Friday, January 25, 2013

2013.01.25 — Introducing the Villanaiku: a Published Poem-Like Thing

On January 9th of this year, I read Gareth Jones blog entry "The Villanelle is the Most Restrictive of Sandwich Forms". I enjoyed the short blog and the link he provided because it formally introduced me to a poetry form, the Villanelle, with which I was completely unfamiliar by name. I knew of it only by Dylan Thomas's poem
Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night. I did not know that that was a villanelle because, I didn't know that the villanelle existed. [Click Do Not Go Gentle Into the Good Night to listen to Thomas reading his villanelle.]

Well, a few days later, in the delightful Haiku thread game in the WSSC&C, Ellis wrote a delightful Haiku that inspired me to word-play off a female villain, i.e. a villainess. And with my having read a few days earlier Gareth's villanelle blog, out from my imagination popped my first ever try at a variation on villanelle, the Haiku villanelle or, as I've dubbed it, the villanaiku. To introduce it, here's the Haiku that inspired it:
Maggie, of the crew,
a fierce pirate, capable,
whiskey-smelling, foul.

Slams down a shot glass,
the man with the mom tattoo
frightened that he's next

hides in the corner,
like the rest, when she's looking
for an arm-wrestle.
I was reasonably pleased with my first effort because as it happens the villanelle is truly a difficult form, and great challenge. Here is what I created:
What a villanelle!
Of song and tough female made,
and a bagatelle.

Wicked fame can tell
who is strong and who afraid
of the villanelle.

And she can foretell
just how his cards will be played
by that bagatelle.

Now in her dark spell
and with this false maid he's made
her danse villanelle.

He's ship-bound for hell
in silk clothes strangely arrayed
as her bagatelle.

His heart hears the bell.
And dies with all his hopes flayed
by his villanelle,
her sweet bagatelle.
I think that that is okay. The purists will note that I have not just perverted the form very formally with my Haiku, but more importantly, with my poorly constructed refrains. So, truly not great, not even really good, but the lazy boring slowly and drawn out ooooookkkkkaaaaay.

But a few more Haiku-things later in the WSSC&C my curiosity got the better of me, and so I gave the villanaiku another try. And this one I liked much more, and so did Rose at The Houseboat mixed media blog. Enough to publish it on her first blog dedicated to Haiku. And since that is a form of publication, and I have decided to allow my blog to be completely self serving on published works, here is perhaps the world's first published villanaiku:
His words for the eye
flow with easy false answers
that satisfy why.

Her verbs won't stand by
as mute second rate dancers,
his words for the eye.

For what do you sigh?
Not these monstrous word cancers,
that satisfy why.

What's said at good bye
are the lost years' enhancers,
his words for the eye.

She cried 'I defy
you to escape the yes sirs,
that satisfy why!'

Her thoughts were to die
never sought by his answers
his words for the eye
that satisfy why.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013.01.08 — Shakespeare, the WSS and a Wack of fushigis.

A few days ago I began writing story for the WSS Week 150 Prompt. The prompt is a photograph by M. Flynn Ragland. On Friday, as it evolved, I wound up, with great reluctance initially, incorporating the idea of using Shakespeare's ghost. The story was due in the WSS's competition by the end of Saturday, the 5th, at the latest. Well, my choices wound up entwining me in a bizarre twist of fushigis. To get the full fushigi flavour, here's the story I wrote. The fushigis follow.
What's Set in Stone

'Is the set set?' the set manager snapped to her crew. Phoebe was tired and irritated, although not so tired that she didn't recognize that her curt questioning was her just being grumpy ironical. She could see that the set was ready, that her crew had done a good job. No, an excellent job, as usual. It was, she thought, perfect. The imagery of the scene was haunting and beautiful — it would film beautifully and that would help bring this part of the story vibrantly alive.

And yet she knew that in the end it would not. That all the work she and her people had invested in setting the scene would be lost, forever unknown, unwanted, unappreciated by anyone but her crew and herself. Phoebe had the misfortune of having worked with this particular director before. Barton was a hack. A relative of someone somewhere who had more money than brains when it came to making movies. Well, made for TV Harlequinesque romantic dreck. Hack; dreck. Despite her irritation, she found herself bemused at this curious alliteration. She'd noticed it before, that the '-ck' sounding words often had harsh meanings. Hack, dreck, black, blech, smack, quack.

'Yes, ma'am, the set's set and ready for action!' Phoebe's first assistant, Greg 'GG' Grimes called from behind the false wood panelling that would have fooled even a seasoned carpenter.

'Right!' she called back. 'Okay then!' She reached for the walkie-talkie. It squawked threateningly when she pushed the talk button. 'Set 17, romantic abandoned cabin, is ready. Over.' With her other hand she pushed from her face a lock of hair that had fallen free from the elastic that tied her hair in a pony tail.

The first assistant director's voice cackled and squawked 'Thank you, Phoebe. Over and out.'

She loathed to call what she was doing, here with Barton, making a movie. Her particular irritation, on this particular day and with this particular set came from the knowledge that dreckmeister Barton would take this beautiful set that she had conceived, designed and built only to completely ignore it. That or leave it shredded on the cutting room floor — digitally speaking, of course.

Why would he even ask for it to be built? She shook her head. Barton's delusion was that he was going to be a David Lean or Ridley Scott and that he would create 'meaningful meaning' — his words at their opening production meeting — from image. The only thing he liked to film, however, were close-ups of overly painted pouty lips and cleavage chasms embellished with carefully placed moles or tattoos. Well, that and thin blouses and taught pants stretched over tight buttocks. It was obvious to everyone that he'd spent too many years making single camera porn. Dreck!

She sighed. If things hadn't been so slow she'd have turned the offer away. She began the final walk-through, double checking to make sure the various details were just so, and that no one had left behind a tool or spent facial tissue that would ruin the shot. Well, the theoretical shot.

As Phoebe moved through the small space she could see in her mind's how Scott would move the camera through the set to set the scene. It would evoke an ambivalence between the beauty of the physical world, even in abandonment and decay, and the ugliness of the ignorance needed in the people who see despoiling it as a kind of jest against God.

'Beautiful, isn't it?' Pheobe just about jumped out of her skin at GG's baritone bringing her back to reality. 'Shame, really,' he added before she could respond.

'Yes, it is.' Phoebe watched GG raise the digital camera and move around the set. He carefully looked into the viewing pane before snapping each image. This had been their routine for years. Photographing the sets had begun as a kind of resumé, but had evolved into memory.

'We'll see you at Maguire's?' he asked without looking up at, as he turned off the camera and capped the lens before removing it from his shoulder and putting it away in its case.

'You bet.' Phoebe had felt sad before, at the ephemerality of sets. She knew that that was the nature of the business, but… But what? She rubbed the side of her nose then squeezed the lobe of her left ear, as she habitually did whenever she began seriously to think. But in the theatre your set will at least be seen because once it has opened there are no miscreant directors and editors removing, like a malevolent god, your mark from the show's arc. Good or bad, it would be ingrained and endure wind and weather. And if the play was really good — or really bad! — the scene will live on in people's memories for a long time.

''The play's the thing wherein you'll catch the conscience of the king?''Phoebe jumped. She thought she was alone. She didn't recognize the voice that had filled the space from behind her. And it had a most peculiar accent and raspy-ness. She laughed nervously as she turned to look behind her. But she didn't see anyone.

'Hello?' she asked, more than greeted. 'Hello? Who are you?'

'Nobody important,' the voice answered from, again, behind her. 'I am a writer.' Phoebe jumped again, with a flutter of genuine fear in her stomach. She noticed that with 'writer' the voice had cracked and squeaked, not unlike the anthropomorphized mice she found detestable.

'A writer, eh?' she said, also with a slight crack despite wanting to sound stern and masculine-like to convey confidence. She had learned that from an Oprah show, or something. 'A writer?' she said again, less shakily this time. 'Anything I would know?' She'd never met a writer for these kinds of shows she didn't dislike. She heard him laughing. Again, from directly behind her, but with a timbre that filled the space, despite it being a rather silly sounding laugh. It was more a giggle that felt, somehow, friendly. With that she began to relax. Practical joker, she thought.

'Well, good night, I-am-a-writer.' She turned to the studio's exit.

But before she'd taken five steps the voice reverberated 'Yes, as a matter of fact. And quite likely of far more than you are aware.' This time the voice had originated from directly in front of her. She stopped. She could see the long uncluttered path to the exit. And there was enough ambient light coming from the set to enable her to see the absence of anybody or a place to hide them self. How's he doing that? she wondered. She knew that this studio wasn't set up for elaborate sound effects. It was a simple set studio only, and any dialogue recorded in it would undoubtedly have to be looped later.

'Ha, ha,' she pretended to laugh. 'Very clever.'

'Well, not that clever. I have been cleverer, ere now.' He giggled. And again it sounded cute, and oddly endearing in an effeminate way. Phoebe hesitated between saying something clever herself, or ignoring the giggling prankster and simply leaving. Before she had decided he quipped 'Cat's got your tongue?'

'Ha, ha.' She was now feeling slightly embarrassed at how stupid she sounded. In a nervous gesture she pulled her hair free from the elastic that had tailed it, and shook it free. 'Okay,' she said. 'Okay, maybe you're not as dumb a writer as I would have expected, given the treacly crap I've seen spewing from the hack actor's mouths. But —

'You think I wrote this crap?' His laughter rattled the rafters and rang her ears. She'd never heard the like. 'Not that there is anything wrong with it. In theory, at least. My writing has been considered amoral and unsophisticated dreck at various times by various educated literati. Word snobbery is perhaps the most pedestrian of affectations.'

'But I'm not being a snob!' Phoebe spun quickly around to see if she could catch the source of the voice.

'You have beautiful hair.' She could feel herself growing afraid once again. 'Don't be frightened! It's just that in my time the casual freedom of woman's hair unbound in public was unheard of.'

''Your time?'' she asked. 'What do you mean by that? Who are you?' She heard the hint of panic in her voice.

'If I told you, you wouldn't believe me.' He sounded genuinely sad. 'Besides, it would just be a distraction. From past experience you'd either want to deride me for being a fake, or pester me with questions about how I could write what I did when I was 'obviously' too ignorant to be real.'

'Who are you? What do you want? Is that you, Barton? This isn't funny!' Pheobe turned, and began to run towards the exit. The act of running took the panic to full force in her, as if her life was being threatened.

'Wait!' The silly giggler's voice boomed like a thunder god. She stopped dead in her tracks. 'Wait,' he repeated gently. ''You and I have unfinished business.'' The voice giggled again. 'Did you get it? Did you?' Phoebe didn't answer. Her heart was racing and the adrenaline being pushed around her system was making it hard for her to understand anything. But wasn't that— 'Beatrix Kiddo!' he blurted out with glee, interrupting her response. 'From one of your favourite movies. I thought that bringing in a contemporary reference would … ' His voice faded out.

'Would what? Make us friends?' Now it was Phoebe's turn to giggle, but it had the strained cackle of her pent up nervous energy being released. A rather unpleasant part of herself castigated her that giggling like that was making herself look even sillier and girlier. She took a breath. 'I suppose that the next thing you are going to quote me is 'Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you'? Are you?' She paused to look around. He didn't answer. 'And how is it that you think that your being able to cite Beatrix's hacked limb joke was going to make us friends? Especially if you won't even show me your face?'

'Who said I wanted to be your friend?' The voice giggled. 'No, I am here to set the— I mean, set your record straight. To finish your unfinished business, if you will.'

Phoebe was still shaky, but instead of running she had decided to find out who was doing this. She returned to the set and began looking behind the frontage.

'That came out wrong. Sorry.' She didn't say anything, just started tapping on false walls and furnishings to see of she could decode a secret hiding spot. 'You won't find me that way,' the voice said. 'I'm not really a ghost in the machine.'

'Then what are you?' She continued her search. 'Who paid you to set this up? Barton?'

'I am the energy you have invested in setting yourself up for a fall.'

'Hah! That's just bullshit. I don't believe in that Oprah-like feel good religious mumbo-jumbo. If there is one thing I believe in, it is what my hands build. What people build. Disembodied voices are the neurological misfirings of a brain toasted on something. Or, like with me, on a lack of sleep.' She stopped. And before she could stop herself looked up at the chandelier and said ''Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.''

'Yeah, yeah, yeah. One of my better lines. Better sounding lines, anyway.' His sigh rumbled like an earthquake. 'Nothing really changes. For Scrooge it was undigested cheese. For you, spiked brownies. You don't believe in the stars, but bodily disfunction? Snap, without a second thought. Peculiar.' The disappointment was tangible. 'Fortunately for you, I am not the foreshadowing ghost of a dead partner.'

'What? So what? I am supposed to believe that you are the ghost of dead playwright instead?' Phoebe's laughter was coloured with hysteria.

'I get that a lot. I guess, with Hamlet faking madness I kind of deserve it. It was so obvious to me that he was more sane than everyone else. Think about it: it was only he who considered that talking with a ghost to be either the sign of madness or as a source of truth. Now I am one. Ghost, that is. Although, to be honest, that is a poor description.' He giggled. 'The stars, or Life if you prefer, have a very peculiar sense of humour. Of course, I could just be mad. Or maybe I am madness itself?' He giggled again.

'So, you are comparing me to Hamlet?' Her laughter was even more hysterical. He didn't say anything. After she'd recovered, she added 'And now I am to do what? Pretend to be mad? Give me a break!'

At that moment there was a very loud crack, like that of a tree being split by lightning. The set split, as if by spontaneous separation due to irreconcilable differences. The one half fell toward her with a deafening crash. The top edge of the false wall landed on the toe of her safety boot.

There was silence as the dust danced around her in its jerky helical-like path on its return to being at rest on the earth. She coughed a couple of times. Then she wiggled her boot out from under the remains of the set. The steel toe had done it's job of protecting her left foot: she could see the shine of the steel through the cleanly cut leather. She looked at the remains of what had been an embodiment of perfection, now the remains of some kind of cosmic joke.

She took a breath. Then, with calm resolve, removed her walkie-talkie and laid it on the remains. Then she removed her set pass and set it beside the old fashioned communications devices. She hesitated, but then took her smart phone from her pocket, and laid it beside it too. She took a few steps past it to leave. Then stopped, went back and picked up the phone. She unlocked it and dialled her father's number. As she left the studio she heard her phone rang itself into his voice mail.
Number 4
The fushigi event that made this bloggable began after I'd posted my story, when I began to read the other story entries. The first of them is called Because He's the DM, That's Why, a Dungeons & Dragons parody by Edward. He wrote:
…Everyone knows gnomes are almost fairies, but no one appreciates your rip off of Shakespeare.”

“At least he didn’t go with the gnome Capulet and dragonborn Montague storyline he originally came up with.”

Pock jumped half his diminutive height in the air. “Ah! A disembodied voice!”
A few paragraphs later he included text that is stricken out. Stricken out text is very rarely used in the WSS, even in editing. But here it's used in a story he preambles with I am not going to edit this; I'm just going to post it in its raw, stupid form. Here's what he struck out.
who is a prominent member of the Montague Family, whom your kin, the Capulet Family, are great rivals with. You are already smitten with her beauty –

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Sora interjected, rudely. “You are going to do the Romeo & Juliet crap? I’m not romancing that ass—“

Okay, fine I’ll change it
Number 2
So, that was the fourth step that triggered the fushigi that began with my story. The second step occurred while procuring lunch — take out from a local restaurant — after I'd completed the typical Saturday morning chores. The bar tender was a woman who I have gotten to know over the last few years. Today the place was exceptionally slow and so I asked her about the odd looking tattoo on her wrist.
"It says," she said, 'I defy you stars.' That's from Romeo and Juliet." [Act 5, Scene 1.]
We then discussed briefly her idea that life is not fated, that we make our own destinies. I asked her if she was a fan of Shakespeare. "No, not really. Just from high school." I added that the same idea crops up in Shakespeare quite often, such as in Julius Caesar. I then paraphrased/misquoted 'It's not in the stars, but in ourselves we are mere underlings and he a colossus above us.' [Act 1, Scene 2.]

Number 3
Once I'd completed the lunch and the usual other chores I resumed writing my story. In the late afternoon my wife interrupted me to tell me about the giant wine festival that will be happening next month. It turns out that it is a big fundraiser for local charities and that this year that charity will be Bard-on-the-Beach, the local and increasingly internationally known Shakespeare festival with which we've been long time members. Here's their link to the 2013 Wine Festival, which sounds like it will be a lot of fun. Here's an image from the printed article. *** INSERT SCAN OF PAPER ****

Number 5
Early in the evening, shortly after posting my story (time stamp is 8:47pm) I visited the WSS TPBM game. I am amused by the two TPBMs before me: #2663
TPBM has new boots! followed by Nope!!! TPBM wishes they had new boots.

Number 6
Later in the evening I read the interesting PM I'd received earlier (5:07pm) from M. Amongst other things, he talks about how he finds a lot of writing to be unnecessarily self-absorbed and difficult. He wonders if that is what is keeping 'normal' people from enjoying poetry. His speculation arose in part because of the reaction his published poem The Municipal Poolhas gotten in Goodreads. He commented that he'd received a PM from someone who said that he doesn't usually read poetry but found The Municipal Pool 'accessible and moving'. I have included this as a tiny or near fushigi because in my story I have Shakespeare's ghost say
Word snobbery is perhaps the most pedestrian of affectations.

Number 7
I also got an interesting PM from Al about an hour after I posted my story (9:45pm).
She wrote
Hello, Guy! I just read your story! It's brilliant. I thought it was funny you mentioned Hamlet! I was just putting Hamlet quotes in the prompt for this week after earlier today watching Mel Gibson as Hamlet!

I don't know if you've seen the new contest I posted or not, but I sat down to write a serious and thoughtful poem when suddenly my fingers started moving and I wrote this:
He unbuttoned his mouth and let out a word
that threw her far, far off guard
as he unraveled a tune and strummed it into ribbon-ish chords,
singing as if a young virile bard.
His darling, dearest, honey bloom turned to look him in the eye,
but instead of smiling playfully, her face went very wry.
She slapped his face and walked away, his words still lingering in her mind,
"Your dress, I plan to take! Yes, the one you wear right now-
This dress, yes! Your dress! Worn only to be taken-ripped clean off!"

Well, after that I went to check the writing prompt for Week 151 (January 6-13). Stories. Topic: *See quotes:. And the first in the list is from, you guessed it, Hamlet:
1.) “When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!” -From Hamlet.

Number 8: 2013.01.07
Well, I got busy, and didn't finish writing the fushigi
blog on Sunday, the 6th. However, I opened Umberto Eco's collection of essays, On Literature, before going to sleep. I began reading the commemorative speech he gave on the graduation of James Joyce from University College, called A Portrait of the Artist as Bachelor. On the second page of the speech I was bemused to read:
Jim began his degree in 1898, studying English under the supervisor Father O'Neill, a pathetic enthusiast of the Bacon-Shakespeare controversy… (85). [This is a brilliant and fascinating essay on the tower of Babel!] Addendum 2013.01.10 The essay on James Joyce was so fascinating I decided to re-read it. And when I did, I was a little surprised to read a sort-of fushigi in the paragraph following the one cited above. It is subtle, which is why I didn't see it the first time. But I decided to add it here, anyway. In 'Drama and Life,' a lecture read on 20 January 1900 to the University College Literary and Historical Society, Joyce announced in advance the poetics of Dubliners: 'Still I think out of the dreary sameness of existence, a measure of dramatic life may be drawn. Even the most commonplace, the deadest among the living, may play a part in a great drama' (85).

Number 9: 2013.01.08
Again, I got busy, and didn't finish this blog on the 7th. At work I told my friend and co-worker BV about this weird fushigi — I've shared these with her before, since long before I blogged them, even. So as I was telling her about the story and the prompt that started the story, I had her look at it. She began to laugh.
Well, that's funny. My friend works on movie sets. And, even more bizarre, is that once a year she gets invited to the 'all orange party'. I used to go, but haven't recently. At the 'all orange party' everyone has to dress in orange, all the food has to be orange in colour, as do the drinks, etc.

And there you have it. A strange, and quite likely meaningless interleaving of life elements that by their being slightly unusual and being clumped together, have come under my rubric of experience called, by David K. Reynolds as fushigis and by C.G. Jung as synchronicities.