Ain’t that the blues

Beedy Eyes stops thumping the skins as Chaney sings an old Leadbelly work song as I recall the first time I heard the blues. It was somewhere between the music I heard as a child–primarily country, gospel and hymns. A skinny toe head growing up on the rolling northern prairies, I perceived the blues was somewhere between country and gospel–something you sing while dangling your feet off a hayrack weighed down with a full load, something you sing with others coming in from the field, something you sing when the sun is tilting toward the western horizon. For a young kid hearing the blues for the first time it was somewhere on my musical landscape between religious and profane, respect and discent, right and wrong, joy and despair and seemed to fit me like a glove.

The window is open to an autumn afternoon as I work on graphic design projects. I listen to Bill, Chaney and Junior sing about hard times. Neighborhood dogs barking and birds singing seem to be appropriate backup. It’s been hard times for a lot of us. The other night I walked into a friend’s home and he asked right off, with a smile, “Anything you need to repent of? We’re talking about repentance.” Yeah, I think to myself. I got a long list. There are times I want to rob and steal, cuss and swear, break stuff and hit someone and be all sizes of trouble. Hard times is life. Doing what I aught to do is not easy. Ain’t that the blues? Or is that gospel? The double edged swing of the blues kicking up the dust of life in your face, choking on pride and praying that you “remember you’re walkin’ up to heaven, don’t let nobody turn you round.”

Good design is more than this


(image via Jonathan Trier Brikner)

There’s more to being a design genius than this. Truly.

Just because you have a computer, laptop or tablet allowing you to download free fonts and free images and use some free app you discovered on Twitter does not make you a design genius.

Just because you “designed” a cool graphic image the way many misled souls believe they labored and “built” an IKEA bookshelf does not make you a design genius. [1]

Celebrated graphic designer, Milton Glaser, put it best:

Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking.

Good design solves problems and presents stories. As a creative director for an international publishing house, my chief goal is to attract potential readers to new books by capturing a story in a single cover image. To illustrate the point further, an author (for whom I had just completed a book design) emailed me recently: “I’m getting some great feedback on my Facebook page about the cover. Thank you very much…” Good design is about communication: problem solved, story told.

NOTE: [1] For what it is worth, IKEA is not good design. It is nothing more than cheaper-than-Wal-mart veneer furniture, second-rate fabric products and wax-paper lamps. And don’t call IKEA “modern design” because modern design is so 1948. Seriously, the modernist movement began almost a century ago. But I digress.

We bury secrets deep into lyrics

There are secrets between singer songwriters and poets. We share them in dark corners of pubs or cafés. We talk about live performances and audiences and the craft of writing. A singer songwriter confesses that “at least a guitar is between me and the audience, but poets are left completely vulnerable on stage.” Yes, indeed. Naked before audiences that, in general, don’t care about poetry or don’t know anything about it. We wonder why singer songwriters embrace lyricism while academic poets skitter away from deep lyrics and the hint of rhyme. We will bury our secrets deep into the lyrics of a song or poem–so deep that it requires of map to locate ars poetica.

Last night, I fell asleep writing a poem

Realizing late in the evening that the day had almost past and I had not committed to composing a poem, I set to the task….

[read more]

UPDATE: This blog post is available as part of an audio podcast.

Listen here:

Or listen on:
PodOmatic: coffeehousejunkie.podomatic.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/coffeehousejunkie

 

E-book: How long does it take to write a haiku?: and other stories

Purchase the e-book Kindle Edition for $0.99!

What do you think about when you see a stack of books? In this short collection of stories you will also learn what a creative director thinks of when he sees a stack of books. Who is the audience for your poems? Is possible to write in your sleep, or not?

How long should one wait on editors?

While I wait for editors to reply to my narrative non-fiction submissions, I grow impatient and want to post these writings on this blog. Some teasers like Shuffling through the ruins of a summer and Ma Rainey, don’t sing them blues no more were released. One astute reader provoked this post: Yes, it is true. But on the advice of published writers, I can’t post much more without jeopardizing publication. So, I wait. Keep writing. And reading. This weekend one blogger reminded me of OctPoWriMo–31 poems/31 days. This seems to me like a good exercise to do while I wait on editors.