Tag Archives: life in writing

“Dark Side of a Natural Gas Boom”

from "They Called Her Styrene"

Friends, a title is a funny animal. On one hand, it defines the piece, gives it an identity. On the other hand, it steers the meaning of the piece perhaps as much as the piece itself does. And that can be problematic. If the the two or four or eight words that comprise the title end up being as meaningful as the several hundred or thousand that follow, then perhaps the title is not just representing the story—perhaps it is eating the story. And we must be wary of having our stories eaten by themselves.

We can escape this by giving titles randomly. A random title may still draw attention in the same way. It is, after all, the first thing we see, and therefore is not initially capable of producing dissonance. It may still give an identity to the piece. But it may avoid outlining simplistic elements of the story: themes, morals, theses. (By way of example, I will mention “Life as a House,” a Kevin Kline film in which the building of a house is used to represent the rebuilding of a family. In other words, the film’s title is also its central metaphor.)
Allow me to offer you some sources of random titles.

Ed Ruscha, from "They Called Her Styrene"

1) Begin typing phrases into a google search bar. The suggested completions often make great titles.

2) This website, which in only seconds of effort provided me with the excellent phrase “Dirt Hospital,” which will almost certainly be a poem by the end of the week. Also, “Nothing Today,” “Tooth Sic,” and “Terminology Mornings.” Notice that in the sidebar there are random word, sentence, and even paragraph generators. Chances are those tools make better poems than I do. (My first try yielded this gem: “Within the war pro, consents an unexplained laughter.” Then this: “The crude girlfriend stalls under the microcomputer.” Sigh.)

3) Ed Ruscha prints. Particularly from a book called “They Called Her Styrene,” which is available online and ought to be owned by everyone.

4) Phrases that you like from everyday life.

5) Things that you read on signs.

I’d like to write a whole book of poems with titles from a restaurant menu. Each poem would be given the title of one dish: “Croque Madame,” “Eggs Benedict,” “String Beans,” etc. The title of the book would be the name of the restaurant.

Ed Ruscha, from "They Called Her Styrene"

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I got fired so I went to the park

There are times when I look at this city from within itself and see nothing but a ghostly empire—luminescent, haunted, already fading. The views of grand palaces that dwarf Versailles; the limpid ponds and vigorous squirrels; the dancing sunlight; the autumn coolness in the air; the lethargic tourist families, collapsed on each other, eating hot dogs and ice cream, nestled under subway maps.

And something in me leaps a hundred years ahead, or back, and I become a traveller from a different time—some kind of cosmic voyeur. And to see leaves turn red from the tips as though dipped in blood, to hold chestnuts, smooth and fragrant, in the cool cup of my palm. And to watch an endless procession of persons marching past, all missing the view; I am alone here, hidden in the dappled shade, hidden in the notebook on my lap, hidden from the day and the night in this middle kingdom of evening.

Looking Through Old Pictures (DF)

There is the vascular restriction of life

as it stands

            the heartache of waving goodbye to yourself

            putting yourself on the bus

            the tail lights red and sad

                        as you pull away.

 

And letting go in this moment

            walking home from the bus stop

   into your home, where everything is

   strange again, as you feared it would be

the last time you did this.

  Continue reading

connection-drawing

I sense a connection between the last two posts, of Jason Alexander and Frederick Seidel. To each post-author, those subjects represent a release from fear. Taking it farther, I’d say they represent a release from a fear of not being “sophisticated” enough. Even just being writers, we have to wrestle with that. Or maybe “sleek and elegant” is a better phrase. Instead of binding our lives up into careful miniatures–sometimes that’s what my poems seem like to me–we want to expand outward, fill up some of all this empty, blank space.   Continue reading