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poems, etc.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: incredible but true

Tonight's Zelda's Inferno exercise: Write something that is truthful, but that sounds made-up. This came out rather essay-ish, probably since I'd been working on the book earlier.

There are things that are true that you'd never believe if not properly prepared. Like the idea that light is both a particle and a wave. Or that Euler's constant to the power of pi times the square root of minus one, works out to be one. Or that everything that you are, everything that you know and think and dream, is generated by about a liter and half of fatty meat. You hear these ideas for the first time, you think "Dude, you are full of shit. No way that's true."

Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense. But the notion of "sense" encoded in the structure of our brains evolved out of the survival needs of primates on the jungles and grasslands of Africa, not out of science or technology or mathematics or art. The universe doesn't care whether or not it is sensible to our monkey-minds.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "If this isn't pleasant, I don't know what is."

Tonight's Zelda's Inferno exercise: riffing off a phrase from Kurt Vonneygut, "If this isn't pleasant, I don't know what is." Mine sort of turned into a list poem, but I think it has some potential.

"...all times I have enjoyed / Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those / That loved me, and alone..." -- Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Once I sat with a friend on his back porch, drinking crazy ginsing liquor and smoking cigars and laughing late into the night.

Once I danced around a bonfire and handed out golden apples to women, saying to each, "For the prettiest one"

Once I drove home in the light of dawn after playing music at a party, playing all night, people coming into the room where I was to hear, the first time I drew an audience of strangers

Once I stood on the beach with my fellow karate-ka in a thunderstorm - and this was stupid - but we trained in the rain, punching and kicking and throwing each other to the sand, and shouting our kiai to challenge the thunder

Once I sat in a hammock in the woods and strummed my guitar, making up nonsense songs

Zelda's Inferno exercise: writing from the POV of a fictional or historical character

Our Zelda's Inferno exercise: write a poem from the POV of a historical, fictional, or mythological character. I starting thinking about the guy who picked the beans for my coffee...

I have heard that in America they
Drink coffee in the boardrooms of the big companies that own the world
And in the restaurants where one mean costs more than I make in a year
And in coffeehouses where musicians and poets meet

There is no music, no poetry, here in the fields
Just the sun, the soil, the rain
The aching backs of the workers
The thuggery of the bosses

Zelda's Inferno exercise: brag therapy

Earlier this week, our good friend Joe Galitsky forwarded me a e-mail with a extract from Rob Brezsny's book "Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia". It was about "brag therapy":

Grab a good listener or a recording device, and boast extravagantly about yourself for at least 20 minutes. Expound in exhaustive detail why you're so wonderful and why the world would be a better place if everyone would just act more like you.

Don't be humble or cautious. Go too far. Heap extreme glory on yourself. Brazenly proclaim the fabulous qualities about you that no one has ever fully articulated or appreciated. Don't forget to extol the prodigious flaws and vices that make you so special.

So, we went for it. Here's mine:

Oh, sure, I can break concrete blocks with my bare hands. I can compose sonnets and haiku. I can write and sing and play songs, I can make fire dance, can get beautiful women to seduce me, can convince computers to do my biding, and can relieve aches and pains with my skillful touch.

But those aren't my real special powers.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: ancestry

Tonight's exercise: write about ancestry, both genealogical and metaphorical, and how it shapes your opinion/understanding of art.

Statistically, I'm sure that
somewhere in my great-great-great-umpity-great grandparents was a painter or sculptor
someone whose eyes and hands were connected to record their visions.

That gene didn't make it down to me.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: gods

Tonight's exercise: write about god(s).

When I was a kid, a good little Catholic boy (really! honestly!) I learned about God, "one God, the Father, almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth".

And when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I'd be when I grew up. You can't help that when you're a kid, every adult asks you. They have to figure out what box to put you in: future doctor, or future ditch-digger? When I thought about what I'd be as a adult, sometimes I thought about what my dad did for a living. I was learning that the way of the world was this: children grow up to be like their parents.

And if, then, god is the father, if we are children of god? What will we be when we grow up? Indeed, what are we right now? The children of birds are birds. The children of fish are fish. The children of lions are lions. What are the children of gods?

Zelda's Inferno exercise: revising

Our exercise this week was to revise an old piece. This is based off of an exercise from back in June.

Why don't you have a nice cup of tea?

Why don't you have an SUV?
Why don't you have any idea what you want to be when you grow up?
Why don't you have your homework?
Why don't you have a pierced nipple?
Why don't you have a wife and two kids?
Why don't you have a Christmas tree?
Why don't you have a business suit?
Why don't you have a flat screen plasma TV?
Why don't you have an enemy?
Why don't you have an American flag pin?

Why don't you have a better idea?

Zelda's Inferno exercise: wordlist

Our exercise this week was another wordlist poem: using word from the following list: action balance cascade appreciate romance fauna courageous rhythm timber/tymbre quench fire stoke enchant negative lichen

the dark and the light
the positive and negative
enchantment and disgust
the stoking and the quenching of the fire
action and acceptance
courage and fear

it is the time when the axis is orthogonal to the sun
when we turn neither toward
nor away from
not staring into the light
blinded by it
not turning out backs to it

Zelda's Inferno exercise: one sided conversations; names; stolen teeth

This week's missions: first, write one-half of a telephone conversation

Yeah, hi. It's me.

Got your message. What's up?

Yeah, sure.

Uh huh. Uh huh.

That's cool.

That's your mom's husband, right?

Uh huh.


Oh, not much. Finished painting that bedroom a few days ago, so that's good. Oh, and I bought a new vacuum cleaner today. On sale at Target.

Yeah. Well, needed one that would get up the dog hair. It's a Bissel.



Oh, I'm trying to write something.

Yeah, usual Sunday night thing.

Uh huh.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: intelligence test

Our exercise this week was another "intelligence test", where we made up goofy multiple-choice questions for each other, then wrote poems based off the answers we chose. My questions:

1) Where would you look for your lost keys?

  • in a pants pocket
  • in your dog's mouth *
  • in between the pages of a book
  • in a parallel universe

2) When is the best time to see the moon?

  • on election day
  • at night
  • at last call at the bar *
  • 12:17 in the morning on February 29th


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