"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Saturday, November 13, 2010

RE Slater - The Concept of Justice

November saw me writing again but not like I had been the year before when I was hungry to write and felt more highly creative.  And yet, during the past months, I have added several new poems, though my main task had been to re-read and edit my finished poems after having printed them into a singular collection back in June. Currently I have read or edited the first third of my poems but have so many more to read and consider that I believe it will take another year or two while writing and developing newer poems during this same time period. Moreover, time and distance has allowed me a more dispassionate review of my work, as I consider (i) whether the material is "readable" and "understandable"; (ii) whether the themes have gotten lost in the words; and, (iii) whether the style or "synchronistic beat" of the verse is how it was intended to be.  Ideally, I do not wish to re-write any of these older poems, but some seem so awkward as to require another editorial visit before leaving them in a final, more publishable form.

Most recently I have been working on a single ode these past several months that has driven me to distraction. I cannot seem to find its voice. What is written has become too preachy, too strident. Many times I have thought about deleting the entire verse and walking away from it. It has become one of my least favorites poems after having promised so much when I first set about composing it. It's entitled "Behold The Ruins of Athens" which was an altogether original title for me until I looked it up after completing it to find George Hill's magnificent piece. Ah well, at least it was original in thought and production, making me glad that I had composed it first before seeing Mr. Hill's most excellent work.

In summary, "Athens" consists of two pages, and though short, it's subject matter felt quite dense and complex; refused to simplify itself; and demanded that the reader read slow down enough to think through the word pictures and ideas presented within its narrative in constructive, thoughtful, fashion.  In hindsight I had thought about pulling this poem apart and re-composing one or two of its major ideas, but instead plowed on to put all my emotions and thoughts into tightly constructed phrases while hoping for the best.

And because "Athens" is so blunt and massive in its structure I finally decided on reconstructing it through the course of several drafts, wishing to slow the reader down to hear what I was trying to say.  Thus, the poem's original form was in 2x6 line meter which I indented every second line.  But the lines were overlong like my "Stars and Moon" piece and so, after three months of re-writing it ad-nauseam I decided on an entirely new poetic verse structure.  At first I tried a simple 4-verse meter to replace every two lines of the ode.  But this didn't work and served to "mudge up" its flow and rhythm.  Next I tried doubling the 6-line meter into an extended 12-verse format. This I liked a lot but then I modified it again by adding a tabbed indentation to every second line and that seemed to do the trick. It slowed the reader down just enough to consider the words while not overwhelming the voice and rhythm of the poetic ode. In fact, it seemed to "stretch out" the complex of ideas that it holds while "simplifying" the poetic ode overall.

These changes further necessitated a re-composition of several other related odes  each as similar in thematic tone and structure. And eventually, because of their similar voices and contents I placed them all together, side-by-side,  under a new chapter-heading entitled "Of Justice, War and Anthems". Thus I have four separate pieces that address the concept of justice and our personal response-and-accountability for justice's conveyance within society each day of our lives. Where these emotions came from I'm not sure - maybe from acts of injustice I saw as a youth, or perhaps from my reading of the Christian bible, especially in the historical sections of the Old Testament. But whatever the reasonings, I have attempted to recall those early formative and raw emotions into these poetic sections as imperative catalysts for acts of justice to be committed in the world today.

As a child, the unfolding drama of the American/Vietnam War played itself out in daily black-and-white pictures through the eyes and ears of television's evening news, as it showed the horrors of war brought to both friend and foe alike. Further, the harm and devastation witnessed from civil riots and political rallies around the country created for some very intense emotions when watching or reading about young people dying in clashes with police, seeing the hippie movement's disgust with society at-large, and beholding intense racial clashes over segregation. This came home all the more when saying goodbye to dad as he went out into these civil disturbances as a policeman dressed in full riot gear as a former Korean War veteran.

Generally (and perhaps idealistically) as free societies, we must  actively advocate living peaceably with one another regardless of our differences; seeking and praying for peace and goodwill among men daily, especially during times of hatred, misunderstanding, and unrest; siding with victims of injustice harassed or harmed by societal fears and ignorance; and in everything determine to show love and support to everyone we meet through open and honest communications, fair trade, tolerance, mercy, and forbearance with one another.  Free societies demand no less a commitment and no higher a calling. We are called to bring peace to all, seek justice for all, and to serve the exquisite riches of liberty, democracy, and honor as equal recipients of humanity's burden and privilege.

The concept of justice is so plain a concept to understand - and so quick a feeling of empathy to arise within us - when couched in cultural or national tones of prejudice and hate. And though we may think we might understand its meaning, it isn't until we are personally confronted by injustices that what we believe is only then truly enacted into acts of real justice. Where individuals are disparaged, harmed, murdered, persecuted or oppressed, than our hearts - our very emotions - must become intolerant towards the purveyors of those atrocities. Whether committed by bullies, or gangs, or overlords; whether despots or tyrants; if "peace and goodwill" are terms brutally ignored then "acts of justice" will never be a societal, nor a personal commitment, to restoring its abuses and neglects.

Because of this, I've created my poetic odes to be more warlike, more strident, as "drumbeats" to a nation's heart desiring peace and goodwill among men.  They speak to justice when love seems to have failed, and they show very little toleration for those evil men and women who cruelly harm others. Likewise, the Christian bible is very clear how important the compact of justice is between individuals and societies. That there is very little room for denying its observation of human rights when those rights are either casually or violently ignored in both moral and ethical tones by individuals and human institutions, from local to international levels.  For the very concept of justice and love intermingle each with the other. More simply said, "Justice is love outwardly shown, while love is Justice inwardly found. They are one and the same."

And so, in some small way I hope that my poetic creations continue to preach the values of justice and love as I've written them without apology for the strong language and imperatives used. I wished for them to be independent voices to all men everywhere who strive towards a supremely human humanity. To be moral and ethical with one another. To seek the virtues of Love and Justice. To decry acts of inhumanity. To seek the humanness of man in  his every act of vice and virtue. It is sometimes said that man is but brute beast, yet at his most human when just and loving. Conversely, when man is not just and loving, than truly he is but merely a brute beast worthy of extinction, ruin and judgment.

R.E. Slater
November 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dilemmas and Choices, Tiredness and Task

Early February 2010 has found me pressed by some kind of personal spiritual warfare which has become deeply besetting to my task at hand of writing finely and conscientiously. With it came time and money concerns that are ever my old nemesis and bearers of bad news. But on the upside, I received an unlooked-for invitation to a college luncheon to meet the university president and while there hope to speak to a professor I've long been considering to discuss a book project I have in mind. And whether he would be personally interested in collaborating on it with me. It'll take a year or so to write but I already have the notes completed and am guessing its length at about 250 pages, maybe 300 with footnotes, appendices and diagrams.  I could probably write this in a couple of weeks but am thinking that a schedule of one month per chapter theme may be a more reasonable goal. But before attending to this task however I would like to finish my remaining poetry sets that I've roughed out for completion. I expect that to be yet another year in the making. And so, time, time, time. So fickled, so pressing, so withdrawing and never friend.

Currently I'm finishing up a large body of poetic pieces which will take me through most of this year I believe.  And I've yet to find a publicist who could help me market my material successfully when I get these completed. It probably would help if I would look but it seems a large and disappointing task ahead of me at the moment.  I started writing for myself the last two years and believe that what I've written will inspire many who would read my material on a number of different levels and in a number of different areas of their life. Generally, I've written what I deem to be popular poetry and not cryptic poetry for every age - having written some pieces for kids and other pieces for adults; some for holidays, others for events; some for life stages and others for momentous times.  If anything, I wish I had more years to expand each select area I've written about, embellishing each area with more similar themes; especially fun/practical/whimsical pieces for kids and adults who are still exhilarating in their childhood at whatever age they may be.

Currently, I'm stuck in the middle of a prose piece which is atypically long (about 15pp) and grasping for clarity and direction. I call it "The Tapestry".  It's completely written through its first four sections but I intend to re-write parts of each as well as to add additional sections to it while re-orientating it away from the first half's western mindset couched in dualistic/dichotomous terms towards an eastern dualism focusing on the balance and harmony of the first half's themes.  It may then consist of two parts dealing with the same/similar subject matter but written paradoxically showing two sides of the same coin, as it were.  All of it couched in a storyline of mystery and "aha" moments.  Upon completion, it'll be the third piece complimenting two other pieces ("Stars and Moon," "Celtic Nights") which I've written, each as different in subject material and style as from the other, but forming a neat trilogy that I had never expected and only saw belatedly during their development.

This current prose piece is a dark read about fate and destiny, sovereignty and free will, determinism and choice couched in mythic Egyptian symbolism using Genesis as an overlay. The other two pieces deal with several other biblical themes of eschatology, harmatology and soteriology while utilizing either old English folklore or Celtic tones, and each set in allegorical or biblical parable format.  They are fun reads (esp. alone in the dark) and may mimic Edgar Allen Poe a little bit - but never as cleverly as he had done!! Beyond that, they require a bit more thinking amongst them and do not simply serve as idle tales in-and-of themselves for mere thrill.

However, between daily obstacles, demands, and necessities, I've found these past weeks a difficult run and it would be nice to find some funding and an office or cottage somewhere from which I may daily write that could produce inspiration to my weary soul, and that without interruption and with considered focus. It's hard to be creative when pressed by so much, and its hard to write everyday when I'm stretched by so many personal demands. Still, even when I don't feel like writing I've found that once I sit down to attend to the task at hand, that words and ideas will flow out from me, along with lots and lots of new material that someday I hope to develop. Which is all well and good, I suppose, but my frustration lies in the fact that I have so much to write about and constantly fight for the time to do this ungrateful, unending, undying task so well while so finely misunderstood and slighted by my fellow companions ignorant of its possible consequences and blessings. Its as perplexing some days as my would-be allegories.

As always,


RE Slater
February 9, 2010

I did meet with the professor above and had a delightful time discovering an old friend made ever more close because of a common mentor and teacher each of us had studied under but at separate times. The bond was encouraging and his help both welcomed and professional as much as it was warm and personal. I couldn't have been more happy at this discovery. Now for ability and strength to begin this belated task of some 25+ years in the making.