Welcome to the July 2016 issue of The Kinder Muse Newsletter. This month, we have another guest column from Tyree Campbell! Enjoy!
A Hopeless Cause
By Tyree Campbell
Some people run/some people crawl/some people don’t even move at all.
–Pozo-Seco Singers, a one-and-done from around 1966.
Some people read/some people write/some people read and write/some people text but hardly read at all except for skimming.
If we allow technology to murder literacy, then we also allow it to murder dreams. Reading presents possibilities unlike anything in the audio-visual media. Reading—fiction or non-fiction—and ONLY reading gives you the answers to the six basic questions: who, what, where, when, why, and wow. Reading, and ONLY reading, enables you to focus on the matter at hand, because it is very difficult to multi-task while you read. Even snagging the occasional chocolate-covered cherry and taking the infrequent sip from a gin-and-tonic are maneuvers more autonomic than deliberate, while you are sitting there engrossed in reading.
More and more, reading is becoming an antiquated form for the communication of ideas. Sometimes it seems as if readers [okay, and writers] belong to a semi-exclusive society—abandoned by some folks, never even joined by others. You can view the wall at conventions.
“I don’t read much.”
“I don’t have time to read.”
“I’m just getting back into reading.” [But I’m not going to buy a book because I need to get that Darth Vader bobblehead].
Points to companion: “She’s the reader. I’m with her.”
Those are walls that are difficult to breach. But it’s not us who are locked inside those walls; it’s the other folks. By getting them to read, we dislodge a brick or two from that wall. Maybe even erect a ladder, or put a grapnel on a rope. If they don’t read much, or don’t have time, or somebody else reads, it’s a tough wall.
Unless the convention is specifically literary, most folks who browse the dealer room are looking for trinkets. Still, a good ten to fifteen percent of attendees buy books—which is why we do well enough at those venues, despite the distractions of tee-shirts, mimosa-scented soap, period costumes, jewelry, and oddments.
Don’t get the idea that I’m writing this because I want you to buy our publications. Well, I do, but that’s not why. In the society you live—that great group of disparate people who constitute our population [indeed, the population of the Solar System]—the transmission of ideas, concepts, values, possibilities, and emotions, and with it the potential for thought and meaningful discussion, is diminishing. Thus the battles for us as small independent publishers, the battles for readers and writers, the battles for the next generation, are best fought by re-engendering readership. That’s why.
I’ve heard that this is a losing battle. That I’m preaching to the choir. That this is a lost cause. In response I think of Orlando Bloom as Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean, who said, “No cause is lost as long as there is one fool left to fight for it.”
As difficult as it is to get folks to read stories, it’s nothing compared to the difficulty of getting folks to read poetry. Oh, you should hear some of the responses I hear from folks at the dealer table. I’ve probably even botched a few sales by inviting their attention to poetry. You should see the panic in their eyes when they realize they’re looking at our poetry selections. I’m surprised they don’t rush off to the rest rooms to wash off the cooties. You think stories might be lost causes? Poetry is a hopeless cause.
Which is why this fool is going to fight for that cause.
Why read poetry? We’re going to answer that question over the next several issues of our poetry digest,Illumen—in short pieces written by genre poets. But the topics are not limited to genre poetry. As writers, you should read everything you can, not just Asimov, Sheffield, Vance, Cox, and Ringo, but Clancy, Dickens, the Brontes, Chaucer, Turgenev, Hamilton [there are several], Fleming, and so on. Why? Leaving aside the fact that they all tell good, solid, readable stories, the way they craft those stories can be instructive. How do you present the objects in a simple and somewhat medieval house? The Cathedral of Known Things by Edward Cox, p. 201. Not that you copy him, no. But he does give an idea of how it can be done. The more you read, the more you find out how other writers approach problems you yourself encounter in your writing. Capisce?
And as writers [and readers] you should read poetry. I suspect the greatest fear we have of poetry involves comprehension: we have scant idea what the poet is trying to say. Worse, we’re afraid our peers might find out that we don’t understand it. Oh, dear.
It’s just words. But words arranged in such a way that they evoke our emotions—joy, sorrow, and all those intermediates. Those words tell us things we did not know or did not bother to consider. Robert Frost’s “Out, Out—” is a note about the brevity and uncertainty of life. Erin Donahoe’s “Beauty’s Lament” conveys sadness and longing for a state of life that seems unattainable. L. A. Story’s “Cap’n Jones” is a longing for a lost love. Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” immortalizes unquestioning duty. Eugene Fields’ “The Duel” demonstrates the futility of bickering [oh, you don’t know that one? Try “The gingham dog and the calico cat…”]. Rudyard Kipling’s “Tommy” shows how we regard our soldiers differently in times of peace and war. Sorry to run on like this . . .
These descriptions are accurate but superficial. Each of these poems has deeper meanings as well. Like art, beauty in poetry is in the eye of the beholder. Each of these poems is waiting for you, the reader, to behold a meaning or two.
Okay, enough ranting. Give poetry a try. Yes, you! Reader of fiction, you! Don’t have time to read, you! Terrified of poetry, you! Buy a poetry book. Not necessarily ours [although we would appreciate that]; there are several small presses that publish genre poetry and/or mainstream poetry. And if you run across something you don’t understand, well, you have social media and buckets of phone numbers, right? Surely someone you know can discuss it with you. That’s why you have social media. And if all else fails, e-mail me. Not that I have the answers—but I’ll try to help you find them.
Bottom line: [in Vin Diesel’s voice]: You’re not afraid of a little poetry, are you?
A DAY IN THE LIFE INTERVIEW SERIES
If you live in San Diego and subscribe to my weekly Ocean Beach Writers Networking Group newsletter, then you know I just posted an interview with local writer, Chad Deal. There’s also a new interview up with one of my long-time writer friends, Aurelio Rico Lopez III, as well as a new writer friend and fellow HWA member, Mark Tullius. By the time you receive – and open – this newsletter, there will be at least one more interview . . .
Will it be yours?
Just send me an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the questions!
THE OCEAN BEACH WRITERS NETWORKING GROUP
WHO: Published and yet-to-be-published writers, poets, fiction and non-fiction writers, editors, copywriters, and content providers, indie publishers et al. Whether you’re a local OBcean, live in San Diego at large, or are “just visiting” the area, you are welcome to join us.
WHAT: The Ocean Beach Writers Networking group for serious professional writers.
WHERE: Te Mana Cafe on Voltaire, between Cable and Bacon in Ocean Beach.
WHEN: Every Thursday from 12:30PM-1:30PM.
WHY: To connect, share resources, referrals – and more!
HOW: Just go to FaceBook and click “join” on the Ocean Beach Writers Networking Group and/or email me at email@example.com to be placed on the weekly newsletter list.
Please be sure to thank Te Mana’s owners, Marguerite and Jason, for welcoming us. Check out this awesome menu as well as their beer-on-tap, decadent Mimosas et al. Wines from Argentina and Chile have arrived! Show your appreciation for the inimitable, cheerful and dedicated staff by tipping often and generously.
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Looking forward to connecting with you!
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