Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Skywriter


Anytime a writer puts his work out there to the public, he or she is exposing a piece of themselves that people often hide. It is especially true with poets. They are usually revealing a part of their soul.

It is a layer reveal that we take with trepidation, as we make ourselves vulnerable to an unpredictable environment. It is also exciting, however, like the brief moment when we first decide to go skinny-dipping on a deserted beach. The covers are off and we are as we were born.

My latest book, Ball of String, took about ten years to put together. It isn’t only about the writing and selecting of the poems. It is about determining what is ready. A typical poet probably revises a poem fifteen or twenty times or more, and we never know when it is finished. The end result may be totally different from what we start with, and each iteration usually involves putting it out to a small group of readers who are expected to find fault. We also sometimes enter poems in blind contests where we will get positive or negative reinforcement in the results. Every judge is different and every reader has preferences in style and form. All of this helps to decide what works may relate well to readers.

In my case, I also have found that collections of poetry work better if they are infused with some color that can bring the reader into a poetic world that has not been enticing to many modern readers. I direct most of my poems to subjects that are relevant to the lives of all of us, and I want to present an attractive product.

The color photos that I use in my books are all my own. I take a great deal of time searching for subjects that will relate to the poetry. This is often difficult because many poems are ethereal by nature and deserve a little shelter from a world that judges too quickly.

My photos are sometimes designed to bring a little humor to the book. Most usually just poke around the edge of the poem, and require the reader to actually do some work to see where the combination is going.

I am pleased and proud of Ball of String. It is a commentary of a lifetime passage as I have seen it develop, but it is also a gradual reflection of how all of us are connected to each other not only through our genes but through our interdependence as we live on this big ball of string.

In a world that is changing so fast, I have often felt like the “Skywriter” in my book. I float alone above a place I no longer fully understand. And I search for a familiar place to land. Ball of String is that place for me. I hope you like it.

May you all have a wonderful holiday.

The Skywriter

He climbed slowly into the weathered biplane,
Whispering to it in the late afternoon cold.
The engine coughed a tired greeting
Then settled into a rhythmic beat
That carried them into an azure sky.

The heavens were his canvas
His brush the noisy antique that carried him.
For decades, he painted in shapes and words,
Fighting the vagaries of wind and cloud,
Viewed by millions watching in anticipation.

But the world had moved on.
The audience looked to other canvases.
Clouds captured in boxes, had conquered blue sky.
Words hid in their own vapor trails,
And people looked in instead of up.

He circled beneath unseen stars,
Searching, in the fading light, for a place
Where he could come to rest.
Where messages were still floated in bottles
And words were still written on the wind.