Saturday, December 10, 2005

Death May Not Be Proud, But He's One Persistent Mofo'

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. It seems to be unavoidable. It seems to pervade every part of our national consciousness. From the recent hurricanes, including Katrina, to the war in Iraq. Even closer to home, I’m constantly hearing of deaths within people’s families, from car accidents and stillbirths, to others being ravaged by disease. It seems that as I get older, death has become more and more a part of my daily existence, whether directly or indirectly. In films such as “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and shows such as the recently ‘deceased’ “Six Feet Under”, death is and/or has become a very palpable reality, not to mention that it has always existed in much of our literary and artistic canons for centuries.

According to life span estimates, I’m about halfway to my date with destiny(I’m 41 now), though with the overwhelming evidence of the precariousness of life, and the all but undeniable fact that estimates don’t always add up, I could be even closer than I may be willing to realize or able to fathom. I feel pain in places that I didn’t feel them in not even 10 or even, 5 years ago, the cause of which could be any number of things, not least of which could be attributed to old age setting in, but unfortunately, without the assistance of health care insurance at the present time, I’m unable to learn of the causes and reasons of said pains.

But it’s the precariousness that, for lack of a better word, upsets me. Because there always feels like so much that needs to be done, things that I want to do but haven’t yet. I still want to write the “great American novel”, write that really good script that will be turned into an amazing film, travel to other countries, etc. I know that I’ve accomplished a lot in the “short” time that I have lived, that others have not or will never be able to for a variety of reasons, and hopefully by accomplishing those things, I’ve affected people’s lives for the better. But as is seemingly wont in human nature, there’s a hunger for more. And I hope that when that time does come, when God decides to sever my mortal cord, I will be ready and have been able to look back on a life well lived and fully accomplished, that they will be able to say of me a statement(a quote by James Baldwin) that I’ve adopted as my motto and creed and hopefully have lived up to—He was ‘an honest man and a good writer.’

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Portrait In Words

Below is a poem I wrote for my girlfriend, Toni, shortly after we met nearly two years ago. The beauty of poetry is the ability to convey so much with so few words and though the picture I’m trying to convey would warrant a thousand words, I think the few words expressed here in this piece do justice.


The sun rises
Just to greet your smile
And the stars
In the night sky
Want to know
How you make your eyes sparkle;

I’m wanting to know
How I came to deserve
Such beauty.

Copyright © 2004 Joseph Powell

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Quotable Quotes for $200, Alex!

One of my favorite things to is finding and collecting quotes that I find inspirational to me, as both a writer and as a human. They range in diversity, of the people quoted as well as the ideas and the intent behind those ideas. I have included some below that I have truly enlightening and hope that you will do the same.

"Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others."
-Marianne Moore
"If one waits for the right time to come before writing, the right time never comes."
-James Russell Lowell
"Honesty is the essence of eloquence."
-James Cunningham
"You can never be sure that what you write is any good...If you have to be sure, don't write."
-John Berryman
Creators and artists possess the capacity "To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower."
-William Blake
"We are all bastards, but God loves us anyway."
-Will Campbell
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."
-Albert Einstein,
What I Believe
Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love that is the soul of genius."
-Wolfgang A. Mozart
"Joy comes to those who have the heart to convert their pain into art."
-John D. Engle, Jr.
"When the Muse comes, She doesn't tell you to write/She says, get up for a minute, I've something to show you, stand here."
-Michael Goldman
"Never lose a holy curiosity."
-Albert Einstein
"There are two ways of spreading light:To be the candle or to be the mirror that reflects it."
-Edith Wharton
"Be what you is 'cuz if you be what you ain't, then you ain't what you is."(I didn't make this up, I swear!)
"Be dignified enough to make your statement. Don't leave the earth until you do."
-Leo Buscaglia
"The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe."
-David Hare
"The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question."
-James Joyce
"The real artist is the one who has learned to recognize and to render what Joyce has called the 'radiance' of all things, as an epiphany or showing forth of their truth."
-Joseph Campbell
"The sacred obligation of the poet is to find, is it not?"
-David Citino
"Writing poetry is like daring to dance with the demons inside you. A poem is a howl against the darkness around us."
John Mason
"If you write, you're a writer. You need no one else's validation."
-Marshall J. Cook
"Be mundane and commonplace in your life so you can be insane in your art."
-Gustave Flaubert
"I'm suggesting that one try to listen to one's heart. And tell the truth."
"I do know that great art can only be created out of love..."
-James Baldwin
"Ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night, must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple 'I must', then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it."
-Rainer Maria Rilke,
Letter To A Young Poet

Friday, November 11, 2005

Jarhead--A Brief Interpretive Look

War is hell, whether it's four days or four years. rain. We have seen the enemy and it might be us... or them, you just never know. Island of sand and fog. Your best friend is your rifle. And it's 1, 2, 3, 4, what are we fighting for...? To be or not to be becomes a reality. You're not sure what is truth and what is just another line of bullshit. My country wants me here--but their country doesn't. The footsteps that I'm following in no longer fit my feet. The woman I left behind has left me behind. Everyone is telling me to stay the course and I've lost my compass. If I get out of this alive, I will not be the man I used to be and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But I must get out alive.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Requiem For Sister Rosa

Rosa Parks has died. May she rest in peace. Let's stand up for someone who sat down for justice. Let's be the bouquet of roses that celebrates Sister Rosa. A light in a time of darkness; a woman who said no and no more when a nation was still saying yes and wait!; a small, quiet voice in a world of noise. It is because of you (and others like you) that I(and others like me) can sit where we choose, whether on a bus, train or plane. May you not be forgotten, though I doubt that you will be. May you most certainly rest in peace, whereever you now sit--your time here on earth has earned it, as I'm sure that God has now welcomed you with the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Def Poet

Below is a poem that is featured in my latest chapbook, "Mofo' Risin' ". It is titled, "Def Poet". Enjoy!


If I were a slam poet
and, I'm not, by the way,
I'd breathe similes
into your nostrils
and give you life;
(w)rap metaphors
around your ears
like the garland wrapped
in Billie Holiday's hair;
I would not lull you
to sleep,
because my words
would be on fire,
shocking you
existential soliloquies,
to be
or not to be;
making you
hear songs
in the key of life;
making you
hear rhapsodies
in the key of blue,
if I were a slam poet.

If I were a slam poet,
in three minutes or less,
I'd fire word darts
into your mind,
fire projectile missiles
of poetic wisdom,
like a sermon on the mount
in iambic pentameter;
spin romantic sonnets
that would have made
Shakespeare jealous;
from behind the mike,
my words
would spring forth
like an Ellington tune,
played by Miles Davis,
alongside John Coltrane,
backed by Thelonius Monk,
and Charles Mingus;
like your mama's voice,
when the hurt was so bad
and nobody else's words would do;
make you recall memories
you'd long forgotten;
recall memories
you wish you had;
makin' those three minutes,
a memory
that you will
never forget--
that is,
if I were a slam poet,
I'm not.

© Copyright 2004 Joseph Powell

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bohemian Rhapsody

I'm trying to stay sane in an insane world. Trying to find words that speak truth, conveys pain, and highlights my ugliness. I am Bukowski in his drunken poetry; I am Baldwin, in his fiery rage; I am the savage beast that will not be tamed by music alone; the fallen angel trying to fight my way back into heaven; the poet whose pen is filled with blood. My faith is doubt; every breath I take is on loan and I'm wondering when my balance is due. a last resort and all the other inns are booked up. I'm not crazy--just fucked up and not fucked enough. Am trying to keep the demons at bay, but sometimes they fuel my fire, feed my soul. It matters not who sees this--what difference would it make? No one pays attention to writers anyway. No one cares for the outsider, the monster, the ones who are not like them. But I am you--the secrets you try to keep; the words that you will not say; the skeletons in your closet. You can't hide from the truth--maybe you too are trying to survive, stay sane, live life, breathe freely, trying to get just a touch of grace. But I can't help you unless you choose to acknowledge me or die trying. Open your eyes, open your ears, read between the lines, dare to feel something for this bohemian and his kind--who knows, like they say, the truth just might set you free. But then again, this may be much ado about nothing. You decide.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans

I wrote the following poem, "I Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans", prior to the recent tragedy that struck there. It was just a few months ago that my girlfriend, Toni, and I spent a week there and I was inspired to write this poem shortly afterwards as a homage to the great time we had there. And a couple of months later is when Katrina hit, so the poem seems to have a greater meaning, given the circumstances, and so I print it here, and hope that people will feel what I feel about this wonderful city that will hopefully be reborn, like the phoenix from the ashes. Viva New Orleans!

I Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans

French Quarter
Bourbon Street and cool jazz
Cheap beer, 7 & 7’s,
And hot sex in
Third story hotel window.
Dive bars and cable cars
Beads, blues, and voodoo
And Kermit Ruffin,
A modern-day Satchmo,
Tearin’ it up
At the Blue Nile.

Everybody tryin’
To make a buck or two;
Some of them tryin’
To take a buck from you;
Sometimes, we say,
‘What the fuck?’—
Night is day
And day never seems to end.
What happens here,
Doesn’t necessarily
Have to stay here,
For you have to take
Your memories with you
When you check out.
You don’t have to leave,
But if you do stay,
It’s gonna cost you
More than you know,
More than you know.

© Copyright 2005 Joseph Powell

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Either Shit Or Get Off The Pot

"I want to be an honest man and a good writer."
--James Baldwin
if it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it. unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don't do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don't do it. if you're doing it for money or fame, don't do it. if you're doing it because you want women in your bed, don't do it. if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don't do it. if it's hard work just thinking about doing it, don't do it. if you're trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. if it never does roar out of you, do something else. if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you're not ready. don't be like so many writers, don't be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don't be dull and boring and pretentious, don't be consumed with self- love. the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. don't add to that. don't do it. unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don't do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don't do it. when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was.
-Charles Bukowski
The first statement above is my raison d'etre. The second is one that I aspire to and wrestle with, although in regards to the first statement, the same could be said in that vein. Henceforth, on this fine September day, the 21st, in the year of our Lord, 2005, I am embarking on what will hopefully be a fruitful endeavor and at least one reason to keep me in front of a computer screen and writing, my foray into the information superhighway--my own personal blog. Herein I will try to contribute to the human experience and the literature world at large by publishing thoughts and writings, including new and old poetry that I have written as well as hopefully story ideas. I'm not doing this so much for feedback, though it may be welcome, but for the opportunity of getting my self out there, to speak to whomever will hear, as it were. In the past, I've never been good at consistently keeping up on journals(in a class I once had, I spent an entire week and a half making up three months of journal entries for a project that I had and to which I was surprisingly given full credit for), so I may not always be forthcoming with this venture, but I will do my best as time and inspiration and other outside distractions allow. I hope whoever reads this is enlightened, inspired, and entertained. Ciao for now.