Tag Archives: writing

The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful: Revisited

gillian-welchI just read a terrific column at Salon.com by someone known more for setting words to music, the wonderful singer-songwriter Gillian Welch.

The crux of the piece is best explained by Gillian in her opening paragraph:

I want to talk about the tradition of tragedy in Southern folk music. This tradition connects with why people make art – to deal with the gnarliest, most painful events that occur. Things beyond your control, almost beyond human understanding. This is why we sing about them: the sinking of the Titanic, hurricanes, rapes, assassination, murder, suicide, drugs …

I highly recommend reading the rest, but the reason I’m sharing it here is because it reminded me of one of my earliest posts here at Fish & Bicycles, published five years ago in only my second month, something titled The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful.

In that post, I covered some of the same territory visited by Ms. Welch, and so I thought I’d share this excerpt:

[Poet James] Stephens writes:

For, as he meditated misery
And cared it into song — Strict Care, Strict Joy!
Caring for grief he cared his grief away:
And those sad songs, tho’ woe be all the theme,
Do not make us grieve who read them now —
Because the poet makes grief beautiful.

This is why art is so important. It is nothing less than our humanity in action. We work through our experiences, experiences of grief and hardship and joy, shaping them into words, melodies, images, movements, theatrics, structures, etc., and the care we take to make something meaningful of these experiences is an incredibly powerful, positive, hopeful thing. And we receive these gifts from artists and find that these works speak to similar experiences we’ve had, making us feel sympathetic solidarity, enabling us to feel less alone with the pain and love and even terror we have been through.

I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that discovering great music, literature, and visual art saved my life, and I can’t imagine surviving a life void of this Strict Care.

Fish & Bicycles Goes On Virtual Hiatus

hiatushi·a·tus
noun — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity; a break


You know, I’ve been working at a university for 12 years, and so, when I hear the term hiatus, I think of privileged faculty or higher up administrators who are eligible to enjoy the occasional long break from employment, six months to a year, knowing that their job will be waiting for them when they return.

Me, on the other hand, while I have excellent healthcare benefits and a retirement plan, as well as paid sick leave and vacation, the demands of my job and the low level of my position on campus do not allow me the opportunity for hiatus. Anything longer than a 2-week vacation is very difficult to get approval for.

Therefore, I hereby announce that Fish & Bicycles is going on a virtual hiatus, for how long I do not know.

This has been a very difficult decision to make. I’ve loved blogging. I’ve been doing it since June 2004, first at my now-defunct first blog, and here at Fish & Bicycles since October 2009.

But, a number of things have added up to a gradual decline in enthusiasm and enjoyment. My life offline has become too busy, cluttered with a wide range of things both voluntary and involuntary.

Meanwhile:

  • I have a 15-year old son who will not be living at home all that much longer;
  • I have a lovely wife whom I ALWAYS wish I had more time with;
  • And, at 48 years of age, I’m finding my physical, mental, and spiritual health to be demanding more attention from me.

Additionally, I find myself, more times than not, feeling obligated to post something here at Fish & Bicycles, just to keep it alive, rather than as the product of an inspiration to create for creativity’s sake. I know that maintaining a regular practice of anything requires persistence in the face of challenges, and I’ve managed to do just that for nine years of blogging. But, I just need to take a break for a while, to attend to other things in my life.

I LOVE that definition of hiatus that I included at the start of this post — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity. It sounds so Sci-Fi, and given that I’m taking a virtual hiatus, I feel like a time traveler!

Hopefully, on my “travels” I will find my muse again and I’ll return to Fish & Bicycles with renewed vigor and determination.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all of my regular readers and the many folks who have chosen to Follow Fish & Bicycles. I’ve been honored by the time people have taken to check out what I’ve been doing here.

Cheers!

My Teen, My Tug o’ War: A Poem

tug-o-war1

my teen, my tug o’war
the rope stretched taut between us
we pull
me wanting him closer
he wanting to get away…
…and yet, no letting go

for 15 years years I’ve been telling
the same old joke
about how my son had a lot of nerve
growing up
how, if I could, I would freeze his growth
at any given time
for as long as I needed him to be
that age
that size
that capable
Until I had had my fill
Until I was ready to move on

but I’ve never had that power
over time and space
and now…
…he’s been weightlifting
he’s ripped
he could kick my ass in a fight

and so here I am
reduced to being grateful that he hasn’t yet
let go of the rope

we tug

Hamlet Mashups: Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit

hamletI’ve mentioned several times, here at Fish & Bicycles, that I concentrated in Shakespeare while working on my bachelor’s degree in English, most notably in my October 2011 post concerning the film Anonymous, a fictional exploration of the Oxfordian Theory, which argues that Shakespeare didn’t actually write the works he is so famous for.

All that is to explain that most things Shakespearean usually grab my attention, and today is no exception, as I’ve come across two items on the web, within minutes of each other, both related to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, arguably the Bard’s greatest and most influential play.

First, via a tweet by Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen, an eye-popping and highly entertaining mashup, by Geoff Klock, of 65 very short clips from 65 movies and TV shows, some from actual productions of Hamlet, and others references to or quotes from Hamlet, the latter often from the seemingly most unlikely sources imaginable.

As a former student of Shakespeare, I find the sources of the references and quotes to be particularly fascinating. From Gilligan’s Island to action flicks, from children’s cartoons to The Simpsons, I have to wonder just how many original viewers recognized, much less understood, these.

I suppose the fair and non-cynical thing to say would be that the widespread influence is undeniably impressive, regardless of how much impact these snippets of Shakespeare may have had. So, yeah, I’ll leave it at that and not spoil it by over analyzing.

Next, via McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, John Peck’s hilarious Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Hall and Oates, a kind of mashup of its own, with just words instead of video.

Here, without any commentary from me, for it needs none, an excerpt:

    ACT III, SCENE II

    Danish march. A flourish. Enter HAMLET, KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, POLONIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, HALL, OATES, and others.

    HAMLET

    They are coming to the play; I must be idle:
    Get you a place. Where be Ophelia? My own person,
    Like the sun, doth daily rise to greet her.

    HALL

    I wouldn’t if I were you,
    I know what she can do,
    She’s deadly, man, she could really rip your world apart.
    Mind over matter, ooh, the beauty is there,
    But a beast is in the heart.

    OATES
    (silent)

    HAMLET
    (clears throat)

    Go, bid the players make ready.

    ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN

    We will, my lord.

    Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN. Enter OPHELIA.

    OATES

    Whoa-oh, here she comes.

    HALL

    Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up.

    OATES

    Whoa-oh, here she comes.

    HALL

    She’s a maneater.

    HAMLET

    Let the show begin!

    Enter a dozen SAXOPHONISTS.

    KING CLAUDIUS

    Gods, no! Give me some light: away!

    Exeunt all.

Q: Are Blogs Dead? A: HELL NO!!!

bring-out-your-deadSo, there’s this article out in The New Republic, by Mark Tracy, titled Eulogy for the Blog.

And, I have to tell ya, it REALLY bugs me, and it bugs me on several levels.

First, unless it’s a thing to call a bit of writing a eulogy even though the subject of said writing isn’t actually dead, Marc Tracy utterly fails to make a credible argument for his declaration of death. (And, you know what? Even if it IS a thing, it sucks, it’s a shallow attention grabber.)

A telling comment (my emphasis added in bold):

This is the context in which the New York Times‘ decision, revealed this week, to review all of its blogs and shutter at least some of them (including the popular, at least among the sort of media wonks who are still reading this article, Media Decoder), ought to be understood.

You see, Tracy is clearly, himself, a media wonk, and so he bases his assertion that blogs are dead on observations of a handful of high-profile bloggers in elite publications like The New York Times. This reeks of ivory tower classism, it’s lazy journalism, and it’s an insult to the millions upon millions of bloggers all around the world who are alive and well and blogging away. (For instance, as of this writing, WordPress, the blogging platform that I use, claims nearly 65 million users. Declaring them dead…doesn’t that make Marc Tracy a mass murderer? Hahaha.)

More proof that his headline is nothing more than sensationalism, Tracy admits:

We will still have blogs, of course, if only because the word is flexible enough to encompass a very wide range of publishing platforms: Basically, anything that contains a scrollable stream of posts is a “blog.”

But, he follows this up with the most inane attempt to justify his conclusion anyway:

What we are losing is the personal blog and the themed blog.

WTF?! This guy has obviously spent ZERO time browsing even a small sample of the blogs out there, millions of which, actually, from my observation, mostly fall into those very two categories. The vast majority of blogs that I come across are either personal journals, musings on daily life events, or they are blogs that specialize in a single theme, from food to politics, arts to sports, celebrities to hobbies, and on and on and on. (Fish & Bicyles would be in a third category, fewer in numbers, but we’re out there: the general topics blog, about, as I like to say, whatever strikes a fancy at any given moment, on any given day.)

I initially thought I’d go with a zombie theme for this post, but you actually have to be dead first in order to become the undead.

And so, just to be sure, I checked the pulse of Fish & Bicycles, and I am happy to report that it is, absolutely, alive and kicking.

McSweeney’s: A Field Guide To Common Punctuation

McSweeneys-logoIt’s been over a year since I last posted something from one of my favorite sources of reading entertainment: McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

As I mentioned last time, I regularly, literally, laugh out loud when I read the Internet Tendency‘s daily offerings, and one of today’s pieces really grabbed me because I was, am, and always will be and English major, even though I graduated back in 1988.

As a writer, I’ve always wrestled with punctuation, alternately loving and hating it, at times grateful for it, at other times desperate to break all its rules in the name of freedom.

Well, now I owe my deep thanks to Peter K. (I tried to find out who he is but came up with nothing) for his A Field Guide To Common Punctuation, published today at McSweeney’s, for though it doesn’t help me with my relationship to punctuation, it at least helps me laugh about it.

Here’s an excerpt, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing:

apostrophe

Rarely at ease in its true habitat, the Yellow-Winged Apostrophe (YWA) is known to “peace out” of its obligation to indicate possession or contraction. Many, weakened by stress, fall to the bottom of pages, assuming the vague shape of Bullshit Footnotes (BF). Completely harmless, the YWA is among the least hardy of punctuation and commonly dies before the full life cycle of a single draft.

colon

The Western Colon (WC), not to be confused with Two Bouncing Periods (TBP), attaches itself with rows of small, sharp teeth to lists. Originally from Western Canada, the WC has now established thriving colonies in all countries, having been inadvertently transported by way of cargo in large ships. Draws blood and gives headaches when overused. Known to flock alongside Overwrought Prose (OP).

Fish & Bicycles Celebrates 500+ Followers!

celebrateFor a non-professional blogger like me, celebrating milestones is a real treat.

While we might not earn a paycheck for broadcasting our creative impulses over the interwebs, we do earn the enormously gratifying attention of those whom we manage to inspire to visit, read, like, comment, and follow us.

Since I started Fish & Bicycles in October 2009, I’ve had the great fortune of celebrating these modest achievements:

And now, today, I have the immense pleasure of celebrating yet another momentous milestone:

follows

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I truly am honored and grateful for every single visitor.

At the same time, I feel I must repeat my humble apology, stated originally in a post from February 2012, my regret that I am unable to respond to every single Like and Follow that I get, much less reciprocate by visiting the blogs of those who have so graced me, that I might Like and Follow in return.

A regrettable shortage of hours in a day make it so, I’m afraid, so if anyone can lend me a device that can stop time, I’d be happy to rectify this situation.

Once again, thanks!