Music Box


, , , , ,

person holding pen leaning on table

Photo by on

Another simple lyric. Since it’s called “Music Box,” I’m guessing you know what it’s supposed to sound like. It’s been another hard week.


I rise when they raise me
I sleep when they close
Round, Rosie, round
When I stop, no one knows.

Lullaby dancer, princess ballet
I turn and I spin, pirouette and sway.
Round, Rosie, round
Forever and ever I’ll stay.

My music turned on
By someone else’s hand
Wind me up, winding down,
Still as a statue I stand.

Silhouette on a mirror
Glitter trapped in my eye
Reflection ‘comes clearer
Too porcelain to cry.

I’ll dance to your music
And bow when you close
Round, Rosie, round
When I stop, no one knows.

I’ll guard all your treasures
For here I have none
No pain and no pleasures
My music is done.

My Captain


, , , , ,

white and red flag

Photo by Aaron Schwartz on

A few of my friends know I was irrationally upset by the new Cap story line in the comics. Which is silly, because I don’t even read the comics. I’m a movie!verse fan.

I can’t imagine it was a symbolic way of dealing with other feelings I’ve been having or anything, since I process better through fiction. That’s just ridiculous.

Anyway, I wrote this because I just have a lot of feelings still, even after the storyline in the comics resolved itself. Must be nice.


O Captain, My Captain
Emblem of an anthem left long behind
The last living legend, ice and time confined
Willing to walk that harrowing line
O Captain, My Captain
She has your heart, so you can use mine.

O Captain, My Captain
Ideal icon of the land that I love
Is it too much that we’re asking you of?
Land of the warhawk, while you hold a dove
O Captain, My Captain
We don’t deserve, but you’re never enough.

You’re everything we dreamed we could be
You stand for all we should be
But until we know why we made thee
Fight for what we thought we would be.

O Captain, My Captain
Betrayal hurt more than I could have known
False idol, false friend, forging a false throne
The one in your place denied, to fight alone
O Captain, My Captain
Tell me, what have we done?
O Captain, My Captain
Tell me what we have become.

Anything But a Diamond


, , , , ,


Photo by lalesh aldarwish on

I’ve decided to start sharing some of these songwriting pieces as I go, in part because writing wants to be shared. I’m also scared to share, but I need to get over that if I don’t want to be an absolute wreck every time I put out a book. (I lost it a few times while putting out Nocturne.)

So…starting small with one of my first pieces. The style is meant to be something quiet that Miranda Lambert might sing. If this is my version of romantic, I’m going to have a heck of a time trying to write typical love songs. That’s okay. Plenty of other people out there to do it better.


Stay away from candlelight
Don’t get down on one knee
No violins serenading
Anything but a diamond, please.

No kiss under a bright full moon
No soft island breeze
I don’t need angels standing by
Anything but a diamond, please.

I never asked for forever
All I asked for was now
All I wanted was you and me together
I never wanted a vow.

At my best I was never romantic
I kept expectations low
When the fairy tale waits too long to come by
It’s too easy to choose the devil you know.

I don’t want a fairy tale ending
No happily ever after for me
If you love me, then just say it out loud
Anything but a diamond, please.

Songwriting Goals Achieved


, , , ,

For the purpose of accountability, I just wanted to share that my challenge to write an average of one song a month has been met well before the deadline. I’ve discovered I have two lanes when it comes to subject matter, but they don’t exactly go together, so if I ever decide to produce anything, who knows what kind of EPs I’d come up with. 🙂 I wrote a song about trypophobia, then followed it with the sweetest love song I know how to write.

In general, I seem to favor dark social/religious commentary and self-deprecating humor.

Anyway, here’s the list, in alphabetical order (I’ll follow up on the end of the year with a full 2018 list, and maybe I’ll share a few):

1. “Vultures”
2. “Anything but a Diamond”
3. “Standing Water”
4. “Fools”
5. “The Valley of the Shadow”
6. “City on the Hill”
7. “Plenty of Fish”
8. “Devil in the Details”
9. “Trypophobia”
10. “Without You”
11. “Svrcina”
13. “My Captain”

REVIEW: Gothika


, , , , , , ,

GothikaThis is one of those movies where I can’t figure out if it’s deceptively good or just a personal pleasure, regular as comfort food.

It pushes one of my major buttons by being set in a psychiatric facility, which forgives a multitude of sins. When you’re crazy, I suspect you either love or hate psych ward suspense. I’m one of the ones who loves ’em. I process a lot of my shit through fiction, and psych ward horror brings up a lot of issues that I can healthily address through it, even when it’s sensationalized and mentally ill people othered for effect. So yeah, it’s problematic, but it still helps me deal with my problems. You just take some things with a grain of salt or a spoonful of sugar.

As horror movies go, this one suffers most in its script, with jarring lines all over the place. Here’s one of the juicier tidbits:

MIRANDA: I’m not deluded, Pete. I’m possessed.

PETE: I don’t believe in ghosts.

MIRANDA: Neither do I. But they believe in me.

Someone just thought they were so clever coming up with some of these lines and wouldn’t give them up for anything. I’m tempted to say they paid Halle Berry so much that they couldn’t afford a good script, but it’s more likely the script was destroyed in production, so I won’t unilaterally blame the writer, who has very little control over what happens when the script is out of their hands.

But a solid cast makes the most of cheap lines. You see Robert Downey, Jr., pre-redemption, which is a treat. With Penelope Cruz, Charles Dutton, and John Carroll Lynch rounding out the cast, it’s hard to go wrong. The only gross miscast would be Bernard Hill, who brings every ounce of gravitas he can to a fundamentally silly film. They really should have stopped with Dutton and Lynch for legitimacy.

And can we talk about the title for a second? A title that has absolutely no connection to the story, but someone thought it might have a Hot Topic baby goth kind of appeal? Sure, the story is pure modern Gothic—a looming psychiatric prison, female madness, a cool, dark palette, gaslighting. But where the hell did the K come from? Considering the motif of NOT ALONE, they should have just gone with that instead.

Okay, now that I’m writing this review, I’m pretty sure the movie is just a guilty pleasure.

But there are things about GOTHIKA that do work and let you see the good the movie could have been. The palette alternates between a gentler gray blue and a sickening green (a common palette for horror in the early 2000s, but it really worked here). Like the contrast between clean institutional rooms and rundown Gothic architecture, it visually disorients in a setting where you think they’d be more interested in soothing its inhabitants (except the place is for the criminally insane, so maybe they kinda want to punish them, too).

The role gives Halle Berry somewhere to use her earnest emotional energy in a place where it fits. Most of the time, I want her to dial it back a click or two, but in a story essentially about the perception of female hysteria, her brand of emotion feeds that question of sanity, and she does small, fierce, and determined very well. The trouble is, when she’s playing the doctor, she’s supposed to be the best, yet her more clinical lines come off as those of a novice (script, again), and she doesn’t seem to even take herself seriously as a doctor. Her demeanor lacks assertiveness or authority. If I thought that was a deliberate choice to highlight female mollification of male ego or a case of Imposter Syndrome, I’d be more forgiving. But because I suspect she’s supposed to seem competent, I can’t be quite so forgiving.

However, once the instigating incident occurs and Berry’s character Miranda is incarcerated among her patients, including Cruz, things become much more interesting, if not exactly consistent. Even allowing for flawed communication between the living and the dead, the ghost makes very little sense, and the story deserved better. However, the motif of NOT ALONE throughout the movie appeals to me, because the meaning changes each time, yet each meaning holds its own weight—and might sound terribly familiar in the midst of the #MeToo movement.


When it comes to the suspense payout, though, the farmhouse reveal lost me a bit when it comes to timeline logic. When Dutton’s character is addressing the camera, is he addressing his wife directly, with the anticipation of bringing her down there soon (or again)? Is the woman in the video the one chained down there or Miranda herself? There’s a suggestion that she might have been a victim herself and not known it, connecting her with Cruz’s character and continuing with the theme of repression for the purpose of survival that was introduced through the conservation Dutton’s character had with his wife in the beginning. Was Dutton’s character addressing himself as a continuation of that conversation? Does he say “I love you” to himself, his wife, his victim, or his partner? The malleability of NOT ALONE may point to all of these options as being possible and open to interpretation, but I might be too generous, and in order for all of them to work, there needs to be solid evidence for all like the NOT ALONE motif, but instead, there’s not solid evidence for any.

When I first saw the movie, I wasn’t as aware of Lynch’s reputation, nor had I learned to recognize certain thriller patterns, so I didn’t see the twist coming, but as endings go, it suffered the horror curse of being underwhelming, with amateurish FX, not to mention more jarringly bad lines that did not work. What kind of doped-up villain sees a ghost and goes, “No…this isn’t rational”? Seriously.

The epilogue was similarly ‘why?’ Although it was good to have a reunion between Miranda and Cruz’s character Chloe, since the movie opened with them, I think there could have been a much better way of handling it—perhaps back at the facility, something to reinforce Chloe’s survival to bookend the repression-as-survival concept. Really, they didn’t focus enough on that, and I wish they had. They only really discussed it in terms of doctors using repression as a reason to dismiss women’s stories.

So the ending wasn’t quite satisfying, but the story’s main strength comes in the middle, in the space between the sane and insane, when Miranda grapples with that question herself and the people who knew her as the doctor suddenly start treating her like a child. It’s as Chloe explains, “You are not a doctor in here. And even if you the tell the truth…no one will listen. You know why? Because you’re crazy. And the more you try to prove them wrong, the crazier you’ll appear. You are invisible now. Can you feel it?”

The treatment, infantilization, and utter dismissal of the mentally ill as though we have nothing to offer (in the parts of our brain that are unaffected, but even in the places where our perception is different) is worth shining a light on—as though skewed perception in one area steals credibility from everything else as well. In the case of women, it’s long been used as a way to interpret the slightest bit of emotion as hysteria, rebellion as insanity, and all that as a reason to lock a woman away for her own good. People totally believed that, and sometimes still do. Because once you’re labelled insane, all of a sudden you have no voice. No one listens to what you have to say, only to what a doctor says you mean. (This is a big reason why I sometimes have to listen to Emilie Autumn.)

Some of the best scenes are between Miranda and Chloe, as well as Miranda with Robert Downey, Jr.’s character, Pete. Easily the best scene in the movie is after Miranda wakes up in the institution, when she’s sure she’s sane and doesn’t know what’s happened, but everyone’s treating her as dangerously psychotic, and she’s terrified and vulnerable. When she fights Pete’s hold, the sexual tension established between them becomes so twisted, which it’s clearly supposed to. Then Berry and Downey engage in a clinical back and forth that’s just beautiful in its quiet simplicity. The entire bit has such nuanced performances from each actor, it’s a real gem in an otherwise middling movie.

All in all, it’s a film that could have been better, but I still love it in all its hot mess glory, and it has enough rough gems to mine that it’s worth a watch if you like gaslight horror or are interested in a shameless popcorn movie on a rainy night.

Seriously, though, at least three-quarters of the movie takes place during a downpour, so waiting for a rainy night really helps.

REVIEW: Would You Rather


, , , , , , , , , ,

Would-You-Rather-354x525I’ve been wanting to write a review about this movie for a while, but I just didn’t have anything substantive to say about it, other than that it pushed a lot of good buttons. I’m a fan of locked-room horror, because it feels almost like a play. It evokes intimacy, then as things get more intense, claustrophobia. I also have a soft spot for adolescent games turned dark, which is why I liked TRUTH OR DIE and will probably love TRUTH OR DARE when it comes out next month.

The cast is also fantastic and varied, with Brittany Snow, horror alum Jeffrey Combs, Robin Lord Taylor, and Enver Gjokaj, plus a number of other familiar faces. Really, in dinner theater, there’s nothing better than bringing together an amazing cast, because even the small parts are given greater intensity.

(Side note: It also has a wonderful, subtle opening credit sequence that I love. Reminds me of the opening credits of MADHOUSE in terms of beauty and CABIN FEVER in terms of slow-burn subtlety—which was about the only thing in the original CABIN FEVER that was slow-burn subtle, by the way.)

On its surface, WOULD YOU RATHER is a simple sadistic tale in a post-SAW gorescape of bringing a group of flawed people into a space and making them torture each other. For WOULD YOU RATHER, though, a smaller budget makes the situations seem much more realistic in scope and execution and less of a spectacle. As gore goes, it’s minimal, playing off implication and imagination rather than showing the blood. Not that it goes easy on you.

The premise: Wealthy patron invites down-on-their-luck individuals for dinner for a chance to win a substantial amount of money. The exact amount is never specified, but it’s suggested that it will take care of all immediate debt and whatever else an individual needs to get back on their feet, and then some.

It doesn’t go well.

The reason I decided to finally write a review is that this small, scrappy little gem takes on a disturbingly relevant tone these days.

Haves versus have nots is an old conflict. Ever since we’ve had an economy, we’ve had wealth disparity and its resultant tension. But as wealth disparity grows and the poorer get blamed for it, that tension’s only going to get worse. As our present administrations continue to cut safety nets and entitlements, as health care costs soar, as student loans continue to burden the generations entering adulthood, as corporations continue to blame millennials for their own lack of wealth that makes the increasingly more expensive markers of adulthood out of reach, as affordable housing and decent food and other staples rise in price against stagnant wages…the tensions continue to escalate. Between the haves and have nots, of course, but also between each subsection of the have nots, because it’s an insidious strategy to pit the have nots against each other in the blame game so they don’t have enough energy to combat the haves. (See: THE HUNGER GAMES. Also: A BUG’S LIFE, which is unexpectedly political.)

And here we have a wealthy, white psychopath and his lazy, spoiled brat rapist son bringing debt-ridden people together to torture each other for their own entertainment…because they know they can. At the very beginning, we see the signs. In the doctor’s office where he courts Snow’s character to the dinner party, he’s eating either peanuts or sunflower seeds on the couch and discarding the shells on the cushion next to him. Not in a bowl, not in an ashtray, not in a tissue, not in a trashcan. He’s in a doctor’s office, discarding his trash on the furniture without any regard to the impact of his actions. We see where he’s put himself in the hierarchy.

The host laughs as he convinces a vegetarian to eat meat for ten thousand dollars. He laughs as he convinces a recovering alcoholic to drink a bottle of scotch for fifty thousand. In a world where one major illness can wipe out everything, where mental and chronic illness can make functioning to production standards impossible, where addicts are entirely blamed for their addictions when one moment of weakness shouldn’t lead to a lifetime of damnation just because of an exploited trick of brain chemistry, where being poor is so goddamn expensive while rich people get free things handed to them on the platter as though they’re lucky cats…blaming have nots for their own circumstances has become more unconscionable, yet the rhetoric seems to have only increased.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a white millennial with the additional privilege of parental wealth. I’m still angry on behalf of friends who get shit on. And frankly, on behalf of total strangers, too. This doesn’t have to be personal and I don’t have to have stakes in the game for me to care.)

But here we have a self-made man who sees a table full of losers, who feels he’s completely entitled to do anything he wants, because he has the money and they want it and are willing to do anything for it. All they have to do is sacrifice everything. And even then, only the winner gets it. All of them will sacrifice everything, but the winner takes all. So you see, friends, if you just work harder… Never mind that luck plays a significant role in the game as well.

Suffice it to say, the movie feels far more allegorical than the first dozen times I saw it. Even the deaths and how each player relates to each other seems more significant. For instance, it doesn’t seem coincidental that the pretty blonde protagonist gets as far as she does.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s a driven young woman. And though she’s hardly the physically strongest person there, quite slight in stature in comparison with everyone but Sasha Grey’s character, the Lambrick Foundation chose her because she’s fighting for someone else, and that sometimes makes a bigger difference than fighting for yourself. Brittany Snow does a fantastic job leading the ensemble with her vulnerability, and it’s worth watching her reach the point where she changes from a scared, passive victim to someone determined to survive.

But it’s still a stunning lesson in privilege, presided over by a man with a Draco Malfoy-like son who thinks he’s superior because he was born into wealth by no effort of his own and, like his father, is bailed out of his own criminal activity, excused for it supposedly because of the trauma of his mother’s death. Yet somehow, he deserves his wealth more, and everyone else in that room deserves to sing for their supper until they die.

It’s a blistering indictment. It really is. When a dinner party turned slaughterhouse is a rich man’s solution for who deserves his charity (which, when it has strings, isn’t charity at all), when compassion doesn’t even enter the conversation, when dire straits are viewed as just deserts and help something you must earn at the cost of your life or someone else’s, something is seriously wrong. The one percent may not be putting people through such individualized, intimate torture, but it is actually a matter of life and death. People are dying. And on their potter’s field headstones, it might as well read: Should have bootstrapped harder.

In that light, easily the most chilling line: “You know, you agreed to be here. You’re basically asking my family for a handout. The least you could do, pig, is show a little fucking respect.”

Beyond the social horror, though, the low-budget torture goes back to the classics. Really, there’s no need for genius, Inquisition-level engineering. The standards are standards for a reason, and the impact isn’t lower because of the utter, beautiful, sadistic simplicity of it all. As the players submit to the deadly game in their own desperation and will to survive, you’ll be asked the same questions. “Would you rather?” stripped down is just “Under the right circumstances, what are you willing to do?” As countless unethical social experiments have shown, we’ll always be horrified by the answer.

Another blog to check out


, , , , ,

496265_22437560bycristinaI’m in the process of completing two new long-form horror movie reviews, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get some more written during the week.

I have a great love of most forms of media and multiple genres. I consume so much music. I watch so much genre film and TV (granted, usually years behind everyone else). I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. But I’ve only ever felt qualified to write about horror movies. That’s a niche where I feel comfortable, where I have enough of a foundation to explain what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve read and written enough horror that I like trying to figure out what fixes could have improved a weaker script. I feel comfortable having opinions that might differ from the rest of the critics, and I’m usually pretty good at explaining why.

I think the fact that I can find the good even in the mediocre speaks to a real love of horror, and I sometimes feel like you have to love something to properly criticize it, because then you know any negative criticism isn’t an indictment or dismissal of the entire genre, or even of the movie itself.

Outside of horror movies, though, I like to joke that I have no taste. I just like what I like, and there’s no shame in that.

And I almost always add that my brother has far better taste than I do. He consumes even more media than me and has many more thoughts on the matter, with a greater critical understanding of a broader variety of entertainment. I do horror, and I love talking with him about horror movies, because it’s one of the few things where I feel I come from a place of authority. When he was younger, he used to be terrified of horror, but I slowly helped introduce him back to it when he grew up and our relationship was changing from that between two children to two adults. So we kind of built a new relationship around that.

But he does everything, and I love to read his takes on the rest of popular culture and critical response. We grew up on geek culture, and we’re both unapologetic nerds. We just went in slightly different directions with it.

Do check him out, and start with his ranking of the movies of Stephen Spielberg HERE.



, , , , ,

The_Lazarus_Effect_(2015_film)_posterTHE LAZARUS EFFECT is a regular background movie for me. I’ll turn it on a lot when I’m working on something else and just need something to listen to. I know it well enough to visualize the movie as it goes without actually having to watch it, and it’s slick enough to grab my attention now and then. But like LIGHTS OUT, it’s a slick horror mess that suffers from storytelling mistakes rather than talent.

I very much enjoy seeing Olivia Wilde in a role outside HOUSE, and I appreciated being introduced to Sarah Bolger, who reminds me so much of Alyson Hannigan–her face is different, but her expressions, gestures, and timing are eerily similar, though Bolger is obviously drawn to darker stories. The story didn’t do much for the usually charismatic Evan Peters or Donald Glover, though, and leading man Mark Duplass doesn’t quite manage to dig himself out of blandness. However, as I said, most of the sins of the movie have nothing to do with the actors, so although Wilde and Bolger elevate their roles, it’s likely the others can be forgiven for the script’s sins against them.

I keep watching this damn movie, even though it disappoints me every time. I think part of me thinks that, this time, the movie will finally progress the way it should and I’ll finally be satisfied. Or maybe I’m just trying to figure out how it could have been saved in another world.

LAZARUS EFFECT has a not-so-original premise, but it’s one that, with some work, might have yielded something truly terrifying. Certainly more terrifying than the rote scares the movie eventually succumbed to. The thing that gets me is that this movie really could have been better–it had room to stretch, it set up its unsettling questions…then forgot about those questions or didn’t follow them far enough down the rabbit hole. The cast was older, so it didn’t need to suffer the teen-bait fate. But it feels like the movie was supposed to go somewhere else, somewhere more interesting, and then some knucklehead pulled the plug on it like they did for the INVASION remake–maybe they thought Americans audiences wouldn’t get it or care. So we ended up with a moderately interesting first half and a hackneyed, lowest-common-denominator second half–although someone needs to give Wilde another reason to wear those demon eyes, because she rocks the hell out of them.

Let’s examine what LAZARUS EFFECT did well at the beginning and how the end failed it so hard.

The premise is this–two scientists and their research team are testing an experimental serum meant to kick-start neural activity after death. Reanimation, yes, but not in the zombie sense. The way Male Scientist presents it (seriously, I don’t care enough to look up his name), it’s more for recent deaths, to give hospitals longer to save someone. Basically, intended less for reanimation, more for extreme revival. Olivia Wilde, who plays Female Scientist, Zoe, works with her husband, and they are very much equal partners and equally brilliant. Sarah Bolger plays the newcomer comm student they hire to document their research and gives everyone a reason to explain what’s going on. They bring up one of the big questions when it comes to creating a serum that literally brings someone back from the dead: Namely, what happens after death?

Both scientists couch their theories in nutshell scientific terms, which I appreciated–interpreting the facts as we have them. Male Scientist believes there’s nothing afterward, that the near-death or bright light experiences by people who technically die are just euphoric hallucinations as the brain shuts down. Female Scientist, with a small gold cross hanging around her neck, hypothesizes that these hallucinations are part of the process of crossing over, that nothing ever really goes away–which bears with the first law of thermodynamics, conservation of energy, and so on. Both are valid theories (colloquial meaning of theory here) on the subject of existence after death, but Female Scientist rightly emphasizes that we just don’t know.

Then one of their experiments works, and they successfully bring a dog back to life, its cataracts disappearing but the serum not metabolizing out of his system the way it should. Instead, it keeps creating new neural connections, or something of that nature. And he’s exhibiting odd behavior, which brings up the second important question–What happens when you bring something back? (Haven’t any of these people watched BUFFY?) What are the consequences for the subject and what does that mean for the rest of us?

To summarize, here are the questions at stake: Is there life after death? And either way, what happens when you bring the dead back from wherever they’ve been?

As shown in the trailers, Zoe dies through human error, and she’s brought back, because dogs can’t discuss the philosophical ramifications of reanimation.

Where things begin to go off the rails is when she starts manifesting psychokinetic and telepathic abilities. In itself, this isn’t a problem (although that damned 10-percent-of-the-brain myth showed up and annoyed the crap out of me, because these scientists should fucking know better). It became a problem when that became the focus of the second half, eventually to the point of senselessness.

Let me break it down [HERE THERE BE SPOILERS – you can pretty much glean everything from the trailer, though]:

Between the moment of Zoe’s death and her resurrection, she experienced the worst thing she’s ever done on an endless loop for years. Set against her beliefs, it’s clear she believed she was in hell, forced to relive her greatest sin in spite of her religion telling her she’s supposed to be forgiven, that she’s done everything she needed to do. Now, we’re never told whether she was actually in hell or whether, in her brain’s last moments, she experienced time dilation, like in a dream, and perceived years of self-created hell in a matter of moments. This is not a question that needs to be resolved, but I would have appreciated it being, I don’t know, addressed? Because the implications are so much scarier than Resurrection!Carrie.

And again, Resurrection!Carrie itself isn’t a problem in and of itself, but it just kind of…happened. How did this calm, rational, kind scientist end up terrorizing and slaughtering everyone she knows? She’s got power. What’s the point of the killing? Even her feeling like she won’t have any spiritual consequences doesn’t explain it. I think if they’d wanted her power to terrorize everyone, they could have gone the post-traumatic stress route, where her powers extend from panic, distress, nightmares, fears, furies. What happens when a woman is tortured either in real hell or the hell she created for what she perceived as years?

Another idea that they teased but never really did anything with, if she were really in hell, did resurrection bring something back with her? I think giving Wilde’s character more motivation as a villain would have gone a long way toward improving the movie. And in general, going the “weird fiction” route might have done more justice to the question of heaven, hell, or nothing at all–because it’s often these challenges to conventional belief systems, including atheism, that are the most disturbing. Going “demonic hitchhiker” might have been interesting as well.

But we’ll never know, because every time I watch it, the movie still ends the same.

A Melody without a Beat


, , , , ,

pexels-photo-210661.jpeg“I don’t do poetry.”

That’s what I keep saying. Every time I try, something rings inexplicably false, juvenile. Also, I’m a wordy fucker, and short form writing is hard.

“I don’t do poetry.”

But sometimes, I have so much to say, and I’m terrible at saying things directly. I have a tendency to backpedal or start arguing from an opposite viewpoint. My mind is scrambled, and there’s not a lot I can do about it when it comes to the broken line between my mind and my tongue. The way I get around it most of the time is from the side, by writing fiction, where I can hide in my characters–who sometimes don’t agree with me, so good luck figuring out which part’s me. (Trick question: it all comes from me, because all the thought-voices in my head are me, even if they don’t agree, but damn, it gets crowded and mean in here.)

But sometimes it’s not enough to come at something sideways. Sometimes I have too many thoughts all at once, with an intensity that can’t be assuaged through long form writing. Takes too darn long, go figure. In those events, I usually have to grab the nearest writing implement and furiously write down verse. Usually free verse in those situations, sometimes with the rhythm of slam poetry. But undeniably poetry.

Not necessarily good poetry. I told you. “I don’t do poetry.”

But sometimes I need it.

I came up with the goal to write twelve songs this year because of the same theory that drives NaNoWriMo: Stop talking about writing the novel and just write the novel.

I kept telling myself I needed to figure out how to write lyrics eventually. Since I was already jotting random snippets of lyrics down like crazy lately, driven to put something down that prose couldn’t touch, I figured I might as well start figuring out how to structure a song and figure out meter and rhymes. I’m an alpha-omega writer. I start at the beginning and finish at the end. Verse seems to grow outward from a single line or couplet. It’s not natural for me. But writing novels was once unnatural to me, and now I barely have to think about story, structure, or pacing.

It may take six years, the way it took with writing novels, before the song-writing feels less amateurish to me, before it feels less insincere–which is the deepest cut, because the inspiration is usually something terribly raw in its sincerity. But already, between jotting down lyrics, making a few attempts at Christmas songs (a few of which I actually like), and the first two entries in satisfying my 2018 song-writing goals, I notice improvement. “Vultures” was my first extended metaphor, which I’m proud of. And I really reined in my wordiness. And “Anything but a Diamond” is a bit of an aromantic love song, if that makes any sense.

I’m not going to get into the music-writing yet, although I’d like to tackle that in the future. Maybe that’ll be next year’s monthly assignment. In the meantime, I’ll reacquaint myself with the piano, after our period of estrangement. I took piano for twelve years, but around Year Ten, I developed terrible performance anxiety that makes playing in public impossible, and thus discouraged me from the ivories for another twelve years. Scales and chords should be like riding a bicycle, though, and already I’m noticing how songs are arranged based on that very premise.

If I’m really ambitious, I might try indie recording. I have no delusions of fame. It would mostly be for my own edification and enjoyment. One of those ‘why the hell not? I’m thirty fucking years old and really don’t care what anyone else thinks’ things. It would be really interesting to figure out all the technology and how to do it myself (because asking for outside help is so ten years ago, and I can’t afford it).

The other impetus for learning myself songwriting is that I’ve found it comes up in my fiction more often than I expected. Sometimes, free verse just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes I must rhyme, and I can’t get away with half-assing or improvising a poem.

But I really don’t do poetry.