hope, someday, we can bring challenge back to the way we exercise, mentally. To possess something with such a seemingly endless capacity and capability as the human brain, I don't see how someone can't be compelled to discover all that it can do.

* Please, do tell me if I'm completely off the mark with all this, because I really do want to be wrong about it, I want someone to tell me I live in an unfortunate bubble, outside of which everything isn't altogether That Bad.

** It's possible an issue or two of People Magazine made it onto her Summer Reading List, as well.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Between Words

Playing with space when writing poetry appears to require some getting used to, if you come from the physically formless world of fiction writing, as I have. The latter doesn't demand you consider the shape of the piece, the way poetry does, and I'm taking as much advantage as I can of this additional means of word expression. Because you can have your plain fries, that's all well and good. But you can have cheese fries, too, and damn it, I'm going for the cheese fries.

I would think re-imagining the use of the page would be a cliche outside-the-box effort for anybody, really; we're all taught to read from left to right and write in paragraphs and stanzas. The idea that text can hold more power than just the meaning of its words - that the words themselves can visually coalesce into trails and shapes that contribute to the poem's message - is exciting. I've taken traditionally formatted poems that seemed like they were missing something and resuscitated them by allowing the words to escape onto the rest of the page.

I gather my faces
ride my Portuguese
out to sea

I gather my                       faces
            ride my Portugese
out to sea

Freedom of form and shape and language is refreshing. I write poetry with less boundaries than I did with fiction. I enjoy writing a poem with a purpose of shape, then following it up with a left-aligned, prose-y piece. I enjoy taking traditionally shaped poems and scattering the lines all over the page, and vice versa. I enjoy drinking a soy dirty chai while doing all of these things.

Moon Law, Forthcoming

Got some great news, last month, that my poetry chapbook, Moon Law, was chosen as the winner of the Wild Age Press Anything Goes Contest and will be published in limited edition this October. Further details to be announced; for now, you can read a little about Moon Law and myself here.

I'm excited Wild Age Press chose to publish my work. They're just getting started, but I greatly admire their vision and commitment to the artistry of chapbook publishing. Many presses have a uniform design for the chapbooks they put out, and that's great, too; Wild Age's approach is to look at each work individually when determining how best to physically represent it, and as someone who takes an interest in book arts and handmade things, I love the idea of treating a written work not just as text on a page but as art.

Other projects are slowly in the works. I'm in the beginning stages of shopping around Memory These, another chapbook. Also putting together a draft of a chapbook called This Is Not A Well. I have a lot of scattered ideas for it; the challenge is knowing when an idea will/can be a chapbook-length work and when it will just be one poem. Or at least, that's the hangup I seem to run into, every now and then.

Poem in Really System

Really System is a kick-ass journal that published me a while back, and I'm happy to be in their most recent issue again with a new poe...