I had an endoscopy yesterday. It was a bit scary. I knew no Korean for this type of exchange. Luckily, So Gee came along with me to translate.
"She is going to inject you now?" So Gee translates.
"With what?" I ask.
"I can't swallow. Is that supposed to happen."
"Yes, the nurse says that is supposed to happen."
I don't know what happened after this. According to So Gee, I showed all the nurses my tattoos, talked about my psychological trauma of having been stabbed with a knife when I was four years old, and then discussed how one could possibly get gastritis.
"Is it from smoking?"
"Yes, that can be a cause."
"What about spicy foods?"
"Yes, that is also a possibility."
"How about alcohol?"
"There are many possibilities as to why someone would have gastritis."
On the cab ride home, I got into a lengthy debate with So Gee about what makes a good relationship. According to her, I spoke non-stop about how a marriage is a partnership, and how each person has to help make it work.
"You sounded very rational," So Gee told me. "I thought you were awake."
Ah, the magic of anesthetics! I only remember the gagging, and the pain of the hose being removed from my throat.
Now I have a horrible sore throat. Man, it hurts. Of course, I have the perfect remedy - 100 limited press CD's from The Slipshod Swingers. That's right folks!! The fine people at Sire Press have shipped 100 limited press CD's of The Slipshod Swingers new album, Transistor Radio.
The outside packaging has this cool raised ink you can feel - ooooh!. The inside has CD's made into strawberries and collector's cards!!
Anyway, I will be shipping these out to people in the next couple days. If you want a copy, just send me an e-mail and I'll get you one. If you have received a free copy, please review it on LULU, iTUNES, or CDBaby. It would be nice to get your kudos or non-kudos if you have any.
I think the digital record will be out on iTunes by the end of January. I am not sure about LULU. I'll let you know if I put it for sale there in the next couple days.
Hmmm. I'll think about it.
Do you like the new painting?
I got word that the fourth wife is getting re-married. I was ecstatic for her, until I asked for the money I had left with her. Apparently, she used the funds to champion her local congregation. I was speechless. Especially when she told me she thought the work she had done with her volunteer service was better than my last term in office. At first, I couldn't tell if she was being facetious or malevolent, but it turns out she actually believed this statement. Dear constituents, I have no words for this affront. Money is a valuable commodity, and should be used to dispose of volunteer services in favor of the truly deserving. That is right. I am talking about you, my constituents. You fine folks who slave over bonds, taxes, and revolutions, to see your children wealthy and powerful, are the truly deserving - not some do-gooder after vengeance!
A flock of seagulls caw behind the President's podium.
Yes, I am just as surprised as you are. Why someone would do such a thing, and not be aware of the hurt something like that would cause, is beyond my faculties. What could I say though? Some people are just blind to others and not very considerate, and there is not much one can do to change that scenario.
"Well," I said to her, "I'm glad you got to make it your own, my dear. I hope your congregation continues to flourish."
"Thank you, Mortimer. I will pass on your gracious blessings to all involved."
"That would be lovely."
"Will you be keeping my good name, Margaret?"
"John asked if I would change it, but I do so much like the sound of it. Margaret Needlebaum. It has a nice ring to it don't you think?"
"Well, we Needlebaum's have always been proud of the sonics of our good name."
My dear constituents, if it were up to me. I would make all who remarry go back to their original names, as it will shine poorly on my good name. Can you just imagine? Margaret is off doing volunteer work, and I will have to suffer the shame of this embarrassment. Oh, dear. When bad fortune befalls us, we must surely take a step back to allow for the entire barrel to be dumped upon the dregs. I am simply waiting for some more bad news to couple this sour day.
My only salvaging consolation is that I don't have to have that kind of inconsiderate and malicious behavior around me ever again. It has even struck me that Margaret may have been this type of voluntarist and adventurer all along. Our nights spent counting gold bullion, and petting each other's wigs was simply a facade for her to get her talons upon my good name and family fortune. How frightful and seemingly devastating it all is. It seems she has been this do-gooder person all along and I simply didn't see it. It's hard to accept, but it could be the truth.
In any case, I am not one to ponder over losses endlessly. She spent funds and is out to sully my good name, and that's reality. All I can do is make more funds, and help you, my constituents, do the same. What else is there? Fight, you say? Get her to change her name? No, no, no. None of that matters. It's just my bowels that are getting upset. I have no idea what that dear woman went though during our separation. God knows I am quite a difficult loss to any woman, and If she needed to start a volunteer service and sully the family name, then so be it. The Needlebaum's have gone through far worse disasters, and they will persevere through this minor incident as well.
That is why I am here among you folks today to announce that the rumor that I will be changing my name George Cleveland Jefferson Washington Lincoln King is a falsity. There is nothing that would keep me from bearing the name, Needlebaum, proudly into the night. And for any of you who would say otherwise, please show yourselves now, so that I may drop you a shilling in hopes that you use the spare change from my children's pockets to offer you a fresh perspective and better life - because any man who who would dare say such a thing is not worthy of being my constituent, and may as well join that woman's needlework group.
Are there any takers?
Nay. No. Nada. Niet.
Well, now that we have that cleared up. I would like to move to the next order of business. Franklin, please call in Bishop Planture. We are going to have to do something about this uprising in Albuquerque. We can't have Experimentalists, or whatever they call themselves, running amok, and ruining Christmas for surveyors of the East Territory. There must be an opportunity for us all to pray to one God, serve only him, and burn any of these so-called Experimentalists who stand in our way.
Aye! Aye! Si. Oui. Way!
I just took some laxatives. Apparently, I got hit with Gastritis. It is a common occurrence for foreigners in Korea. What does this mean? Well, when you have produce fertilized with human feces, there are bound to be issues. I am just glad I was in tune enough with my body to catch it. Initially, I thought it was a heart problem, then a possible stomach ulcer, but it is now confirmed as Gastritis. Who would have ever guessed?
Now I am just nervous about the laxatives. I thought about only taking one pill, but what if I did, and all the bacteria wasn't flushed out? That is why I took both pills, and I am now praying this won't be a horrendous experience. Only time will tell if I lift off. If I do, I am going to shoot for Saturn. I know I usually say Mars, but I am going with the rings today. It could even be a game of hoops. I do belong to a new intramural basketball team. We are known as Team Freedom.
For some reason, Jim Goar gave me the number "27". I am very flattered. I don't know if I fit the Jordan component of the team though. I would say I am more of an organizer, motivator, and basic cheerleader - but that's the number I got, so I guess I'll have to hang my tongue out, as I orbit Saturn's rings. Who knows? I may even dunk. That would be great. I remember when Tom Welling used to lower his hoops, so we could practice dunking. That was probably my favorite time playing basketball. I could even reverse it right in there.
I can't promise a reverse at the moment though. I am just praying I get through this laxative in one piece. If I was the laxative, I would go easy on me. If I was the bacteria in my stomach, I would abstain courteously and exit stage right. If I was a basketball, I would want to be dunked. If I was a donut, I would want to swim. If I was me, I would head to the bathroom.
I like projects like this. It's that search that drives things for me. I love the heartburn. Of course, it was Stacy who first clued me in on it. That is no surprise, considering her work is filled with searching - not so much for a significant other outside of herself - but the truth in her own skin and bones. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if looking at one of her paintings, suddenly crippled someone into an acceptance of something they were looking for all along.
If Stacy's paintings don't cripple you into happiness, then maybe Will Ferrell or Brad Warner will give you a belly full. Who knows? They might be just what the doctor ordered. Of course, a trip to Calcutta with a suitcase of pinatas and pipe cleaners may be the real chopped spinach. That's where I am now. I really like Calcutta. It's the best city I have been too yet. It is a lot better than Ann Arbor or Tegucigalpa. I think it's the food that does it. I got these worms that have become my friends. I only named one so far. I call him Mortimer. He looks like my third dog, Buddy. It's his eyes. They are deep and penetrating. Sometimes when I look inside them, I can see myself at 105. I am standing on a ship. A whistle is blowing. I've got Zuzu's petals in my pocket, and I'm finally going where I've always wanted. That makes me glad. Like I'm already there.
Of course, that's not all!! Are you ready to laugh? Here is his latest installment with Superneato Productions:
I got my body checked out. I am healthy. My mother was worried I might have diabetes, since my grandmother has it, but I don't have diabetes. I even got an X-Ray of my heart. I am healthy. My blood sugar is normal, and I even got an IV for extra nutrients. The only issue that the doctor said was me having a high count of muscle enzymes. He says I've been exercising too hard too quickly. I guess the running and hiking the mountain three days in a row was a bad idea. I have a tendency to do that. I am very overkill sometimes. I remember when Jonathan Richman gave me the same warning. That's another story. Anyway, I am healthy, and that makes me happy. I want to live for a long time.
Besides my health, it looks like I will be staying in Seoul for another year. I got an offer to teach at a prestigious university. I was worried about the new visa laws, because it would have required me to go home for a criminal background check, but I found that they are not taking effect until March 15th. That is a load off my back. Now I am just trying to make the contracts from these two universities overlap, so I don't have to leave the country. That would be an expensive ticket. I am hoping it will all work out.
I think it will.
Today Loren, Akiko, and I went to a museum to see the works of Po Kim. He is a very talented artist. I could see remnants of Rauschenberg in his work from the 50's. His later work was a cross between Debuffet and Pollock's early mural work. I was impressed with his color work. It was very refined. I took note of his use of purple and orange, and multiple layering technique. Apparently, this is common in Korean painters. I thought about this as I looked at how he caked on the acrylic so thick in some places that it had cracked. I don't think I would be able to paint like that. It would cost me too much money.
I would like to paint a few pieces though. It is that time for me. I often paint during the winters. It gives me a focus and clarity for how the rest of my year will take shape. I can also predict things by how I paint. It's not the future so much as what will end up being used in my other work. So far, I have had fun spending this year, trying to make the pop elements inherent in much of Korean advertising and the general attitude of its people, take shape in the painting and music I have created. I wonder what these next paintings will hold for me. I have already started a new piece with my usual tendency to repeat a motif. The only difference has been my symbolic choices. For some reason, I am drawn to depicting fruit, which is interesting, since Po Kim also had a period, where he was drawing a lot of vegetables and fruit. Maybe, it's because I miss the wide selection of fruit and vegetables available in the states, but I am sure it's probably more than that as well. We will see what turns up in the next couple days. I will post the new experiments shortly.
As far as writing, I have been having fun learning from Loren. He has been giving me some wonderful exercises. The other day we worked on this opposite scheme. It was quite hard for me. I wasn't used to working in that fashion, and I could tell that it was a good practice for me to do. That's a testament to how great of a teacher he is. Loren has an incredible knack to offer that which is necessary. It is quite uncanny, but what else can you expect from a genius.
My fiction is still rising from all of this. I think I am at the point now, where I am ready to embark on a new novel, but am simply waiting for the topic that will hold my interest. I have thrown around a lot of possibilities. Nothing seems to carry me past an entry point though. It looks like I am more interested in poetry at the moment. That might be an interesting thing. Who knows? We will see what happens after these paintings. For some reason, I can find a language in color and images, faster than I can in a pen. The only question is what I will find this time.
If I were Shogun, I would kill ninjas.
If I were Batman, I would let the Joker win.
If I were President, I wouldn't go to war.
If I were Britney, I would buy Spain.
If I were a ghost, I would haunt a movie theater.
If I were YouTube, I would watch myself.
If I were a diaper, I would get changed.
If I were saluting, you would be a general.
If I were a soap opera, I would be on before Oprah.
If I were holy, I would be water.
If I were So Gee, I would marry Pirooz.
If I were grumpy, I would take a nap.
If I were Pringles, I would get eaten.
If I were a rainbow, I would cross the Atlantic.
If I were a myth, I would not be real.
If I were a watch, I would not stop.
If I were clay, I would look for Michelangelo.
If I were a peach, I would eat myself.
If I were a weapon, I would self-destruct.
If I were crippled, I would ride a horse.
If I were safe, I would listen to Kenny Loggins.
If I were light, I would grow things.
If I were a scientist, I would study atomic energy.
If I were a molecule, I would multiply.
If I were fast, I would race Carl Lewis.
If I were gold, I would be buried.
If I were water, I would be the Pacific.
If I were oil, I would be pumped on the New Jersey Turnpike.
If I were shelter, I would be a cave.
If I were hopeless, I would call my dad.
If I were educated, I would run for Senator.
If I were money, I would be spent.
If I were racing, I would write faster.
If I were a phone call, I would get answered.
If I were falling, I wouldn't stop.
If I were held, I would cry.
If I were a moment, I would be gone.
Pops U Video
It is finally completed after weeks of hard work. I'd like to thank MIna Lee for putting so much time into helping me accomplish this. It was a great experience to learn Flash. I look forward to making more films with her.
As far as the CD's, they will arrive any day. The music will be made available on CDBaby and iTunes in the coming weeks. If you want to pre-order one of the limited CD's, just send a paypal to piroozkalayeh [at] gmail.com for $15. I will be sure a CD is sent to you ASAP. If you want extra Swingers paraphernalia, just request some in the comments box.
I don't wish I was older.
I don't wish I were Pinnochio.
I don't wish I were you.
I don't wish I was eating lobster.
I don't wish in Japanese.
I don't wish for AIDS.
I don't wish during baseball games.
I don't wish for a cape or secret identity.
I don't wish to be Beck.
I don't wish to be the color red.
I don't wish to swallow things I dislike.
I don't wish to run for President.
I don't wish to be a shoe salesman.
I don't wish to be in a heavy metal rock band.
I don't wish around deep holes procured for liquid sustenance.
I don't wish bats were flying through my window.
I don't wish for a shotgun.
I don't wish I could MOONWALK like Michael Jackson.
I don't wish breakdancing was never invented.
I don't wish I was Albert Einstein or Hitler.
I don't wish I was made of butter.
I don't wish I had the perfect rhyme.
I don't wish The Beatles stayed together.
I don't wish my friends hadn't died.
I don't wish I had it all figured out.
I don't wish I were Tom Cruise.
I don't wish I was the Governor of California.
I don't wish I did better in school.
I don't wish I was Enlightened.
I don't wish to spontaneously combust.
I don't wish I was in the WWF.
I don't wish for a heavyweight title.
I don't wish to learn how to crochet.
I don't wish to fly or shoot webs from my wrists.
I don't wish my skeleton was made of titanium.
I don't wish to be skinny.
I don't wish to watch Grey's Anatomy.
I don't wish for a good life.
I don't wish it wasn't snowing.
I don't wish for relationships.
I don't wish for ice cream.
I don't wish I was Mel Gibson.
I don't wish I washed dishes.
I don't wish to change vessels.
I don't wish for a cleaner carpet.
I don't wish I didn't grant wishes.
I don't wish I could get out.
It is so good to be on vacation. I am thoroughly enjoying it. I have got Flannery O'Connor's short stories and all is good. I am also working on an animated music video. It has been an interesting process. Mina Lee and I have been hard at work trying to make cartoon rocket ships circle strawberries and carrots. I think it'll be a fun little ditty once it is completed.
Other than that, I don't have too much on the agenda. I am enjoying the writing exercises Loren has been giving me, and I'll post some of them as I feel inspired to do so. In the meantime, you can check out the latest developments happening on the website. It seems to continually grow, and get closer to what I have envisioned it being.
By the end of this month, the music video and new record from The Slipshod Swingers will be available for purchase. I am very proud of this collaboration between so many wonderful artists, and I'm very excited to have a physical copy in my hands. I will send e-mails to the friends of Shikow, when everything is set to launch.
What else? Not much. So Gee and I are still going strong. She makes me laugh and I enjoy being with her. There are times when both of us would rather be alone, but I suppose it will just take time for us to be able to say when those times are. As of now, I am excited at the idea of going out to dance and drink the night away with her. Who knows? Maybe, she would be down for that as well.
Now I am going to do one of Loren's writing exercises. I will post it in a bit.
Human beings are pushing each other in San Francisco.
Human beings are pushing each other in Ralph's.
Human beings are pushing each other at the U.S. Embassy.
Human beings are pushing each other in an elevator.
Human beings are pushing each other out of windows.
Human beings are pushing each other in Burger King.
Human beings are pushing each other on Houston Street.
Human beings are pushing each other at Ben Franklin Elementary.
Human beings are pushing other in relationships.
Human beings are pushing each other to make a choice.
Human beings are pushing each other to be a doctor.
Human beings are pushing each other to get married.
Human beings are pushing each other to see Harry Potter.
Human beings are pushing each other to meditate.
Human beings are pushing each other to be smarter.
Human beings are pushing each other to listen to poetry.
Human beings are pushing each other to read their blogs.
Human beings are pushing each other to stop sleeping.
Human beings are pushing each other to be better partners.
Human beings are pushing each other to be more committed.
Human beings are pushing each other to go to war.
Human beings are pushing each other to vote.
Human beings are pushing each other to save trees.
Human beings are pushing each other to stop smoking.
Human beings are pushing each other to get richer.
Human beings are pushing each other to be happy.
Human beings are pushing each other to get thinner.
Human beings are pushing each other to get bigger.
Human beings are pushing each other to be on television.
Human beings are pushing each other to be #1 on the Billboard Charts.
Human beings are pushing each other to say something about O. J.
Human beings are pushing each other to get to Robert Kennedy.
Human beings are pushing each other to the Boston Harbor.
Human beings are pushing each other to read the Farmer's Almanac.
Human beings are pushing each other to bid at Sotheby's.
Human beings are pushing each other to make a difference.
Human beings are pushing each other to be gay.
Human beings are pushing each other to be racist.
Human beings are pushing each other to be straight.
Human beings are pushing each other to be deaf.
Human beings are pushing each other to be blind.
Human beings are pushing each other to consume more processed foods.
Human beings are pushing each other for progress.
Human beings are pushing each other off a Ferris Wheel.
Human beings are pushing each other off the Big Bad Wolf.
Human beings are pushing each other off Red Riding Hood.
Human beings are pushing each other to Jihad.
Human beings are pushing each other to Christ.
Human beings are pushing each other to eat kosher.
Human beings are pushing each other to be more quiet.
Human beings are pushing each other to turn down the music.
Human beings are pushing each other to open the door.
Human beings are pushing each other to turn off the music.
Human beings are pushing each other to do it right now.
Human beings are pushing each other to mind their own business.
Human beings are pushing each other out the door.
Human beings are pushing each other onto the sofa.
Human beings are pushing each other to make passionate love.
Human beings are pushing each other to watch Grey's Anatomy.
Human beings are pushing each other to fall asleep.
Human beings are pushing each other to dream.
Human beings are pushing each other to wake up.
I seem to be older, but I am really just walking backwards.
I seem to be political, but I am really only mumbling.
I seem to be wholesome, but I am actually a pervert.
I seem to be flatulent, but I don't have any prune juice.
I seem to be a window, but my husband is still alive.
I seem to be a bathroom, but I am just another shelf.
I seem to be a bear, but I am often drunk with peanuts.
I seem to be a futon, but I am softer than a robot.
I seem to be a muscle, but I am served in hot broth.
I seem to be a color, but I am actually in combat.
I seem to be a curtain, but I am draped over Courtney.
I seem to be a subway, but I am more like a trolley.
I seem to be a figment, but I am actually Mr. Rogers.
I seem to be an actor, but I am happier than Elvis.
I seem to be Tang, but I am drinking through a straw.
Each of us has a dream. Sometimes this begins at a young age. Maybe, it's to be an actor or an astrophysicist. Maybe, it's to be an Olympic athlete. Maybe, you saw a space shuttle take off, and envisioned yourself gliding among the stars. Whatever the end trajectory, there are many who stop short of their path long before it can actually be realized. This is mainly because of the difficulty of the journey or the environmental and conditional factors an individual might face while on such a pursuit. Just imagine. It is very difficult to become a doctor if one comes from an impoverished family, and lives in a remote village in a third world country. The odds at such an event coming to fruition are very low. Yet, as great as the odds, we have countless stories of individuals who make it through just such an obstacle to reach their destination.
How is this possible? What makes one individual succeed while another does not? Is there a certain factor we can point to that everyone needs to include in their lives to realize their true potential? Is there such a thing?
There have been many people who I have met, that have realized their dreams. These have ranged from world class writers, doctors, producers, actors, crafters, and even painters. The key ingredient each of these individuals shared was a lack of second guessing themselves, coupled with an uncertainty of exactly how it would come about. Most would probably say they had a loose idea of what they hoped to accomplish and a continual drive to move forward.
My father is just such an example. He was raised in a small village in Iran without the comforts of financial stability, a loving environment, or even a role model for whom he could map his trajectory. Yet he was able to traverse prejudice, poverty, and lack of faith, to attain his lofty dreams of moving to America and becoming a doctor. Just how this came to fruition is a question many might ask. How was it possible? How can I do the same?
According to my father, there is a key ingredient to any task, and that is to focus like a laser. In anything that he has done, he has shown a 100% dedication to the task. All other things have fallen away to his goal of playing a round of tennis, solving a mathematical dilemma, or running the Chicago Marathon.
"Pirooz," my father said in excited pauses. "You should have seen it. People were falling left and right. The heat was so much. I was on mile 23. It was six hours. I thought to myself, I am going to have a heart attack. Then I said, I have to do it. I am going to do this for my three sons. I kept going. I finished. Then they cancelled the marathon. The heat was too much. Too many people were dying or falling from exhaustion."
This story, like my father's rise to meet his other aspirations, carries with it the same desire and commitment to see his words become reality that I have seen throughout every exchange I have had with him. In fact, I have not seen anyone in my life who has had such a determination to see the impossible become a reality as my father. He has been able to complete marathons, get doctorates, and see many of his family members through the journey of immigration and success in America. It is quite a remarkable feat. But how was it possible? What were the common threads that others could possibly glean for their own lives? In other words, how does one focus like a laser?
For my father, there is a lack of any possibility of failuire. In his mind, the outcome is already realized. He must simply put into action what he feels are the steps to help him reach his desired outcome. In the case of the marathon, there was probably a more direct line to its success than becoming a doctor. He could pay attention to his diet, steadily build his stamina, and then make the appropriate reservations to fly to Chicago to meet his dream. It doesn't seem that difficult. But we are not taking into consideration what will often stop an individual from accomplishing the same task, and that is the possibility of quitting because something is difficult, or simply quitting because someone has listed the adversities one might face.
This last factor is what I believe keeps many of us from moving forward on our life paths. Some of us might have had town criers in the form of parents, friends, or strangers, who have told us that our dream is not a possibility. Maybe they have cited all the detractors. Maybe they have shown us examples of where others have failed. Maybe it is even our own lack of faith in hearing such news, or the experience of a past event where what we had hoped for did not become a reality, that keeps us from making our journey presently. Whatever the scenario, our dreams will not be realized by accepting the futures that others prophesies for us.
There have probably been thousands of possible Beethovens, who never touched a piano, because someone said there can only be one Beethoven. This type of adversity is the fundamental block that we all face in life. It is also the saddest and most idiotic step one can make as a human being. Regardless of the facts or statistics a naysayer may provide, there is an unknown that is part of any person's life. One person cannot know what will happen tomorrow, just as much as the next person. If we are to believe naysayers, or even a parent, who may have our best interests in mind, then we will be arguing with reality and suffer dearly for it. No one can know the future. This is a fact. Even if someone is a shaman or an incredible psychic intuitive, the future will move based on the smallest infraction just as easily as I can say a butterfly is flapping its wings in Kuala Lumpur.
In order to move beyond naysayers, we must first move beyond the thoughts in our minds. This is as simple as accepting reality as it is. If one accepts that one's dreams are not yet realized, then they can actually make goals to see them through. The astronaut can enroll in Space Camp, the actor can move to Hollywood, and the writer can work at his or her craft. It is this simple. The path forward is not important. We will each find your own way regardless of what advice may be given to us. The truth may even arise several times or only once in front of us, before we have the clarity of mind to see the open door. Then our ability to drop the futures others have prophesied - or the very thoughts in our own minds that cripple us from moving forward - will be as simple as taking one step forward and a giant leap for mankind. This is the path of dreams. It is what we are all on, whether we realize it or not.
Is writing good if it is complicated? What is complicated?
If I showed you how to break a line to create enjambment between two juxtaposed images have I created the proper amount of complexity to garner a nod in respect. Is this what makes a poem good?
"Wow," someone might say. "That was smart."
What if I had an element of counterpoint that balanced the sonic scale of a line? Is this another element of complexity befitting a mad dash to the checkbox of "buck wild awesome"?
"Yes," one poet might say. "Bring it!"
"Forget that," another says. "You got to have a concept as a starting point."
"Oh," I say. "You mean like if I was thinking about how when you say tree, I have a different tree in my mind."
"Oh, yes," the poet says. "Saussure!!"
"And then I could create simulacrum with quantum mechanics as my theme. "Words as Quarks" would be the concept from which the poem is derived. I could even allow each Quark to be representative of human thought, as they collide against the language of photosynthesis, thereby remarking how the global factors of thought in current financial paradigms are the wrongdoings that cripple the environment like an electric thunder storm fueled my research with hundred dollar bills laid upon one another, until a stack higher than the World Trade Towers fell down upon a Redwood with the canon of poetry beneath it to make a large resounding crunch like an atom split open."
"Oh yes," that poet says. "You should write more like that."
It fascinates me that writers have any sense of what is good before they would read it, but there are some who carry a set of cards that dictate what they believe are the elements of good poetry.
A student may write with a beginner's conception of poetry, and actually collide into the preconceived parameters an instructor may uphold as the elements of a good poem to such a degree, that they are praised for their creation, and thereby given more of an impetus to proceed in a similar manner into the next writing exercise they participate. At the same time, this method of instruction does not allow for a discovery beyond the instructor's parameters. If this were the case, then every student who proceeded in this fashion would feel free from writing with the instructor as audience, and compose with a complete sense of autonomy.
Of course, that is if autonomy is the desired end-product. It may just be that the instruction of creative writing is crippled by the end-products that one would hope to gain from writing itself.
If a student enters a workshop, hoping for publication, awards, and a coveted position in academia, they will have already missed the opportunity to actually engage themselves in the writing that would hold weight beyond any classroom, periodical, or canon. This is not the writing of poetry or prose, as it has now become known in the money making enterprise of the majority of creative writing programs throughout the world. This is the writing of integrity. This is the writing of autonomy. This is the writing without any preconceived notions for what may or may not be considered good by the canon, publications, or colleagues.
To find this space, a student must be encouraged to explore the scope of what poetry has been, while the instructor drops their concepts of good and bad to provide an open reading for the journey the student has embarked.
That is why the language of approval must be dropped. Words such as "nice", "excellent", and "good" will only prolong a student's reliance on others. It would actually be more effective for an instructor to ask questions, and reflect upon the student as their instructor, for a true teaching to be exchanged. In this way, the student will form a self-reliance upon their work and collect tools from the writing presented and dissected within the classroom.
Isn't this interesting?
I wonder how many of you have tried to work with other creators only to find that there was no way in hell that you could cooperate on making the project come together.
"They are too obtuse," some might say. "They want it their way!"
The example we have seen at how instruction can hold integrity, is the same space by which an actual collaboration can be produced. If we believe that our co-teachers, partners, or significant others, are, in fact, less than ourselves in some way, then this will filter our actual integration and appreciation for what they may offer in the forms of creation.
Just imagine. I meet an artist who wants to create a joint poem for their upcoming journal. They ask me to do a round robin writing exercise to see what can be elicited. Each of us proceeds to write lines, and slowly, I notice that our language is opposing itself, because neither of us is actually reading the other's work. We are creating from and for our own parameters, and therefore have not actually entered a space of collaboration. We might as well be writing by ourselves.
This is the nature of most collaborations. Most who offer such an enterprise do not actually want to collaborate, but our in need of some sense of approval or goading to continue on the works they have already started. That is why I am cautious about entering a collaboration process, when there is an end result in mind.
If one enters a collaboration without a sense of one-upmanship, and can also maintain a sense of the unknown for what will be produced, then chances are that it will be a very fruitful experience.
In my artistic career, I have worked in collaboration with many individuals. The times when it has been the most effective is when I was able to drop my conception for right and wrong in the process, and allow for the individual whom I was working with to generate as much as I. In fact, I did not ever see myself as the creator in these situations. It was much more like a call and response.
I remember one songwriting workshop in Los Angeles. Although I could have penned an entire song by myself, I enjoyed the process of seeing what was brought to the table by my partner. I would simply listen, and try to respond without a sense of what would be right or wrong, but actually what I felt in my body as a response to what she was doing. Slowly, the song built itself without much effort at all.
Afterwards, I was quite surprised, and suddenly began to think of the countless situations where I had tried to collaborate with others, only to find some kind of obstruction in my path.
"Wow," I thought. "No thinking."
It was only listening and doing that were necessary. There was no "that sounds like this other riff" or "I need to make it more complicated" in my mind. I was simply allowing for what would be.
Recently, someone asked me how it was possible to reach a moment of equilibrium within their emotional world. I mentioned a series of practices one could embark on, but I could have responded with my experience in Los Angeles just as easily - listen and do. I don't believe it is anymore complicated than this.
Whether we are trying to learn how to be better instructors, collaborators, or grounded individuals, our only requirement is to listen to each moment, and then act upon it. This can become difficult if one gets wrapped into the concepts of others, or tries to resolve the issue within the mind alone; but if one is willing to just be in the moment, an ability to act without judgment or fear will be immediately present, because it is exactly what you are before you thought you were or had to be anything else.
I love you like a skateboard on the street.
I love you like a cigarette in my toes.
I love you like a plaid skirt on nothing.
I love you like a window in a house.
I love you like a movie made for television.
I love you like donuts on Sunday.
I love you like mud in a ditch.
I love you like a sad monkey cries purple horseshoes.
I love you like a melted cheerio in a bowl.
I love you like a Scrabble piece under the sofa.
I love you like Mexican chicken.
I love you like feta cheese on salami.
I love you like sweat on my back.
I love you like a nap in the afternoon.
I love you like milk comes from a cow.
I love you like gold comes from rainbows.
I love you like a far away potion.
I love you like Harry Potter is for kids.
I love you like J. K. Rowling is a mother.
I love you like Tom Cruise on Oprah.
I love you like a curtain on a window.
I love you like Peter Pan in tights.
I love you like Calypso makes me shake.
I love you like Kermit on a log.
I love you like G. I. Joe's are toys.
I love you like a robot transforms.
I love you like a signal flare in the desert.
I love you like a crowd in a stadium.
I love you like Rilke is Rilke.
I love you like balloons filled with helium.
I love you like tomorrow is Saturday.
I love you like the mirror is upside down.
I love you like watermelon on my lips.
I love you like fried chicken in South Korea.
I love you like broccoli is steamed.
I love you like a naked picture.
I love you like I Am Sam.
I love you like I am Einstein.
I love you like a four year old.
I love you like four time four times four.
I love you like Paul McCartney is still alive.
I love you like Beethoveen sings alone.
I love you like a spotlight.
I love you like Tom Waits scrapes a tin can.
I love you like Pepsi makes commercials.
I love you like Cindy Crawford in button fly's.
I love you like Sears Roebuck.
I love you like retail during Christmas.
I love you like cologne on hairy men.
I love you like an unexpected conversation.
I love you like bubbles in a comic.
I love you like images are everywhere.
I love you like Ferdinand de Sassure knows French.
I love you like a song in twilight.
I love you like a pine tree is always green.
I love you like Tang is orange.
I love you like a rocket in smoke.
I love you like nothing matters.
I love you like I'm a 1,000 years old.
I love you like I'm already dead.
I am a daddy virgin.
I am a Mars virgin.
I am a France virgin.
I am a pyramid virgin.
I am an anal virgin.
I am a hang gliding virgin
I am a Mac OSX Leopard virgin.
I am an animation school virgin.
I am a jungle virgin.
I am a snowboarding virgin.
I am a CPR virgin.
I am an astrophysics virgin.
I am a nun virgin.
I am a priest virgin.
I am a wheelchair virgin.
I am a woman virgin.
I am a cancer virgin.
I am an AIDS virgin.
I am a heart attack virgin.
I am a dog virgin.
I am a cat virgin.
I am a penguin virgin.
I am a San Francisco virgin.
I am a Korean Christmas virgin.
I am a boob job virgin.
I care about one thing these days - that's living. I'm sure this is an attachment according to Buddhism and all, but that's what I got. I want to live. That is why I am not interested in eating processed foods anymore. I will not eat anything that is packaged. No cookies, crackers, frozen foods, nothing. I am just not interested.
I am also not very interested in meat. The idea of it makes me sick. At least how it is served in Korea. I won't eat any of these strange things again. I just don't like it, and it doesn't make me feel very good. I want to live. I don't want to die. That is why I am going to eat only veggies, fruit, and rice that I make from now on.
I am also not going near tobacco of any kind. I am just not going to do it.
It is winter. I have no gym to go too. I don't want to walk anywhere in this cold. That is why I have started a dance regiment. I dance to whatever is on the MP3.
I like this exercise. It is the only one I will do besides running, sit-ups, and crunches. I am not interested in any others. Sorry. They just don't work for me.
I suck at meditation. People can sit for hours. My legs are always tired. Why do they fall asleep? I need better circulation. I am doing yoga every morning.
I don't give a shit about jobs or money. I care about my health.
I am not going to do three jobs at once, or even waste my time worrying about getting the right job ever again in my life. If I can pay my bills and do alright by me, then that's the way it'll be.
I am done with fighting for relationships. Either they work or they don't. I am just done fighting for things like that. If it means I'll be alone for the rest of my life, well then, fine. Although I sincerely doubt that will happen, if I am healthy and human and me.
I like getting my heart rate to about 120 BPM, and then sitting down and feeling it slow down. I like that feeling.
The human body is cool. I like my body. I am hairy, but I like the way it looks. I think I look like Wolverine from the X-Men Comics - not the movie.
I am probably going to stick in Korea, if I get the chance this year. I am saving money, and I have a really nice girlfriend. I like that she is kind, talks back to me, puts a thumb to her nose like a boxer when she's ready to fight, and is just basically as cool and crazy as me.
I like myself. Some people don't like me where I work. I have heard it said that I am way too Hollywood. This makes me laugh. I mention the nice weather too many times, and I am suddenly all about Hollywood.
As most of you know, I grew up all over the states. I spent my longest stint of time in Delaware. It's far from Hollywood. It's also not all that different. You do have a nice music scene in both places. You just don't have the same kind of diversity, but whatever. They are still both good places to live.
I wouldn't mind living in Delaware again. It was nice. The air was clean. The winters weren't that bad. It was nice.
I don't like the cold that much. I do like ice cream though. I might have an ice cream this weekend. I won't buy it processed though. I am going to the Coldstone Creamery. I am going to buy a cone for me and my girl. We can share.
Okay! That's it!! The record is off to press. Chris at SIRE PRESS says it'll be a 10-day turn-around. I will be sending some copies to Hollywood, Philly, and Korea. If you would like some press copies to review on your blogs, zines, or simply to have for your own enjoyment, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, I am flirting with the possibility of a new job in Korea, or to head back to L.A. to join UCLA's Animation Program. I don't know if I'll get in, but I figure I'll give it a try. I'd like to make some cartoons for a couple years (job #39).
I talked over the possibility with my folks and friends. Most seem to be supportive of the venture. I'm just not sure how good of an illustrator I am for the job. I guess UCLA can decide if I got the right stuff, as they only accept 20 candidates per year. I'm guessing they might like me. I do have a killer smile.
Aside from that, I have now taken to wearing pinstripe suits everyday. I am so gangster, but without the misogyny, drugs, or purple hankies. I wouldn't mind bringing the hankie into play though. It might start a trend in Korea - a land known to follow the latest fad until it trails out to remote villages, and the purple hankie dies slowly and quietly in a mountain valley in Pusan.
As of now, there is no hankie. I do have the killer smile though. I am wearing it now. I've got this order of Mexian chicken coming through the door, and my application to Stanford to fill out - all in a typical day of a writer trying to find a way to keep writing.
I don't know how many other people feel this way, but I'm constantly looking for that extra moment. It can be hard when your working your way towards making a living, and trying to write a sestina at the same time. At least for me it is. I like not working at all when I write.
Either way, I am hitting lots of competitions and possible fellowships. If I egt UCLA and a fellowship, I will do both. If I get nothing, I will still write. I will write my way into a fellowship. It'll be a story. It will start with a girl. Her parents say she can't date no megook (American). They want her home by midnight - not in the arms of some gangster. I try to tell them that the purple hankie is just for show, but they can't believe I started the trend. Neither can the fellowship program. They say I'm a little too dinosaur to roll with Fred Flinstone. Maybe, if I looked more like Dino. I am a badass T-Rex though. I sing Eminem's "Lose Yourself" with 20 Korean girls. I stomp my feet. I shout it out: "You got to lose yourself to the music, the moment, you own it, don't never ever let it go!!"
Now there is a girl on my iChat. She's got a killer smile too. I'll catch you on the flip.
For the past couple weeks, we were able to chat about CMP, and some of the other works he has completed throughout his career. Of course, it wasn't done in a typical interview format. I didn't really know where we would end up, when Aram said to frame our discussion with several cartoon captions from The New Yorker. I just figured it'd be fun. I think that's what I love about Aram the most. Everything he does is about play, but it's also about the play inside that play - a place he is searching for as well - that gets you turned in an opposite direction from where you thought you'd be. It's all about that journey. Something Aram takes us through in his poetry, plays, fiction, or even interviews, that turns the light on right from the word go.
PK: I just burned some white sage. I got it from the Farmer's Market in Hollywood. One little bushel of the stuff has lasted me an entire year out here in Korea. I burn it now and again in the morning.
(I would replace this caption with "Naked Lunch Meets Jungle Fever." Kafka could play the role of Denzel Washington. You could be the guy that brings him some bug spray. I would be the woman in bed with Kafka. I would complain in a supportive way. Then we would have a wedding in the third act. Kafka would quit the bug spray business. This caption would be a still from the last scene in the movie. I would go to snuggle with Kafka, but he would be dead. He needed something to live for. Life just wasn't worth living without a corporation.)
Words can change our experience with a visual image. In your poems, the word and image are simultaneously united. This blend creates an interesting shift in perception. In a sense, it requires a different way of looking, and that, for me, is a different way of being. I am often attracted to art that brings me such a moment of connection. Thank you for that.
I remember looking at a Jackson Pollock painting, and feeling a similar way. For one brief instant, there was a lack of thought. In that space, was the experience itself. It was akin to a "What's that smell?" moment. Of course, the "smell" was simply my previous conception of "looking" being dropped for some actual face-time with that moment.
Is this what you hope to achieve with your pieces? If so, how do you go about a poem's conception with such an intention in mind?
Aram Saroyan: I remember when I was a teenager my dad took me to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and I saw a work by Franz Kline for the first time, and I thought, this guy has really gone out of his way to make something ugly. The ugliness is probably what shifts the way you think, or the way you are, for a moment—I think that’s what you’re talking about. The poems by me you refer to are probably the ones in Complete Minimal Poems and they’re now forty years old. When the book came out I read it through from cover to cover a couple of times and had a number of different ideas about it. One was, it’s about a young man in his room and at the door of his room.
I didn’t have any particular conception I wanted to get across when I wrote or when I write today. I think artists think with their work, not before they go to work. After I finish a piece, I always wonder, does this work.
Eventually, after many years (or maybe it was just a couple of years), I realized that Franz Kline’s work was the height of elegance. So it changed and/or I changed.
PK: I hear you. Franz Kline. I never went deep into his work. I remember seeing a couple pieces at the MOMA and The Philadelphia Museum of Art. I remembered that Jean Michel Basquiat cited him as a big influence on his work. I didn't stop long enough to stick with him though. I was busy checking out Cy Twombly. I didn't really like it, but I didn't dislike it either. I think seeing his pieces made me feel that kind of "ugly" you are referencing. I don't know though. I tend to see pretty in ugly and ugly in pretty. I don't know. I get so confused sometimes. It's not a bad confused, but simply a blending I suppose.
Were there any other visual artists that changed on you?
AS: I always loved Warhol. And Donald Judd. When I saw the first Eric Fischel at a Whitney Biennial in the 80s I thought, oh, that’s ugly. I didn’t like it. And then, sure enough, of all the painters of that epoch like Salle, Schnabel, etc., I started to like his work the most. I think Schnabel’s movies, especially Basquiat, are wonderful.
Warhol was such a great colorist, so inventive and elegant. I think I picked that up at an unconscious level. Later on you realize what it was that got you. His protégé, Basquiat, is also an extraordinary colorist. And sometimes he does great things with words. Like he has the word milk with a little copyright sign beside it. Exactly how insane our global corporate rigamarole has gotten.
When you live in New York, as I did, minimalism like Donald Judd’s work is terribly appealing. It balances the environment. I think I had to get out of New York to write differently. The environment is transgressive. Either that or I’m just a natural born country boy.
PK: Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch and the Beat Generation is a fascinating book. It reads very much like fiction. In fact, there were several times where I wasn't quite sure. In fact, it almost reads like an autobiography. Why did you decide to write in this style? Was it to capture Lew in a way that a traditional biography couldn't?
AS: There’s a first draft of that book, a more traditional, rather academic biography, which I reread recently. There’s a lot of direct quotation from Lew Welch—interviews and correspondence mostly—and that’s the best part of it. After I reread it I took some of the Lew Welch parts and made a solo performance play of it. It would be great I think for someone like Liev Schrieber or Joseph Fienes. But that first draft was, the Lew Welch quotes aside, a bit dull. So I rewrote it as a sort of Kerouac novel. Some of it is novelistic and/or autobiographical: I was trying to capture the spirit of Lew and the people around him, the Beats.
PK: You say a Kerouac novel, and I definitely feel that. There is that mad rush. At the same time, it's still very much you. I don't see Kerouac's long dash in continual use. You also vary the speed of your sentences by throwing in the occasional one or two-word sentence. Was this an intentional move? Was there a reason that you stayed away from the long dash continually and non-stop as Kerouac did?
AS: Kerouac was a writer I felt I had to come to terms with, and Genesis Angels was my moment of reckoning, so to speak. The book was written a chapter a day and not greatly edited by James Landis, my editor at Morrow. I suppose my technique is a little different, but the idea was to let go and write what came to mind. I started it right after my wife Gailyn gave me the verdict that the first draft was a tad dull. We were living in Bolinas and it was a beautiful day. I was crestfallen, but somehow energized too. As I walked back into the house to start the book again, I looked up the sky and thought to myself, “Just this blue” [meaning the color of the sky]. It’s interesting because the second draft written quickly in my version of Kerouac’s “spontaneous bop prosody,” told a more complex story than my first draft, which was ostensibly more reflective and took much longer to write. Probably I was laying the foundation, familiarizing myself with the story, so that I could then take off.
PK: You mention "Just this blue". That reminds me of Zen Master Seung Sahn. In his book, "Only Don't Know", he speaks of the clarity of one's moment being as simple as "Just like this".
Was your recognition of the sky on that day linked to your experience or knowledge of Buddhism? If so, how has your experience with Zen informed your writing? Has it changed over time?
AS: I love that, “only don’t know.” It reminds me of one of my favorite words: though. Not too much baggage. As though you just turned a corner and encountered a new vista.
I’m an amateur, or really just a fan of Zen Buddhism. I was very impressed by “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” especially the part where he returns to his monastery after 25 years and discovers there are tears in his eyes.
PK: Zen is definitely interesting. I spoke to a monk who was one of Seung Sahn's students. He asked me why I write and to answer without words. "No words," he said. I knew that typically one answers those types of questions in the Zen tradition by pounding on the floor or what have you, but I felt like it would be a cop out, so I just said, "I don't know." I guess I could have followed Allen Ginsberg's "first thought, best thought" model, but I figured I could sit with the question a bit longer. That was when I asked him why he meditates. "For you," he said. I thought that was interesting. The whole "live for others" mentality. At the same time, he answered with words. Who knows where it all stands in the end? I could just end with a big, "I like questions though" and leave it at that.
How often do the questions you ask lead you into the work that you do? Do you find yourself trying to break a convention, or having a particular model before you begin something? Is it just a sentence? Or is it more like the "It's snowing" concept that you mention in your essay, This Is It?
AS: I’m not sure about questions. Nor about breaking a convention. As a model, I suppose the mind is full of them and picking and choosing may take place at some pre-conscious level. But for me it begins with a word or a phrase or a sentence that has some generative dimension so that it begets another word or phrase or sentence, and on (or off) from there.
If you can try to locate Ted Berrigan’s Interview with John Cage (reprinted in the American Literary Anthology 1)--it’s made up, a pastiche from many different sources (Cage, Warhol, Burroughs) as well as Berrigan himself, and it has some funny stuff about Zen. “Somebody should have kicked that monk’s butt”--or the equivalent.
PK: "Make love to the police. We need highly trained squads of lovemakers to go everywhere and make love."
That is very funny and so true! I remember walking through the streets of New York after 9-11. There was that same paranoia. I thought the same thought - not actually making love to New York's finest, but some sort of kindness to change things. I don't know. I guess I was feeling paranoia too. Maybe, we need an entire squadron of ass kickers and lovemakers side by side, kicking ass and making love, depending on how badly they want one or the other; and, of course, always providing the opposite of the desire, so that the lovemakers and hate mongers actually get a beating and a kiss, respectively, as well. I don't know. I am really as clueless as the monk who needs his ass kicked. Like, the other day, I was looking around my room. I saw everything in a particular order, and yet, at the same time there seemed to be a continual disorder going along as well. I don't know if this is because I spent the night reading The Complete Minimalist Poems, or just because I find myself confused in each moment. It's like there's a new person everyday. I wake up. I look in the mirror and I have no idea. That's what I see: No idea. I wonder if writing is often "just like that." Like there's no writing as much as there is that building that " begets another word or phrase or sentence..." as you said; and how that building is very similar to acting - that moment where you piece together a character and see it push forward through the body, and then BOOM - there you are - outside and inside yourself, and you still don't know what happened.
I don't know if I make much sense. I like acting though. It is one of my favorite things to do; even though I have no idea what I'm doing when I do it.
Do you like acting?
AS: I’m a playwright, so I depend on people to love acting and to act, and I think you’re right: I learned that an actor has a process when my play “At the Beach House” was done in Los Angeles recently. It was a six week limited run, and the performances kept getting better and better as it went along. A certain moment in the play got illuminated by something two actors did together quite far into the run. It wasn’t in the text; it was them. I’d had staged readings of all my plays before but never a full production, and it’s very different. For a staged reading there are only a couple of rehearsals and then the performance with the actors holding their scripts. They don’t memorize the lines and go through the process of connecting the dots and having a character coalesce. It’s funny, certain actors would come in hot—seem to know everything from the beginning—but it might not deepen from there. Others might be that way, a quick study, and still keep building. I love the theater: if I were 30 years younger it would be my life. Now I must depend on others to do the heavy lifting I did for that first production, where I was in essence the line producer. Too much work! However, when it works I don’t think it gets any better for a writer.
About your room: my father always told me to keep my room clean and neat, and after a while I took his lesson to heart. But other people don’t mind a bit of (fertile) chaos, and actually he proved to be a packrat, so go figure.
PK: Yes, my room and mind go in waves of cleanliness and disruption. My latest coffee/computer mishap definitely put that to the test, as papers piled around the empty shell of what my computer once was. Of course, I could have taken a nap through the experience. Sometimes I find that's the best thing to do when the body is just plain tired. In fact, doing so, may have prevented the "coffee spill" in the first place. Who knows?
AS: That’s interesting about the nap. When I had a crisis in the production of the play—and they occurred regularly—if it was close to bed time I would have a choice between going crazy with being upset or going to sleep. My age definitely helped here. I would opt for going to sleep. And often in the meantime the theatrical team that had been assembled would solve the problem. That old saw about how the show must go on is really an ethic of a kind among certain show biz veterans, thank God.
I once spilled ink on a new desk (bought with part of my $500 NEA award for poetry back in the sixties). A friend had been doing drawings on the desk and left an open bottle of ink under some papers I was summarily cleaning up, the neatnik. So it can cut two ways.
PK: I really love the first act of At the Beach House (that's all I could get online). It's got a quick pace. It's also radically different from your poetry or fiction, and, strikingly similar. There's the blend between fiction and reality again. It's almost as if you are pulling as much from real life, as you are the fictional transgressions that your writing voice might have carried you too.
AS: I’m so glad you like the play. It was such a kick to see it fully staged. It was like giving a party for six weeks. Writers don’t have that kind of good time very often I don’t think. As for real life and make believe, it’s a mix, a creative amalgam. These are people and circumstances I know but the chronology and the setting are different. And it all has a magnetic field of its own once it kicks in. The people talk and something happens because that’s the next thing that the nervous system of the writer wants to happen. “First thought, best thought,” as Allen Ginsberg told us.
PK: It also captures L.A. really well. I have been to those beach houses, and I have seen those young upstarts trying to manuever into a possible conversation with the famous.
As far as drug habits, I have seen my share of that lifestyle as well.
Was "At the Beach House" based on your family or an amalgamation of several you've encountered? Did the moment between the two actors blend fiction and reality to bring it to a point of confusion as to what was real or not from your perspective? Is this what you are talking about in that moment of coalescence for the players?
AS: It was a piece of business. In the second act Angela, the drug addict, throws a brick at her brother, Nick, who’s trying to get her into rehab. It turns out it’s a rubber brick, but Nick and the audience don’t know that until it bounces off Nick. It’s an emotional turning point in the play, although I had no idea of it until I actually got a rubber brick and the actors did it on stage. Nick is so startled that his mood changes—from fear into a kind of tender regression: as if the two of them were little kids playing while they take a bath together. Past the middle of the run, I saw the play again and when Nick gets hit by the brick he gets up from a chair and grabs Angela and pins her to the ground and growls “I’m still bigger than you are.” Then he gently helps her to her feet and she leans against him and in that moment the whole brother/sister debacle is beautifully illuminated. The actors invented the rough-housing—a perfect touch.
PK: Wow. I love that move from the actors. It sounds like you gave them a lot of room to go places. That is a really wonderful thing in a production. I have been part of shows where the same liberties were not necessarily as forthcoming. Directors can sometimes be dictatorial for what they want to happen.
AS: The director was Marcia Rodd, who starred with Elliott Gould in “Little Murders,” an actress as well as a veteran director, so she allowed plenty of room and encouraged the actors to be in process, and understood all about it. Which I didn’t. I could never have directed the piece, although at some early stage I probably imagined that I could have. Writers and actors are different. But then you get Sam Shepard. And a lot of Mamet is riffing on the “repeating game,” which is a Sanford Meisner acting exercise.
PK: Did you ever step in for guidance? How did you balance your need to say something with the urge to hang back and see what would evolve? Was this difficult as it was your writing?
AS: Marcia very rightly wanted me to appear only at intervals to check in with notes. She didn’t want me around the actors while they let the roles sink in, which can be a chaotic process. In the end I grew to respect the very different process that evolved because of the results involved. And of course what a kick it is, to see your play take shape with a good cast and director.
PK: Playing music is often like theater for me. Back when I was touring regularly, some of the groups that I played with, would get caught up in the lifestyle or in how many CD sales were being generated, etc. It would quickly make the song writing process pulling teeth in so many ways. Someone would want their chord progression to be part of a song, or another would feel slighted that we had not used theirs. It was a real sense of balance on my part at times.
AS: Ego can so easily get in front of the process. Suddenly for reasons unknown an actor will start saying lines too slowly, taking up more time than is necessary—and I’m not talking about James Dean or Brando. There’s some psychological snafu that can derail an evening.
PK: Nowadays, I find it easier when I collaborate with others, whether it's music, writing, or film, to leave room for the unexpected. Those accidental happenings can be so much more powerful than anything pre-meditated. I have even heard that the jam band, Phish, often rehearsed in the dark, to try and sync up their transition skills, and I assume, to leave more room for the happy accidents that may have occurred.
AS: Playing in the dark, great! I remember writing certain poems in the dark in the middle of the night, having woken up with a line or two. It’s easier to keep track of a sound when the lights are out.
PK: Do you have any exercises that you take your actors through to bring them closer as an assemblage? How about yourself as a writer? Are there ways you have found to allow yourself to be more free with the writing of a play that is different from poems or fiction?
AS: My dad once said that getting ready is 80 or 90 percent. For a writer that can mean to “loaf and invite the soul,” as Whitman says. Really, in our media-centric society, it seems to mean turning down the volume on all the noise so that you can hear “the single, small voice”--that’s Doris Lessing I think—that’s your own. I really enjoyed writing plays. It was like I imagine composing music might be like. Instead of instruments, you have these different voices going on inside you, high and low notes, etc. I wrote five of them in a row over a two and a half year period. The form seemed to be a good fit for me right then.
PK: What notes are you hearing now?
AS: My work of forty years ago, Complete Minimal Poems, is in print, as well as a facsimile edition of Coffee Coffee, published during the same time by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer’s 0 to 9 Press. It’s a nice affirmation. Complete Minimal Poems is #4 this month on the Small Press Distribution poetry best seller list almost six months after it was published, and the buzz about it, as well as serious and lengthy reviews of it are on the web, not in the print media for the most part. There’s a paradigm shift. And for me it’s like coming full circle. What most interests me at the moment is the theater. I like getting out of my room.
ARAM SAROYAN is an internationally known poet, novelist, biographer, memoirist and playwright. His poetry has been widely anthologized and appears in many textbooks. Among the collections of his poetry are Aram Saroyan and Pages (both Random House). His largest collection, Day and Night: Bolinas Poems, was published by Black Sparrow Press in 1999. Saroyan's prose books include Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch and the Beat Generation; Last Rites, a book about the death of his father, the playwright and short story writer William Saroyan; Trio: Portrait of an Intimate Friendship; The Romantic, a novel that was a Los Angeles Times Book Review Critics' Choice selection; a memoir, Friends in the World: The Education of a Writer; and the true crime Literary Guild selection Rancho Mirage: An American Tragedy of Manners, Madness and Murder. Selected essays, Starting Out in the Sixties, appeared in 2001, and Artists in Trouble: New Stories in early 2002.
The recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts poetry awards (one of them for his controversial one-word poem "lighght"). Saroyan is a past president of PEN USA West and a current faculty member of the Masters of Professional Writing Program at USC. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the painter Gailyn Saroyan.
What else? Well, Miss Ahmad, formerly of Glamazonlife, and now posting under the heading STOOP TALK, found this interesting gem. I was curious, and not that uptight, so I chuckled slightly at this re-make.
I did find some interesting news items elsewhere. It seems the Writer's Guild continues to strike in Hollywood, and its effects are now being felt in primetime. Curious? Good time to start screenwriting? Who knows?
Aside from that, I did see that Iraq continues to get worse, as there are now 1.6 million children who are now homeless and abandoned. The Iraqi Red Crescent is trying to help in this dire situation.
I am getting better. It looks like I got sick, because I just didn't give my body enough rest. Too many jobs. A little too much stress. That's how it goes. Now my schedule has become really free. I am back down to two jobs. I got the record mastered by Mark Moss at Target Studios, and it is now off to a printing press in Philadelphia. (Thank you, Frank for that last minute sax part on Dues. It is so good.) The website is up, and now it's onto the next project -animation!
I initially thought of doing webisodes for the first part of Enlightenment in a Box (formerly known as "The Whopper Strategies), but now I am thinking of something slightly different. I will still animate certain elements, but I am more interested in creating a text that works in a multimedia format. In other words, a book that is it's own website.
The idea: Links can trail off from the initial text to images, animated segments, or audio. As far as navigating through the world of the book, it would be a true simulacrum, as there would be no intial starting point; but rather, a discourse, that would be as much about what links one would choose and how these would then affect the next pages that would open.
I am not really sure how it will work, but I can feel this play with a novel being very possible. Only time will tell, if I get more interested in making animated segments versus this larger meta-framework.
Who knows? I will play with the possibilities. In the meantime, it's about resting and dreaming.