Monday, June 27, 2005

Autobiography? I Ain't Got No Stinkin' Autobiography!

Just got back from the Summer Solstice Folk Festival. Had a great time. More on that later. But, for those of you who can't wait, in a nutshell: I now can call myself a multi-instrumentalist because I learned how to play the bodrahn at least as well as the five-year-old girl sitting next to me at the workshop; they need to have more uke workshops; I camped out an slept amazingly well, considering; it is really hard to learn to play pennywhistle first thing in the morning when you haven't even showered; french guys could avoid a lot of arguments if they would learn English with an Irish accent.

I got an e-mail from the leader of my weekend workshop in the upcoming Taos writer's workshop. He wants us to send a sample of our poetry and a brief statement about ourselves and our writing influences.

I am going to send these two poems:


Dusk: the dim lamp, a halo.
Your head, bowed in dizzy reflection.

We pick at a plate of cookies.
You sweep away pills that will not save you.

I feel the edge of my tongue
and bite into the isolated sweetness.


Some saints believe they can walk across
a sea of blood and still enter Heaven.
No Christ stands on the horizon,
No hand waves for them to follow, no voice
calls them. But, they insist it’s true. Asked why
they don’t just try it if they’re so sure, they
say “We wait for the Lord. He’ll go first, to
set the example.” Then, one by one, they’ll
join him.
For now, they wait for a sign,
huddled in their yachts, gazing as waves swell,
as clouds gather. Some notice fingers–
for waves have become hands, poised to
grab the ankles of the first, the second–
to drown each in these waters they have built.

Also, I will probably send the poem from my first post. Let me know what you think.

The hard part is the part about me and my influences. When someone asks me to do that sort of thing, I freeze. There isn't that much to say about me and I'm not sure that there are any influences. When I finally do respond to this sort of prompt, I always write something that I regret, because it seems so stodgy and dull.

There are writers that I like a lot. Hemingway is at the top of that list. Walt Whitman and Kenneth Patchen are both poets that I like, but I don't know that I could trace any influence.

Of course, I love Don Quixote and almost anything by Shakespeare. But their influence on anyone goes without saying, even for those who have never read them.

The artists who have influenced my thinking more than anyone would be the great slapstick comedians of the early sound era: The Marx Brothers, WC Fields, and Laurel and Hardy. I think more than anyone, these people influenced my sense of humor, my sense of language, and my sense of humanity. I think that it's possible to learn everything you need to know about life from these guys.

I'd probably have to add the Wizard of Oz and Mary Martin's TV broadcast of Peter Pan also. What more could anyone teach you about the frustration of humanity-about never wanting to grow up and always yearning for something better than what you have?


Howlin' Hobbit said...

I like your influences. I got a lot from the Marx Bros. as well. I think I'd have to add Robert Benchley and James Thurber to the "language" and "attitude" part of the list for me.


Donita said...

Good poems. I remember seeing Waiting before. (sniff!)

Every time I see the Marx Bros. I get something new. I didn't really get W.C. Fields until I saw a Biography about him. Laurel and Hardy are just plain fun to watch. Their performances are really quite subtle.

I like the last paragraph of this post. I can sooo relate.

Congratulations on becomming a multi-instrumentalist. You have just doubled the amount of shit you have to carry around.

Billy Canary said...

I think the pomes are great. What about Chotro and Steve Allen as influences?
I put Clarence Fountain, James Osterberg and Laszlo Toth as influences in my last show bio. I did it because a lot a people put God and Jesus and cited Bible verses. I was being silly, but when I think about it, these guys influence or represent notions that I find important regarding art and existence (Boy,is that a steaming pile or what!). Clarence is the greatest singer since Goulet. That influences me and not just in singing. Osterberg and Toth I like because they break stuff literally and metaphorically.
Of course, they were all cut from my bio. I thought for sure that the bio people would think that Osterberg and Toth were eastern European acting theorists and that Fountain was a spiritual figurehead (which I guess he is, sorta).
Cite whomever the hell you want as influences! Who cares if they're not poets! Are you gonna get arrested?
Christ, I used King Kong as a movement model for Don Quixote (Oh no! I've revealed one of my secrets!).

vivage said...

I like portions the post itself as a record of your influences. It's a nice piece of writing and it gives both an idea of your personality and the depth and breath of influences throughout your life.

"Waiting", perfectly captured.

Billy Canary said...

I agree with V re: your post.