26 Jul 2014

Essay: The Essence of a Good Tale

PART I: The Forms of Art

I shall begin by saying that, although this will be an essay, it cannot really be called that; for it shall include elements of art, and—therefore—a more apt description would be ‘philosophical fiction’.

Such semantics aside, the purpose of this essay/tale/enter-what-you-think-is-right-here is not merely to ascertain the purpose of a good tale (contrary to its title); rather, it is to determine what art is, why it is important—and to make some (hopefully) humorous comments on all of it. Let us begin with an anecdote.

(Clearly, I am already committing a faux pas. Mea culpa.)

The Anecdote: Dutch Paintings

Recently, I was in the Netherlands. There, I had the pleasure of examining some of the works displayed in the Groninger Museum (named after the town I was in).

I saw some wonderful things there: abstract forms hinting of nightmare imaginations (ironically); capturings of strange, crazy artists; and landscapes—so many landscapes!

They were vast, awe-inspiring things; and they seemed filled with both the timelesness of nature, and the tenacity of the humans that lay upon them, and the very spirit of Holland: of the tiny, utterly flat country that yet seemed so imposing, and so full of the feats weaved by its inhabitants.

And yet—despite all of the myriad of colours, the range of expressions, and the intangibility of the forms—I felt there was something missing. I felt that it was somehow… incomplete.

One does not think such of paintings. After all: they are our most tangible sense—sight. We can easily tell that the man is decimated by a crushing sadness that pervades into every aspect of his world; and we can quite comfortably recognise the need for a rock in the children’s expression. Everything is clear. And yet so much is missing!

Paintings in Further Detail

Let me use another example: the smiling Dutchman. You can perhaps tell from the warm, brown eyes (bordering a shade of orange) and the strong, leathery hands, wizened by years of exposure; you can perhaps tell that his voice is powerful, and strong—and that he would move in confident, reassuring strides; and that, even, he would smell of freshly cut hay and angrily uprooted tulips and orange carrots.

But you would not really get all that. You wouldn’t get it straight from the artist’s imagination—that strange otherworld that seems to reveal itself only to a chosen few (and rarely then).

You would have to imagine all of these things yourself. Create them, if you like. To truly experience, a painting (or a drawing, or a pastel, or a photo)
requires that you fill in some of the blanks yourself.

In a way, this is a good thing: for the purpose of art—or better put, one of its purposes, for it has many—is to inspire its receiver. And art that requires this emotional and intellectual investment will invariably inspire you more—because it makes you think.

But writing—to take the personal example—does this too. The writer must never attempt to cover every possible minutiae of a scene. And writing can give you those other senses directly; those feelings of loss, and confusion, and fear—or the wonderful euphoria of falling in love.

Likewise, writing can make you feel the deadly caress of the assassin’s blade. It can make you smell death, and taste its bitter aroma. Writing can be everything.

But this comes with a cost.

Investment, Difficulty; Two Foes of an Artist

There is no question of the fact that a painting is immediate. You can instantly see the blackness of malice and the white of puerillity. And this means less work, for you as a viewer; and so a painting can be gazed at by so many more (for we all know that not many take the promise of a large, heavy book easily).

We can argue idealism all day. Why, you say, should a greater art form be confined to less? Heresy!

But this does not take into account the realities. (I shall refrain from discussing the relevance of said ‘realities’, for to do so would drive this off on a tangent.)

The best art is also experienced by the many. It is why a bestseller may be the better art than the niche tale, despite the fact that it uses less of the greater language and may employ some simplifications. While it is true that a more refined, upper-class work of literature may give those equipped to deal with it a greater short-term enjoyment (and inspiration), it does so at the cost of alienating many more.

Moreover, inspiration and enjoyment is also drawn by the reader when they are able to communicate (read: discuss) the work in question with others. Such a feat is much more difficult in the case of the latter. Furthermore, it will relegate such discussion to a small strata of people. There would be less variety, and less understanding.

Allow me to elucidate. Let us assume, briefly, that a story follows the life of the most quintessentially poor man in history. I shall say no more on this; for no more need be said.

A reader from more fortunate echelons may scoff and laugh; but the working woman—whose life revolves around the 9-to-5—would quite easily comprehend the true difficulty of the opprobrium faced by the poor, poor man.

But to go back to the point: writing requires greater Investment from the reader; and this isn’t a good thing.

What’s more, there is always the question of difficulty.

Oh no…

I have no doubt this topic has been debated before. To some of you, it has even been debated ad nauseam.

But perhaps the viewpoint of a writer and hobbyist pianist may be of interest to you.

Writing is hard. You will see this mentioned, but very few outside the literary circle really understand the scale of it.

Pay attention now. What does a writer do when they are writing? (This isn’t about what writing and other art is, though, mind you; but we’ll get to that.)

You cannot write if you do not have something to write about. Firstly, therefore, you must create.

And now understand this: you must create the kernel of the story first. (In much the same way one does for an operating system, to use a rather oblique IT analogy.) What is the plot? What is the premise of all of this? What makes you want to know more?

And who is involved? Why? What motivates these people; what do they cherish—and what terrifies them?

When you begin, you will start with a character and a scene. Thus begins the creation of sense 1: sight. You must describe the tower that your character is looking from, for example.

She lay in a tower—a terrible thing it was: embittering the clouds in envy; deterring any climber with its perfectly sculpted, gleaming bricks (of which no man had made); and imprisoning her.

You must describe her thoughts—and more.

Once, she had been angry; then an all-encompassing loneliness had made its den inside the confines of her mind; and then she had been sad, so sad. She could have made the tower cry, had it not been as lifeless as its master.

Now she was empty. Emptier than the damnable walls that so cruelly immured her.

A husk—but one with a purpose.

To kill the man who put her there.

You must describe touch, and smell, and even taste.

The floor underneath was hard, unyielding, and totally impenetrable. The air lay still; it seemed to mock her, she thought, with that stillness of it. There wasn’t much in the way of smell: rocks lacked that little human feature.

But she could definitely taste the power of the magic that bound her there. It was like drinking acid, bile and poison in one fatal gulp. (But it was not fatal; that would have been merciful.)

It was almost as bad as the taste of meaninglessness that was forever imbued in her mouth. She had no meaning now.

She was shattered.

And she would be the shard that could finally kill him. If only one thing went into place first: the birth of a mage foretold by a mad woman.

Yeah, it wasn’t much to bet on.

The final paragraph leads me to my next point: not only must you imagine all this, but you must transcribe it—you must give it form, through the medium of words, grammar, and punctuation. Indeed, not only is this aspect alone difficult (for children take years to master them to the point that they can produce something intelligible), but it is actually an art in and of its own.

And did I mention plot? Or direction? Or any of the numerous techniques that are employed (subconsciously, it seems to me) by writers in order to really take their prose into the next level?

I admit to not being able to paint or draw much. I can, however, create music. Making a song requires inspiration, technique, and a great deal of effort taken perfecting the song to the point that it becomes what it can be. (Hopefully.)

But song writing feels more raw, and turning it into a conglomerate of sounds is considerably easier for me than writing is. (And I am a much better writer than musician.) And of course, writing also necessitates some revision—quite a lot of it, often times.

Now you’re thinking: ‘Geez, Alex, but shouldn’t you be proud that you’re the toughest kid on the block?’

Well, if only it were that simple…

The Quality of Art

A lot of art isn’t very good. There, I said it. But it’s true: many ideas are never realised. Many books that could have been written, are not. Likewise many paintings go… unpainted, and many songs unsung.

Humans are fallible creatures, and we can’t always do an idea justice. Nor, indeed, are our ideas fit for the big, bad world.

Easy art is good. Easy art means an easier time for the artist (and artists go through much dolour in their quest to become who they are), and it means more art to go around. This is also good. Art brings to us inspiration, emotion and carries with it meaning—detail into which I shall be going into later on.

That said, a difficult art form can forever challenge and develop the burgeoning artist. It is why so many move from the pencil to the brush, and from the marimba to the piano to the violin. (Please appreciate that I am making some simplifications here for the purposes of illustration and brevity.)

Music…

I have thus far made little reference to this popular art form. Which is quite strange, considering my background.

This is because I think music to be a little… different, from other forms of art. Music is not something concrete, and easily tangible—it is, after all, based on a weaker sense. While all art is to some degree intangible (why does one particular shade of vermilion remind one of death, while the other reminds one of lazy days spent basking on the beach?) music is especially so.

This is not to say that being so is a bad thing, or a good thing. It is merely the way in which these artists express themselves.

The beauty in a less tangible art form is that it brings the most unique emotions and inspiration to each particular listener. This is also its curse. While a certain melody may remind one of vast arctic plateaus imbued with the light of the cold, white pearl that is the sun; for another it may remind them of alien electronica playing to the tune of dancing club-goers.

This aspect of music can also present Difficulty for the musician. The musician may be able to apply some of the principles that help music—rhythm, harmony, or even simple intuition—but the true nature of the song will always seem impervious to analysis.

And yet again, this confers an advantage: for if the subtleties and feelings, and meanings, of the song are conferred not through didactic telling—as plagues certain writers and storytellers—but through the true medium of the art itself, then the essence of the song shall be carried, specifics be damned.

Concluding Part I

I have made numerous comments on the forms of art, their difficulty; their weaknesses, and strengths—and on why this is so, and what this means for the art.

The perfect art form would require the smallest amount of Investment and Difficulty while producing the greatest amount of Utility, Emotion, and Inspiration. Clearly, this is impossible: Investment is usually a requirement for all of these three, and likewise Difficulty can enhance the artist themselves—again improving the desired qualities.

There are other concerns for the art forms, naturally: commercial success, let’s take. Once more, the idealistic may espouse the arts in lieu of any financial considerations; but the realities cannot be ignored.

It is possible—though difficult—to make a lot of money with a book or a song. For a painter, however, the tale is different: it is generally easier to gain attention for their work (this being particularly troublesome for writers, but posing problems to musicians also) but to become commercially successful is very much easier said than done.

The problem with much of the visual arts is that they typically pose high financial value only to an elite class of the wealthy—meaning that there is less money available for those artists as a whole, and that what money there is usually gets thrown on an even smaller artist elite.

This is not to say one should condemn said artists. It isn’t their fault, now is it?

No, what I hope this work will do to artists reading is to make them better aware of their strengths and weaknesses. It is a great strength to be able to make someone gasp with wonder at a brilliant painting; for the musician—and especially the writer—more time is required.

It is also a great strength to be able to give viewers a powerful view into your imagination, without requiring a great deal from them; again, this is not the case with writing.

But the power of a painting is so often ephemeral. One becomes used to the curves of the arches, and the strange hue of an insouciant sky; until, eventually, the painting becomes no more than a commodity—a crude fashion accessory.

Getting around this requires some creative business thought. I shall leave you to it, dear reader, if you are so inclined; for I have concerns of my own as a writer, and because only the artists themselves can truly empower themselves.

Also, this section is getting long. There is much to be discussed…

PART II: The Essence of Art

I am reminded of the phrase ars gratia artis. For those of you unacquainted, it means art for the sake of art. And that is part of my view: art is by its own merit a reward; a gain for the one fortunate enough to have completed it.

Of course, gain can mean anything at all. For a deeper understanding, I believe we should examine what art is—then its purpose shall become clear.

So: What is Art?

Is art the precisely engineered camera, capable of revealing the reality behind the world—as per the likes of Aristotle? Is art an illusion?

Or is art an expression of emotion, imagery, tale, sound and scent and taste?

Is art the heightened form of our experiences? Or are those experiences, in a way, beyond what we normally experience—and is that why art is valuable?

So many questions. I am of a clear opinion on this matter, and through my cogent writing (‘Alex, let’s not get too cocky…’) I shall convince you of it.

Art—Not Engineering

I like engineering: I enjoy the challenge brought about by real world situations; I enjoy the difficulties of research, experimentation and calculation; and of course I enjoy perfecting the final solution—and making life that little bit easier.

Art could not be more different for me.

I cannot engineer art. I cannot force it to follow my wishes, or to include things that—from a casual perspective—would improve it.

Because they don’t.

Art is not like an engine, where the problem is clear—and the solution is achievable by logic and fact. Art is not solving a problem. And there is something about it that defies logic: it is emotion and idea and it resonates in a way that cannot be measured by a microphone.

I do not invent a story in the way that I do, let’s say, a tablet: there is no thought of why consumers would like such a device (the story), or why it will have an USP over the rest of the market (rest of the stories), or how I should go about building said tablet.

Art comes to me. I did not come about the idea of a tower that puts the clouds to shame, or a Necromancer whose plight is so powerful I cannot deny it, or a about a ship that could save two lovers from extinction—I did not come about it by analysing markets.

Perhaps some of them are, to a degree, reflections of other art. Towers are a common sight in mediaeval tales; and there is a lot of work done on zombies, for example.

And yet, every story is unique. Clearly, we are not regurgitating the work of others. (Which would in itself be a logical fallacy—where did those artists get such a wealth of different ideas?)

I still think some art is inspired by and altered in the presence of other art—and that’s not a bad thing. A populated subconscious means ideas can grow, and meld with other ideas; the power of both can be combined.

The word subconcious is key here. I did not smash these ideas together consciously; instead they formed together, naturally, the way birds and bison collaborate after being together for a great deal of time.

And remember: the subconscious never sleeps…

The greatest proof of this, I think, is not from the art—but from the artists. If you were to put Aristotle to try and create a novel, what would you get? Even if he were to learn every writing technique known to man, and toil away at it for hours on end; his work would still seem to lack alacrity, and soul.

It would be nothing more than empty words.

Okay, Al; But What Is Art?

I must admit to not being of clear opinion. It is difficult to make an analysis on the nature of art: for art is something unique to each artist, and even unique to many of those who experience it.

I shall, therefore, contain my analysis to the things experienced by myself. References to the aforementioned shall only be made when they are suitably clear.

For me, art is… an experience.

It seems vague, but the word is the best one available in the forever limited vocabulary of language.

I suppose I could say that art is the culmination of feeling, thought and imagination amalgamated into artistic form.

I believe imagination is most important here. When writing, I have always felt there was something more to things—the glimpse of a deeper reality becomes visible when producing art.

Perhaps an example would better elucidate my thus far vague assertions.

Let us take my aforementioned excerpt: the woman in the tower. For some reason, many people would find her plight of great importance—they would wish for her escape almost as surely as she would herself; and, moreover, their hatred of the captor would be powerful, despite never having met the man.

There is a certain amount of emotion related to this. It is emotion that makes bestsellers, bestsellers; and likewise it is emotion that reaches out to grab the hearts of art admirers, and it is an emotion that makes a tune’s last echoes reverberate forever in our memories.

So there you go. Art is emotion.

But it is also an unusually powerful form of emotion—a dramatised version, you could say.

Still, part of me denies this. Many books do not dramatise the experiences of their characters. Indeed, this is considered a bad thing: feeling that seems forced or out of proportion becomes… unnatural. It alienates, rather than draws in.

So what do we end up with? Is art just true emotion?

Well, to a degree yes. True emotion is important; a lot of our behaviours in daily life show false emotion. The forced smile at coworkers who need not deal with concerns of your own. The faux interest in a boss’s ideas. Even, perhaps, the ostensible enthusiasm at a child’s new toy.

Humans do a lot of pretending. Much of that is unavoidable; for the realities of life cannot be ignored, as I have stated all too often now.

If art is true emotion, then art is who we really are.

So Why Is Art Important?

Why are we important? For if art is the expression of our true selves, then it would not matter if we had no care to find that out. Perhaps some of do prefer a life of unjust pretense and patinas devoid of meaning.

But for most, art brings happiness, and truth; art is a gateway to a better, truer world.

That’s the real crux of it all, isn’t it? By seeing who we really are, we can improve ourselves; and so we attain greater.

I suspect the above will lead some to debate the merits of various genres. No doubt some of these arguments will be rehashed, but allow me to present cursory reasons for the power of each genre:

  1. Fantasy. By creating worlds and characters with features beyond this one, we highlight the very importance of the human characters in an alien world. Additionally, Fantasy is the truest genre; for art is fantasy—as well as an expression of emotion—and this allows Fantasy to truly bring art’s greatest purpose to life: building a better world.
  2. Science Fiction. Again, syfy is a fantasy and humanity is all the more apparent in a world full of non-humans and tech. Syfy also shows us a glimpse of the future, or of a different place (a la fantasy). Thus current mistakes are revealed: the cyberspying, to take a popular example.
  3. Crime. Humans do evil things, at times. It helps to see the whys and the maybes. Additionally, a crime can shatter a person; and through this harsh punishment, their inner self is revealed.
  4. Romance. Love is one of our best creations, but it can also poison with verisimilitude. Romance can reveal these fallacies. Furthermore: it is good to learn of another’s love. It may show what you’re doing wrong.

Who Are Artists?

The gifted and the cursed. A most literary description, is it not?

But it’s true. Artists are… emotional people, for one. They’re people who feel, and who aren’t dissuaded from making that clear.

Artists do have a gift. I do not pity those of you who wished for egalitarianism in this regard; there isn’t any. Artists have a talent, and not all are as equally talented as one another. Nor, however, is the difference as great as some claim; truly, it is practice and dedication and determination that makes a good artist.

What is their gift?

I believe—and not without some uncertainty, mind you—that our gift is to be able to… not visualise; rather, imagine,
emotion that is not our own, people unmet, and places unseen.

We have imagination.

But imagination is also a curse. After all: you can imagine the empowerment of a poor farmer boy—his rise to power; fame; glory.

Likewise, you can imagine the terrible downfall of a great leader; or the decimation of a beautiful city; or the crumbling relationship between two highschool sweethearts.

And as I’ve also stated, we have emotion. The two seem follow one another. Emotion is a wonderful thing—who would abandon all happiness, love and excitement just to avoid sadness, loneliness and depression?

But this does mean we have unusually sensitive emotional antennae. Not necessarily thin skin though—just greater heights (and lows) of emotion, and smoother transitions between the two.

Sounds Like I’m Missing Out

Thankfully, it is not a selfish gift which we have. In fact, we feel a great desire to spread it as far and wide as possible; to make it the beautiful butterfly, seen and spotted—called to the many.

The others need not work to experience art. But they never experience it fully; an advantage and a disadvantage. You decide which is better. I suspect the artists will always choose art, and the non-artists will be too afraid to want it. Such is the way of things.

Finale: Good Art

And now we arrive to where this essay started: good art.

We’ve talked of the what. We’ve talked of the why. You cannot create good art without understanding those first.

You could say this is the how. It isn’t. This is not a guide to writing fiction, or any other form of art. There are other things for that.

(And if you do desire a comprehensive guide into my art written by me, email me at alexstargazerwriterextraordinaire@outlook.com and maybe I’ll think of making one.)

No, this final section is about recognising the things that produce emotion, produce the truest emotion, and which shows us—ultimately—of a better world.

Being specific is impossible. I shall try to keep my ideas confined to the literary medium; although many of these should apply to any other form of art you care to consider.

  1. Write for yourself, not for a ‘market’. Art is your emotion, your imagination, and your creation. Be true to yourself. If you try and write what you think x will like, x will not like it; for people are unique (and cannot, therefore, be taken as a whole and used to construct art) and also fickle. More importantly, you would have created a piece of art that… really isn’t one. It would be devoid of anything that would make anyone want to experience it.
  2. Prepare yourself. It isn’t easy.
  3. Understand yourself. Or in other words: don’t force your art to try and conform to a set of ideals or preconceptions. Your art is a reflection of yourself. Unless you’ve forced it. If you understand yourself, you can tell. The danger, of course, is that you do not understand who you are—or that you’ve changed. Always give art a long look before making major alterations. You might not like what you get if you don’t.
  4. Know that not all art is created equal. And don’t despair: you can improve.
  5. Practice. A lot.

‘Alex!’ you say; ‘but what about the features of good art?’

Alas, dear reader, this is where I leave you. Not that there aren’t techniques which can help polish and improve a specific art medium—for there are—but the real problem is: art is subjective. To a degree, at least.

While one may objectively ascertain the skill at which a novel is written—or a painting painted, or any other axiomatic example you care to think of—the final product produces what I have said uniquely for each person.

That said, a reviewer may make comments on how well they believe a piece of art accomplishes its purpose for the general audience.

But ultimately art is emotion and fire and the imaginings of strange irrational beings: cherish it, criticise it, and let it make you a better person.

This essay is finished. I am contradicting myself by writing that, so please don’t make me repeat myself. If you desire (for reasons unknown to me) to discuss it, email me at the aforementioned address. If you are reading this on my blog, comment. I don’t spy. (Google does that for me.)

An Important Update

There are a couple of important things I must share with you.

On Monday, I shall be retiring to my country home. I shall be there for three days: and on Thursday (morning or evening) I shall be back. Unfortunately, the current Romanian Internet infrastructure does not stretch very well to the countryside; I shall be unable to blog.

Until then, I intend to finish my essay and publish it where all can see.

I am also currently involved in attempting to repair my external drive. But rest assured: my documents are also kept on Google Drive—you’ll be getting all the goodies.

I am also now fully involved in researching cover artists for the Necromancer.

I don’t think I can make that story truly become what it should be without performing a total rewrite; a feat which I am not capable of attaining, for I have other—better—tales that I should be working on.

That said, I am starting to see the finish line. I am starting to see the point at which I can feel… not proud—that’s too strong a word—but content, to put the name ‘Alex Stargazer’ on it.

I must also admit that there is more to this update than logistics. I’ve had a period of… depression. There are a lot of reasons for this: I’ve been lonely, for one. I don’t know many people outside of school—and it’s not like writing is a team effort.

I’ve also been reading a rather depressing book—the name of which I shan’t mention, but you can read my Goodreads reviews—that has struck oddly close to home.

Finally, I have memories of this apartment. Bad ones. And too, too many.

I’d be lying if I said depression wasn’t a long standing problem for me. There are reasons for this—and maybe I’ll write them down. But not now. When I’m ready.

You probably aren’t happy to hear all of this. Depressed bloggers aren’t happy bloggers (oddly enough); and if the blogger isn’t happy, there won’t be much blogging, now will there?

But, I do have bad periods. I will get over them; I always do. Everyone has them, so it’s no point pretending: that’ll just make it worse.

I’ve been doing a lot of pretending in my life. Sometimes, I look at my loved ones, and think: do I really know you? Do you know me?

And do I know myself?

I answered those questions last night. Not fully—I don’t think I can do that. Yet.

I may or may not blog about this in more detail. You may not want me to (who ever does?) but understand that this is necessary. I need to find myself; or else I’ll just be living a pointless, meaningless, emptiness.

Very well. I have said what needs to be said; for now. My essay will be coming soon: I’m sure that’ll entertain you. It’s got a lot of weird stuff about what is art, and why it matters, and all that. There are also things about carrots.

What? You didn’t think I’d let that Dutch transgression (breeding orange carrots! Good heavens!) go unnoticed, now did you?

25 Jul 2014

Poem of the Week; And Goings On

Dear readers!

Alex has been most lackadaisical in his blogging, has he not?

This is because Alex:

a) Is now in Romania, to which he arrived by travelling east on a midnight plane—his body clock is totally off, you see, and he has trouble sleeping;

b) Has had a mole removed on his back, which is uncomfortable and annoys him to no end;

c) Has been made busy with a problem in his external drive: specifically, nothing will read it.

Being plagued by such vicissitudes, I have been unable to entertain you lot. This will now change. I have written a poem—the one which was supposed to be the poem of the week—and I shall even deign to talk about my little town of Vaslui.

So What’s This Place Like?

Depressing. I don’t mean to sound all negative and downer; but I am finding quite depressing. This is partly because I am a little unstable with my various worries (exam results, moles, etc.) and am therefore prone to depression.

But, still: this place is quite underdeveloped. It’s not poor by the standards of a not-so-well-off country in a not-so-well-off county—but even coming from little Britain, I do find it depressing.

There’s more to it than that though. Heck, Barcelona—which struck me as underdeveloped when compared to the likes of Luxembourg, Bruxelles, Eindhoven, Paris, Hamburg, etc.—was one of the liveliest places I’ve seen.

I could blame it on the architecture. There are a lot of Communist-era flats: their hard concrete and decaying windows don’t exactly inspire me to sing YMCA, or whatever idiotic song they do for that nowadays. Neither do the pothole covered roads. Or the stray animals. Or…

You get the point.

It’s not like Romania as a whole is this depressing. My country home (located in a village I guarantee you’ve never heard of) is much nicer: it’s got lots of flowers around it, it’s got vineyards, multiple buildings over multiple levels, hidden gardens…

It’s a lot more peaceful too. For a town of 50,000, Vaslui sure as hell is noisy. You can’t sleep with a window open—the pneumatic drills and lorries will drive you stark raving mad.

Okay, enough on Mr Stargazer’s location. Time to read some poetry!

(Check out my latest photos on Vaslui. I’ll promise I’ll make better ones once I get to my little country home.)

What About That Essay?

The Essence of a Good Tale is almost complete. In fact, this Poem of the Week was written in part to give me some more… direction in the essay.

Poem of the Week: Essence

This poem was actually entitled ‘Void’ to begin with. Why?

My initial premise for the poem stemmed in relation to the place which—funnily enough—I call the Void. The Void is actually a place in a (very future) novel I plan on one day writing (which shall be entitled Biology, and would—hypothetically—be made a series called Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.)

‘Alex, get on with it…’

Yes, so. The Void is the place where nothing but consciousness exists. There is no life. There is no light. There isn’t even time. Or space. It is a pure place: in it, you are your truest self. There are no illusions, nor any false pretense.

(‘He’s getting all weird again, isn’t he?’ some of you are no doubt thinking.)

However, this poem isn’t really about that. As my fingers glided over the (most uncooperative) keyboard, something else was created. Something about the essence of art.

The Essence of Art

The poem is quite short; I shall break my usual structure of weird-quotes–weirder-analysis–weirdest-poem (it was lying in tatters anyway, the poor thing) and give you the poem directly.

Read the Cause of the Altercation

I honestly don’t think any analysis is necessary: the poem is quite clear; and its implications are debatable—better for you to figure out. Of course, if it’s really leaving your knickers in a twist, you could ask me to do it. You’d have to say Please—with a cherry on top.

Very well. Here endeth this blog post. Stay following, because that essay will be coming soon. I just need to fix my hard drive, get myself a proper haircut, see a doctor with this mole removal of mine, and maybe save the world.

All in a day’s work, right?

16 Jul 2014

Poem of the Week: The Pianist

It is time for the Poem of the Week, and this time it’s another poem that was initially submitted to a literary magazine (of which I have made enough mention in the previous poem of the week).

This particular poem is called the Pianist: it’s cute, light, and has some nice metaphors. It isn’t my best poem by any means—most of my best have been submitted to the Foyle poetry competition, and are rather more dark on the whole—but I think it a pleasant read all the same. (Please tell me if this is not the case. Alex is not very good at ascertaining the merits of his own work; a curse bequeathed to all writers. Oooh, I’m starting to sound all weird and literary, now aren’t I?)

As part of my new strategy, I have decided to structure these analyses (is that the right word?) in the following format: weird quotes at the beginning; weirder analysis thereafter; and weirdest poem at end.

(Tsck tsck. I’ve used that word too often now—I’ll have to start using pseudo-synonyms like ‘strange’ and ‘odd’, which so don’t sound the same. Poor me. Poor writers.)

Weird Quotes

The Pianist
Is lost in the tones
Of his own melody.

—Quote I.

For no ordinary person
Can instil such
Emotion.

—Quote II.

All the sounds of music:
A song to the unheard listener.

—Quote III. (You getting the gist of this?)

He smiles: a quirk of a mouth
That has known humanity.
But he does not know all;
That is reserved
For my kiss.

—Quote…

(I would put more, but my weary bones tire from all this typing; and besides, to do so would make this a turgid piece, which would bore you. I think. Although some of you read the so-called ‘Classics’ willingly, so who knows?)

Weirder Analysis

Let’s start with Quote I, strangely enough. (You noticed I didn’t use weird this time. You clever devil!)

Now, we are told—quite didactically, I admit—that the Pianist is lost in the tones of his own melody. This is important: it suggests that art is something in which you can forget about the world—about your worries, your fears, and even who you are. You can become a being ensnared by the magic of art; forever living in the moment, and forever subject to the most fickle of emotional changes.

And once you’ve read the poem (which you will do, I’m sure—I don’t write these for nothing, ya know) you’ll see quite a few of these emotional changes. Art is not in stasis; even paintings have the suggestion of change—the idea that this is only a snapshot of a world, and that it is not a whole representation. (Though paintings do have with them other advantages, which I shall mention in my upcoming essay.)

In any case: you can forget about yourself in art.

The next selected quote (Quote II, under the Roman system), reveals something special about the artist himself: that he—and all others of his type—are able to instil their feelings to their audience, in a way ordinary people cannot. Basically, artists are not the same as everyone else; and by implication, therefore, art is not a learned skill.

The third quote is little off-on-a-tangent (I do love going on tangents) but it reveals that much art goes unheard, unseen and unfelt. This is not entirely without reason: published art assumes that it can be critiqued, and not all art is that great (sadly). Of course, the debate is rather more complex and multi-faceted than that—hence why I shall be discussing it in my upcoming essay.

(‘Boy, he’s really doing our head in with that essay of his,’ I bet you’re thinking.)

The final quote is also very interesting. (If you happen to be a bod like me.) The fact that he’s known humanity—through art—shows that art is perhaps… a reflection, of human emotion. And in a way, it is; and another, it’s so much more. You can guess this one: to be talked of in my essay…

(‘Oh Alex!’ you wail. Patience, my dear; patience is a powerful virtue. It also means I can keep you coming back for more. Aren’t I just so clever?)

The final line suggests that one must experience certain things to truly capture them; but yet, I do believe you can gain a great deal of understanding about a phenomena even if you have never known it: that is the power of art.

Stay tuned for that essay of mine…

Alex!

Oh, yes. Here’s the weirdest poem:

View Weird Poem on Google Drive

PS: This was written in and uploaded with StackEdit—if you are of a literary disposition, you should definitely check it out.

14 Jul 2014

So Long, Holland

I have arrived back in the Land of the Angles and Saxons, and indeed have spent a day recharging my batteries. So now I’m thinking: why not give you lot something to think about?

Well, this will probably be my last post on Holland for the time being. What I aim to do is make some further comparison between it and England (and indeed the UK in general) while—hopefully—amusing you.

Where Was I?

I was in the part of Holland towards the inner continent, in a town called Groningen. Which reminds me—in Dutch, most of the time the grapheme ‘G’ is pronounced […£] (a harsh ‘hrrr’—or voiced velar fricative if you really want to get technical). So ‘Groningen’ is actually ‘Hrrroningen’. Weird, huh?

Now, Groningen has some strange little features. It has two bells, for one; and they both ring at the same time! And they’re pretty close to one another. And they play totally, totally different tunes.

And they do that every fifteen minutes.

So: you know you’re in Groningen when you here that awful, discordant clanging every fifteen minutes or so (for the clocks on those aren’t perfectly calibrated). You can also guess that it’s pretty damn annoying—don’t try to live in the city centre if you ever want to open a window. Or don’t have soundproofing.

The other pleasantry that Groningen has to offer is the rounded street corners. They’re quite quirky, I admit; they also mean that intersections occur on the pavement, so you always have to watch out for cars and bikes.

Which reminds me: the Dutch are crazy about bikes. It’s quite common to ride to work, ride to a park, ride to a restaurant, ride to…

And good for them. They save themselves money (thanks to the big taxes imposed on cars, along with the fact that car ownership is generally an expensive business) and they get health benefits. I just hope you like the rain, because you’ll be pretty comfortably enured with it by the time you’ve done any serious biking in Holland.

Anyway, let’s move on from all of these oddities to something a bit more concrete.

(Here’s my Google Web Album with some pictures, by the way.)

Holland, and the UK: An Economic Perspective

Anyone with a brain can ascertain that Holland is a wealthier country than the UK, simply by looking at the statistics: higher GDP per capita; a lower Gini co-efficient; lower teen pregnancy; et cetera.

But the statistics don’t tell you as much as the words. And while they are correct on the gist of it, they’re not quite correct on the scale of it. Because Holland isn’t just richer than the UK: it’s loads better off.

There is pretty big class difference here in the UK (unfortunately; a long standing problem worsened by economic crisis and a certain party I know of...)

There is class difference in Holland too, of course; there has to be. The reasons are complex—they range from the fact that some inequality must exist in order to provide incentive for greater risk, and because some people are harder working and more determined (while others are more content); and because, at the end of it all: some professions are more useful to the world than others.

However, class difference is very much pernicious. Firstly, it causes economic problems. This comes in two forms: through the principle of marginal utility—adding a ten grand bonus to guy earning a hundred k is far less meaningful than adding it to someone earning 16k, for example; and through the fact that it is more difficult to make money if you do not have it.

There are many frequent examples of this. Having more cash means you can buy shoes that will last for years, not months; and it means you can buy the more expensive fridge that’s cheaper over the long term due to efficiency; and so on and so forth.

There is also the question of borrower credibility. Banks are generally more willing to lend money to people with more money—the assumption being that the latter are more responsible. (This is quite often mistaken, of course: rich people are just as likely—if not more so—to end up in debt than less rich people.)

But class difference can manifest itself in much more subtle ways than in their economic ones; and it is these differences—these unseen ones—that are more dangerous.

Class

We all know the stereotype: the Victorian ladies and gentlemen sipping their favourite Earl Grey while the peasants are on hunger strike. Perhaps they’re even buying a nice gold chandelier while the peasants are trying to put out a fire.

These things seem silly to us know. But they’re true: the rich so often become heedless of the needs and concerns of less fortunate citizens. They do, to put it more simply, lack empathy.

And empathy is a very important part of a functional society. Those who do not have it are considered psychopaths; those who do are considered saviours. To lack in empathy would make you unable to deal with the emotions of other people (especially those close to you) and it will lower your capability to be a good, responsible citizen.

Which brings me onto a little known fact: a lack of empathy towards those less fortunate does often lead to a lack of empathy in general. Or to put it more bluntly—money damages you as a person.

There is also the age old question of entitlement.

Many of us laugh when we hear about millionaires (or billionaires) giving but a fraction of their money to their offspring. It makes sense, though: money leads to entitlement; and entitlement leads to an inability to cope with scarcity or difficulty.

The economic implications of this are merely an incomplete picture of the problem, of course. (As indeed economics is just part of the issue of class.)

We do not live in a perfect world. Bad things happen. People leave us; relations dull, and colden—and sometimes, disaster strikes. If you feel the world belongs to you, how do you deal with this?

Alex: Why?

I have gone off on a rather long tangent. Pardon me. So: we know that Holland has fewer rich snobs, and that’s a good thing. But how and why is it richer?

If you come from a 1st world country, looking around some neighbourhoods of Birmingham (for example) would come as a bit of a shock. There is a powerful sense of poverty in much of Britain: everything from the small, ugly terraced houses; to the ageing, dying cars; even to the poor taste in fashion—it all paints a gloomy picture.

After two years in the Netherlands, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen this level of poverty. Indeed, most of Groningen seems to be swimming in cash: the restaurants are full; the fashion houses seem busy; the trains are running on time—no complaints to be heard. Everything just seems so… smooth.

I do not claim to know exactly why this is the case. Neither do the economists, as much they as they wish they did.

I will merely present to you some hypotheses.

Infrastructure

Do you live in the UK? If so, you have probably complained extensively about:

  1. The fact that the damn motorways seem forever clogged in a mass of rumbling, grumbling cars filled with even more rumbling, grumbling motorists;

  2. The fact that the trains are bloody expensive;

  3. The fact that the trains are slow sons of a b****;

  4. The airports—they’re too full;

  5. The ferries—they don’t go anywhere;

  6. And more…

In holland, the motorways don’t get traffic jammed for hours (barring force majeure), the trains are fast, on time (and affordable); the airports are big enough; there are better sea-links, and so on.

A weak infrastructure means time and fuel lost by lorries idling idly in packed motorways. Fuel is expensive. Time is expensive—especially when foodstuffs are concerned.

Basically, infrastructure is a good investment; and one that the UK doesn’t do enough of.

Vocational Training…

In the UK, there exists a certain contempt of the word ‘vocational’. Yuck. Vocational. The images typically conjured are of lazy teenage boys sitting around in their DiDa classes (or whatever the hell they call them now) doing ‘ICT’ and ‘Game Design’.

And there’s a reason for this: training in the UK is very, very weak. The fact of the matter is, we can’t get those less fortunate to become competent craftsmen, IT personnel, or even shop-assisstants. (Some supermarkets have implemented their own numeracy and literacy tests for first time employees.)

Try going to a Dutch supermarket—Albert Heijn, let’s say.

Shop Assistant: ‘Hallo.’

Moi: ‘Hallo.’

BEEP BEEP

Moi: ‘Dank u vell.’

SA: ‘Astublieft.’

Fast, efficient, polite. In the UK? You’d likely have to wait a fair bit more and be asked a fair few more unnecessary questions before you’d get anything done. Let’s not even get into the quality of Dutch vocational training—they have separate universities for people like that (unlike here, where the best you’ll find is a poorly paid apprenticeship) and those universities are affordable (ditto), and have better facilities than UK ones.

And it’s not just at the tertiary level, mind you. Dutch highschools are better funded and have a much wider range of courses (that are taken seriously) available for non-academic students. Moreover, I have never seen Dutch schools as bad as some of the ones we have here.

EU

Britain has always been an insular country with insular tendencies. And recently, the bastards that borrowed money from fools banks to be spent profligately on swimming pools, jewellery, fashion and various other things they couldn’t afford—they’ve decided to jump on the anti-EU bandwaggon (ah, scapegoating) to cover up their irresponsibility.

Going into the merits of the EU is a topic for another time. I’ll leave it at this for now: every other EU country that has historically been comparable in wealth to the UK (e.g. Holland, Germany, France, Belgium) is both significantly richer, prone to less inflation, has less class division, and is growing faster than we are. That’s some coincidence, eh?

Let’s Finish

The Dutch are an odd, arrogant bunch with a terrible taste in food outside of cheese and waffles—both of which are fantastic, by the way.

(I’ve seen vegetables in hot water called ‘clear broth’. Oh, please.)

They also have a weird obsession with orange—they sell lots of orange shirts, trousers, mascots, and even suits in the colour. And of course they turned all the carrots orange, like I’ve previously mentioned.

But despite all this, they have a country with fantastic civil liberties (in how many parts of the world can two brothers marry and be on the drug user’s list?) and they’re rich too. We could learn something from them.

Just don’t think boiled, baked and fried vegetables are a good idea, okay?

PS: I’ll be posting the Poem of the Week soon. And that essay on The Essence of a Good Tale that I’ve been talking about. It’ll be really philosophical—indeed, I plan to hand it to my philosophy teacher in September, in lieu of doing whatever weird summer work they’ve chosen.

9 Jul 2014

(Delayed) Poem of the Week: Colour, Colour

Now, let me give you a brief background on this poem.

Initially, I wrote it as part of my (unsuccessful) submission to a funny little poetry mag called the Threepenny Review. I’m almost glad it didn’t please them, because, frankly; I don’t think their magazine was of any significance outside a few critic circles.

Anyway, Colour, Colour is a poem written to display the significance of good times in our lives; of how something beautiful, and pleasurable (i.e colour) can, quite literally, light up our world—and how very terrible it is to be without it.

The poem also makes use of some subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) references to colour significance:

Green for grass, and lush life –
White for puerility, and black for death.

Indigo, for queer rainbows.

I suppose this shows how very strongly connoted colours can be: we see them so regularly—in those usual contexts—that our brain pretty much thinks them one and the same. It’s why artists (of the visual kind) employ colour with such punctiliousness.

Anyway, here is the Google Drive link. Have fun.

(Or am I being too optimistic?)

8 Jul 2014

Holland

Hello to Those Who Have Not Forgotten About Me:

As I have been blabbering on about in the past couple of days, I am now in Holland. Don’t look so surprised: I don’t lie. Well, not most of the time, anyway.

Moving on, I am here to talk about Holland—or the ‘Netherlands’ as it is sometimes (bizarrely) known. (Why do they call it that? I should look it up, but, well, I can’t be bothered.)

For those of you who—for some strange reason known only to you—follow me, you may be thinking: ‘Geez, I know he’s in a foreign country and all, but shouldn’t he be talking about bloody writing instead of this gobbedygoop? And what the hell happened to the poem of the week? Has he forgotten about us?’

Rest assured that I have not forgotten about you, dear reader. It is merely that I have not had access to the Internet; in the instance that I do (as in, now) I have immediately started writing you this weird post (for your personal viewing pleasure, of course). I could have read another article on hardware, or watched porn, or do all that other crap kids my age are supposed to do. But I didn’t.

The Poem of the Week, by the way, is delayed up to the point that I can give you an analysis. I am leaving Holland on Friday, so I should certainly be able to give you something after that. Hopefully, I can get off my lazy arse and do it prior to that, but I digress.

Anyway, I am in Holland, I have lived in Holland many years ago, and; I have some opinions on it. Indeed, some of my opinion is based on fact, instead of the usual anecdote that plagues such things. Point is: I have the view of both insider and outsider. I can tell you a thing or two about this country. And maybe you’ll pay attention and learn something—it could apply to your country, you know.

Alex, We’re Getting Bored…

Okay, I’ll lay out this post in the quintessential Good–Bad–Ugly structure. If you think that too cliche, well, get over it.

The Good

I’ll begin with a grammatically incorrect statement: this country rich.

And as I’ve said, I’ll be using fact as well as personal whingeing in this weird blog post/essay/update thing.

According to the IMF, Holland had a nominal GDP per capita of 47,633 USD in 2013. This puts it in 13th place on their list.

I can tell you that GDP per capita is not the most accurate measure in the world, for reasons which I shall briefly summarise (as you may be able to guess, a more detailed explanation would require too many words. And an econ degree):

  1. GDP measures transactions, not wealth. Basically, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is defined as ‘the sum of all pecuniary transactions officially recorded in a nation’s jurisdiction’. If a country has a propensity to consumerism (which this one doesn’t)—so if its citizens prefer to eat at restaurants over cooking their own food, for example—then its GDP will be higher than that of an equally wealthy country that prefers to spend its money going on holiday, let’s say.
  2. GDP does not record the quality of services/products. It does not, for example, take into account the fact that modern cars fail less and look better than cars made 20 years ago—it only detects a change in the number bought.
  3. GDP does not take into account grey economies. This will be of great pertinence to the likes of Spain and Italy, among others.

Okay, let’s leave the economics aside and say this much: this country rich. (Yes, I know I’m repeating myself. Shoot me.)

The roads are perfectly asphalted. The trains are fast, comfortable and generally run on time. Dutch houses are nice (unlike those of a certain country I know). The Dutch have short working hours, and go on holiday regularly. Their education system is world class.

So, Holland is rich. What’s new?

This Country Pretty

In continuing with my abuse of English grammar, I have started to use headings like this. You don’t mind, do you?

Anyway: the place is filled with greenery. There are lots of parks, forests, flowers (a national pride) and waterworks. You do know they had to build a massive dike to keep out the North Sea, don’t you?

Bikes

Another national object of pride. The bikes are almost as numerous as the cars (the latter of which are very expensive, due to the massive tax they stuck on them) and people here do love their bikes. Heck: I love my Dutch bike. I can’t stand the English ones anymore.

Orange Carrots

‘Alex!’ you say; ‘Aren’t all carrots orange?’

Well, they are now. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, every carrot on the planet used to be white. Yes, white people. White. Not orange.

But you see, the Dutch farmers bred orange carrots because they had the same colour as that of the royal family. These carrots were very popular (they had some advantages over the vanilla white) and so they ended up killing the benevolent white carrots and replacing them with crazy Dutch ones. So there you go.

The Bad

Honestly, there’s not much to speak of here. They have one of the most democratic countries in the world. They have tons of civil liberties. They have money (though not nearly as much as the likes of Luxembourg and Norway).

It rains a lot. I suppose that is a disadvantage—though, mind you, I would take rain over infernal heat any day. But that’s just personal preference.

The Ugly

The Arrogance.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve seen other arrogant countries. France, for example. The French believe that although their country ain’t perfect (the cause of which is usually laid squarely upon the shoulders of the politicians. Grrr. Politicians.) it’s still better than pretty much anywhere else.

This arrogance usually expresses itself through the fact that some of them like to go in front of you in a queue, or through the fact that others refuse to speak English even though they clearly do understand some. Heck, some even pretend not to understand your French because it isn’t perfect.

You won’t see any such blatantly bad behaviour here in Holland. They’re too subtle a bunch for that.

My metaphor for Nederland (writers love metaphors, in case you didn’t know) is this a: an imperfect diamond suspended perfectly in diamond-hard ice.

Holland is a very nice country. But like the diamond, it is there to be admired; coveted; and never owned. In France, if you adhere to most French principles (good breakfast is croissants avec lait et chocolat, not bloody British sausages; and you have to speak ill of the politicians—even if you are one) then you can pretty much become French.

Heck, even here in Angleterre—we get it that we’re not the richest, and that our houses suck, and all that; but we are, on the whole, a pretty accepting bunch.

The Dutch are not accepting. Tolerant, yes; very much tolerant. But not accepting.

And don’t think that this is just my opinion. Holland got voted Most Unfriendly Country for Expats. (Though one is wont to question Forbes’ neutrality and criteria.)

The point is, after living here for two years and visiting the country multiple times after that, I’ve never once felt ‘Dutch’ or indeed ‘included’. A more accurate description would have been ‘weirdo foreigner on the sidelines’.

Don’t let this deter you from visiting though. It really is very nice.

Just don’t think you can easily become part of it.

4 Jul 2014

Today’s Update

Hail all who dare read:

I am letting you all in on a little secret today: writers have bad days. In fact, some days we feel like just curling up into bed, and not waking till tomorrow; or perhaps the day after that; or perhaps, even, sleeping there for all eternity, lost in a plethora of infinite dreams.

Indeed, I was attempting to write a post on dreams today. Unfortunately, I am finding it very difficult. I suspect I waited too long since my strange, vivid dream three nights ago; I have lost the thread of memories and emotions that came with it.

Such is the nature of dreams: powerful in their time, but ephemeral; forgotten easily, and remembered with great difficulty.

Anyway: this is my update for today. I do apologise for my lack of alacrity in posting as of late. Firstly, I had my exams; then came this unusually pleasant weather; and yesterday I was in Oxford, as my father had a job interview there. (Alas, it was not successful. However, it was too far away regardless.)

Despite this, I am ploughing on—difficulties in writing be damned—and shall soon be posting on... the essence of a great tale.

There are two reasons for this: firstly, I shall be finalising my edits for the Necromancer (and could do with a clear direction in that); and, secondly, it will act as a good primer for future posts on Aristotle’s Poetics which I’ve been reading.

I am also collecting more good music to add to my collection (a non-trivial task, believe me) which—despite being close to 3000 songs now—has started to feel inadequate in supplying my musical hunger.

If it is of any interest to you, my newly discovered Interesting Musician is Roger Subirana Mata—see his Jamendo page.

Very well, I need to get working. I have a bunch of eager-looking baggage to pack as well; I’m going to Holland on Sunday, if you aren’t aware.

(Of course you aren’t aware. Who follows Stargazer’s crazy life anyway?)

Oh, they’ve gotten restless from the lack of attention now...

‘When will that idiot come and pack us up?’ asked the big suitcase.

‘When he feels like it, duh. Don’t you know he has to write all that bullshit for his blog?’ replied the little suitcase.

The big suitcase only said: ‘I bloody hate the narcissistic bastard...’

1 Jul 2014

Analysis: The Summer Days (Poem of the Week)

Note: this post was delayed in publishing due to my unreliable Internet connection provided by BT and Virgin Media. Please do not kill me. Thank you.

Dear Blogger followers:

Today I shall write you an analysis on my latest poem—which, as you may have guessed, is called the Summer Days.

Now, I normally write the analysis along with the publication of the Poem of the Week. However, fortune has conspired against me by draining our car battery; fixing this involved three ours of my time, which is why there has been no analysis until now. If you wish to complain, please address your concerns to:

Fortune,
Fates Building,
Mythical Greek Road,
La-La Land.

Thank you.

On to the Analysis

(Read the poem here if you have’t done so already.)

Now this wee poem of mine is a little unusual: first of all, it’s quite happy; and second of all, it’s a bit rambly at the beginning:

The summer days
are long and fruitful things;
lasting for days upon days
of bright, remorseless sun
and crops growing in endless circles

This is for a number of reasons. The biggest reason—if I’m honest—is that this poem took a bit of time to start revealing its... essence, as I describe it. Essentially, a poem is a creation of both my conscious mind (through the transcription and decision-making) and of my unconscious (in its inherent creation); and since the poem’s aim and direction is determined by the latter, I cannot ‘force’ the poem into becoming what it isn’t.

Therefore, it took a while for me to really get into it.

There is a second, more ‘literary’ reason as well—the poem relies very strongly on the imagery and atmosphere, which takes words to create. It is not until a while that the direction starts to become defined. (At stanza 9, to be specific.)

Quotational Analysis

Going on with the quoted stanza above, we’ll dissect the poem—especially with regards to some of the specific minutiae.

‘Long and fruitful things [the summer days]’ tells us not only the literal aspect of summer (i.e. lots of fruits are ready to eat then) but carries the second meaning—that summer is an easy time, devoid of scarcity and hardship. ‘Lasting for days upon days’ gives the poem the first taste of an aspect of summer: the fact that it seems to last forever—the fact that we think good times are forever.

The last two lines of this stanza are somewhat contradictory to the beginning. Indeed, the dichotomy manifests itself within line 4, with the opposing connotations of ‘bright’ and ‘remorseless’.

The last line—‘and crops growing in endless circles’—gives summer an almost Sisyphean nature: you can enjoy it all you like, but you won’t get far.

The first stanza is therefore a taste of what the rest will bring. We know summer—the quintessential time when trees overflow with fruit and money seems to grow on them—isn’t quite the great thing it is.

Going further on the ‘bright, remorseless sun’: the sun represents passion; and the adjective reveals that such Dithyrambic pursuits are not easy ones.

More Analysis...

Let’s go through some more stanzas.

golden lights of ebullient suns
shine carelessly upon lovers embracing
in grass and
the shadows of traitor trees

I should mention the structure before I go further. Those of you who have read my other poems will know that I’m usually a firm no-licentiousness kind of guy—you won’t see any missing periods or weird line structures in my poems.

Well, this one’s slightly different.

There are no periods until towards the end of the poem. And much of the poem has no capitalisation either, and is written in free verse.

The reason is simple: the summer days represent a time of freedom and carelessness, and the writing is free and careless to show that. Even the use of a sans-serif typeface is relevant—it breaks the usual serif-only conditions imposed upon fiction writing.

Anyway, this stanza is the first mention of sex. Not in a crude manner, mind you; and the inclusion is not for vulgar purposes, especially when you consider the fact that all of the lovers are young.

And this is a poem about young people, to a degree. No other group hates authority more, nor likes sex so much, (nor is so free) as young people. Summer is meant to be our time, and for many of us—it is.

Another literary point to observe is the ‘traitor trees’. Aside from starting the alliteration (writers love alliteration, if you didn’t know) it portrays the trees as... against the wishes of summer!

Now, bear in mind that summer does not disapprove of the lover’s behaviour; on the contrary, it likes it. Trouble is, it doesn’t want it happening under where it has little control (i.e. where the sun doesn’t shine). This reveals a manipulative, controlling aspect of summer that is concurrent with many elemental poems, and contrasts with its otherwise blas√© attitude.

So, really: you may think you’re free, but in fact you’re doing what summer wants you to do.

Analysis, Analysis—Are You Getting This?

The stanza after that is a tribute to alliteration, so I won’t go too much into it. (Enjambement also works well, if you’re the type who knows what that is.)

seas of sparkling, shining glory
glimmer to the song
of delightful dolphins and
singing sailors

No, let’s skip to stanza 9:

life is a wonder to behold;
death is a worry forgotten;
and purpose can be anything
and nothing

The last line is crucial here. We now see the direction the poem is going in. It is better illustrated, however, in the next stanza:

as we kiss
and caress
peachy gold skin warm
with a tenacious, undying life;
we lose ourselves
in deepest pleasures
and most perfect illusion

Aside from the sibilance (geez, this could be an English Lit lesson now) this stanza reveals two major things.

Firstly, the line ‘tenacious, undying life’ is really rather ironic: yes, summer seems to give its denizens a startling energy and alacrity (in contrast to winter chthonians) but really—it’s not a natural life. It’s the energy of summer; and it has possessed them utterly.

Secondly—and most importantly—we are told that what we have experienced now is... an illusion. A summer mirage, so to speak.

The method by which we are deluded is interesting as well: pleasure. (Especially through sex, but that is more a product of it being one of the higher and more self-evident pleasures, rather than any specific succubus-like properties of summer.)

I suppose that it is through our most Dithyrambic experiences—our most passionate, energic, and powerful moments—that we are fooled.

Get On With It

In the final stanzas, we learn something simple: winter may be cold and it may be hard, but it is true and real. Be careful of losing yourself in something good. There may not be an autumn to wake you up.

Final Words

This has been a lengthy post, and a rather dry one at times. I hope you have stuck with me, and listened to what I have to say. I may be just a teenager—but I’ve learned a few things in my short time on Earth. Perhaps I am right; perhaps I am not. Either way, I hope you have read in between the lines, and gleaned whatever knowledge I have missed, omitted or not understood.

I’m getting all heavy and philosophical now aren’t I?

I’ve been reading Aristotle’s Poetics and—although not terribly deep or accurate in my opinion—it has gotten me thinking. I’ll post some fancy essay on that too when I’m done with it: keep an eye on the info centre for that.

I’ve also had a very strange, vivid dream. It’s not uncommon for me to get them, but this one was different.

I went through the same journey on a dream a few years back; except that this time, I knew I was dreaming, and exerted some control over it. I made it… more desirable. I visited only the places I liked. I even used telekinesis.

I’ll probably blog about that too. And tell me if I sound crazy—we artsy types aren’t the most down to earth people on the planet.

Anyway, here concludes this post. Tell me if you have any other thoughts on it.

Oh, and FOSS stands for ‘free and open source software’. The poem was created under Linux Mint using Gedit and LibreOffice, if that means anything to you. I could go into further detail, but this is not a geek blog.

PS: I shall probably make a few revisions to this poem; come back later.