Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oh, for a muse of fire...

You may recall from one of my earlier (earliest!) posts that my friend Blakeslee, a folk-rock singer of some small note and no small talent, owed me an EP...

Well, I got it in the mail the other day, at last. The new version of "The Ballad of Anna Mae," my favorite Blakeslee song, is faster and yet more personal. It loses some of the haunting feel of the original, but makes up for it by being a complete change of pace - a nice complement to the other piece.

But more interesting, at least for me, was the note enclosed that was a sort of apology to the recipients of the EP for the delay in the sending. And part of it remarked on how some personal issues had affected Blake's musical career, from the standpoint of losing one's way and finding it again.

Now, by virtue of my semi-regular correspondance with her, I know some little bit of what happened in her life and while I don't feel it's appropriate to share, suffice it to say I can understand something of what she went through, with personal troubles affecting one's creative spirit for the worse, or possibly better.

When I went off to college, I fancied myself a poet, as so many angst-ridden teenagers do. I had received some notice in high school for my abilities in both fiction and poetry, and in fact chose my college based on its offering a major in creative writing, which I was determined to study against the advice of my parents, who as I think I've established, are always right. (Dammit!)

And in college, I fell in love. In that innocent way you only get to do once. And Michelle became my muse, in many ways.

My poetry themes changed from self-doubt and loss to love and defiance, strength to conquer all found in green eyes and a whirl of auburn hair.

I wasn't a very good poet, and my grades probably reflected it. I got B's in poetry, mixed A's and B's in fiction and pulled fairly steady A's in screenwriting. But there was a certain joy in a quick love poem, dashed off on an e-mail to the girl I loved.

Stuff probably fit for Hallmark cards or Rod McKuen, but that's not the point. The point is, I believed in it.

And then, one day, she was gone from life. And with it went my poetry.

I was trading poems with a co-worker a while back, discussing our mutual interest in writing, the variances of our style, and so forth, and I realized, I've written no poetry since college. None, or at least none completed. Meanwhile, mind you, I've written a few short fiction pieces, two complete horror movies and countless reviews, columns and other more traditionally journalistic endeavors.

But all I could muster up in the way of poetry was stuff from college, mostly raw and unrevised.

Then, one day, on a vacation, a poem came to mind. So I wrote it down - try doing this while driving in a rainstorm, not easy! - and actually thought it was pretty good. But I was back to angst, and loss, and then the moment was gone. I've written no poetry since.

Reading Blake's note, thinking of how her own loss shook the world of her songwriting, made me think I'm not alone in this.

They say all great artists must have suffered in their lives... but I wonder why. My suffering didn't improve my art, at least as far as poetry is concerned. If anything, it ended that art. Maybe that speaks to my lack of greatness. But what I know is, my inspiration for my poetry left with Michelle. Maybe she was my muse, as least for that part of my life. Maybe someday, I'll find another one, and like Blake, resume where I left off, no one the wiser unless I tell them so.

Funny thing is, one of the best poets I knew in college had suffered. (Her mother had died young.) And her suffering shaped her art. And her art was great. So I guess it works both ways.

But I have no desire to write poetry. Not that the world will miss it. I just think it's funny that it's gone. I still write - I'm tinkering with a short play, at least in my head - and with "Dead Hunt" (obligatory shilling: coming this fall on DVD from Timewarp Films!) I've certainly achieved, or at least am I on the verge of achieving, my greatest commercial success as a writer. But I guess I miss the poetry. My co-worker has a wife and two adorable daughters. He has his muses.

I guess I have none.

And I guess it doesn't matter. Blake is back, and that's good. And I'm a better screenwriter than poet anyway. No great loss to the world. Just to me, I guess. And I'll get over it. I think.

Blakeslee's site, including MP3s of both "Anna Mae" tracks
CD Baby, where you can buy her CDs (Go buy some - some asshole stole her car, so she needs the money!)
Carnegie Mellon's creative writing center

I should point out I do actually write a little bit of what technically is poetry, as I have been dubbed the poet laureate of my department at the newspaper (the editor who won a poetry contest is probably the poet laureate for the paper, but I didn't much like his stuff from what I read). But most of what I do now is just business-oriented limericks and haiku, most regrettably too obscene to use as drop-heds on stories. I made my reputation that time a big Jersey company held its annual meeting on Nantucket, if you get my drift.

There once was a blogger on Taurus
who surrendered to his inner chorus,
tried to write verse,
each word worse and worse,
'til his audience cried out, "You bore us!"

The screenwriter bumped off his starlet,
since he'd already killed hero and harlot.
Wrote a chase through the mud,
left her covered in blood...
After all, that's why he named her Scarlett.

Try to write haiku.
Can't remember the format.
Thank God for Google.

No obscene words yet.
No truth in advertising?
No rhyme for "asswipe."

This is what I do with my $100,000 degree. I told you my parents are always right. Hopefully the movie will make up for this.