Monday, August 30, 2010

The Rod Stewart of Spoken Word

My friend & former publisher Doug Saretsky bestowed that laurel upon me just about a decade ago.
I immediately embraced it & took it as a compliment precisely because it could be construed as an insult to most people. I knew what he meant, & it was what I was aiming for. I will spare you all my spiel about Rod Stewart in his Faces/Mod days & how bad ass he was. I will let you all continue to believe that The Rod has always been this foggy voiced charicature in leopard print spandex.
I enjoy my lone championing of his early catalog, I don't wish to see it muddled up with hipsters.

 I stopped blogging about the band specifically around the time we started playing our first shows. I had worries about how our live set would come across, how we would react on stage, how an audience would perceive us. It had been ages since I had done a live reading, & the rest of the band wasn't used to being on a stage either.
I was concerned we would freeze up, or stumble in our mistakes. I had never undergone a spoken word project that wasn't heavily reliant on improvisation. I didn't know if we could pull it off.
 It turns out all of my concerns were for naught.  We kill it live & manage to achieve something wholly unique in a city as musically diverse as Seattle.
 Sure, there were a few hiccups to work through at first, but after playing our first 5 shows, we are becoming better & more envisioned with each live performance.
We have 1 more date booked before we take some time off from playing live to concentrate on writing/recording.
The newly resurrected "Rod Stewart of Spoken Word" has to retreat to his chambers for a time, for he is not the persona that writes the material he performs. This dichotomy has to be a constant, what is written with such sorrow & trepidation has to be performed with so much confidence & vigor so the audience remains entertained.

This is a difficult process.
The poems have to remain earnest, the words have to come from the heart. In the end you are creating a product, but you have to use trickery so that it doesn't appear that way.
 I can read a poem live & not worry too much about word placement, but when going to print I tend to obsess over it. Without me being in control of how the syntax of the words are presented, I always have to make sure every metaphor is either hammered home, or remains suitably ambiguous. My 2 most successful chapbooks "Still Life With Drinks" & "Some Girls" each took me a year to edit properly. When I read them now, I want to redo entire pieces of each one. I suppose this is a common thing among writers, always worrying over the placement of 1 single word.
A simple stanza that could have come off better.
Upon sitting down to write for our upcoming recording, I find myself in a similar situation.

 This is my blog, I'm free to use ampersands if I choose & I revel in it. I am lazy after all, & it always seemed to me that getting the words down was always the important part, not the grammar or proper punctuation.
 What worries me the most right now is that I don't write much poetry anymore, I made a choice to write narrative non-fiction & that is what I enjoy.

 Writing poetry to me has always been an irrational art. The only thing that has to make sense in a poem is the emotion, & the poet is free to convey this however they see fit.  This was an easy process when I was depressed, when I was a drug addict, when I was moping about some lost love.
The problem now is that I'm not a depressed drug addict anymore. I don't love anyone, nor would I permit myself that distraction. And though that might sound a bit gloomy, I assure you that I am quite content with my personal life. I enjoy my alone time, & company or a drinking buddy is only really a phone call away.

The new poems are a slow, painful process. A lot like labor & every verse becomes like a maternal birth.
I'll get a stanza, a vignette I like, then sweat over it endlessly.
It's like when you make the decision to masturbate out of sheer boredom instead of neccessity.
& you beat it, & you stroke it for all it's worth & all you end up with is a fistful of perspiration.
Frustrated finally. You turn off the computer & walk to the bar.
your gait a bit askew from the chafe.

Poems are tricky little things. Done correctly they can take a life all their own & end up meaning vastly different things to people other than what the poet had intended. I hold my poetry to high standard & refuse to get on a stage & read crap. I'm not just representing myself up there anymore, I'm also representing 4 talented musicians that happen to also be my best friends.
I now have the time & I'm up to the challenge of writing a spectacular spoken word album. It's almost criminal that we play shows to mostly empty rooms. We all deserve better than that. Writing the material that my band deserves is my one focus at the moment, I have some ideas, we will have a product to better sell ourselves because that's what we are doing in the end.

The Rod Stewart of Spoken Word is a fun persona to inhibit, but he doesn't write the material, he just stands at the microphone stand with a beer in his hand, acting like it was no big deal to write that shit. The Rod Stewart of Spoken Words oozes nonchalant confidence. Michael Crossley sits alone in his room on a beautiful summer day worrying endlessly over a single stanza. Michael Crossley has an extraordinary opportunity that he's not going to blow this time around, so the words simply must come.

Monday September 20th at the High Dive, French Letters will have their last performance for 2010.

Aww, c'mon girl... Just one last time!

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I'm open to feedback, but remember this is a diary. Most of these posts are first drafts and as such are unedited. Editing & revising my posts would negate the purpose of this blog for me. Thanks.