In his 8 Basics of Creative Writing, Kurt Vonnegut lists rules that include not wasting the reader’s time, write as if you are writing to please just one person, reveal everything as soon as possible and to be a complete sadist to your characters. Well, because I love you, Mr. Vonnegut, I’ll try my best to show the people all my hurt and make them laugh.
This being said, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a twenty-something unemployed whatsit. I’m an aspiring artist (of nearly all mediums), writer, poet, singer, and a walking encyclopedia. The past two years or so of my life can be likened to the Biblical Job. Though maybe I exaggerate a little, please don’t strike me down with the plague, oh lord! But I have lived those years in a constant state of existential, romantic, financial, social and family crisis. I recently returned to Second Life after being burned out on stripping, failed relationships, and generally feeling overworked and isolated to make a living to pursue La Vie Bohème. But, my god, why? What could be a less marketable talent than writing poetry? Or traditional art in a digital space! Or how ’bout a singer who can’t play an instrument? Though, I did try once to learn guitar in a community college class. I remember the “professor” was a twenty-something shaggy-lookin’ dude and the class consisted mainly of people who could already play guitar, but couldn’t read music. And man, there was this TOTALLY cool chick who wrote Beatles lyrics all over her pink backpack that I tried to be friends with. The second class, our cool twenty-something professor-dude thought it would be TOTALLY cool to have class outside by the fountain. Well, by then second class I didn’t even know how to hold my guitar correctly and it hurt my fingers so bad to hold down those chords. I remember the whole class strumming along, and I watched, trying to keep up, trying to remember what to do, then the dude-professor stops us all and looks over at me. Then all eyes are on me, and he asks me if I had been practicing, and I told him, with a blush and a squeak that I had. He just shrugged it off and went back to playing with the others, but that TOTALLY cool chick sneered over at me and whispered, “You aren’t even trying.”. Crushed by my idol’s words, I never returned and my guitar has quietly been gathering dust for years.
So again, my god, why? Is artistic talent worth anything anymore? Should I give it all up and just work at McDonald’s?
Well, that’s what I’m here to find out. I’ve met some amazing people on the poetry circuit, the indie singer/songwriter scene, some incredibly kind DJs (you know who you are) and I hope I meet some artists too. But anyhow my first poetry reading was at Corwyn Allen’s Poetry on the Halfshell. And can I just say that Corwyn really knows how to do it? He pokes and prods and teases, but will get you to read, no matter how shy or nervous you are. I can’t even remember what exactly I read, but it was liberating and made me hopeful, which reminds me that I should probably do something for the Ars Poetica project… though I probably would want to write newer stuff for it, but I’ll get to that part later.
Which leads me into my next expedition into the realm of poetry circles. I don’t have a good memory for names or dates, and in this case, it’s sort of a good thing. Being that it was nearing Valentine’s, several of the readers were reading romantic poetry, and I recall Elizabeth Barrett Browning being read over and over. Lots of very florid, Victorian poetry, and honestly, stuff I find to be largely boring and doesn’t excite me creatively. It seemed like no one wanted to read anything original, but I gave it a shot and was largely ignored. Gave it another shot, and again, ignored, like another newcomer (wish I could remember his name), who seemed to have something interesting and unique to say, but was also seemingly excluded. I left this encounter feeling frustrated, maybe this is just a club I don’t belong in? I talked to some of the friends I had made at Poetry on the Halfshell, wondering if I’d done something wrong.
They both failed to mention that rumor has it that the host of this group is largely considered to be a loon. After a good laugh at my expense, they both apologized and I’ll be avoiding THAT venue from now on.
Finally came the “big show”. Blue Angel’s Poetry Dive on Sunday.
Well, rewind a bit to what I had been doing for Lindens in the meantime. A friend or a friend of mine had gotten me a job “hosting” for a singer. Pay was good. Music was good. People were good. But it was the big show! So I got permission to use my alt for the shows, and with some serious tweaking to my already dying computer, I managed to be at two places at once. Hearing the singer and the readings at BA, even having to push back my reading to make sure I wasn’t too distracted from my job. When the show was over, I logged off my alt, just in time for my reading. Three poems; Three Babylons, something I had been dying to read for years about a dream I had that was dirty in the sexual and textually sense, Would You Wear It?, a poem about falling in love… but, for now, I wouldn’t even dare say who… And the evening’s challenge, which was to write about pink or red. I scrawled out something about an hour before the show called Looking for Eva, which, I’ll repost here so I can explain:
I remember your rose-rimmed eyes
Polka-dotted dresses he bought you
Rooms that we pretended
Didn’t smell like reefer
Little rose ibuprofen,
You wouldn’t touch the stuff
No matter what I said
Experience taught you not to get high
An absentee mother, and another room
We pretended didn’t smell like grass
Rose condom wrappers at your bedside
Boyfriend watching hockey in the other room
And looking at you, but where did Eva go?
Your rose-colored glasses, your apathy
The dotted underwear he buys you, babe
The guilt he gives you, can’t smoke alone
The friend I lost to a madman, I swear to god Satan’s after me!
His rose colored face as he rants about God
As he screams about narcotics officers
Of imagined paranoias as the sweat flows from his brow
And I’m looking at you, and Eva stares back
From way down in the hole
Someplace I tried so hard to go
To drop a ladder, or a rope
But she’s curled up,
Hiding her rosey eyes,
The tears she’d never let me see.
Thankfully, this was my last poem of the set because I hadn’t really processed what I had written and started to cry at the sixth stanza. Eva had been my best friend for a decade. This poem is about her, and her first and second apartments with her boyfriend. When we first met, and for years after she wouldn’t take medication of any kind because growing up, her mother had been a pothead, and well, obviously an absentee parent to her. She vowed never to touch the stuff, but we all grow up, I guess, and Eva fell in love with a recovering heroin addict. I started feeling her slip away when I found out they were doing pot regularly. We’d done it a few times, but I don’t smoke (A totally different story), and it’s not like I have an anti-pot position, but she did. But eventually he started to literally go insane by baptising the cats, carving Bible verses onto a cross and telling us he’d been kicked around by narcotics officers.
I told her she’d be welcome to stay at my house, my parents gladly welcomed her, and we went around calling various places to find out what he’d have to do to be involuntarily committed. There was little else I could do. I couldn’t force her out. I couldn’t stay there with him. But eventually it came to a breaking point, she called the cops and he was taken away. His parents hated her for this, and gave her a week to pack her shit and leave. I remember walking through the nice, recently remodeled apartment where furniture laid broken, books and dvds and clothes scattered everywhere. She moved back home, but that was a few years ago.
This isn’t why I cried. I cried because she’s not my friend at all anymore. We don’t speak at all, and it’s probably something I haven’t dealt with. For that brief moment on the microphone, I allowed myself to feel for her again, where I had closed off my heart to her.
So again, I’m here asking myself, what’s it all worth? Is my pain worth anything? Because it feels like all my art comes from pain. The pain of loss, the pain of romance, or just the ennui of life. Should I seek out the darkness in my heart, and if so, what’s the cost?
I haven’t had another hosting gig since Blue Angel’s. So the score currently sits squarely opposed to art so far.