And my voice rings on again

The Mask

So throughout this blog I have always talked about both the style and the meanings behind my poetry. I am starting to reach a point where I no longer feel the need to discuss my technique because I utilize the same general techniques in many of my poems. So for now on I will only be discussing technique if I utilize something new.

 

That being said, let’s get into “The Mask”. This poem is a big coming out for me. Before this I released poems that talked about being unhappy and such, but this poem describes the life I have been living for longer than I know. I can’t remember when I put on my mask. For as long as I can remember, I would hide my terror at making a mistake with a veil of confidence and sarcasm. I would sprinkle in some self deprecating jokes and a morbid sense of humor to mask the moments that reality leaked through. I was good at this. I recently confessed to my mom that I hated myself in high school. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. For years I hid that from my family and friends. I can’t speak for her, but I think it caught her by surprise. To give some background, my mom is a guidance counselor who works with a lot of kids who struggle with things like depression, so for her to not know when her own son was struggling was tough. I regret not talking to her. I regret not telling anyone. But I hid for so long that I sort of forgot that I was hiding at times. My main source of fear (I don’t call it depression or anxiety because that would warrant a diagnosis and I am no doctor) is perfectionism. To me, building a mask was always a better option than admitting that I was unhappy. To be sad or angry was imperfect in my mind. I prefered to work on my cocky, sarcastic, morbid, borderline egotistical character than reveal the mess of a person underneath. Every little mistake, I internalized rather than express how it hurt.

The poem tells the result. If you listened to last week’s poem you know that I recently went through a pretty rough patch. After being able to so casually keep on the mask, this struggle made me break character. “For the first time in forever I shall see my own face in the mirror.” I was caught off guard by how far gone I really was. I have been trying to get ahold of who I was before, but so far separating the mask from reality has been extremely hard and I fear the old me is forever changed. It is sort of like those pictures of a tree growing around a sign. I have fused to my mask and now am in the painful process of tearing myself away from it. I keep catching myself trying to shell up again. I’ll build a part of a mask and catch myself. I am trying to figure out how to live without this crutch.

I also want to make something clear. If you are hiding, if you built your own mask, take it off. Tell someone and get help. If you can’t take it off, ask for help. If you can’t tell someone in person just yell into your keyboard. I couldn’t talk about this in person. I have conditioned myself to lie about feelings, but something about just typing things out makes it easier. So, set yourself free. Whatever it takes, be real, be you and I’ll do my best to be me.

Brother, I Hunt for my Angel

“Brother, I Hunt for My Angel” is not only the longest poem I have ever recorded, but also the most involved on the production side. The poem was recorded in segments. Each verse and chorus was its own unique recording that then had to be spliced together. This process led to some interesting changes made throughout. The first major difference was the ability to edit the actual content of the poem post recording. I ended up scrapping one instrumental segment for this initial version of the poem. Speaking of instrumental sections, that was the reason I recorded the poem in segments. I was concerned how the instrumental would sound after recording and I did not want to risk losing the whole poem to it. This was my first time experimenting with instruments in my poetry, so I kept things relatively safe and only included my mandolin, which I recorded in the same process as my normal poetry. I think the extra effort was worth it, although I would have liked to kept working on the sound quality of the instrumental segments so the mandolin rang a little cleaner.

The technical act of writing the poem was very similar to previous poems despite the added challenge of deciding how to incorporate the mandolin. I utilized a lot of repeating phrases and structures. This is particularly evident in the word “brother” and in all the music segments. I wanted to create an almost echoing correspondence within the lyrics of the poem. I did break the structure in a few places where I thought the main character would break (We’ll get into how I knew where he would break). Overall, the technical writing in this poem was secondary to the message.

This blog and my poetry is my outlet. I tend to hold things in until I burst, but this past Sunday was the single worst day of my life. Just under the past two years I have been in a relationship that I can only describe as life saving. My girlfriend was my best friend and we had our whole future planned out. I was never one to believe in love at first sight, but the work we both put in, the understanding we had, I thought our love was unbreakable. And it was, but not irreplaceable. Sunday night, I got on a Skype call with my girlfriend, and with tears in her eyes, she said we should break up. I was shocked. I loved her. I still do. And she loved me. She even said so as we talked. But that’s where it gets complicated. It was because she loved me that she wanted to end things now before she hurt herself and me more than we already were. She had found another person. Her “prince” in the poem. I couldn’t blame her. He was at the same college, I am three hours away. He is another artist. I am a scientist. How could I compete. I couldn’t just let her go though. I had to make sure she was in good hands. So I talked to him. I made him promise me that he would take care of her. She was after all my angel. I still hurt, but I trust her to have made the right decision. And I trust she knows that she still has a part of me with her. I will stay. I am the brother on the road. She is my angel. He is the prince. And I will never forget her. I will never stop loving who she is and what she has done for me. But you’ll hear more about that in another poem.

 

I Like to Say I’m Happy

“I Like to Say I’m Happy.” The title tells you everything you need to know about this short poem. It is an expression of all the unexplainable sadness that crops up. It is about the self doubt, the anxiety, the little dark thoughts that worm their way through everything. This blog post will be a little different then most of my post in that it is only in part about the poem. Although I wrote this with a structure in mind, it probably took the least amount of time of any poem I have written. “I like to Say I’m Happy” was completed in around ten minutes, while I waited for my chemistry class to begin. Normally I rewrite and edit every poem, but this is not just a poem for me. It is a kind of confession. It is an admittance of my own shortcomings. As a poet ( particularly a spoken word poet), it is expected that I would share my personal feelings and insights, but if you read the earlier post to this blog you will see that I hid behind fictitious stories and a prayer I grew up with. This poem is my first step out into the light. It is me saying that sometimes things are not perfect.

Before I dig to deeply into the personal side I wanted to cover the symmetric layout of the poem.

I like to say I’m happy

I live a good life

I smile when people say hello

 

I like to say I’m happy

Because I’m afraid of what they’ll say if I don’t

 

I like to say I’m happy even though I don’t know if I am

 

I like to say I’m happy

because I’m not sure why I’m not

 

I like to say I’m happy

I live trying to forget

I try to ignore the voices that say I’m not

The poem follows a three line, two line, one line, two line, three line layout that is reflected over the central statement. That along with the repeated title phrase is supposed to build an almost circular poem. It begins and ends with the voices of other people, although the ending voices are internal as compared to external in the start. This change in external to internal is another point of symmetry with the top half being focused on the external force of other people, while the bottom revolves around the inner struggles that seek to tear us down.

Now that I have explained my structure, it’s time to do the hard part. Anybody who has known me for awhile knows that I do not particularly like expressing emotions. I try to hide any feelings behind morbid jokes and my focus on academics. Unfortunately you can only bottle things up so much, especially when you are dealing with a host of self inflicted stress. People often use being a perfectionist as a way to brag, while also seeking pity for having a weakness, but real perfectionism is so much more than a cliche answer to an interview question. Perfectionism is seeing every wrong answer on a test as a fatal flaw in who you are as a person. It is not accepting anything less than a hundred percent, because you thought everyone would make fun of you otherwise. That was me. Most of my schooling was completed under this fear that I wouldn’t be good enough. I lived in a world where you were either the best or you pretended to not care about that topic. Even after I became an Eagle Scout, National Honor Society President, and was in line to become Valedictorian, I still wasn’t good enough. I hated that I couldn’t meet my own standards which meant I hated myself. Imagine being too afraid to admit something was wrong with you because that would mean you weren’t perfect, that was the twisted world I lived in, and still live in at times. I still struggle at times, but through high school and now in college I have learned some strategies to fight back the doubt. I met people who showed me ways to balance things. I connected with my best friend who taught me that it is okay to talk about it. My poetry is my release. My poetry is me admitting I am not perfect and that is okay.

Our Father

 

   “Our Father” was a hard poem for me to write. Not only is it longer than many of the poems I have written before, but its incorporation of existing text made the choices in language much more difficult. Every section of the poem had to incorporate a line at the start of the section. This meant that every section had to connect topically and fit the flow. I tried to vary the strategy used in each section as well. In several locations, I used reputation of a word, while in others places I repeat an entire phrase. In many of the places that I did not use repetition, I utilized similar sounding words (made more similar by pronunciation). Outside of all the similar phrases, words, and sounds, I also played on the prayer format. I utilized phrases and language typical of a formal prayer. In the final section of the poem after I have gone through the entirety of the prayer, I decided to utilize a call back by incorporating lines from the prayer in the wrap up. I further made reference to faith by discussing the bread and wine used in the Eucharist and ending the poem with amen. I am not quite thrilled with some of the smaller phrases and word choices. I think I may change a few lines in later readings, but it is in an acceptable state for now.

      Although this was a technically difficult poem, it was also an emotional poem to write. I am a practicing Catholic and was raised as such, but it is impossible for me to blindly follow anything. I have questioned my faith for a very long time, especially when I hear and see sad and evil things. This questioning has sometimes put me at odds with other members of my faith. My own self doubts and the disagreements with the Church sometimes forces me to make decisions or judgments that I look back on poorly. This poem takes all the anger, sadness, fear, and disappointments and directs it towards God, but in the end its an admittance of weakness and vulnerability. It is a dependence on God to survive that brought me to write this poem. I am a man of science. I study astronomy. I base decisions on data. Faith should not be a factor in my life, but it is. God is my comfort and my rock. Whenever I find my mind wandering to the dark parts of life, it is God that pulls me back. That is what really shines through in my final statements of the poem, “Although I may doubt / Although I may fear / May my faith be strong and my prayer be clear / Amen Amen / I say to you Amen.” It is my final plea. It’s the whole purpose of my poem.

      Whatever you may believe, this poem is a call to hold firm to your beliefs. Whether this means hold to morality or to faith is up to you. It is a call to take all the bad in the world, all the pain and accept that it happens. It is a call to be open to questioning yourself, but not giving up on who you are as a person. If nothing else, I hope this poem left you and all other listeners to know that it’s okay to doubt and okay to accept that your beliefs are okay.

Story Part Five: Waking Up

     This week’s poem is titled “Story Part Five: Waking Up.” “Waking Up” ends the story series I have been working on. I decided to end in happy note rather than the original ending I was planning. In the original ending there was only four parts and the suicide was successful. When I started to move away from that ending, I needed some sort of redemption story. My final decision and the idea I used was that of recovery. The ending of “Part Four” hints that the method of suicide was hanging. In this poem the speaker opens to being saved, but paralyzed. Paralysis allowed me to continue the story by describing the recovery process and the speaker’s motivation through that process. To fit in line with the previous poems the speaker was motivated by the person he loves. This motivation follows through till full recovery.

     For this poem I wanted to mix slower and faster tempos. One way I did this was to mix repeating lists for fast segments and the doctor quotes for slower segments. Another method I tried to utilize for pacing was pauses to emphasize a line and break up the poem. I again used repeated phrases to emphasize a point or to draw out the flow. The least stylistic tool I used was recalling elements of previous poems such as references to dancing, the meadow, and the picnic. I included these elements to make the whole story loop on itself.

     Overall I was very happy with the story, as this was not only my first story style poetry series, but also the first spoken word I have shared. At this point, I am not sure what my next project will be. I have been working on several poems that attempt to look at issues in a comical or cartoonish way as a way of juxtaposing the seriousness. The topics I have been considering include drug use, alcoholism, and again looking at mental health. I have always seen spoken word as a way to express both my,own feelings as well as to make a statement about the world as I see it. With that in mind, the method that I share my poetry may change. I believe that I will be focusing on the YouTube channel that I post the videos to as well as attempting to find opportunities to do live readings of my own poetry and others. My concern is that with the coming of college I will allow myself to stop consistently  writing and recording, so hopefully finding a group to join will help hold me to my own goals. Regardless, this will probably be one of the final post to this specific Blog. I hope anybody who enjoyed the poetry continues to follow as I improve (hopefully) and expand my library of poems.

Story Part Four: The Heart Broke Killer

     Spoken word is a medium that can approach a lot of hard topics. It pulls at what we think, what we experience, and, above all, what we feel. That means spoken word can touch the ups and downs of life. Our happiest memories are expressed in our happiest poems just as our saddest memories are found in our saddest poems. This week’s poem, “Story Part Four: The Heart Broke Killer” is not a happy poem despite a more cheerful reading. The poem tackles a very heavy and relevant topic in today’s society and culture. That topic is suicide. Suicide touches everyone in some way or another. More often than not suicide is the product of a variety of sources and that makes it hard to understand why. This poem attempts to rationalize an often irrational situation and explain the speaker’s reasoning without glamorizing his act or making light of suicide. Due to the weight of the topic I decided this poem had no room for humor or light hearted comments. Only the tone of the reading juxtaposes the darkness of self harm and suicide. This poem should make you cry before you ever consider laughing.When being descriptive I attempted to associate negative words with suicide. Descriptions such as “Tied to the wings of putrid death / a chariot of sin” and “sickly snap” do not give a positive connotation.

     When writing this poem I had man concerns. Was this too positive? Who am I to talk about suicide? Am I portraying suicide as too much of a good thing? I thought of these questions with every line. One line stood apart in my concerns. The poem ends saying “and brightest filled me.” That line makes it seem like suicide fills people with brightness, but that line does not reference suicide. It refers to the fifth part of “Story.” This poem was originally the end of the series, but I cannot leave the speaker as nothing more than a lover who could not handle the grief she faced. So I decided a fifth poem to wrap up the story is necessary. The fifth poem will give closure to the speaker’s life.

     Now that the concerns over suicide and future of the plot are handled, I can begin to discuss the poem. The poem uses a repeating refrain pattern with slight variations to differentiate each verse. The refrains are reference to suicide methods while the verses furthers the plot. The actual poem has a very slight rhyme to it, but the whole thing is read in a sing song tone that lends a rhyme like quality. Overall the poem attempts to balance the dark material with a light voice that makes it more approachable. This poem should contrast again the next poem so if you enjoyed definitely come back for the next.

Story Part Three: Survivor’s Guilt

     This weeks poem is titled “Story Part Three: Survivor’s Guilt.” The poem follows the aftermath of the car accident referred to at the end of Part Two. The opening stanza sets a scene as well as establishes the gap between the end of the second poem and the beginning of this one. The next stanza is a refrain. I tried to switch the style of my recurring lines by making it completely repeat with the exception of a slight change in the last line. I also worked to vary my reading of each refrain to show the changes in the speaker’s condition as the one he loves worsens in health. I wanted to add a twinge of grief and guilt stricken madness to the poem without outright saying it more than once. I have always found the voice to be my favorite way to express emotion in poetry, so that’s the approach I stuck with.

     As I used voice inflections I tried to tie in a variety of emotions. In the line “So darling open your eyes” I aimed for a hopeful but sad tone. When the speaker says “I will never leave you” the tone is insistent but desperate. The “But I hate them” is full of rage induced by lost, while “To face my guilt” crashes the speaker back down to a lower anger that hints more at grief than rage. “So I’ll follow you” is probably my favorite line. It holds a sense of permanence and acceptance. The permanence holds a dark undertone, but also a bittersweet one. The speaker has accepted that the one he loves is gone and he can not bring her back to the world. Despite this has not given up on spending eternity with her despite the cost it will have to him. That is because the cost to him is worth eternity.

     There are aspects of the poem that I think could be improved. Sometimes I worry that when I try to express extreme emotions that surround death, I come off as too flat or fake. The sensitivity that of death in particular with tragic situations like car crashes can be hard for some people and my intent is to make the story accessible for any listener. Outside of the concerns over the emotion, this poem also brings out my pronunciation concerns. I re recorded the video for this poem several times because I would slur several words together and the meaning would no longer be clear. With these ideas in mind, I am excited to record the last part of the story next week.

Story Part Two: Youthful Love

    This week’s poem goes by the title “Story Part Two: Youthful Love.” This is the second poem in the four part series I am working on. The poem is more joyful than the previous in tone compared to the more infatuated tone of the previous poem. The speaker in “Youthful Love” reflects on all the happy times he spent with his love. The various questions at the start set a pattern of repeating as well as a general rhyme scheme that carries through the start of the poem before it becomes modified and then disappears all together. The rhyme scheme is designed to give a joyful sound and flow to the poem. The line “when you cried it hurts me inside” breaks the mood. This contrast gives the poem more range in my opinion. As soon as the line “But when you smiled” comes, the mood surges back up. At this point I switched to the actions of the couple because I know where I wanted to end. Although, I repeated phrases throughout the poem, the final stanza utilizes the echoing of “when we drove home that night” to demonstrate the pain that the speaker is experiencing over the stanza. Each repeat is a little more painful ending with a reference to running a red light. That line is suppose to hint at an accident which is why I used “these were the years of us” throughout the poem. The years of joy and fun are talked about, but now that have ended.

          The reading of this poem was more difficult than the previous. I found that it was difficult to express both the incredible joy and the sorrow in the same poem. The repetitiveness also presented a difficulty in the reading of this poem. Repeating the same thing over and over again made it easy to stumble over words or get caught on the wrong line. That in addition to the rhyme scheme that switched relatively frequently and then stopped existing presented the challenge of not sounding sing songy. This poem has made me realize that expressing happiness in my poetry is more challenging than expressing other more dramatic emotions. I will probably try to include more happy sections in future poems in order to practice the skill. Unfortunately the rest of the story line I am working on will most likely not include any happy moments due to the direction of the poem. The next poem will probably follow the results of the accident and if it ends where I believe it will the story will have a very sad, but sweet ending. I am excited to write the rest of the poems and I am still trying to think of another topic to write about. Although I am considering reading somebody else’s poem or discussing my favorite works.

Story Part One: First Memory

     This weeks poem is titled “Story Part One: First Memory.” The poem is the first part of a fictional love story of sorts. When I wrote this part I decided that I would not focus on any rhyme scheme or particular patterns but I did reuse the same wording to give the poem a sense of continuity. For this particular poem I used “I remember” to connect the poem as well as repeating the same “I” structure in other locations. I have not decided exactly what approach I will take in the next part of this story, but after writing this part I may change the focus to another statement with a different structure but similar style.

     “First Memory” tells of the first memory of the narrator and the love of his life. The opening line, “I remember when I first met you” is a bit misleading. The speaker definitely knew the subject of the poem before that moment as everything he tells about pertains to love. I did this intentionally. The speaker considers the moment he began to love as the first meeting. I found this utilization to give a greater pacing to the poem’s story. The listener gets to experience the entirety of the relationship in the span of a few minutes rather than feeling as if they walked into the lives of two random people. My goal in the speaker’s description of his lover was to paint a picture of a divine being capable of no wrong. The speaker is suppose to idolize and worship rather than just love. Don’t get me wrong this is not a situation where either person can take advantage of the other, but rather the two love each other so much that it rivals a religious experience. For the majority of the poem I attempted to keep the language simple so the speaker sounded like somebody trying to describe a supernatural moment, while I used more complicated wording where he was trying to find a way to express the grandeur he felt. I closed The poem with the same line as I started. The purpose was to bookend the poem as well as ensure the listener understood that the entirety of the poem is a memory being retold.

     There are a few things in the poem that as the listener, you may want to pay extra attention to. There are lines in this poem that seem to betray the idealistic love that the speaker seems to be experiencing. The particular line I am thinking of occurs early in the poem. The other part to look for has to do with conflict. Every story has to have a climax so as this poem can be considered the introduction there may be some foreshadowing for the coming climax.

     I hope you enjoyed the first poem I have ever shared with the world. If you have any advice let me know. I am always trying to improve.