WordWine

My own visual realization of the topic (get it?), which I left only slightly scaled-down so that if you click on the picture you can see the enlargement. The (actually empty) fountain pen is inscribing, supposedly, on my actual handwritten text for “Mistakes by Moonlight,” somewhat further along than my posting of pieces here has gotten. I have always insisted that my penmanship is atrocious.

I have many favorite things (one of my notes-to-self for the blog is to discuss my favorite things). I listed some of the addictive (or at least noticeably unproductive) ones yesterday. Youʼre going to read more about some of those in posts to come, unless some unlikely stroke of genius sends the blog in directions as yet unguessed. And I have other things I like, that I donʼt feel are bad for me, to discuss in future posts as well, including (no, I wonʼt succumb to a list for a third day in a row) my preferred music(s), favorite books and movies (topics I have tapped oh-so-very-lightly several times already), interesting websites, religious musings, and pleasant activities (I nearly typed “pleasurable” before my inbuilt censor indicated the potential problem there).

But I realized in creating the daily posts this week that thereʼs one subject/activity that tops all the rest and in which I indulge myself without hesitation or regret (although not necessarily to your indiminishable joy). I love our language, words. I really enjoy stringing together sentences and exploring just what kaleidoscopic mash-ups may evolve. That was the fun of those days when I wrote poetry regularly. That was the heady glory glimmering behind the verbosity of the old poem I posted once and which explodes in all the other poems and prose I treasure, whether present on this forum or otherwise. My linguaphilia, not to coin a word although I thought I was (and the spellchecker didnʼt know the term either), conspires and smiles in all the elongated, perambulating and parenthetically interrupted sentences that I have made for these many posts (242 of them today, evidently). Erupting into strings of (somewhat) logically connected words is unrestrained pleasure for me, and I enjoy nearly as much finding (or rediscovering/remembering) new, exciting (hopefully appropriate) words to use (gotta love electronic thesauri).

Although I donʼt mean my verbal conduct to be offputting, I know how decisively many oppose the use of abundant and profuse words (not to mention floridly expansive and convoluted periodic compound-complex sentences). After all, one might have to look up an unfamiliar locution or even reread a lengthy and winding statement. Hemingway would hate my style, even moreso his fanatic and dutiful disciples. I bet ditto for Hammett, although I have benefited and learned from both men and the supposedly straightforward school of writing. The regimenting and rigorously Rightist bigwig bosses of contemporary “conservativism” donʼt like complexity, either (even the Dextral deference and reverential obescience to Respectable and Almighty Latin adheres to easy words and simple phrases, requiring little or no declension or conjugation, even as their English usage prefers brief and easily misunderstood AngloSaxon generalizations). Complex ideas are too difficult, simply, to impose and purvey, no matter that the truth is multiplex, intricate and difficult (particularly in politics). “Lock and load” sells so much better in the twilit land of troglodytes than ponderous, expansive, actual contemplation and reasonable discussion of knotty issues. Easy answers for simple minds. Forever. Amen.

(Sorry about that. A friend posted something on Facebook a few days ago [referencing this document, for those of you not on FB], as I was composing this post, that got me laughing — at its overt Rightism which slavish friends of the originator simplistically misinterpreted in their regimented, docile compliance with the accepted and enforced Right attitudes — and outraged that anyone should believe U.S. citizens could be so blatantly, but apparently successfully, manipulated. I took an Evernote of the post and its initial responses, perhaps fodder for a future rant. On the other hand, as George Orwell so vividly determined, limiting language is the firmest form thought control [short of successful torture, if we include his perceptions expressed in Nineteen Eighty-Four], and the paranoid Lords of the Right are clearly learning lessons in exploitation and “persuasion” from the fallen Soviets: Keep It Simple for the Stupids.)

Perhaps I should have entitled this post “Freedom of Speech” the way things have developed (but I think that title should belong on a later, more thoughtful and profound post), because what I love about language and spinning out phrases and clauses to weave together is the unqualified freedom of such creative personal expression. (And now I find a theme intertwining this weekʼs posts — freedom, as opposed to obligation, if we want to include Sundayʼs bit of Stars in Heaven. Look back — I  love the hits, which by the way are nearing 50,000 according to the counter to the right — and see for yourselves.) Liberty is what language provides to me (in an almost christian way, philosophically, as one must sacrifice oneʼs childhood abandon to acquire and master as best one can the semantic, linguistic and grammatical regulations — and a whole lot of words — in order to enjoy the radical liberation of unconstrained articulation, as churchly folk say one should submit to the savior to find spiritual disenthrallment), and whether that logico-linguistic freedom is real or paradoxical (as the previous parenthetical interjection indicated) or whatever, itʼs fun for me. And I hope not utterly alienating for my readers.

As all the recent posts have run long, I kept this one almost short (-ish). It is a weekend, after all. I hope someone appreciated my redirected (or spatially dyslexic) allusions to one of the most over-the-top political speeches of the modern era — Safireʼs (intentionally?) excessively alliterative words for Agnewʼs obedient mouth.

And I hope everyone appreciates the florescence of incidental puns on “utterlately, including the one above.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Wakdjunkaga?

I did take some effort to look through the page for The Book of Seasons and make some much-needed corrections of computer-misheard words and phrases. If any of you read through it and noticed errors I have not fixed, please let me know. With that page in existence, I think I’ll leave the original posts for the last two weekends of that story’s first two chapters as they originally appeared. After all, it is good to be reminded of one’s foolishness, laziness or excessive haste: I did a couple of weekend posts on self-humiliation and its value to oneself back in January (here and here).

However, reading through the saga of Wakdjunkaga’s arrival in room 430 of the Hotel Allison, I started thinking about that character, how he — imagined in the mid-70s — compares to or parallels with me today, as he is supposed to be the future self of that pompous little narrator. I do remember (vaguely by now) that it was in my head to try to predict my own future self in the description of Wakdjunkaga. Doing makeup in high school, community theater and especially college (when I took an interim course during either my sophomore or junior year for three or four weeks on makeup) and having to play characters considerably older than your actual (teen) age interestingly focuses your attention on the issues of aging. There’s nothing like drawing smile lines and facial creases to make you consider the actual, future swipes of the scythe of time (thanks for that image, Will Shakespeare).

I had been made aware by the time I left Fort Madison of my impending balditude. It was an incident I have used in another story — not one, thanks to its vulgar language, that is likely to appear here — when I and two friends had driven up to Minneapolis to attend the Minnesota Renaissance Fair. As we were barely out of college and I had yet to meet my future travel agent/wife, we didn’t make much in the way of preparations and arrived on a Friday evening — no, make that pretty late at night — with no hotel reservation. And it was not only the Renaissance Fair but the Minnesota State Fair that weekend. We visited many hotels before we finally found some rooms. Then having driven for six straight hours and searched for several more, we needed to eat and went to some all-night place like Country Kitchen. While in the restaurant my companions, a male and female — a couple at that time, began giggling at each other as I bent over to slurp soup or eat something that lowered my head at them. They wouldn’t confess what was so funny for a while, but it was my incipient bald spot. I was probably 22 or 23. A crushing blow in those days of long, hippie hair (regardless how unruly, scraggly and unattractive my own hair was; and I had even cut my hair to go off for student teaching — a hugely transitional action).

Naturally, in the story’s “prediction,” I clearly have underestimated the extent of my actual hair loss. And I am currently many years from turning 70. Still another example of imagination outrunning reality to one’s personal frustration.

Unfortunately, at least at present, I also underestimated “his” appearance in other ways, particularly in weight. I’ve been working on the issue I raised January 31, and my running routine has recommenced, but I’m afraid this Wakdjunkaga (meaning the genuine me) in this particular actual reality among the potentially infinite variations of the multiverse is not the svelte and scrawny fellow from the story.

Durwood Wakdjunkaga (?) in the portrait infamously not by Rembrandt van Rijn

Of course, I was also misleading myself, suckered by the all-powerful allure of Art. (And I don’t mean someone nicknamed from Arthur.) Also in my head while writing those vastly dated chapters about the Hotel Allison was the first image of actual Art I had ever acquired (and which, to Janet’s chagrin and amusement, I still possess). One day after my family had moved to Mt. Pleasant, while I was still in high school, maybe even in the first year we lived in that community, my sophomore year, I was sent to the grocery store. I don’t remember at all what I was sent buy, but on display were certain “art prints” available at a discount to customers. There had to be more than just one such print, but I only remember the one that hypnotized my utter being: Rembrandt’s The Man in a Golden Helmet. I don’t remember if it came home with me that day or if it took a while, but fairly soon I was the proud possessor of the cardboard print, to be held in its very own “genuine wooden” frame.

The print held a place of honor in many of my residences, beginning with my own rooms in our family home on Green Street. Since our marriage, Janet has consigned it to less important locations than I had preferred. And it spent the last 20 years or more in various places around my room and the drama storage at Andrew Community School, once I brought it there, later to be copied by art instructor Steve Lucke as the portrait of Sir Simon de Canterville for our production of The Canterville Ghost (and Lucke made an excellent copy that looked just like actor Drew Goettler). Now it lives in our garage, alongside my favorite heirloom from high school drama, a photograph of V. I Lenin, which I was altogether too abashed to ever take to school.

Of course, Man in a Golden Helmet is the most famous painting to be infamously not by Rembrandt. Don’t believe me? Click the link in the title of the picture above. Time Magazine explains it all very well. That damned Rembrandt authentication committee! I’m afraid that Janet took great glee (and still does), reminding me the picture has long been discredited, however much I may yet love it.

That old man in that golden helmet, I know, was meant to be Durwood Wakdjunkaga in The Book of Seasons. So if you read those posts or the page, don’t imagine the hairless, chubby author in that role but the well-known non-Rembrandt figure, dressed in modern clothes.

Clearly, if I meant Wakdjunkaga to be a kind of imagined future self portrait, I failed. On the other hand, some elements of my personal taste in clothing seem to have been set earlier than I had recalled. I’m thinking of that vest Wakdjunkaga is wearing. I had thought that at the time I wrote these chapters of The Book of Seasons, the vest was just imaginary. Or at best it was a modification of the blue denim chore coats I had started wearing about the time I settled down in Maquoketa.

—But this particular post may have run on long enough for today. We’ll discuss vests and pockets another time.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

a villanelle

I have been remembering lately, late January 2010, (via the comments to this poem) that I wrote it in several phases. It’s a break-up poem (oh, breaking up really is so hard to do). The situation that inspired it occurred when the young lady addressed as “you” had graduated from high school and once off at college—probably late the next spring—determined we should separate. Clearly, I did not want to. Later, in my memories summertime weather, I convinced her to re-establish our relationship, but it didn’t last. By the late fall or early winter of that same year, 1974, it was all over when she had definitely met and gotten closer to her future husband.

Busy Music

The busy music bends me on my way
in prisoned love denying maturation,
and love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

I said I loved you when I hadn’t, fey:
you harnessed me in heartstring traces,
and the busy music bends us on our way.

You snared my heart with wordless magic sway,
a witchcraft forged from kissing and embraces,
for love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

We waltzed like children in a timeless May
til you commenced to conjure other faces,
and the busy music bends us on our way.

Still childish sorcery sends my heart to stay
selfbound within those former loving laces,
for love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

You are consumed by distance, and today
I exhale my impassioned incantations:
the busy music bends us on our way
and love’s a rune we cannot shape or say.

Although this is ages old, it remains one of my very favorite of my poems. (And yes, this one is also posted on Facebook Notes.) I have only written one other villanelle, and the tight repetition and rhyme scheme make that one read more stiffly than this, the first I ever tried. The busy music referred both to the kind of music I was listening to and to life itself, of course.

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©2009 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.