I’m dipping my toes into confessional poetry. I’m awful at it, but is it quite fun.
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.
Yet, my skin does not bleed light once cut, my memory is not a sea filled with vessels hauling treasure, and I can’t see past sky-rim. Those ships—I see them set sail and pass, wreck and sink, cast onto fiery cascades, and I see myself in them, drowning and burning.
I know how it ends; I’ve seen it before;
Comes with day, engraved by ancient lore:
They leave, and I stay.
I stay in this mental illusion of a small port-village, where the sound of seagulls preludes the daylight, but distant and faintly echoed. Where the windows radiate with the blue-hue of gentle waves, and onlookers are statically sighting the sea, waiting endlessly for a ship that will never arrive, a day that will never come.
These days held by the belly, broken and shattered in every street and any corner, are the simplest notes sang by those seagulls. The lightness of serenity—that white sand. The heaviness of doubt—that ravaging ocean. Everything fitting as if it inspired a painting, in an harmony only captured by timelessness. Everything existing, breathing and seeing directly from my body, all aligned perfectly where they previously couldn’t fit.
That very unity of aesthetic space and sensorial emotion, a painting of words and concepts, is far beyond my abilities to encapsulate. As those ships pass, I stay, and the village grows ever-so static, slowing the motions, and the harder I try to encapsulate that mirage, the stronger it presses to bevel my mind, turning a timeless figure into a limited reality.
The further my descent, the clearer I can see the origin of my constructions, and trace it back to single day crystallised within my memory:
As a child, I was crowned as the clumsiest infant born on the year of ninety-five. I would climb every tree, most commonly fig-trees, cherry-trees and loquat-trees, being of immortal beauty dotting the spaces between decayed buildings, dripping age from their roof-tiles. I would climb them and quickly fall, so much so that I broke my forehead three times, and still have the three scars of my infant adventures paving my face. (Not sure why, I would always fall on my forehead)
Any toy brought to my hands would be quickly destroyed, and wouldn’t last hours, the same hands decorated with wounds and bandaids from breaking so many falls.
There was, however, a fabled and worthy nemesis in that forsaken village, one whose victory was far too common: the brambles. If I was to fall on a trench—which I did often—it would be in the only dug-up segment that, by stroke of luck, housed bramble-thorns. If I was to jump over the sheep gates at my grandmothers, I would always mystically land over a shrub of those nefarious berry-bushes. They won so many times that I started seeing the thorns as friends—always at my side. Anytime I see a thorn-bush today, I like to touch the spikes lightly, just to remember the pain they brought me and how quickly it would pass. The pains of today, those don’t leave so quickly. As an adult, I now begin to pray for those thorns, instead of present pains that sting much harder, much deeper.
Every-time she treated my wounds, my grandmother would say, joyful and smiling:
-“If you weren’t born, my son, you would have been invented.”
I would answer with the mischief of a plotting young devil—a boy with evil on his eyes, but sweet evil, very childish and with no ill-intent, but just to relish the feeling of sharpening my tongue:
-“They should instead invent a thornless bramble.”
She would laugh, I would smile, we were happy. While those small droplets of blood sprouted from my scarred legs, and from the high-noon light of our harsh Sun reflecting that scarlet onto my skin, we were happy.
But the vibrating lines of melancholia and nostalgia aren’t sufficient to perpetuate that day. There was a sentiment of humanity that forced itself into my memory, akin to branding iron or an inked needle. The constant reduction our mind imparts suddenly suspended, and worry became a bubble outside my reach.
I can trace my life ever since those days, I can replicate it imaginatively as it elapses, every new-facing direction becomes a transition of colours. I am suddenly a motion-picture of myself, constantly distilling moments that have passed and synthesising their essence into different shapes. I become the artist, shifting through lenses, walking along worlds, gatekeeping those illusions, creating realities that can bend beyond those ships, sailing and wrecking.
My realities and memories collapse into one fused singularity—which I call a composition—my emotions and beliefs hover from the silence between syllables—which I call a poem.
A short-attempt at surrealism made to test the viability of Yangtze, just because I really missed posting. (beware: this is not a good poem to read aloud, it has a lot of bad sound variations, the kind Bach would frown upon)
Our planet is suffering a great deal, and I worry. Our little blue-marble deserves better.
This one is very sloppy structure-wise, but I’m living this thirties fantasy right now and I really felt like writing some stuff related to that, not sure why. But it makes me really happy!
The entire poem has references to Al Bowlly.
Thank you so much for reading,
A little while back (I seem to start all my posts with this phrase), I started writing a book of actual fiction, as in, not poetry, called Brass Towers. With less and less time on my hands, and still trying to finish the various projects of poetry I have ongoing, this one got a bit lost, but I still have some hope it might see light of day. Here goes a rough-cut excerpt that I like, considering I don’t have nearly as much experience with prose as I do with poetry:
(A reminder, this is a character in the work, and not actually me writing about myself, although… it’s probably both)
As I lay my head against the bed-frame, I hope for better days. Some hope for those, others hope for better nights, and along those plaguing and exhausting hours of sleepless thought: we hope. As human misery goes, we hate hoping as much as we require it, since it fuels our glimpses of those better days, because hoping is somehow less painful than anything else we could be doing. We hope for days when we won’t need to hope anymore, in that sickly irony of circular thought, and those better days have knocked our wooden doors thousands of times over, banged, even. They scream to be claimed, but we are busy at the moment, we are busy hoping that they will come. We are addicted to hope, and in such woven spheres of contemplation, even knowing how much hope can hurt and how much misery it can bring, we keep hoping… for days that aren’t as miserable, for days that never come.
If only, perhaps, the sciences of the mind or arts of the psyche could provide a more easing method of withstanding life and its barrage of variables, we could stop the cycle of hope, and we could once-and-for-all close that wretched box Pandora opened so long ago, or even erase our understanding of human inadequacies and undo Eve’s apple eating habit. But closing a box or un-eating an apple are far too mundane to syphon our hope, no, they are insufficient. We yearn tragedy, great loves tossed into the claws of cruel oceans, even greater minds felled by their own ambitions, high spiritual connections with concepts that have far evaded our reductive minds, all grandeur, all splendour and garish displays of agony, because we already have hope to give and sell, but a fictional character only translates fully into our reality when it becomes hopeless, because hopelessness takes the highest courage, and because it is the most tangible thing we could never be.
With my head still laid upon the bed-frame, I look back: my childish years, filled to the brim with hope hidden between rays of sunlight, I hoped pine cones would fall so I could harvest the seeds and eat them, I hoped my words could convince Felicity to join me into the endless quest of fantasy awaiting beyond those pines. My adolescence, stacked with confusion and hopes for lesser confusion, a deep yearn for better days in adulthood, those that we produce, direct and act inside our minds, running so smoothly and beautifully, with liberty as the soundtrack and hope… always there, writing the screenplay. Now, an adult, nothing runs as smoothly as I’d hoped, Felicity never joined me behind those pines of magical wonder, she instead moved to Delaware. And as fate would have it, the pine cones were barren and seedless. I still hope for all the same themes under different guises, all a match of semantics duelling within ones mind. Felicity was my hope of love, which I never felt; pine cones were my hope for luck, which I never had; and life beyond the pines was my hope to escape, which I never did.
I still hope for all those things, all those days, as much as I miss them, and between missing hope as it was and hoping for it to cease, there is little of me left, and even that little me seems to be annoyingly hopeful.
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?