Contra-Poetry #2: Innovator Mode

As we navigate an age of velocity and information, it is often easy to befall the entrapment of disengagement with our own simplicity as human beings. The Artist is a figure attributed to emotion, and as such, it holds dominion over such a vast and spectral realm, that the sensation if of infinitude. But although emotions might be infinite in variables, we’re not. We are inherently capped beings with limits and thresholds, those which we can expand and increase with effort and work, but never fully evade them all-together.

I’ve talked much about format and content and how they must be weighed simultaneously, but one of the greatest reflection of that is the act of overdraw, where we feel the need and obligation to feel so original, so nouvelle, that we start sacrificing the very foundations of what makes poetry, well, poetry.
I also talk much about what poetry is to me (emphasis on to me), but for understanding my view, one must understand where it comes from:

“Prose: words in their best order; poetry: the best words in the best order.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The simplest, most sincere description of poetry I think I’ve ever come across. Why? Well, if we extend the topic, we can get a grasp of how divisive the opinion over poetry is. Some say it is lyrical, others say it is formless, and most say it is simply the act of versing. The boundaries of such are virtually non-existent. According to present Academia, an entire book about nuclear chemistry can constitute a poem, might it be claimed as such by the author, especially when illogically, in my view, poetic prose was placed on the category of poetry and not prose. We might as well name is a prosaic poem.
I reject this notion when applied to poetry that I’m interested in purchasing, again, it is necessary to draw the separation between poetry as a therapy and artistic release, and poetry as a commerce and constituent Art.

Because if poetry doesn’t need to be anything, well, then it doesn’t need to exist, just another term whose vagueness makes it dispensable. That is exactly why it is vanishing, because of that shift to the unreal, because people have so little to expect nowadays when they buy a poetry book, it simply isn’t a genre they can truly identify with. There is nothing to materially identify with, there are no shapes to feel, akin to standing in an dark room and be expected to find the needle.
We order to reclaim the singular and unique form poetry once had — that of being the best words in their best order — we must be wary of what those words and that order mean, and in this case, substance and form.
Modernism made us aware that substance is very mutable and specific, so one must outcast the idea that certain words must be used in order to achieve certain results. Emotion isn’t math, and nor is poetry. That much, I absolutely agree with — as Bukowski showed us, we mustn’t be geniuses to express ourselves with brilliancy, because sincerity and conveyance are often times more important than the subject actually being conveyed.

Modernism deconstructed a toxic fuel to poetry, but it left a lot to desire when it came to form. Authors like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, for example, are notable exceptions of the movement in great part because of their stunning formation of thoughts, and even if seen as a strike at lyricism at the time, they both maintained a brilliant rhythm and sound formation. But these, as good as they might be, do not fully represent the Modernistic movement, and at the time, many authors stomped form into a grain of insult. (So much so, Frost would be incessantly attacked for being too traditional compared to his Modernistic contemporaries, something still happening today within poetry circles).

We want new things, we want better things, but we often disregard what has come before, may it not fit our creative will. But how can one create something truly new without knowledge of what has already been done? Of what worked and did not?

And form isn’t just lyricism or rhyme, it isn’t syllabic division or stanzaic structures, nor is it sestinas, haikus and sonnets. Form is less than all of that, because it is simply how you transmit what you want to transmit, what vehicle moves you towards your words rather than furthering the distance. And that might be simply verse autonomy, or the usage of extreme punctuation. Unlike content, form is not infinite, but its limitations shouldn’t be something that scares us, but rather, dares us to find ways to create freely.

In reality, I have the absolute notion that none of my poems are truly new, they have references and influences, and I’m aware of all of them, because that awareness allows me to reshape my thoughts into something only I could construct. Words are to poetry as oil is to a canvas, they’ve all been seen before, broken apart merged together, but your dance with these old fragments of communication and beauty, that beautiful waltz of colour, that is something indisputably yours. A poem which I can call truly mine is still floating at distant seas, but I write as I swim, and one day, I’m gonna get there.

All I ask, after all of this, is that you come with me.


JOHNNY

P.S: Have you ever heard of Bossa Nova? If so, check out Baden Powell‘s “Poesia On Guitar“, an album that attempts to translate poetry into melodic tracks without singing, and it brilliantly manages to do just that.

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Contra-Poetry #1: Spectator Mode

I’ve always been fearful about debating the constituents of Modern Poetry. Many things have elapsed between the outer edges of lyricism and the poetic revolution of Modernism and Post-Modernism of the twentieth century, and many more have been extensively debated and explored. The state of poetry requires no true explanation, however, because the same is palpable: declining, withering and un-captivating.
Why? That’s a complicated question, even grasping the width of what is being asked seems to be an exhausting task, but many can be tackled individually without being smothered by higher scopes. To me, the production of modern poetry fails on many fronts, and between abstractionism and minimalism (both highly unstable chains of literary generation) one can only agree on a singular vision if only one poem is analysed, anything else would be overly ambitious.
Conveniently, over-ambition is my middle name.

Spectator Mode

One of the most common communication mistakes I see in Modern Poetry is the distance crafted between poetic narration and poetic subject. This is, of course, reinforced by the usage of pronouns such as “she” and “he”, and you might be more familiar with the paradigm if I exemplify:

“She was formed of shimmer and golden-dust,
she glanced the sky with rose-form and blood,
she wept, sighting those made of iron and rust.”

Merely an example with no true conveyance that I made in a second and a half, but the idea is there. The She, the He, are experiences akin to those Arts of Hollow Men, they are conjured to inspire an empathic relation between the reader and the poem, but they do precisely the opposite. The She and the He, the They, are but objects of a poetic landscape, and as objects, they cannot mutate as fluidly as a poetic subject can. The vision; the transmission — must occur in the gap between the vision of the poet and their ultimate subject. Generating a false distance between the two is a lie many keen readers wont be willing to bite into.
The inability to create a tangible sensation of humanity within ones own composition mustn’t be corrected by stripping that humanity all-together.
Of course, this does not apply to lengthy narrative poems where the pronoun in question actually relates to a character that was previously constructed — although even then, the product can be considerably insufficient, ex. Margaret Atwood’s “Penelopiad”, whose construction was so detached that I genuinely believed Penelope was nothing more than a prop outlining the spaces where the poetic narrative took place.
It is an easy trap to fall into, one that is created by our own sense of insufficiency. But I tell you this, might I know little more: anything truly essential, anything with enough weight to be transmitted, is something that only the heart is able to encapsulate. The “She” and the “He”, and even that distorted Penelope, are but constructs of fear.
To unlock that transmutation of essentiality to poetry — or any other Art — must be a speech your heart imparts towards another.

I’ve personally never constructed poems like these simply because I do not know how to transmit what I want to transmit without being myself. The “I” of my poetry is the only “I” I’m able to create, even if false or imaginative, it is still something I can materially shape. Allowing yourself the freedom of communicating as a being rather than a master, to the point where you belong to a story rather than create it, to the point where reality is the dome you inhabit even when you attempt to escape it, is a truth that unlocks the devices necessary to produce actual genuine work. Work that not only resonates, but can be overpowered by someone else. The Shes and Hes will always be Shes and Hes, to any of us. But the I, that can be any of us, and I need to allow it that luxury, otherwise I’m strangling my poem even before it leaves the pen.

Of course, analysing these aspects can come off pretentious or detached, because not everyone constructs poems with the intention of general availability or understanding. To many, it’s merely a therapeutic activity and serves its purpose as such. I don’t often feel the need to criticise any poem on WordPress because there is no need to do so objectively, it is simply human expression and every single one I’ve read, whether my type or otherwise, whether nicely constructed or otherwise, has beauty of its own and by its own merit.
What I propose analysing here is poetry as a commerce, that which is sold and traded, and by consequence, must present a level of quality that justifies the interest. It is also of interest to mention the anglo-centric nature of this post, since I’ve never read any poem in Italian, Portuguese, French or Spanish that utilised this method of extreme spectating. I’m not sure why it is so exclusive to English, but I suppose its but a product of a fragile poetic culture, and because English was the seat of power to Modernism and other movements that allowed the rejection of classical composing methods.

If by any chance you use this technique to write, I have no intentions of demoralising you from using it. I also have no doubts that incredible compositions can be made using it, because poetry is much more than the usage of pronouns, but if you felt like something was “off”, I might have provided some clarity. And if, for any reason, you oppose my view, feel free to comment as to why and I will provide opposition/concordance, as we all grow with dialogue.


JOHNNY

PS: I wrote this while listening to Portuguese Artist “Filho da Mãe” and his album “Mergulho“, his amazing collection of guitar instrumental work is both relaxing and incredibly inspiring for achieving mind-clarity in writing. It transcends language, so I believe everyone would benefit from giving him a shot.

Emotional Instrumentality

When I find myself careworn by poetics, I tend to gravitate towards lighter, less condensed approaches to writing. Prose is, by natural production, my least refined process, but that does not mean I cannot figuratively invent useful forms to shape it up. After all, that’s what Caliath is all about—exploration of the elsewhere.

One common struggle I undergo when etching narratives is the old and ever so demising struggle of reaction vs. response, one I’ve been quite puzzled with. Art is the inevitable necessity to communicate by way of emotion, which arrives with reaction, but a well-structured fictional reality must be accompanied by an emboss of response, as to foster a process that bleeds into the reader, allowing them to write the story as much as we do, without giving them full creative control of a world we’ve created. That would be evidently chaotic and a bedding for confusion.

As I spent my entire Sunday in hospital aiding my grandfather, I got the opportunity to create a semi-device that allows me to explore the hard-and-soft-lines of a characters approach to necessary introspection. I’ve since baptised it “emotional instrumentality”, subdivided into Tacit Form (before the character interacts with the literary scapes) and Reactive Form (after the character has been immersed in the narrative). To develop a character, one often falls into the entrapment of distancing itself from the creation. As a presumably different being, it would be odd if we built our characters strikingly similar to how we behave normally as real human beings. A character, however, mustn’t be an independent sprout of creativity, but an instrument of emotion, and to allow that character to bend and wield that emotional into depth, is to develop it further than we could initially conceive.

The application of the device is rather simple. You must force that bending by designing around it, effectively hindering the character with obstacles and then, speculate ways to bleed emotion into the escapes. I used the ancient device of interviewing, the likes of which seen in NGE, In God We Trust and Carnage. The following example is merely a quickly figured demonstration. Cascan is a character from Two Brass Towers normally known for his sandpaper personality and general haggardness towards humanity and its concepts.

## Emotional Instrumentality (IV – Cascan)

A. What is your name?

B. Cascan Montverde.

A. In which way do you primarily relate to this world?

B. Painter—used to be a painter.

A. How does society appear in the eyes of an onlooker?

B. Collapsing. A deserted waiting room with fluorescent lights. Never stopping the rattle and, still, always silent, voiding itself with greed.

A. Is that a painting?

B. Paintings are manufactured. A panel with a thousand stacked corpses reaped by the plague couldn’t equal in pain to a single second in that hospital waiting room.

A. Why don’t you paint anymore?

B. Little use. You see, an individual whose life is smothered, then turns to self-destruction. Once control evades, you search for it in every drunken night and whore-house. The craving and hunger to feel any glimpse of power in this entropic reality, it culminates in recklessness.
The artist trades that self-harm for creation, but human nature is an evil game-master. The more a work seeps into your flesh, the more intensely you build it solemnly for its destruction.

A. Are those words of the wise or the broken?

B. Will tell you as soon as you tell me the difference.

A. Cascan, what do you miss the most?

B. Whatever was worth missing, I have since been painted.

A. Is it difficult for you to talk about yourself?

B. There are millions of Men and a small handful of themes. Talking of oneself rarely dodges the horseshoe of building a delusional character or succumbing to fruitless sincerity. Awareness of that simply means every topic has been mangled, shredded and abused far before it attains a shape, including those composing the self.

A. So, is it difficult?

B. No. Just useless.

A. What other topic would you prefer?

B. I’m fond of silence.

A. Wouldn’t silence be just as fruitless?

B. In Briançon, my parents spoke of a woman who climbed the Chaberton in search of a beckoning voice she heard in her dreams. While ascending, she only had silence around her, while her mind was paved with shouts—shouts of pain and doubt, so loud that she doubted her ability to walk or even eat. She doubted her turmoiled and broken nature was worthy of such basic pleasures. She didn’t doubt her own existence, no, she was certain of it, and that was the terror. As hopelessly hopeful as our kind tends to be, she reached the peak, and the wind blew so strongly she could no longer hear the shouts, her mind was finally silent under the weight of a perspective she hadn’t seen before: that of weakness. Once one realises their inherent frailties, everything can be deconstructed, even those slithering shouts and doubts.

A. Is that the silence you yearn for? That of the mind?

B. No, I want silence of the space, the kind she experienced while climbing.

A. Isn’t that silence destructive, according to the tale?

B. Yes, but that’s just a tale. I cannot convene with a silent mind, no one can. We are unsettled by nature, curious and stampeding, inept for quietude. We need our reality as much as it needs us, and that relationship is no less than intoxicating. A silent space only fastens my descent into madness, which I beckon with open shouts.

A. Isn’t that a symptom of poetic exaggeration?

B. Everything is, why act like the form in which we construct our ideas matters more than it should? Had we any respect for the weavings of the soul, wouldn’t everything be as poetic as it is emotional?

A. It the individual just a collection of beliefs rather than emotions?

B. No, that’s the collective’s perspective on the individual. To a singular person in isolation, nothing elevates emotion. In fact, that’s how Art thrives, because human emotion becomes an instrument of translation without possible compare. That’s the universal language of subjectivity.

A. Is freedom a total level of control or a total lack thereof?

B. Neither. Freedom is a construct conveniently parked between the ability to will and the inability to have. It takes as much as it gives, therefore, it’s inconsequential.

A. Isn’t your ability to say that… a product of your freedom?

B. No, my ability to say these things is but a product of my unbound capacity to be wrong.

A. Then, why say it?

B. Perhaps because being wrong is, ultimately, to be free. Free of further explanation—that is.

A. Do you believe in fate?

B. Never have. It’s better to be insufficient in a present that is, than grand in a future that will not.

 


This rather simple example does not require further complexity. This scenario is striped of visual, sound and material formalities. A blank character in a blank space. But this device was not meant to analyse the way Cascan speaks or even how he presumes choice and responsiveness, but instead, a way to create the groundwork for character sculpting by narrowing his constituent tenets. I consider three of these when applying this device: position of self, perspective dogma, and self-driven emotions. Essentially, we are asking Cascan to pinpoint his perceived origins of self by conducting his emotions.
This sounds dual—in the way that I speak as if I’m not both the writer and Cascan—but it is not, nor does it need to be. These characters are fragments of myself brought onto creation, which means they are bound to reason like I do, since reason is rarely mutable. But reactions are increments of choice that we can meld and shape. A character attains tangibility by reacting to an environment, as such, emotion is a fine instrument to understand which steps to take.

This is, of course, one of my many divergent thoughts, and chances are you wont feel the need to try it. But it works for me, and for the sake of sharing, I thought it might be of value to someone. Perhaps even in concept expansion. Everything starts with a small idea.


Johnny

Criticism: spider eggs and self-worth.

Following the string of compositions from when I initially started posting, you might sight some of the most primitive and uninspired works of web-poetry around, and along those lines of frozen time, you might even find a generally negative disposition I have towards my work, as well as a strong hostility directed at my own artistic development.
I believe, albeit probably wrong, that any artist of any craft holds little to no love for a product that is finished, because its the process and the journey that must be loved and nurtured, and the final result: an outburst of pain compounded with shame, a linen woven by acid needles that thrust with every line, every paintbrush and every note of a melody. It is natural to hold hatred towards our own creations, not necessarily because they are parts of ourselves we shed into a piece, but because they are willingly given away and lost, they are mirrors within mirrors and whatever they reflect has been traded at the highest cost: the peace we once found in producing them, now inhabits the piece, now… its gone…

And not only is it condensed into the work, it also constitutes an energy that dances around our own, creating a thick mist of unbound chaos, and we rush to perfect it, to alter it and reprise it. It is never done, never complete, it haunts us while it exists, because it could be so much more… and why isn’t it so much more? Why isn’t it the piece that will propel the next century of artists into unrest and endless creativity?

It is necessary to find balance, as with everything. I do not have shame towards my older work, I embrace it, because it allows me to gage how I’ve grown, what I’ve become, it gives me a tangible example of my evolution and the rewards I was able to reap from my effort. But still, I cannot read any of them, or rewrite any of them in any way.
They are foreign to me, the poetic subject has shifted, and my older self that indeed wrote those pieces, has now risen walls of solid isolation and sheltered within them. And the reason I cannot go back to them is relatively simple, as its commonly said – we are our biggest critics – and it serves well to be so, but we mustn’t become our biggest tormentors, striking hot iron into the flesh of our past tenses, attempting to gather enough information that justifies the inaptitude of what we were, and especially, of what we are now.

That is also why I’ve insisted on not trying to become an author at such tender age, not for lack of confidence in my body of work (although that also exists very strongly), but also because that would entail presenting work that would be worth paying for, worth spending time over, worth being read and invested, and my work isn’t there yet, and it won’t be there until every ounce of liquid pride I possess can be applied to such creation, and I understand that this unrealistic concept equals one of chasing geese around a prairie, but it allows me to find peace in my ever-so flawed and inept poems, they are a product of my dedication to a craft that, eventually, might be as shifting and influential to someone, like so many have been to me.

But that is eventually, and meanwhile, I relish in the sensation that any poem I publish today, will be something I cannot read a year from now, and that evolution of the self and its relation to worth, is such a beautiful inner process on its own, one that already compensates any ill-feeling over my own work. I’ve grown and will continue to grow, what else could I ask for?

Nihilism: a second frontier of fear.

I’ve always held quarrels against the structural basis of Nihilism.

It strives in devouring any worth behind worldly constructs, and does so mercilessly, because the charcoal that fuels it seems made from the cinders of a society in ideological flames. I’m twenty-two, which represents that hopefully, most of my life still awaits me, yet… I, akin to the vastest numbers of my generation, have been raised under cruel forecasts and outright dooming patterns: senseless acts of moral terror spawning almost daily, a scientific community that insists on a very real factor of life being irreversible altered by the selfish and hedonistic acts of humanity towards Nature, tendrils of corruption and interest crawling under the skin of powerful figures, some of which hold nuclear arsenal capable of turning this blue marble we have known to be (so far) the only planet that harbours life, into a wasteland of volcanic winters and centuries of acid fall-out, rendering it just another barren planet into a myriad of trillions we’ve learned to observe.
All of this, thrusting and gushing into an already exasperated youth, constantly in contact with a global world that – by expanding – seems less and less just and predictable by every inch touched. All of this, and a haunting sensation that whatever could matter, and whatever does unavoidably matter in our lives, is but a passing lucid dream we hopefully cling to. But, in the hopes of what?
Nuclear arsenal isn’t going anywhere, because power in intimidation is an acquired technique that simply cannot be reduced, only expanded, because a powerless superpower is… well, no longer a superpower.
Pollution became so intense that reversing it would require an immense amount of resources and funds that are only held by, coincidentally, the corporations that most pollute, and outlawing those practices or forcing those corporative bodies to shift funds into that cause is met with the ghastly and evasive front of lobbying and a fleeting justice network.
Terror is no longer confined to the exterior, but instead, engineered within us by a previous fear-ridden generation (for good reason, might I add). For me, the Outside seems far too similar with that zoo pet that frightened me when I was young, but “do not worry, it is more scared of you than you are of it”, but now, we are that zoo pet, we shiver and cower under a world that moves far too quickly, recklessly, and aiming at no direction. And in turn, that world fears us lightly, because we are the wood that burns above that charcoal, we are the cinders of that Nihilistic brazier.

To face such cemented futures everyday – and more than face them – to be assured constantly by a barrage of information that, this is not a possibility, this is no less than a reality, is to enter an Age where the deconstruction of all mattering concepts as a shield against their inevitable loss, and moreover, that constantly approaching loss. That mechanical disassemble of things we would otherwise be naturally in love with, is to me the grimmest crime one could commit against itself. We tear and shred all semblance of emotion towards a genuine experience, inasmuch as we reach our core and overlook the fields, and there is nothing there, not a glimpse of substance, not even shallow waters, but a bleak void holding all features of reality, or put in a simple latin word, “nihil”.

It’s hard to navigate these topics and not feel a certain weight of sensibility, when did we become frigid beings that leap at anything remotely worthy of our appreciation, exhaust it, and then cast it upon a sea already paved with isles of human waste, both physical and metaphorical?…

Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of Nihilism, but it seems to run so deep within me, that it almost doesn’t matter what outlook I have on it, it will grip with the same resolve, ever-hungry and all-consuming…


JOHNNY

Why poetry, still?

My letter response a while back, where a dear friend asked me why poetry sounds deeply saddening to him. This was my theory (although I have more theories now, I still stick to this one most times):

 


Since the elder days of lyrical production, poetry has taken shape of shoulders carrying the shadows of human declaration.

From a singular first word of verse to the last sound of its adored stanza, it has been used to spawn nights of joyous dreams, dawns of draping silks, and as a hand moves to slide away those curtains woven of melody: a window, leading to giant sights of exposition, hills of galloping horses hauling our pains, our wounds, whatever we deem worthy to exist in that composition, because it too shall stand to compose us.

That is the level of communication all artistic movements tend to bleed out, those small shreds of emotion that plea for capture, and beg ever-so softly to be replicated, to be laid upon those hills of erosion so they too can taste the winds and streams carving away figures of reality. So they too can dock at those immense seas of versed salt, so they too can be cast upon the shame of their fault. Sharing all our moralities and sorrow, fears and loves, they are the Gods our minds are able to create, our fronts illuminated midst the foggy lighthouses of our fate.

Poetry is sound requesting to be heard, all the while praying that it shall never be truly felt. It holds no message but the one it cannot convey, inhales only the air it cannot attain, and rises ethereal, dodging a volley of arrows aimed at the core it humbly attempts to translate.

And I, narrating the strolls of flowers and their petal waltzes, am reduced to a lonesome grain, carried away, endlessly carried away, each verse another wind-strike, meters and meters of paths along a starless sky, from eons where the sun is blindingly beautiful in its rise, to minutes where it’s just an icy sphere casting upon me the lores of demise. Taken away by blowing agonies, abducted in the desperate glistening of their tears.

What was before an effigy of nature’s claims, is now a valse of linen strings placidly caressing my skin, takes form beneath my ground of insecurity, holds my callous hands, kisses my cracked lips, and signals towards horizons of truth in doubtless figure, wrapping around these hands, and soon dissipates.

Versing is of utmost cruelty, its envy at the rawest state;
Envy of those blooming lotus flowerbeds, breaking the hearts of any deemed beautiful before their reveal. Envy for the melodious birds whose lyrics none can encapsulate. Envy for a world presented to us in all its higher forms, and along those horizons of elevation and the figures representing such painstaking fortune, we do not see ourselves, only, at the rarest of times, glimpses of our verses and melodies along with paintings of our pains. Versing sets boulders ablaze and hauls them at the endless scenario, salvaging anything beautiful enough to stand out from the remains, leaving a wake of all we abandoned at the flanks of those once-sylvan lanes.

It hurts… every time. Doing so in any tangible way…
But what would poetry be if it could not destroy the landscapes it attempts to create…


I’m sorry about the overuse of gerund, it has come to my attention recently that I do use it a bit too much. You can blame Portuguese for that odd habit. 

This is generally the style of my regular prose, even in simple informal communication (such as a letter). I’m not too confident in these, but tell me what you think, I have tons more.


JOHNNY

Veribus, my attempt at social platforms.

For a while, I’ve been scouring for ways to convey which poets have influenced me the most, who I hold highly as I navigate the gears of my own production. Certain verses, stanzas, poems, move me to a level I cannot fully explain, and those feelings are what I work so hard to translate within my own poetry, often with failure, but always with tenacity.

One platform I’ve never given much thought to, although pleasantly succinct at times, presented itself as a nice medium to share these small shards of brilliance, and that is Twitter.

I’m not sure how it will fully work yet, but if this is something you are generally interested in, I will be attempting to post at least one exhibit a day of these poetic capitulations, with the sole purpose of their inspiration and diffusion, if possible, at the following address – VERIBUS.

I’ve created it as a project of hobbyist nature and I do not intend to reap any tangible rewards from its maintaining, as to not inspire the usage of others work as a commercial medium. It is done simply as a modus for me to idolise a bit more those who are so important to me.

If VERIBUS ever reaches a point of impactful influence, it would also be a great medium for diffusion of amateur and wordpress-based poetry I’m fond of, as there are so many kind-spirited and talented individuals on this platform I would love to, in any way I’m able, somehow help.

Thank you.


JOHNNY

Portugal: hills of sun-painted sadness.

IMG_2563.png
Where I usually write, in front of an elder brazilian peppertree.

Not everyone has the honour of living in an award-winning country, or better yet, not everyone considers that an honour. I was born in a small parish with 110 inhabitants just outside Lisbon, and my youth was paved with finding small water streams among fabled stretching woodlands, watching my grandfather plant potatoes all the while leaning on our dogs and watching the verdant sunset sink. I look back fondly at those memories, and my circle of social life was restricted by those hundred familiar faces all into my teenage mists.

When I was a docile and sensitive boy, one thing was generally known, we were an enclave of the modern world, a tender collapse between edging western development and a deep connection to land, humility, poverty, and pain. In the yet-to-explore sacred and scarlet hills of Portugal, we roamed the sun-lands searching for an oasis that spawned the entire rectangle garden planted sea-side. We quested for a beauty that was already there, and after centuries of isolation and regret, we found a rooted longing for days that never came, for an evasive beauty that time did not look kindly upon.

Those were the days of yore, nowadays, the scopes have shifted. Portugal, now a growing and bursting experience of culture and history, the brand new Jurassic Park without deadly dinosaurs, conveniently docked at Europe’s lonely and serene edge, offers a way to mitigate the pains of modern existence at a manageable driving distance. As we now live among kind visitors and explorers, we listen to those praises of beauty. How sunny are our lands, how old our cities, how beautiful our forests and endless our beaches, and above all else, how deep is our sadness.

As I write this humble prose, I can listen to goldcrests chirping atop that peppertree, and at 20:00 there is still clarity outside, the sun still faintly shines, as it tends to. Faint yet enchanting gypsy music booms at the distance, I can still pick apart the variations of the low-voiced man who is singing to the rhythm. I remember being young, the sun shone its golden-hue with all the same brightness, the buildings and asphalt roads vibrated to the heat, the summer cicadas already knew the ancient lyricists before any of us did, and at the sidewalks of this beautiful block of candour we’ve inhabited, I was already sad, already longing. We all were, and we still are.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why we exist this way, but I’ve convinced myself that it’s only a natural consequence of this paradise we’ve created. In these hills where marine order takes form of beautiful composure, what other sadness could we compare it to than our own inner demons.

And that matching pendulum of innate sadness strikes harder every time, painting Portugal more beautiful and we, sadder, abandoned at a seaside beauty created to evaporate.

And Lisbon, my current home, the city-port of poetry and fado, only seems to reflect that ever-so-strongly, as it tries to grip it’s fainting identity while this bombardment of globalised exposition occurs, which it has always done. The only city where walls still cry, those colourful walls that close upon our dreams and limit our solitaire nightmares.


JOHNNY

ou

João Maria.

 

 

Poetry Lab #1

 


Movement in Animation
Three-layer animated composite

FIRST, A QUEST.

The image above, if carefully examined, displays three differently animated levels distinguishable by their relation to velocity and, by consequence, Time. This animation device has been used to display certain feelings in a much clearer way: her face is animated carefully and slowly, every frame is fluid, to inspire serenity and placidness. Her hair is animated frantically, with frames leaping between animation with little fluidity, alluding to a chaotic exterior and high intensity movement. The background, although blurred, also happens at a time different from the other two layers, presenting a both static and simultaneously – moving – backdrop. This allows for a certain displacement through the fluidity of our space, allowing Art to perforate the emotional human sensors without replicating at all what those sensors are used to, by thematic association. Our world feels much like that of the animation, it constantly moves, yet we cannot fully absorb all it’s evolutions and changes, in turn, accounting for a hollow movement that we can only relay through “mental bookmarks”, like special occurrences, producing a more stop-still version of reality (similar to the one animated above), instead of flowing realistic approach to time.

In fact, Art has a plethora of examples using different composite time frames to convey a sense of “overlook” or “outlander” sentiment among its viewers, mainly present in sensorial arts like music or painting.

To literature – an Art intimately connected with the frugality of time and how it can be controlled within its frames – this device most likely has been used, but never deeply explored. In this first edition of poetry lab, I will attempt to harness my marginal composing experience to translate those planes of time dissonance into the realm of poetry. As I’ve done a good amount of experimental poems in my short time here, I’ve never taken the time to explain the processes or missions behind those experiments, and now I’m headstrong on taking you on my composing journey:


SECOND, A THOUGHT.

First, we need to figure out how to distend time properly within a written line of text. Poetry, by its very sonorific nature, makes this superficially easy by use of verse length and syllabic control:

I dreamt of latent love, yet within, darkness still reigns unkind, (11 words, 15 syllables)

Air to flame, implored by sinuous shadows, (7 words, 11 syllables)

Extinguish their fear to die. (5 words, 7 syllables)

Following an ordered decrescent sound, each verse has the same amount of syllables as the words of the verse that precedes them (11, 15), (7, 11), (5, 7). This, however, inspires a singular timeline instead of multiples ones, giving a sense that time is accelerating and thus, “running out”. But why not the contrary? Why does it not recall time just slowing down? This is annulled by the temporal references in all verses, displayed in a gradient from past (dreamt, implored), to present (extinguish, to die).

Like mentioned above, this does not relay multiple times but instead, just one flowing in-unit but changing exponentially. We can, however, salvage this later when we compose full stanzas by separating their descriptive nature through the usage of this method. So, instead of separating verses according to time, we will separate stanzas according to what line they represent by giving them symbols:

Stanza 1 – first tempo (11, 15) (plane of interior occurrence, introspection, visual devices must appear here)

Stanza 2 – second tempo (7, 11) (plane of exterior sensorial captures, noise, static, distortion and interruption, sound devices must appear here)

Stanza 3 – third tempo (5, 7) (plane of universal awareness, no sensorial, visual or sound devices can appear here, detached information must not contain emotional draws)

This is merely scratching the surface of what this method can produce, as a shift in the structure mid-composition can relay powerful messages of emotional re-focus, or give a sense of expanding/shortening of knowledge at any given point. The main objective here, however, is that the poem is able to speak to itself and the conversation won’t sound too unphased, so we will stick to the good ol’ repetition, by creating one more set of stanzas with same structure, but different in essence.

As the composition is mainly experimental, I will utilise common meanings I’m familiar with for the sake of my mental sanity (and short amount of time per day I have to compose), those of love and solitude in a frugal world where such things are generally devalued:


THIRD, A COMPOSITION.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 21.40.22

As demonstrated above, I initially compose the first part of the composition within a relatively ordered and rhymed structure, using the lines written above as a visual guide to building the remaining verses. Although this version partially gets the job done, it’s still rather obscure that frames shift between stanzas, and I attempt a more lax yet word-based second part in an attempt to compensate the rigid/restrictive shape of the first version:

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 22.06.31.png

I’ve since let a day pass before writing that second part, as to refresh my information absorption and be less likely influenced by the same recurrent pieces of reception still being digested within (a great advice I’ve accidentally left out of my poetic tips). This second version, although not apparently very different from the first in terms of how it was constructed, manages to convey both the message, the subject and the quest of time much better than the previous, not by means of its structure, but by how words are ordered coupled with how they intertwine, generating a sense of shift from when they fuse and when they don’t (thus, sound shifts).


I must now refine and finish the composition on my own, and publish it similarly to all other poems on the website, but that boring part I intend on doing by myself.

I’m not a professional or academic in this subject, therefore, all conclusions are from my viewpoint and might conflict with certain academic standings out there (although from my research, I’ve found none), but none of this is fact or close to it, I’m just trying to have some fun with words and I hope you’re entertained as well!

PS: Tell me what you think of posts similar to these, I’m planning a bunch more since I have about 20 pages of notes about different composing methods I would like to attempt!

JOHNNY

Poetic Tips IV (supposing intensifies)

VERSE CONDENSATION AND SYMBOLIC IMPORTS

One relatively important thing I’ve taken notice lately by glancing at academic standpoints to grand compositions is symbology by association and how that impacts the _weight_ of a present verse or structure. The greatest example might be any poem written by T.S. Eliot (most notably, The Waste Land), which packs a myriad of literary and symbolic references in a singular modernistic composition almost subdivided by those very same symbols. (II: A Game of Chess contains references to the Prothalamion, Verlaine, Sappho, St. Augustine, and many more. Although this part of the composition is considerable in length, one can still assume the level of referential usage is greater than the one of the specific narrative.)
So, the question lays still: how are these references important to the spine of the poem, and not only Waste Land, any poem that references anything?

One general device of “writing the best words in the best order” (a quote by Samuel Taylor Coleridge believed to be said in 1827, when asked about poetry),
is the usage of symbols to convey a wider sense of emotion. As magical as poetry can be, it can also be very restrictive, you must be economical in every verse and stanza, siphoning from inner images in order to convey as much as possible with as little words as possible. Importing symbols from previous works of literary culture allows for a greater condensation of the message, through the somatic marker present in those works (of course, it relies on the knowledge from the reader’s side to actually know the referencing, otherwise it loses all leverage and becomes rather the opposite: a confusing word-salad).

Exemplifying, if I wanted to relay the toxic nature of hope without going through the hassle of creating a full stanzaic foundation for it, because that toxic interaction is only background to the skeletal basis of the poem, I can import from a generally known and easy-to-understand mythological fable (as many have before me, mythology is great for this exercise)

‘All evils dare not compare to Pandora’s youthful hope’

Merely an example, Pandora’s Box fable ends with the opening of the box and subsequent discovery of hope being the last of evils locked within it, also the only one that didn’t flee. The symbolical magnitude of this fable is great, and great will also be the impact it has on your poems message, if used correctly.

“But Johnny, you cursed fool, I haven’t seen many of these on your poems!” says Lucian the Annoyed, with a monstrous expression in stand-by to ambush.

I actually make a slightly ridiculous amount of references in my poetry, but I avoid the usage of names as I don’t find their sonority very helpful to the flow. Some names work, others do not, but I generally avoid them all, and prefer subtle references to film or music in place of literary symbolism. It is, however, nowhere as ridiculous as Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot, they took it a bit too far, in my humble opinion (I’m not a fan of either, I do not enjoy poems that overly rely on symbolic imports because I prefer poetry to homework), although T.S. Eliot’s Love Song is still one of my favourite compositions of any author, which proves that the level of connectivity between a symbolical poem and it’s reader is how much it relates to that readers elected literary sphere.

TL;DR, use references and challenge yourself to stretch them and paint them some beauty as you do it, but also allow them to be accessible and thematically fluid with the poem, not only cosmetically. Also, do not sacrifice the spine of your poem by jamming in a fun-summon, all pieces must still fit, as I said on Poetic Tips I and II.

And in that note, I too should take my tips, since I recurrently make all the mistakes displayed above.


JOHNNY