The Many Faces of Poetry: The Poetry Book

 

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

I keep a volume of poetry. It’s my book, it contains all the poems that have survived fifty years of writing poetry. There are two hundred fifty six pages in this book. It contains some twenty seven thousand words. These aren’t all the poems I’ve written. Not even close. They’re the poems that have SURVIVED to take up residence in this book called, simply, Collected Poems. If I could have avoided loss through theft and mischief, I would probably have a book of collected poems at least a thousand pages long. But I did lose these hundreds of pages. They were stolen, they were lost, they were even held hostage for cocaine and heroin. They were burned in front of me. I’ve lived a colorful and dangerous life.

Glory fremontViv

Sometimes I leaf through this book, evaluating and enjoying. “Oh this is good,” I tell myself. Or, “this really sucks”, or “mmm, maybe”. Everyone’s work exists on a continuum. My continuum has a couple of occupants that stay at the top, always. Probably my very favorite poem is titled, “Prophet”. Here it is.

 

Prophet

Oh lord, oh lord,

what has befallen me?

That which I hoped to make straight

becomes more twisted.

That which I should understand

only becomes more strange.

How did I land on this unexpected shore?

What am I to make of the walking wreck of myself?

I can still think, still work,

still speak in poems

in the sleepless time of the night.

It is a mixed gift, this life, it is hard

to feel so completely lost

in complexity I don’t know how I made.

I wanted to be a radiance

but I am more like a garbage can

tipped by a starving animal in predawn hours.

I pick myself up,

I sweep my contents

into a tidy pile,

but each time I think to rest,

I am again overturned.

I speak to you, o lord,

like the wounded Jew,

like the baffled bloodied prophet,

like the broken fated sage.

I take help from any quarter,

even those with dangerous denizens.

I take comfort with the scorpion,

I sleep with diseases,

I’m astonished that I’ve survived.

Oh lord, what has befallen me?

You see, I have nothing but questions.

It could be much worse, I freely admit.

It could be much better,

I ruefully entreat.

Pieces of me have gone numb.

Whole continents of my psyche are submerged,

drowned, forgotten.

I am the world I have made.

I am a man, dreadfully incomplete,

unwilling to meet the terror,

reluctant to behold the fire,

shrinking always from the worst case,

taking the hand of any wiser being,

like a lost child who needs to be led home.

I shall try now to snatch a bit of sleep

from the bottom of the night’s cup.

I’m glad we had this little talk.

I thank you, awkwardly,

like one who has opened the wrong gift

at the wrong party.

Oh, is this for ME?

I’m not quite sure it fits,

I’m not sure how to use it.

I’ve broken it a little

but it still works. See?

I’ve tried, I’ve hopped on one foot,

I’ve danced insanely.

I’m still here,

waiting for your soft voice

to bring me peace.

 

What have I done in this poem? I’ve confessed to god that I’ve screwed up my life. I’ve cried out to heaven in my stunned incomprehension: what happened to me? I wanted to be a saint and I wound up being a demon. I have understood that in this world the ground is never steady under my feet. I’m always being blind-sided, rear-ended, fender-bended, slipping up, falling flat, missing a step, losing the beat, having four flats and forgetting the spare at home. I have grasped the existential paradox of living in the world. I am praying to accept it and find the strength to move forward. So…Where does that leave me?

Dancing like a madman in broken shoes.

There’s a line in this poem that catches me and catches me and catches me, stunning in its ferocity. “I take comfort with the scorpion, I sleep with diseases”. It refers to the insane risks that I took during a certain period of my life. I wound my way through a world of poisoned needles. Yet I survived. I have little doubt that poetry helped me to survive.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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Lie To Me: TV For Shrinks

Art's Visual Media Review

Lie To Me

Actor Tim Roth is an odd creature. He can divide his face into zones and create two or three expressions simultaneously. He can be smiling and tender with his eyes while his lips and teeth express a feral snarl. It’s unsettling. In the TV series “Lie To Me” it’s supposed to be unsettling. Roth plays psychologist Cal Lightman. The character is a knock off of Dr. Paul Ekman, the innovative explorer of human body language. Dr. Ekman is the shrink who can read every tiny twitch of a person’s face. Termed Micro-Expressions, these muscle movements can be revealing of a subject’s inner state.

In Jungian psychology the mask that people wear for social interaction is called The Persona. It is just that, a mask. It’s essentially false, a place in which to hide our true anguish, guilt, depression and fear. It is a Lie, and we put it on our faces without knowing what we do.

In the series “Lie To Me” Dr. Cal Lightman is often dubbed “the human lie detector.” He sees through the Persona to the core emotions. This is a great device upon which to build a crime thriller series. It’s got enough of the cerebral to be interesting. It’s virtually shorn of physical violence. There are no car chases or fist fights, and guns are drawn only occasionally. It nearly makes me sigh with relief.

In short, there’s none of the usual crap.

Dr. Ekman was a consultant for the show. Nothing happened without his approval, including the casting of Tim Roth as his alter ego. Tim Roth bears no resemblance to Dr. Paul Ekman. Casting an Ekman lookalike would have been a dismal failure. Roth plays a feral, slouching, Cockney hoodlum with a lot of Phd’s behind his name. He works closely with the FBI and local police. He goes wherever he wants, barges through crime scene tapes, gets in people’s faces and stares into their eyes. Though Roth is guilty of many excesses (what actors call ‘carpet chewing’), these excesses work to keep the viewer fascinated. After a couple dozen episodes his mannerisms can get wearying. But Roth and the cast were having so much fun making the show that no director stepped in and said, “Tim, ease up on the ball scratching, eh? ‘Nuff sliding off couches in the conference rooms of posh developers eh?”

There’s method to Cal Lightman’s madness. He wants to push people out of their comfort zones. He wants them to get angry, to flip out and reveal the TRUTH, that they’re murderous scheming bastards. His mannerisms are a technique to break down the Persona.

Actress Kelli Williams (The Practice) plays Dr. Gillian Foster, Lightman’s business partner and possible love interest. Do they? Or don’t they? Will they or won’t they? Kelli Williams is a fine actress who looks like one of CNN’s high-end newscasters: model-perfect, every hair in place, always simmering with understated sexuality. She has a wonderfully kind face and is the perfect foil for Tim Roth. Chemistry makes for a good production and this is a cast that’s loaded with chemistry.

“Lie To Me” uses standard police procedural plots, but skews them just enough so that the detective (Dr. Lightman and his staff) work these cases using a different set of tools. Their skills may be exaggerated, but that’s TV, innit? Footnote: the “innit” I just used is an emulation of Roth’s cockney accent. That’s his back story. He is a one-time thug and petty criminal who lifted himself out of that scene to become the world’s foremost body-language theorist and human lie detector.

Dr. Lightman and his staff are called The Lightman Group. They catch serial murderers, thwart abusive psychiatrists, forestall assassinations, bombings and biological attacks. The stories are pretty good. The work of Brendan Hines as Eli Loker and Monica Raymund as Ria Torres keeps the ensemble small and tight. Cal Lightman has a teenaged daughter, Emily, played by Hayley McFarland. Emily’s presence helps to humanize the abrasive Dr. Lightman. Emily gives as good as she gets. To Emily the almighty Dr. Lightman is just her dad. She can mock him, annoy him and tease him. with hints at sexual liaisons. As the father of a teenaged daughter, Cal Lightman is hovering, hyper-protective and infuriatingly paranoid. Little Em knows how to drive her dad nuts.

The three seasons of “Lie To Me” satisfy like a good burger. They are sturdy and hold up well over time. Tim Roth shows that you don’t have to be good looking to be a leading man. You don’t have to be a Kung Fu master, you just need a healthy dose of confidence and aggression. You must be ready to wade into a brawl even if you’re really intending to sneak away from it at the first opportunity. When push comes to shove, Cal Lightman displays abundant courage. ‘E just ain’t stewpid, oi?

I enjoyed “Lie To Me”. I give it four and a half muskrats.

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s Visual Media Reviews? You can catch them the last Friday of every month or subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


The Many Faces Of Poetry: The Lost Poems

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

In the 90s I lived in Marin County, in the San Geronimo Valley. The Valley is something like heaven. It’s undeveloped land full of hiking trails, hills and valleys, winding roads and custom built wooden houses. It has its own culture. The San Geronimo Valley Cultural Center is a meeting hall and multi-purpose space where events can happen. Some of the Center’s regular features are readings of poetry. It’s a frequent venue for local bands. I participated in a lot of the Cultural Center’s events. I appeared frequently for poetry readings.  I assembled my band, “The Cryptic Research Orkestra” and played songs like “Barking Platypus At Midnight”.

It’s gratifying to be known, to have a small following of people who will show up because my name is on the flyer that is pasted up and down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

On this night my “peeps” were there, all the fans who knew that I might provide the unexpected, or do something funny, play drums or read poetry.

My poetry first finds expression in one of my black notebooks. These are bound books of clean pages, two hundred pages per volume. I purchase them at book stores or online. My closet is home for a dozen of these volumes. I keep the latest two or three books in my top drawer, so that I can read from them at live shows. Eventually I type my poems into the computer and add them to my master volume.

When it was my turn to read I carried one of the volumes onto the stage while I put the other two behind me, behind my drum set. Then I did my thing: I read. I entertained, enchanted, lala lalala, I sprouted wings and floated to the ceiling. When the mushrooms began to wear off I realized that I had read a single poem of eight lines. It had seemed like twenty minutes. Don’t perform on psychedelics. It promotes delusions and confusions. Anyway, I had a spare fifteen or twenty minutes left, so I turned to claim one of my other books. I saw a tall furtive figure creeping off the stage with my two notebooks in hand. “Hey!” I yelled and he took off on lanky legs, flying like an antelope. I ran in pursuit but when I got through the door there was no sign of him.

Why would anyone want to steal my books of poetry? Was this a case of lunacy, over -the- top fan-dom, both, or neither? Was the thief going to read my poems and claim them as his own? I would never know. I spent days musing on the nature of my loss. I hadn’t computerized those books yet. My memory was inadequate. I knew there were some really good poems in the books. One of them was a game I played with time, space and words. The words occupied strategic parts of the page. The poem began in the upper left corner and said, “From which Point Of View” then it dropped to the middle of the page and said “Ever Shifting”, then dropped to the left bottom corner, said “Changing” and that’s all I could remember of how I structured this marvelous statement about the ephemeral nature of reality.

I had lost all those poems. Shit. I felt hollow in my belly, like I was hungry, but it was more like a mist of needle-like molecules of loss. Emptiness. Helplessness. I could never get back those poems. From that moment forward I vowed to make back ups. And I said goodbye to two or three years of excellent poetic momentum, my precious “middle period”, before I got old and detached from the world. Before I could see the world as a toy or board game or a scratchy reel of film from the twenties. Because…that’s what the world is, isn’t it? A game? A farce? A fraud.

A test of love, of strength, a breeding house of character. The world is so many things that as I age I appreciate senility…I mean, how much crap can a mind contain, anyway? This is why the memory folds like an origami and seemingly disconnected concepts join up in new ways. Origami. Poetry. Aha! I remember! My “from which point of view” poem was supposed to be folded up, then opened in a strict sequence. But I’ll never reconstruct that. It’s gone.

 

Here’s one that’s not gone.

 

I talk to the world

 

I know, I know,

you’re wondering what

it all is,

why it’s so damned

complicated

and why you can’t just

settle down

and make it good

why it’s so freaking hard

to work out

so impossible

to solve

why there’s no answer: no,

not even an answer,

just a way

to be

that isn’t painful

shameful

embarrassing

mistaken

poorly conceived

broken

half hearted

out of tune….

I know, I know…

What the hell is it?

What started it to go this way

and not some other

way,

some way deeper,

more satisfying

more noble

than the squalid human consequences

of being here

with all this motherstuff

fatherstuff,

bad uncle

mean neighbor

bullying enemy

conniving stranger

evil intentions

ugly ideas.

What is it that made our world

so crazy

that to get a drink of water

means murder

to own a house

to dig a well

to marry a total stranger

means ten generations

of violent feud

what happened

to human beings

how did we miss everything

so completely

why aren’t we quiet enough

thoughtful enough

to see a hundred fifty shades

of color

in a sunset cloud

why are we so noisy

so sloppy and clumsy

why do we breathe all wrong,

BREATHE ALL WRONG

what does it take

to be right with the world?

Look in the eyes of your baby.

Remember what you see.

Try very hard to remember

look in the eyes

of your lover

remember what you see

remember love

and its intricate rich depth,

DON’T FORGET!

Aaaah!

It’s so easy to forget

it takes but a heart beat

were we talking about love?

I don’t remember.

There was something that confused me,

bothered me,

I forgot

and now, see,

what happens?

Now, see?

 

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s The Many Faces of Poetry segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Poetry For Yourself

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

 

Poetry For Yourself

Poetry has an odd position in the hierarchy of creative media. It’s too personal and intense to be an instrument of mass exposure. How many famous poets are there? Five? Ten? Who comes to mind? Mary Oliver. Of course.

So why do you write poetry? Asking that question is like asking “Why do you fall in love?” You just do…because the love is in you, wanting to get out. It’s a way of falling in love with yourself. Having created something beautiful, you sit back and think…”Oh..did I do that? Where did it come from? Did I channel it from some ethereal spirit?” Sometimes the poems we write seem to belong to independent spirits. They are alien and strange.

face in space with stars

Ghost voices grow

like weaving spires in the corridor of the night.

Stalactites of moonlight,

they hum and fade

through the wake of other minds.

A sheet of star rain glinting light,

a mist of moon- heat lost from sight

these spectral hints emerge

from the night floor in the dark.

Silver waving plants recede forever

in a song of twinkling echoes.

Ghost voices, shadow worlds

arise and converse

while my sleep waits beyond the hills,

listening.

 

If I wrote that it would be evidence that I am certifiably nuts. It must be read carefully, like drinking a fabulous milkshake one mouthful at a time.  Poetry can be a vessel for deadly serious topics, or it can offer room for comedy.

Shit

There’s shit on my shoes;

cat shit, dog shit, I hope that’s all shit.

Every step I take I risk stepping in shit:

Is this not life? There’s nothing wrong with shit.

We need it, like we need bugs

to nourish with its noxious stink the most natural growth.

This poo is for you, it says, as I wipe it off my shoe

with futile hope of avoiding my hands, then washing

again and again. How often in a day do I inwardly exclaim,

“Shit!”?

More than I would admit.

My mind is full of bricks, pies and purges.

Cats, dogs, owls, horses, all shit. People shit,

the cosmos excretes Dark Matter on these very shoes

which I try so hard to keep clean. Many are obsessed

with the minuscule taint of e.coli. Why should I bother to say

“Relax, we are exposed to e.coli and far worse

every day. We are sturdy,

knocking off shits and bugs heroic, undaunted

by the invisible stools of imagination?”. Instead I spread this blessing:

“You must be crazy in whatever way you want.”

Not every disease is preventable, nor is every affliction brought on board

by the shit on our shoes. When you stroke the cat, the dog, the horse

your hands investigate bacteria, resist infection.

After all, shit is the most common thing in the world.

 

 

I’ll be honest. “Shit” is one of the best poems I’ve ever written.  I think. I always feel that way about my latest poem.  It’s got rhythm and it makes people laugh.  What’s better than that?

I know, I’m taking up a lot of space, and I think I’ve posed enough questions. No matter how personal a matter is poetry, its importance is immense. It is filled with our most private introspection. If others read it, so much the better. I didn’t write these things to live in the dark. Some day they may find an audience. Meanwhile, I offer them for the pleasure of a small number of readers who may enjoy them.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s The Many Faces of Poetry segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.

 

 

 


Treme: David Simon’s Masterwork about New Orleans

Art's Visual Media Review

In early October, 2005 my partner and I were driving our new 38 foot motorhome from Ft. Lauderdale to Petaluma,CA.  It was going to be a four thousand mile drive on I-10, the southernmost of our nation’s interstate highway system.  As we drew into the outskirts of Pensacola we noted the ravaged condition of the trees, fences, billboard signs and the Interstate itself.  The campgrounds were jam packed.  We only found a site because someone had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital twenty minutes before we pulled into the Pensacola KOA. 

            We were in the zone of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath and the next four hundred miles would be like driving through a poorly kept secret.  Along the highway were big plywood signs done in red magic marker: FEMA, they said, and sometimes an arrow pointed the way down a dirt road.  These signs were emblematic of the slipshod management of a terrible disaster.  Imagine, plywood planks with red magic marker: this way to the internment camp of white trailers.

            Ahead of us lay New Orleans.  We saw the city only a few weeks after it was submerged and torn all to hell.  When we began watching the TV series Treme (trem-may), we had a visceral sense of connection to the experiences of the characters.

wendell

            TREME is producer/director David Simon’s series about post-Katrina New Orleans.  Simon is the creator of crime masterworks like HOMICIDE and THE WIRE.  TREME is something different.  It is a filmic mural that depicts conditions in a ravaged community.  Suspense is not what draws the viewer into the show.  It’s the characters that keep us watching.

           One of the major characters of the series is New Orleans itself. There is a depth of culture in this city that is unmatched by any other American city.  Treme is one of the neighborhoods in this town, an area where musicians live and form their community.  They play at one another’s gigs.  They do funerals, following  wheeled black carriages in stately slow-march.  They play at nightclubs where the patrons and musicians alike are having so much fun that it seems almost unreal, as if there can’t possibly be so much joy in this troubled world.  But there it is: real music, dancing, carrying-on and everyone is having a freaking great time. 

            There’s nothing strident about Simon’s portrait of New Orleans.  It’s a town trying to bounce back, but the bounce is a little flat.  People want to rebuild their homes but the promised insurance checks and subsidies keep getting lost in bureaucracy.  A man has spent  three years rebuilding his home with his own money and his own skills. Suddenly a city inspector appears and cuts off his water and power. “The City” wants to see the original deed on the property.  It’s a document whose origins go back two hundred years.  It’s lost in history, lost in the flood.  Can he PROVE that his family has occupied this parcel of land since 1824?

Photo by Art Rosch

Photo by Art Rosch

            He forgot a payoff to someone.  He’s lost track of the fifties and hundreds he’s hemorrhaged to fees and penalties.

            New Orleans has become a scene where politicians and developers gather like ghouls to create a theme park where there was once a city.  If they have things their way, it will be resurrected as NewOrleansLand or Cajun-O-Rama.  The citizens of New Orleans are fighting back.  They know their city will never be the same.  But the disaster has made them aware of themselves as an extended family.  There is something special about being a New Orleans native.  There’s a terminology, a language, a history and a lot of blood that goes into the making of a citizen of New Orleans. 

            TREME is strangely relaxing to watch.  Real-life characters like musicians  Carla Thomas, Kermit Ruffins and Allen Toussaint thread through the plot playing themselves, providing a sound track of amazing skill and vivacity.  TREME is loaded with top of the line music.

            “Let the good times roll”, or “Laissez le bon temps roulez” is the unofficial motto of Mardi Gras.  The good times may roll but a new motto is emerging from the frustrated natives of New Orleans.  

          I will paraphrase the words of Sofia, the sixteen year old daughter of  civil rights lawyer Toni Bernette, played by the fantastic Melissa Leo.  Every day Sofia retreats to her bedroom, closes the door, aims the laptop camera at her face and uploads to YouTube a monologue of rage and bitterness.

          “Fuck you, man, fuck you!” she says.  “If you’re not going to help us, at least don’t hinder us.  Just get the fuck out of our way!” THAT is the new motto of New Orleans.


A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s Visual Media Reviews segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


So You Think You Can Dance: Breaking New Ground

Art's Visual Media Review

“What’s wrong with kids today?”

            This lament has been uttered by every generation  since Adam and Eve discovered they were pregnant a second time.

            So….what IS wrong with kids these days?

           They feel as if they have no future.  The last few extant generations simply don’t.  Futures come in handy when you feel as though the world will be unrecognizable before you’ve grown up.  As a child of The Mushroom Cloud I know what that feels like, that amputation of the future. It made me really angry.  My friends and I were more likely to commit petty crimes and indulge in drugs.  Without a future, why bother?  Why work hard in school?  Why cultivate disciplines, interests, social connections?  The oceans are rising and will drown your block or your whole neighborhood.  The coolest animals will be extinct.  No elephants, no polar bears.  What kind of future is that?

Can't Dance

            Then I discovered a TV show called “So You Think You Can Dance”.  You can knock me over with what these kids are doing!  Their bodies must be INCREDIBLY strong and flexible.  These kids are doing the impossible!  Has the human race mutated?  Do we have extra joints, super-human muscle memory? Who ARE these people?

            They’re just kids.  Their secret is that they found a passion, something that interested them so much that they said “fuck it” to the absence of the future and decided to live for this thing called Dance.  It was better than being a thug.  Thugs are mean, WAY mean and being mean doesn’t feel very good.  Not as good as practicing B-moves, Krumping, flapping, sapping, tapping, robot-twitching, water-waving, learning your body’s capabilities and stretching them further, further, further!

            This is IT!  Sometimes it’s called ART.  Don’t be embarrassed by the word ART.  It’s cool to do ART.  It’s okay.  Even if it’s gay it doesn’t matter.  Nobody cares about gay any more.  You can be gay, you can change from man to woman or woman to man, nobody cares!  If you want to know where it is, where the cutting edge in creativity can be found these days you can see it on “So You Think You Can Dance”.  The judges aren’t scary.  They aren’t there to cut you down.  They want to show you The Future.  Word up, Bro.  There IS a future.  Nobody can stop it.  It takes some work.  Everything good takes work. Making a future is hard work.  It’s not like it used to be, when the Future was going to happen no matter what.  Now it takes a little faith and a lot of work, but it’s there: you… DO…Have…A…Future.  Do you want it to kick you in the nuts or do you want to dance with it?

            When has anyone given a shit about choreoraphy?  Are you kidding?  Corey-who?  Shazam!  Choreographers are the composers of Dance.  They arrange the time-space-music continuum in which Dance exists.  On the TV show they are not only given credit, they are like stars!  Now I know the work of Tice Diorio, Mia Michaels, Sonya Tayeh, “Nappytab”, Stacey Tookey and Travis Wall.  Choreographers come from the elder population of dancers.  They still dance but they are the keepers of the flame, the mentors of the seventeen through twenty two year old dancers who are living the dreams.

            I’m not sure there is any more difficult art form than what is now appearing as Dance.  It’s not enough to specialize.  You can’t be a ballroom dancer, a hip-hopper or a Broadway hoofer.  One of the messages of So You Think You Can Dance is that you must be trained in ALL the dance styles.  Choreographers wont’ hire you if you don’t know all the styles of dance. Choreographers are the Gate Keepers, the bosses, the ones who hire dancers.  Get tight with the choreographers who work at SYTYCD and you will be employed for years to come. In time, you will become a choreographer.

            The most amazing thing about the dance numbers on this show is their purity.  We’re not seeing arrangements for pop superstars.  We’re not seeing choreography for Taylor Swift or Michael Jackson (RIP).  These dance routines are created for the television audience.  For US!  Sometimes magic happens on that stage.  Those of you who watch the show know what I mean.  In more than a decade this show has lifted the art of Dance so that each season is more amazing than the last.  The mutations continue.  Evolution is visible year to year.  Dancers get more flexible, their muscle memories become more detailed, malleable, imprintable.  This happens in front of our eyes.  Sure, it’s a TV contest show aimed at a teenage demographic.  That’s how things work.  Consider the difference between the egregious karaoke of American Idol and the drama and high art of So You Think You Can Dance.  Big difference, yeah?

            Big big difference.

       

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


 

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Modern Poetry: Confusion

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

Modern poetry presents us with many problems. Like: the problem of understanding it. There are no rules to poetry, not any more, not for a century at least. I subscribe to some literary magazines on the internet. I get most of my poetry from The Rumpus and Across The Margin. These literary mags function as curators and critics. Who is there to tell us when something is good in poetry? Are there reviews of poetry? Sure there are! Does anyone read them? I do, out of curiosity. Just as I read poetry that’s being reviewed, out of curiosity and because they are appearing in magazines that I trust. Their very appearance is a critical acclaim. It’s in Rumpus, so it must be good. Etc.

allen gberg

It really gets down to taste and patience. Poetry is “OUT” in pop culture. It takes too long, requires too much commitment. I haven’t encountered a contemporary poet who inspires me to be a fan, to glue myself to his or her output with enthusiasm.

Other than myself. I’m a big fan of myself. A BIG fan.

When we were in high school we had Poetry Gods. We had e.e.cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, T.S. Eliot, okay, yes, Allen Ginsberg. We had a Movement, we had the Beats and then Hippies. Am I out of touch? Let me know, will you?

Still, poetry thrives. It’s a bigger world, with more people, more poets.

Then there’s SLAM POETRY! The high culture equivalent of hip hop. I don’t know anything about SLAM POETRY except that it’s great fun, the audience is fully involved, the passions are up front, IT’S ALIVE IT’S ALIVE! Go to Youtube and search out Slam poetry and there you have it. The world of performance speech, it has no rules but one: tell a story, suck in the audience. If you don’t you will experience a gloomy traumatic humiliation that you’ll never want to repeat unless you combine the attributes of martyr with poet (not a bad combo, really) and you’re in it for the long haul, you’re there to perfect your art no matter what the price.

Youtube threw up a slam poet named Jesse Parent. The poem he spoke was called “To The Boys Who Will One Day Date My Daughter”. Then, boom! I was off on a delightful two hour marathon of enjoying slam poetry and the only reason it resolved at two hours was because my butt hurt from sitting so long in my malignant chair.

Guess what? The world has changed. I’m old enough to enjoy the backward/shrinking/reverse view of looking through the wrong end of a telescope. e.e. cummings? Allen Ginsberg? Are they hip-hoppers? What do they do?

“You’ve never heard ‘Howl’?”

“Is that a song?”

“No. Probably the most famous poem of modern times.”

“What? Like ‘Niggas In Paris’?”

“Niggas in…uhhhh, I don’t….”

“Daddy! Kanye and Jay-Z.”

I’m already confused. This began as an essay about poetry. “Well, Kanye’s pretty much destroyed himself, and Jay-Z, okay, I can handle Jay-Z, gotta give him some respect.”

“Listen, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll listen to ‘Howl’ if you’ll listen to ‘Niggas in Paris.”

“Deal. But…let me warn you. Ginsberg wasn’t much of an orator…”

(Ginsberg reads: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness etc etc). He sounds as if he’s been drinking Robitussin for two weeks and just took a snort of cocaine to get through the reading. After listening to Jesse Parent for half an hour the desultory delivery of Ginsburg is pathetic. I listen to the words of the poem. I know it’s a classic. I like it. I’m ambivalent about it. It sounds old fashioned. But maybe that’s just poor Allen’s delivery.

Yes. The world has changed.

 

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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