Tag Archives: pop culture

The Bowie Found Poems: Space Oddity

Welcome to the lastest installment in the David Bowie Found Poetry Project!  Eventually, I’ll get a better name for it, but at least this one’s descriptive.  If you’re new to the site, you can check out the project’s inception here.   After working with “Diamond Dogs,” I decided to loop back to the beginning, and the second poem in this series is crafted with lyrics from the album “Space Oddity.”

Bless You Madly

A found poem of lyrics sourced from the album “Space Oddity”

 

We broke the ruptured structure built of age,

and I’m not obliged to read you statements of the year,

but my head’s full of murders

where only killers scream.

They say you sparkle like a different girl,

but you cry a little in the dark,

because I’ve got to keep my veil on my face

because I love you badly,

because the rats chew my bones

and there’s a cash machine spitting by my shoulder.

 

Your strange demand to collocate my mind

scares me into gloom.

The hangman plays the mandolin

before he goes to sleep,

before he sweeps the pillow clean.

He dreams our weapons were the tongues

of crying rage

and his, a phallus in pigtails.

I tell him,

Put your helmet on.

I got eyes in my backside

and I’m stepping through the door.

And as the sunrise stream flickers on me,

no purse of token fortune stands in our way

and my spaceship knows which way to go.

 

We burnt one hundred days,

and I still hold some ashes to me.

I can’t touch your name—it burns my wall with time,

unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed,

but I paint that love upon a white balloon

and fly it from the toppest top of all the tops.

 

 

 

Which album should I work with next?

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Contemporary Television and the Character-Driven Plot

I’m calling it the “Walking Dead Phenomenon.”  The “it” I’m referring to is the increased use of quasi-ensemble, revolving door casts in current television dramas.  Granted, I don’t regularly watch many tv shows, so it’s possible that what I’m identifying as a trend might simply be a collection of isolated situations.  However, the fact remains that it’s resulting, at least in my opinion, in shitty storytelling.

The storytelling angle is really the only reason why I have any business at all analyzing television shows.  I know virtually nothing about the television industry.  However, as any  writer should, I know at least a tiny bit  about how to tell a story.  Before I explain why the “Walking Dead Phenomenon” is problematic, I should probably define it in more detail.  The casting situation I’m referring to is founded on a semi-ensemble cast that is bloated with characters.  I say semi-ensemble because, in most cases, there are a few “key” characters that are more important than the others.  The revolving door component references the way in which characters are frequently killed off with all the ceremony of a toddler wielding a chainsaw.  This is, of course, to make room for more characters, who will likely fall prey to the same chainsaw-wielding toddler within the next season.

The “Walking Dead Phenomenon” irritates me primarily because I’m a fan of the character-driven plot.  Well-developed and otherwise interesting characters will sell me on just about anything.  This isn’t to say that I’m not a fan of action, but rather that I don’t think that a story can survive on action alone.  I don’t care if you’re writing a story about dragons that shoot laserbeams out of their toenails; if you fuck up the character development, my interest level will drop.  In fact, I’ll probably stop reading it.  If you disagree with me regarding the necessity of character development, I understand and respect that.  However, I hope that you’ll also be able to understand where I’m coming from as I itemize the reasons why I think that the “Walking Dead Phenomenon” (hereafter to be referred as the WDP) is a storykiller.

  • Insufficient Attention to Subplots Due to the Unmanageable Number of Characters

The Following is one of my favorite new shows.  There are some fantastic narrative things going on there.  However, because so many characters are introduced in the first season, there are a number of backstories and subplots that emerge in relation to the second-tier (i.e., not Kevin Bacon or James Purefoy) characters.  This, alone, is not problematic.  What bothers me is the fact that, due to the necessity of moving the main plot and resolving central conflicts, these backstories and subplots are abandoned or poorly developed.  This is closely connected to my next gripe, which is…

  • Killing Characters Off in MId-Arc

Sometimes, the reasons why the aforementioned subplots and backstories are abandoned are that the characters involved get killed off in the middle of their arcs, and are never fully developed as a result.  (The Following contains a number of examples of this, which I won’t discuss in detail so as to avoid spoilers.) In my opinion, this is just poor form.  It seems like the narrative equivalent of driving into a brick wall.  Who knows why this is happening, but I theorize that it’s related to the size of the casts.  Because these shows already have more characters than they can manage, they have to clearcut their casts in order to add any new characters, even if it means leaving storylines unresolved.  Incidentally, my next complaint is…

  • Meaningless Character Death

I get really emotional when I have to kill off my own characters.  I also get emotional when other people kill off theirs.  (People always say to me, “Why are you crying? None of this is real.”  I think that they are oversimplifying their definitions of real and unreal, but that’s neither here nor there.)  Killing a character is a big deal.  It should matter.  If it doesn’t matter that a character dies, then why should we, as the audience, care about anything that they do while they’re alive?   The WDP facilitates a cycle of character death without consequence.  Shows like The Walking Dead and The Following have large casts, and they do a decent job of individualizing their secondary characters.  However, they also kill them off so frequently and unceremoniously that the audience becomes desensitized to the implications of their deaths.  As mentioned before, these character deaths can also leave characters partially developed and conflicts unresolved.  It seems, in many cases, that the WDP creates a climate in which character death is a shock-value commodity with little or no bearing on the development of the story as a whole.  All of these things are discouraging to an audience; why would we bother getting invested in any of the characters at all?

I hope that this illustrates, at least in part, my concerns regarding what I’ve dubbed the WDP.  To be clear, I don’t think that the shows I’ve mentioned are bad shows.  As I mentioned, The Following is one of my new favorites.  I referenced them only to provide examples of the phenomenon I wanted to discuss.  My point is simply that storytellers have responsibilities to their audiences, regardless of their medium. 

 

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National Poetry Month and the 30/30 Challenge

I’m so grateful for the fact that there’s an entire month dedicated to the celebration of poetry.  As a poet, I sometimes worry that poetry is marginalized by current, maintstream culture.  If you look up the New York Times bestseller lists online, none of the categories listed are for poetry.  They have categories for children’s picture books and manga, but not poetry.  Certainly, there are entire organizations and events devoted to celebrating poetry at any time of the year.  Weekly open mic nights dapple the nation.  The National Poetry Slam gathers together poets from around the world every summer.  Magazines publish pages upon pages of poems every month.  It’s not like poetry is only an active force in the world during the month of April.  Still, I worry that this force is not as noted as it should be on a regular basis.  I worry that people care more about 50 Shades of Grey by E.L.  James than they do about Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey.  Because of all of this, I find it validating to have a nationally-sanctioned poetry month.

During April, many poets participate in something called a 30/30.  This involves writing a poem a day for every day of the month.  I’ve done a few 30/30s, in April or otherwise, and have found them to be fruitful pursuits.  I haven’t done one in quite awhile, mostly because I’ve been feeling alot of pressure from other areas of life.  I figured the last thing I needed was the added stress of having to write a complete poem every single day.  This year, I’ve decided to do it.  Why?  Certainly not because I’m under less pressure.  Currently, I’m working as an adjunct college professor.  It’s a job that I love, but my adjunct status means that I have to teach twice as many courses to make half as much money as my fulltime counterparts.  As a doctoral student, I’m also studying for a candidacy exam that covers 120 authors.  I’ll be taking that beauty in May.  I’m doing the 30/30 because I have to prioritize my writing in the same way that I prioritize anything else matters to me.  That’s not something that the world will do for me.  My identity as a writer as just as important to me as my identity as a teacher and a scholar, so I have to treat it accordingly.  I think that sometimes non-artists perceive art as a frivolous or trivial vocation.  It’s not.  I respect my artist self, and I respect yours, too.

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