Poetic License

So the challenges do far…

Well, due to life circumstances, I scrapped the screenwriting challenge. I gotta do it one year though. I just have more poetry than narrative story in my head right now.

But the poetry challenge?! If you have been reading, I’m sure you can see the result. The prompts are a lot of fun and definitely help me stay out of my head too much.

Here’s the thing about poetry though that I’m realizing (at least when I write it). I like my poems to be scrappy and less than perfect. I like when they are simple and yet evocative. I like them to use bold, straightforward words that are about complex things. I don’t like them to be too flowery. And I really don’t want them to take a long time to write.

Not that taking your time and going over things is a bad thing. Like have you ever seen a Hawaiian feather cape or lei? So I intricate! I appreciate so much! To make this lei or cape you need feathers from a certain kind of bird. You don’t just go out and kill a bunch of these birds and take their feathers though. No! You let the birds live. You only take one or two so obviously in a cape of a certain size it’s going to take forever to make a cape like this.

It’s not that I don’t have that kind of patience. I just like to do a little bit sometimes and switch gears. One day I will attempt something longer and that takes years to create.

I’m trying to do my poems in order and sometimes the set-up is more involved. Like the one I’m on now involves other people, so it may be a while until I blast through that one.

I used to feel really sheepish about my poetry because I didn’t really ever learn specifically how to write it. I’m just doing it. Sometimes it comes out reasonable. Then I read like straight-up poets and I’m like WHY DID YOU DO THAT THIS IS SO GOOD MY WORDS ARE POLLUTING SPACE.

And then I’m like 🤷‍♀️ well idk

So I’ve decided it’s fine.

I’m sure the folks getting my posts emailed are like, “So why’s Barbara posting like a whole bunch of poems all today?” I finally got a couple minutes to just go. Does anyone ever listen to drum and bass? Because to me, what it feels like to write poetry, or what I strive for it to feel like is a steady beat with atmospheric blends, warm mids and a sometimes haunting baseline that always makes whatever melody comes out so much bigger than it seems. Far off outer space sounds and glitchy sound effects that sound like glitter and feel like deep sighs of relief.

NOW THAT is what poetry should feel like

(if you ask me)

#14

a fox

in a moment of magic

little beams of light

to deeply connect to the world in a way others can’t

asks the question

which way to go

directions

asks itself

there is no fear of choosing the wrong way

the world is an opportunity

yes it walks

stepping into the uncomfortable space

to be resourceful

to figure out a way

all that abounds

is playful laughter

#6

i don’t care who gets the ring

who wears it

who has the lamps and the cleaning supplies and

don’t you know there are hearts now everywhere?

like the kind that said hellooooo

and after a long yawn

and that the stuff is no longer here

i don’t care

split it a million ways and could all be moved to the garbage dump

swimming in the Pacific gyre

sea of memories of times when they just sat

or spoke to tell story

and my heart goes up up

up up

rate goes up up

up

increase the value of the living beings i once (still do?) knew

as each inch of carpet is dissected like delicacy

everything has it’s price

but it won’t bring them back

neither will the picture frame

the desk

The vacuum

neither will the claims and tears and arguments of what a human heart is capable of feeling

that she didn’t have a limit on how much she put out

as did he

as did she

as did all of them

and my blood boils when i think of how we devour the unimportance of

what’s left

dilated and honed in pupils my heart beats at rebellious pace

to high pitched scream

in order to be grounded once again

in the midst of this greedy confusion

i hate

talking

about

this stuff

Writing Progress

All right, so yesterday I finished a draft of my latest play, NANNA-SIN, inspired by the Ancient Sumerian myths of the god of the moon.

The story goes that two teens are the sole survivors of a village attack decimating their village. They make a pact to travel to the city capital to the temple of Nanna-Sin. One has a connection to the divine and the other seeks revenge. They cross paths with a priest in the House of Nanna-Sin, a lead orchestrator, who sees the potential to use their skill to make a political upheaval. The high priestess of Nanna-Sin is the one with the power, however misuses it to gain control over the people.

Anyway, without giving away the whole of it, which is what the reading on 10-14-17 at the EXIT Theatre is for (mark your calendars! 😉), I'm reflecting on a couple things I did differently this time around that I want to remember and perhaps expand on for next time.

You see, previously, my process of writing mostly involved swirling down the drain of imposter syndrome while simultaneously self-flagellating until the deed was done enough. After a recovery period of varying length, I'd say, "hmm there must be an easier way." But then, I'd return to the same old process and shrug that, "it must just be my process."

Well, how wrong I was about that! Here's some things I did differently this time:

1) Outline

Instead of diving into this good idea I had, I held myself to completing the outline. Well, at least 90-95% of it. The last 5-10% I was okay with coming up with in the process of writing out the script.

This helped SO much because when it came time to write, I didn't have to hold two different things "what happens next" and "what specifically they do or say in each moment" in my brain. I could get to the big story points and color in the details along the way.

The other thing was that if I discovered a new direction that didn't match up with a story point in the outline, it was easier to make a decision about what was the right way to go because I had choices. Not "this is the only thing at can think of"

Way more relaxing. Gotta do that again.

2) Collaboration and Constraints

I spoke with my director truthfully about where I was in the process and told her the story as I saw it.

A screenwriter friend recommended telling more stories as practice in… telling stories. I know, right? Like why did someone have to tell me this? But all I can say is that it wasn't obvious to me that doing this would have any positive impact on my storytelling abilities. Now it seems like a "duh" moment. Oh well, live and let learn.

So two aspects — talking through the story made me realize right away where I needed to work out some story holes and other challenges. For instance, one thing we acknowledged right away was that this story was way bigger than I had time allotted. So constraint #1, tell this epic story in 30 minutes and hit all the points. We talked through some ideas of how this could be possible. The story turns and transitions may be quick. I had it on my radar. Constraint #2, out of respect of my director's timeline and when she wanted to initiate rehearsals, it was going to be best if I finished by a certain date. Deadlines are always a good thing for me at least — though I am not nearly as good with self- imposed deadlines as when a deadline comes from someone else — especially if I'd be letting down another person or group by not fulfilling my end of the duty. Being on deadline gave me the ability to get it out despite it not being perfect. It made me make decisions that I couldn't worry too much about — should I really bring this element in or will people think that's hokey? Nope, gotta move on and get done.

3) Bring Yourself (Play to Your Strengths)

When you get into the nitty gritty of the story — this is where I shine once I'm in the flow. I knew I would be fine and could go for as long as I wanted once I got there. The outline and the deadline helped put a slight bit of pressure and narrowed the focus. Then, worries about what to say or how to transition from one thing to the next? Nah! I'm in the flow!

Flow Time!

And then everything is just calibrated to keep me up. Music helps me with my pace and to keep going. I personally prefer atmospheric dance music that doesn't have a lot of lyrics. Sounds strange, I'm sure, but there's something about moving my body to the beat that every so often helps me get back into it full force.

This story has a lot of ancient elements that I didn't know about — so research helped. Cool things that I learned like how the first author was a high priestess of Nanna-Sin. She wrote poetry and hymns. So interesting because when you read them, I was expecting more sort of exaltations of mystery but really there was a lot about being victorious in battle against their political enemies? Whoa, that could be useful. File that away for later.

And then there was the part where I had to just give myself creative freedom and say, ok I may not get this right the first time and that's ok. Like is it historically accurate? No, but if I invent something based on what I know, it will take less time. And then there were other elements I knew I were going to incorporate like the characters have metaphysical powers so it's like a parallel world where these kinds of powers were not thought possible but are.

Tons of solutions to try to figure out but ultimately I used what I had closest to me as a tool. So, in this story I brought in my influences from yoga, internal martial arts, and Hawaiian healing. Like there are healing chants/songs, a power that one can feel, physical protocols and methods. Is it representational of those things? Oh god no. My teachers or staunch practitioners of these systems would probably frown upon me if I did that. But look, I'm just playing. I can play with stuff and also practice it more traditionally too. No biggie. It made it fun to play in the world of the play.

4) Technique

There were things I did to negotiate between the largeness of the story and the amount of time allotted. For instance, there are some moments where I had to represent a complex idea — like simultaneous time with different space/characters or advancing one character's arch with not a lot of pages. And through the magic of the form, I remembered that I can run both at the same time. I can have two places represented at once on a stage. People have the ability to listen to a story being told by one character and understand another person on stage as a character in that story. There's a point later on that I'm particularly proud of too for its low-budget, high impact way of representing multiple worlds. I use what I know is available in most theater spaces to make the relationship representational in a 3D way.

All sounds conceptual, I know, and whether I was actually successful in clearly articulating what I meant remains to be seen, though at least I tried. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work and we can come up with something else.

It's All Been Done Before
And yet at the end of the day, it's all been done before. Someone else has written thousands maybe millions of stories with these elements. So it's not being created purely from scratch. Not when you think of it like that. Epic fantasy story that needs to be told in 30 minutes? A lot of cartoons do that successfully for multiple seasons!

There's something about the idea that if someone else figured out something remotely similar to what you're working on, it makes you (or me at least) feel like, ok well I can probably figure it out. At least an aspect of it! I mean I'm not trying to be a super amazing great writer all in one go, but, you know, occasionally people laugh at my jokes, think I represented a particular scene or moment in life well, or opened their eyes to a new perspective. Those things are all things that not just my mom and dad have told me.

😊

all night 

sweat

room full of magenta purple 

bright light pans every corner

tiny moving reflections circle the room

expanding into points warped by their orbits

and 90s house beat

vibrating basslines that carry us across

warm mid levels

with synthetic piano 

dancing shadows move in a small room

crowded 

empty

each one alone even in the of warmth of togetherness 

while the beat goes on

singer calls over the anthem something we can all relate to

but the joy is personal 

we hold it in

don’t express it except through

constant movement 

as the music builds

beat gets thick

basslines so heavy that it would be impossible not to move

filling every corner

every cell

every thing

even the floor

the light

imbued with sound 

that becomes the bodies

becomes the space 

becomes each movement

burning strong

the beads rolling down sides of faces 

until eyes begin to realize where they are

music transforms

a gust of air spreads love

relief

and then the people dance not too the music

not just to the music

but the moment of connection 

when eyes are seen

hands are felt

smiles are revealed

to be connected

i can blink away a thousand miles

find the heart

pierce straight to it

back to memory

no distractions

no little things

straight to the center

of what really matters

and palpable feeling

gushing forward

overcomes the distance

connects back the pieces

to be whole once more

to be renewed

to love

herbs and spices

a couple herbs and spices in your life

to keep your life from being bland

to keep you connected

grounded back 

to the idea

of a sacred earth

more than an idea

this is a reality

if you believe

it you live it

if you help it grow and flourish

couple herbs can do the trick

keep you breathing strong

looking bright

feeling hopeful

the moment when the sky brought them together

The light from the sky — sending purple mixed with the golden clouds — spread over the land against the fire sunset. It was as though an artist had decided to paint something overwhelming and at the same time utterly peaceful. You couldn’t help but be captured by the feeling that sometimes the world around you was so beautiful. This was one of those moments.

For those that happened to be looking, watching the sky in this moment, they felt a connection that was so very rare. Some had never felt before — like the girl in the forest. She looked with wondering eyes and she could only stare as her heart grew. Others, like the man in the village, became at first, nostalgic as though a great sense of loss that had weighed upon them had lifted on seeing this vibrant, peaceful sky. There was the being in the forest too who continued to move yet couldn’t help but take notice and stop for a better look. All were linked together by this.

Violet pink whispers swirling with golden strands. Whisps in the wind pushing across the blue. The ocean in the distance seemed to play with the sky. Light dancing on the surface and sliding down waves. Colors colliding together.

All those who saw it wished the moment could last forever. And for the ones who truly knew how the world worked, they knew that it wasn’t just a moment. If you knew just how to dream, that this was when time was infinite.