HARPER: It’s terrible. Mormons are not supposed to be addicted to anything. I’m a Mormon.
PRIOR: I’m a homosexual.
HARPER: Oh! In my church we don’t believe in homosexuals.
PRIOR: In my church we don’t believe in Mormons.
[from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One, Act One, Scene 7]
I admit it’s been quite a while since I’ve read a play. Probably a decade, to be honest, which really makes me feel a) depressed and b) old. Since I’m an LA dweller now, I figure it’s time to start reading some theater. I picked up Tony Kushner’s Angels in America at my local library (retro, I know!) and went to town.
It didn’t take long before I was crying, laughing, cheering, growling. There is so much passion and creativity on every page. Lately I’ve been fascinated with dialogue, which is another reason I wanted a play. This little gem exceeded my expectations. It’s in two parts, but some places sell it all together in one bundle. Make sure you have part one and two!
This play, for me, was much more poignant and enjoyable than The Glass Menagerie or Death of a Salesman (although it’s been years since I’ve read them).
What it has: crazy people, affairs, sickness, death, religion and lack thereof, Mormons, imaginary friends, angels, AIDS, politics, homo- and heterosexuals, courage, wit, redemption.
Last night when we kissed,
there were fireworks, I say.
I love you, he says.
No, I say, there were
actual fireworks, but
I love you also,
like light exploding.
→A quickie for your Independence Day.
Freelance writing is going, but right now I feel like a mouse on an exercise wheel. I’m writing about some things I love, sure, but I’m not cut out for hardcore journalism (sounds dirty!). I’ve never been that into interviewing, and I don’t sit down with blurry eyes and coffee in the morning to read BBC. I usually go for Storychord, dooce, The Diagram.
I’ve been bouncing around some other options in my brain for more lucrative ventures. Living with an engineer is starting to rub off on me I guess, or maybe it’s that he customizes his code in such cool colors that I think, Hey, I can do that. It looks interesting, stimulating and intellectual; let’s give it a try! Ohh, purple keywords, I liiiiike! Are keywords even a thing in codespeak? Who knows. Not I.
This sort of “code crush” coincided with a family member asking me if I could make a website. I’m rocking WordPress, yes, but can I make a website? Can I make it from scratch? Can I figure out how to extract data from an Excel file on the web or even figure out how to link my domain name to my hosting service? Can I? Of course I can! So, as I’m scrunching my face and googling “how to blahblahblah” (and wondering what the hell I should even start with), I say to my smartypants engineer boyfriend, “Um, I don’t even know where to start? I don’t know what to google…”
And he of infinite answers says, “Try AcademicEarth.org. They may have free lectures on web design.” And lo and behold: free lectures on building dynamic websites, from a Harvard professor no less. So it gets real.
After watching one lecture (just under two hours in length), I know much more about the web than I really ever did. But I still can’t make a website. I don’t know that I’ve ever been patient in learning a craft, but I’m fairly certain patience will become my best friend if this website-designing thing is really going to pan out. I realize that I’m lucky to have the time to watch such long, involved lectures, and I also realize that you don’t learn anything unless you really want to. The hardest part will be to stop daydreaming of being a website developer, and to start biting away at all the things I need to learn.
Step one: Find out what these elusive acronym-like names mean. PHP, XML, SQL, Ajax. Brain freeze!
Step two: Eat the elephant.
Okay, universe. I put it out there. Now I must hold myself to it.
So, just three hours after the yoga class, the store has already decided to pursue other candidates. Sort of insulting, considering during the interview they mentioned having two full time and one part time position open. As I closed the email, I remember what a lump-in-the-throat felt like. I know I’m emotional because of my period, but that little girl inside me is feeling so small. In an effort to not fray like an old sweater, I go to the kitchen, roll up my sleeves and begin washing the massive amount of dirty dishes.
Jessica A says: You can’t even get a job in retail. Retail’s where you have the most experience, and you can’t even land one of three available jobs in a dumb retail store. They don’t even want you to fold clothes, chat with customers. They would rather pursue other options. Other people are more pursued than you.
Jessica B says: It’s only retail. You want something you can pour your heart into, something that you love doing. You’ve done retail. It’s a job. You want a career. You can have a career! This is a new city, a new state, a new start. Be what you want. Do what you want.
Jessica A: What are you going to do? Rent is in due in four days. And look at you, getting excited about not being completely broke. You thought for a second you’d have some dollars to put away, you’d watch your savings account rise, and if you wanted a new shirt, you’d buy it, no problem. You thought you’d have coworkers to talk to, someone to suppress your growing need for an imaginary friend. Lousy. You’re lousy.
Jessica B: Hug yourself. Keep your chin up. Do the dishes. Be a goddamn grownup. You’re the one that wanted to be an English major. You liked it, right? Well, keep trying, you’ll get a job. You’ll get a career you’re over the moon about. Keep flowing your good energy out, out, and it will come back to you, shining like a new coin.
Jessica A: What’s next, food service? People gotta eat. Someone’s gotta give it to them.
As I spend time thinking about words, digesting words, rolling them around in my mouth and then my chest, I realize more and more the power of efficiency. Poetry, good poetry, capitalizes on the efficiency of language. So often when I speak, write, or even think, I’m not using the word that I actually mean to use. Being accurate with language is no longer valued in speech. Sure, we all appreciate hearing well-read, witty people share their views, but I rarely make an effort to search for the most accurate description possible. This is pathetic, since I call myself a writer.
Writing poetry daily has forced me to slow down and examine my words. I’m learning how to cut the fat, so to speak. Now I’m learning how important it is to go inside the poem with a scalpel and take out all of the waste.
Perhaps I was drawn to form poetry, namely the sonnet, in college because form demands efficiency.
Brad Leithauser, in an essay titled Poetry and Efficiency for The Best American Poetry’s website, writes of the sonnet:
“Efficiency? Effectiveness? What could be a more effective and efficient human interchange than the one in which someone you’ve never met offers you, in a tidy package of fourteen lines–a gift whose unwrapping will require no more than a minute or two–an intact and insightful new vantage on the universe?”
This accuracy, this efficiency, is necessary in poetry, so that once you cut away the fluffy lines and useless or unclear images, you’re left with the purest, most concentrate words on the page.
I would love to hear any thoughts on word choice and efficiency in poetry, or in life in general! Thanks for reading.
An awesome friend sent me the link to this blog, the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks, and it really made my day. The distraction it caused in my writing was intense, because once I started looking at pictures, it was like going down the rabbit hole. This one in particular really did it for me. I mean, how many errors does this sign even have? Cheaper than Cheaper? “Your” instead of “you’re”? And why in the world is “Smile your saving” the only thing in quotation marks? This is really a clusterf*@# of a sign.
My friend Mari Stanley and I have started exchanging poems for our own little workshop sessions done via email. Now April is here and we both signed up for The Southeast Review’s 30-day Writer’s Regimen. For 30 days we’ll both get a prompt, access to podcasts, a reading-writing prompt, a “craft talk” with an author, and a literary quote delivered to our inbox. I’m pretty excited about it. The challenge is to write a poem a day for 30 days, even if the poem isn’t great. We have to “flex our writing muscles” — and I want to do just that.
Mari also told me about Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer, which will also have a prompt a day for the entire month of April.
Let’s celebrate the enchantment of words!