Sunday, April 27, 2008

How writing is changing

OK, so I read in the NYT that nowadays it seems there are more writers than readers. Fewer and fewer people are reading and more and more people are writing. Sometimes I think I am only writing for myself. Sometimes I think that is what the writing obsession is all about.

The self-publishing biz is burgeoning. The bloggorhea is boundless. The vanity presses are hooking them in by the boatload, so many suckers that Borders is getting into the biz, offering editors and publishing for a fee, though when it comes to shelf space, not so much. The concept is transforming just as everything the web touches is transformed. I read stories about web-based companies that pop up, grow and blossom into billion dollar ideas. I read about China having bypassed the US for online activity.

I Googled my name and found three dozen listings some in foreign languages, reviews and links from all over the world. This ethereral connectivity spreads through the electrons and photons, from mind to mind. No one knows who reads these words and what they think.

I have had a website since 1993 and my own URL since 1998. I taught myself Photoshop and HTML and in a matter of months wrote, er...created an interactive sestina called BLOODLINES ( and just put it out there. I got nominated for a webby, more properly the Perranoski Prize and featured by a German design site. It is all sort of happenstance. Yet, I see it as part of my pattern since my first days of writing when I was not yet a teen.

My first story was a science fiction story based on my personal fantasy of being an alien. I came to this conclusion because I felt I did not belong in the family I was born into, and was adopted. My baby pictures, my memories, photos of my birthdays and family events, were evidence that I was indeed born into the family I had. However, I never felt at home there. I imagined that I was somehow spirited into my mother's womb by space creatures.

My fantasy, as I walked in the woods, was that there was a certain tree somewhere that I had not yet found that was really not a tree at all, but a cleverly disguised device masquerading as a tree. If would but pull a branch, push a knot or the scar of a broken branch in the right combination, the tree would somehow transport me back to my real home, on another planet. I read that this alienation fantasy is quite common among artists. especially those who had suffered some sort of abuse. I have even had conversations with others about similar fantasies. But, in truth, I still search for that certain tree.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Poem/Song Lyric

Nota Bene

“Unto what may the fetus, it its mother’s womb be likened?
Unto a notebook that is folded up. Its hands rest on its temples,
elbows on thighs, heels against buttocks, its head lies between its knees.
Its mouth is closed and its navel is open…when it comes forth into the
air of the world, what is closed opens and what is open closes.”

From the Babylonian Talumud, Chapter 3, folio 30a

The notebook is open now and the furious scribbling begins,
All the small things get noticed, the violet, the Japanese beetle,
The wind when it caresses, coupled dragonflies hovering.
So many notes fill each page, all the minutiae from the crack
In the sidewalk to the lightning leaping across the night sky.

Each chapter is there dissolved in time, a crystal of stimulus
And it will be recalled, a page turned back to reread again.
But the writing must continue, furious and focused. Each
Insignificant detail must be recorded by the eye and ear.

Nothing gets past us. We may not even be aware of the
Record but it is there, waiting to be misplaced or revived.
At last the notebook full, the ending weakens. The cliché
Of Death like finis at the end of the movie. As if one
Had not taken one last notice of this emptiness.
No one would believe this. No one.

# # #

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Play: A scene from Industrial Strength, a work about work

What follows is a scene from a play written for a particular talent. David Jon Krohn is an actor, a mime, a dancer/choreographer, a juggler, a wire walker, a technician and an electrician. After a series of long conversations about his work and his life, I wrote this play around his talent. David plays "The Electrician," the central figure in a play about the kind of physical labor that I believe will one day be lost to the robot and the computer.

The play included fire eating, juggling, arc welding, plaster-board workers on stilts, power tools, dances, songs, poems and a fly in finale, where the electrician, suspended with an invisible chord from a two-ton crane, levitated over the audience like an angel.

This country was built on the backs of laborers who expended their lives in the hard work of providing for their families, surviving in a society that lacks respect for honest labor and grew from the sweat and blood of millions of unsung workers. This play honors the workers who created the very substance of our lives.

What follows is just a short scene from the 70 minute play, Industrial Strength, which ran for two seasons, performed in a working factory, the Wanner Metalworx, an operating metal fabrication plant that allowed the company to set up during the weekend. In many sold out performances, during two separate summers, the show played to standing room only with standing ovations. The theatre was created out of nothing, lights strung, folding chairs set up, a ticket taker at the door. We broke not only the fourth wall of the stage, we broke the theatre with a play housed temporarily in an industrial district that is now becoming gentrified loft apartments. This scene begins on a suspended platform above the audience, after a fitful dream, the electrician wakes and dresses for work.

The Electrician:

"Work. Energy required. Movement, required.
Must have movement over distance.


[Taped: The wind of time and space has worn away
the night and the light breaks in
like a blind thief to steal the rest.]

(Tape ends and the electrician continues awakened from the dream.)

“Power is defined as the amount of energy required to move one pound one foot
in one second - foot-pounds-per-second.

“Some days, I don’t have the power to move one foot,
which feels like it weighs a ton, one inch off the ground, for one second.”

(The Electrician climbs down.)

[To Self:) "Rubber souls, rub her soles, rub a dub dubber, royal black rubber stack soles, socks with no holes. It’s cold. Long John, long John, he had the strangest shoes he had a heel in front he had a heel behin’ and you never could tell which way he’s gone. Coverall, cover me . Cover me all. Coveralls cover me."

"Can’t be late. Where are my tools? Where is my tool belt ?"

(Two crew members put on his belt.)

“The belt is a vestment of tools.
My tools are my armor.
My tools protect me.
My hands protect me.
I gird myself in tools to touch the fire in the wire."

The Crew

“My tools are my armor. My tools protect me.”

The Electrician

“My life is in my hands with the tools
Hand tools in my power belt bring power to my hands.
Without these hands there would be no power.
No wonder I protect them.
I will not be grounded. My belt will protect me.
The fire will not pass through me.

The Crew

“My tools are my armor. My tools will protect me.”

The Electrician

(He removes each tool from the belt, shares it with the audience and hands it either to a crew member or an audience member. A crew member takes it and reverently lays it down.)

"Tester tells me if the wire glows hot.
Hot is an awl in the eye, a hole in the heart.
Hot is death, sure enough.

"These are my hand tools. They keep my hands working.
They keep me focused on my task; extend the power of my hands.

(He juggles the screwdrivers)

"These are drivers, Phillips & flat blades all insulated for their purpose
to screw the power, to wire it to the line, to pour it through the sockets. Torque!
This is a speed driver. It torques fast. Torque! Torque!

"Here’s my big hammer, handle it thus. Bam! Punch a hole. Bam!”

The Crew

(Throughout his speech, the crew repeats key words to stress their impact: Torque! Bam!, etc.”)

The Electrician

“Torpedo level, Magnetized, sticks to steel.
Box or pipe it’s straight and square.

"Square is important in times of stress. (Crew begins square box step)
Square comforts us. Keeping things square is part of the ritual, straight and perpendicular is secure.

"The squarest work is the surest work. Precision is protection.
Tape, mounted so I can measure and still it stays in my belt.

"Tiebacks keep it neat, or hold it in place until I strap, screw, or anchor it down.
Crew starts to stagger during box step, getting more off-balance.

"Nothing is left loose. Loose is not safe.

"My belt protects me. My tools encircle me.
Even if I accidentally open it, He opens belt and spins around my belt will not fall.

"Electricians work with fire the way lion tamers work with cats.
The predictable, learnable part is a matter of nerve and practice.

(A Crew member hands him a torch. He eats fire."

"But the danger comes when your back is turned,
when you think you understand,

(A wrench falls, clanging to the concrete.)

"when someone drops a wrench from up above or a wire gets crossed.

(The electrician stops, walks closer to the audience, and in a more intimate tone says,)

"I saw a guy on a job once

(Movement Crew “explode” arms, fall to prone position.)

"the fire blew out his elbows;
and as he went to his knees, the fire blew off his kneecaps.

He was dead before he hit the ground.

(Preacher, a member of the crew, Rises up and says)

“Born to toil! Born to die!”

The Electrician

(He goes back to the belt, fondling each tool as he takes it from its holster.)

"Cable knife, wicked blade. Hooked, like a weapon.
locks into position to skin service cable.
Drywall saw, quick-toothed, rough-cut access wires within walls.

"Inside that darkness one needs light.
I carry my own on my belt.
You have not known darkness until you work with high voltage blind.

"Small crescent. Adjustable, Many wrenches in one.

"Grippers: Channel locks snap open to accommodate any size object I need to grip.

"Bent-back dikes, diagonals, slice on an angle through solid metal
clean and close to the wall

"Lineman’s pliers, Kleins, the best. What’s in a name? Quality protects me.
This part grips, this cuts, and the jaws don’t touch.

"And these, solid, long-nose pliers, Notch strips insulation, then I twist
and cut the wire with this. Screw the wire into the terminal,
Torque! and I’m done to a turn.

(Begins a paranoid gathering of tools, reloading his belt.)

"My tools protect me. My belt girds me
I will not touch the hot wire My dream of white fire and burnt skin will not come true.
"I will not fry, I will not die. I will not be grounded.

"My tools bring power to bear. Torque! Screw! Hot ... it’s hot!
Watch the wire! Screw the power! Electrician runs off


“Adam was condemned to live by the sweat of his brow. Adam was damned to toil and
worry and die!”

(Music begins. Actual factory sounds arranged by experimental composer, Keith Fleming)

( DC Generator for crane turns back on.)

.......... SCENE 8 ..........


They perform phrases of tool-inspired movement and then move up the bay toward the crane with the electrician approaching them. As he passes they light him with hand-held work lights on extension cords.

.......... SCENE 9 ..........

“The Electrician”
(Entering suspended from a crane like an angel)

“The clouds kiss and growl before they gnaw holes in each other.
Grumble and flash. Their moisture fills the air.
Fronts collide and winds blow. Lightning forks. Thunder cracks.
That’s power. That’s electricity. Molten white and firing. Fire-ring.

(He descends, lowering himself with the controller, from the crane)

“Sometimes, you have to work the wires hot,
everything is insulated.

(Juggling the tape rolls as the crew circles)

“I insulate with tape: Insulation is part of the ritual,

ALL Crew say colors with electrician .

green, ground;
white, neutral;
black, hot.
green, ground;
white, neutral;
black, charred.
green, ground;
white, neutral;"

This is a small sample of a complex work, too complex to present in writing, the acting and the location made it come alive, but it imparts a flavor of the evening, filled with darkness, the smells and dirt of an actual factory.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Writing while driving

What follows is an experiment in creativity. I am trying to challenge myself to write in ways that force me to get out of my habits. The thought is that one can create new kinds of work if one gets away from old habit. This was written while driving on I-70 headed West from Columbus to Dayton.

Doing two things at once

Prism of my cracked windshield refracts
Across the pages, a slash of colored light
Layered like spilled fruit juices
I turn the wheel and it disappears.
A red rabbit blurs by.

Sun glares intensely on the starred
Rear window of the white car ahead,
I can’t make out the driver.
Moving snake of ink tracks
Across the page, making a road,
Where time stops thought;
Pours content like concrete
Into the void of the page.

I accelerate to 60,
While writing: sumac, locust,
The bony white body of a sycamore
As they loom up then zoom
Peripherally, like roads going off;
Like the road my hood is eating, all part
Of the blur of blooming that retreats to
The black at the back of my head.

The splash of light is back, quite
By accident, the road winding to the right.
I am now doing 52, behind a white-haired man
In an old white car. Here are two black men
In a big blue car. A black couple in a silver
One. They have all lived on the road while
I scrawled words at the wheel.

Boats across the green median, pulled by blue
Pickups and in the sky; a red-tailed hawk floating
In another time. A canoe overturned on the roof
Of a green Barracuda strains against its bonds.
The prism flickers on the back of my hand,
Moves up to cuff my wrist, crawls up my arm
Into the shadow of the visor and is gone.

Suddenly slowing, the traffic grows so thick for a time
I have to close the tablet and put the pen down.
Hay in cylindrical bales, fields of soybeans yellowing.
It is easier to write at 55. Not to mention the savings.
I notice that I mistook the white-haired woman in the white
Car for a man. Distracted, I suppose. Lost focus.

The prism lies quiescent on the journal.
I pass the woman again and come up to
The couple in the silver sedan. They have
Two children who wave. I wave back and
Pull around them, accelerating. The prism fades.

Black and white cows in an open green field,
Car-high corn fields, green blades fluttering,
Traffic closing in and braking down, 40, 30, 15,
A wreck burns on its back, a red rabbit in flames.

# # #

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blogging about writing, writing about blogging

As a writer, I have been watching the warping of the arts that the internet has been encouraging for many years. I first put up my artwork and poetry in 1993. Since that time, I have met many people and been more and more interested in how this dance of electrons is changing the world of communications, the arts and my fellow human beings. I have come to the realization that I am fascinated enough by the torrent of change in the stream of atomic pixelization to dip my toe in it. I have always been an experimenter. I have written about every type of work one can and now I am going to start blogging. I hope to produce something new every week and share my other work with the world. Anyone who wants to communicate and think out loud with me is welcome to join the conversation. My only rule is that I don't want to talk politics or any other subject unless the conversation is done creatively, that is in a creative form.