Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Poetry and its relationship with fiction.

Just like listening to live music or observing paintings, poetry fuels my writing in a potent but indirect way.

I like poetry that explores an emotion or situation with very little meandering. Fiction lets you ramble a little bit, get in-depth thinking.

Poetry helps me keep on track and not be afraid of uncomfortable topics.

Some of my favorite poetry books are:

Beautiful Signor by Cyrus Cassells (a lush and gorgeous romance between two men in Italy)

100 Love Sonnets
and
Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda(anything by Neruda, really. I think I'd read the man's grocery list)

Hafiz and Rumi, naturally.

And the best book about poetry is

How to read a poem and fall in love with poetry by Edward Hirsch. Chapter Eight, Poetry and History: Polish Poetry after the End of the World, is some of the greatest writing ever done on literature.

Russian poet Anna Akhmatova wrote this snippet before her epic poem "Requiem".

In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad. One day, somebody in the crowd identified me. Standing behind me was a woman, with lips blue from the cold, who had, of course, never heard me called by name before. Now she started out of the torpor common to us all and asked me in a whisper (everyone whispered there):
"Can you describe this?"
And I said: "I can."
Then something like a smile passed fleetingly over what has once been her face.


This is what poetry does for us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The joys of slacking.

I'm not really slacking, actually. My family of birth continues to have health problems and all sorts of scary excitement.

Some writers can ignore the stress and keep to their regular schedules. Much to my shame, I'm not one of them.

Instead, I'm working as it fits my energy level. I'm doing lots of brainstorming, reworking of my plots, and synopsis revisions. I manage actual composition by hand now, instead of on my computer. For some reason, that feels more playful, less serious. I get to make a big mess with my horrid handwriting and scratch outs and marginalia. :)

I've bought poetry from the Spanish Renaissance to feed my head. Reading poetry, especially from your non-native culture, keeps a writer juicy and creative. If you don't read poetry, why not?

Next week, I'll post some of my favorite poets and poetry books. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writing Tight vs. Writing Long

Some people write a long first draft and then cut their manuscript down to size.

Some people write a short first draft and then add. And add. And add. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

I write tight.

It's almost like words are expensive! *shakes head at self*

My poor critique partners keep asking me what planet I'm on, what are they wearing, what's the weather, are these poor characters nekkid or what?!

I have a phobia about description.

Because I fear I might turn into THIS.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some literature really does live up to its hype!

And so do some actors. :)

I fell in love with Shakespeare in high school when I discovered that he really was as good as everyone made him out to be. After all, Dickens didn't do much for me. Neither F. Scott Fitzgerald nor J.D. Salinger made me want to read everything they had read. But Shakespeare! *happy sigh*

Recently, I've discovered someone else who lived up to his hype. Marlon Brando.

As a Gen Xer, my main exposure to Marlon Brando was his post-Godfather work. I couldn't see what the critics were talking about. To a young child, he mumbled, shuffled, lumbered, and was basically was kind of disturbing. I didn't see what made him the rev
olutionary actor every critic raved about.

I saw Guys and Dolls a month ago (my love for over the top musicals came from my mother), and found my interest piqued by Brando.

This week, I watched Julius Caesar.

Here was the charisma and the boldness everyone raved about! His physical beauty surprised me (and boy, did the director show that off, over and over). No mumbling at all. Instead, his portrayal made Antony both passionate and deliberate, both heroic and manipulating. He dared to speak his lines with unexpected emphasis and rhythm.

I was smitten.

I expected the amazing performances from James Mason (one of my cinema idols), John Gielgud, and Louis Calhern. Delightfully, all of them brought their A-game. Instead of Brando dominating the screen, the entire cast brought out the best in each, James Mason, normally so cool and graceful, infused Brutus with a compassion and warmth I didn't expect. John Gielgud, always dignified, showed me an envious and grasping Cassius who was also entirely human.

I think I will have to base a book on these performances. Something unexpected and surprising and hopefully worthy of these, my literary and action idols.

I'm sure I will fail, but the trying alone will be worth every minute!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Good Rejection.

This weekend, I got a great rejection from Kensington.


What is a good rejection?

One where the editor or agent signs it him or herself. One where they give a feedback (a little or a lot) on what your writing needs to make it pop in this highly competitive field.

Something personalized.

And I got one!

So I'm excited to go back to Dracula's Secret and revise it again. No more fear! Time to pump up those stakes and heighten the drama.

I'll post more when I figure out how to do that. ;)