Strange Throwback Thursday

Comic Stroll 2013

 

After nearly a six-year hiatus, I was excited to see a project that began with notes and sketches transform into a published comic strip. Even if it was a one-off. Even if I had to hand the responsibility of drawing each panel to someone else. It was done.

I had imagined that the creative non-fiction comic story I crafted would earn some interest. Maybe it would open a few doors to an audience. And allow me to write and illustrate. Even earn some money. Maybe I would quit my day job and provide for my household by doing something I loved. Telling stories. And drawing pictures.

That was five years ago.

A few weeks ago I found a box in the garage. It had several copies of a publication that printed my comic strip. I glanced over the pages and then placed them back into the box. I also found several books. Opened one book I remembered enjoying.

“What’s that?” asked one of the children.

“It’s a collection of comic strips.”

“Oh.”

I pulled a copy from the box and gave it to the child.

“There’s a story in there I wrote.” I said. “See if you can find it.”

The child took the copy of Comic Stroll and headed off to the couch in the living room.

I flipped through the pages of the book I had found. Read a few highlights.

Yeah, I resemble that, I thought to myself after reading a few lines at the end of the book. The author referenced a friend of his who gave up an art gig for a corporate job in order to provide for his family.

Yeah. I know what that is like.

How many comic pages might I have written and illustrated if I had. . . Well, what-ifs and might-have-beens are dangerous paths to pursue. What you did, great or small, is what matters.

Watching my progeny spend an afternoon reading comic strips I had a hand in creating was a pleasure.

NOTES:
Comic Stroll, a publication of the Southeast chapter of the National Cartoonist Society, featured a collection of previously unpublished comic strips. You can read the whole journey of what started in November 2005 as a couple drawings and became a creative non-fiction comic strip:
[1] Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction
[2] Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction Continued
[3] Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 3
[4] Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 4
[5] Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 5
[6] Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
[7] Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
[8] Strange Familiar Place comic series
[9] Strange Familiar Place returns
[10] The return of Strange Familiar Place to print

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Language is communal

If “language is communal” with the primary obligation of telling the truth, than poetry — the highest form of literature — is essential for addressing the fragmentation of communities and people.

Thirteen years ago, my wife and I hosted friends at our cottage on the outskirts of Asheville. A simple meal of salad, chicken and pasta, and red wine provided the vehicle for conversation and stories.

The husband told a story about being pulled over by local police near Old Fort. The officer asked for the husband’s driver’s license and registration. The requested items were provided through a narrow slit of a rolled down window.

“I still have to roll the window down,” he smiled. This attested to his mountain frugality and blue collar virtue.

The officer returned the license and registration and asked if he knew why he had been pulled over and if he had firearms.

“No. And yes,” he replied. The officer asked where the firearms were located. He told the officer that the guns and ammo were stored separately in the trunk. He was then asked to get out of the vehicle and show the officer the guns. Which he did.

The trunk was opened to reveal a chainsaw, climbing equipment, tools and containers for guns and ammo. The officer admired the make and model of one pistol. Asked what he did for a living. And requested to handle the pistol. The husband complied. The officer inspected the pistol. To the husband’s surprise, the officer commented that he would tell his wife about this. She might buy it for him as a birthday gift.

“Well,” said the officer. “Have a safe drive home. And repair that busted tail light within the month.”

I admired the husband’s story. His stories were like climbing a mountain road that rose and fell and wove between cove and valley and eventually arrived were it intended.

That night, as the dishes were cleared from the dining table and a second glass of wine poured, his wife shared that she and her mother planned to attend my reading at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café on Thursday night. She confessed that she was looking forward to the scheduled night of poetry and music. But she wanted to know why I chose to read and write poetry.

“Why not stories?” she asked.

That question haunted me.

Poetry’s form and function is different from prose. It is more ancient. Where a novel’s exposition provides a landscape of hundreds of pages to expand the narrative plot of character, conflict, and theme, a poem compresses an idea, thought or theme into a few lyrical lines. This is an overly reductive and non-academic comparison of the two forms. But consider the etymology of the word “poetry.”

The English word for poetry comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “to make” or “to craft.” The German word for poetry comes from a Latin word meaning “to dictate.” The Romans often borrowed Greek ideas and themes and aped or improved them. Between the two etymologies I gather the impression that poets are conduits for The Muses — the source of inspiration and creativity. Poets dictate the message of The Muses. Poets craft the message of truth. The ancient Greeks invoked The Muses at the beginning of poems, hymns and epics.

At the time of the diner with friends, I held a casual understanding that poetry in the German language encompasses a compression or density of thought and theme. And that poetry in English embraces beauty and harmony–or graceful elegance. Then, as much as I could afford, I studied Persian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean poetry. And I learned there is much I did not know about continent of poetry.

“Why not stories?” she asked. Stories are important. Poetry is essential. Community is vital. Words must nurture a fractured community in order to bring it together and make it stronger. That August Asheville evening, more than a decade ago, was one of the last nights our two families enjoyed supper and stories together.

People leave. Find a better job. A greener pasture. Or at least a different job with a different view. Change is the only constant. The transience of American culture enables people to move every few years. Words, idioms and phrases fall in and out of fashion. How then are we to nurture a strong community? Maybe it requires each of us to dwell deeply and stand by language. Stand by words.

Complications

Delightful read on simplicity and complexity and teaching poetry and more.

ann e michael

National Poetry Month has rolled around again, and sophomores enrolled in the Poetry classes are trying to interpret poems. Somewhere along the line, people in the USA acquired the notion that teachers ought to make things simple to understand so that students can learn the material. What about diving into the material in order to learn about it? Asking it questions? Having a heart-to-heart conversation with it? Those are alternate approaches to reaching an understanding.

Truly, one aspect of teaching that frustrates me is that the majority of human beings want everything to be simple. “Simple” has become a click-bait word, an advertising slogan. Even the American embrace of mindfulness largely bases its premise on the idea that mindfulness is simplicity itself, when anyone who has seriously attempted meditation and mindful living can attest that the theory sounds simple enough but the practice is more complex than it seems.

Now…

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“We need poets… to fill in the gaps…”

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Haitian author Dimitry Elias Léger, in a recent interview, said “We need poets, music, literature to fill in the gaps between news reports,…”

With that in mind, the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is next weekend, Saturday, May 23, 2015 at Rhode Center for The Arts (514 56th St, Kenosha, WI 53140). The book fair begins at 2 p.m. and concludes at 5 p.m. So you have plenty of time to do your morning errands or yard work,  join me and fellow authors and then spend the rest of the day enjoying Kenosha’s lovely lakefront area with an armful of books by local authors.

Copies of my books will be available for sale (and I will personally sign your copies) and I am scheduled to read at the event. Look forward to meeting you at the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair nest weekend!

Tonight: Village Ink Creative Writers Guild open house

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The Village Ink Creative Writers Guild has an open house tonight at 6:30 p.m.

What to expect tonight? Expect puppy chow (yes, puppy chow) and cupcakes and maybe peanuts. Expect poetry and prose. Expect good stories by good writers. Expect to have a great time with local writers.

The Village Ink Creative Writers Guild authors plan to share recent works like “Animal Hospital” (children’s literature), “Disturbed” (fiction), “Popular Fiction” (fiction) “Genie-soul” (non-fiction) and selected poetry and prose.

The evening will conclude with a question and answer session for those who have questions about the guild and the craft of writing.

Hope to see you all there!

Graham Public Library, Union Grove, Wisconsin
April 7, 2015, 6:30 pm

FREE to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Tomorrow: Village Ink Creative Writers Guild open house

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You are invited to the Village Ink Creative Writers Guild authors reading open house at

Graham Public Library
Union Grove, Wisconsin
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
6:30 pm

Five local writers present selections of their work. The Village Ink Creative Writers Guild meets every Tuesday at the Graham Public Library and is open to writers of all genres and disciplines.

The open house is a great way to celebrate National Poetry month and the event will highlight the last six months of creative energy and writing endeavors.

Selected works include children’s literature, fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction.

For more details, please leave a comment. Thanks!

The open house is FREE to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Next week: authors reading open house

20150403-151950.jpg

You are invited to the Village Ink Creative Writers Guild authors reading open house at

Graham Public Library
Union Grove, Wisconsin
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
6:30 pm

Five local writers (including myself) present selections of their work. The Village Ink Creative Writers Guild meets every Tuesday at the Graham Public Library and is open to writers of all genres and disciplines. The open house is a great way to celebrate National Poetry month and the event will highlight the last six months of creative energy and writing endeavors. Selected works include children’s literature, fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction.

For more details, please leave a comment. Thanks!

The open house is FREE to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Racine and Kenosha Authors Book Fair

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Rumor has it that I am one of the many authors at this event.

Here are details of the event from the Racine and Kenosha Authors Book Fair Facebook page:

September 20 from 6 to 9 pm, authors from all over Racine and Kenosha will converge at the Racine Arts Council. Six featured poets and authors will give readings (Kenosha Poet Laureate Jean Preston, Kelsey Marie Harris, Dan Nielsen, Nick Demske, Marcie Eanes, and Kelsey Hoff), and many more will be present to sign their books and meet with readers. This event is also the official release of Sad Girl Poems, a chapbook self-published by Kelsey Hoff. Light refreshments will be served.

The Racine and Kenosha area is a thriving arts community, with a surprising number of authors and literary publications in residence. This event will represent the diversity of that community, with up-and-coming writers side by side with well-established ones in multiple genres including poetry, fiction, young adult, and nonfiction. Representatives from Left of the Lake and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine will be present with copies of their publications available.

Strange Familiar Place returns

Stange Familiar Place - Comic Strip

After a very long hiatus, “Strange Familiar Place” will be back in print. Or at least it will be in a very limited capacity. More details on that later.

The creative non-fiction comic “Strange Familiar Place” first appeared in The Indie. Inspired by the works of Harvey Pekar, Jessica Abel, and Eddie Campbell, I wrote and illustrated “Strange Familiar Place.” Eventually I collaborated with illustrator and comic book artist James E. Lyle on six comic strips.

Comic Stroll, a publication of the local chapter of the National Cartoonist Society, will feature that collection of previously unpublished comic strips. Read the evolution of what started as a couple drawings and became a creative non-fiction comic:

  1. Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction
  2. Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction Continued
  3. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 3
  4. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 4
  5. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 5
  6. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
  7. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
  8. Strange Familiar Place comic series

More details about Comic Stroll distribution will be made available later.

Interview: Caleb Beissert on Beautiful translations of Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda

Beautiful by Caleb Beissert Caleb Beissert is a poet, translator and musician. His published work appears in International Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review and Beatitude: Golden Anniversary, 1959-2009.

This week, Poetry at the Altamont celebrates the release of Caleb Beissert’s first book, Beautiful, a selection of poems by Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca translated into English. During the last few weeks, Beautiful was well received by enthusiastic audiences at Montford Books & More and Malaprop’s Books & Cafe and is a Small Press Distribution best-seller.

The Altamont theater doors open at 7:00 P.M. for Poetry at the Altamont. Admission is $5 at the door. Beer and wine sold at the bar and lounge will remain open for drinks after the reading. Event link.

UPDATE: Caleb Beissert is the featured guest of the Coffee with the Poet Series, Thursday, February 21st at 10:30 a.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Event link

Caleb graciously agreed to an interview to discuss poetry, translation work and Beautiful.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

First, for those who don’t know you, Caleb, please share a little about yourself and how you came to poetry.

Caleb Beissert

I arrived naturally at poetry. I had a strong interest in writing as a child, which stemmed from my mother’s and father’s both being journalists. They read to me constantly, even while I was in utero. I still love being read to, hence the poetry readings I attend. During my fugitive teenage years, I wrote notebooks full of song lyrics—songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Robert Hunter, Kurt Cobain, Roger Waters, and The Beatles among my influences. When I went to college and took a poetry writing class, I discovered I’d been writing poetry for years. Of course songwriting is a different beast, but one does inform the other.

Throughout my time at Western Carolina University, I studied writing, foreign languages, philosophy, music, art—I wasn’t satisfied with the notion of going to college to get a job, rather I wanted to learn everything I could for the sake of knowing. I began publishing my poetry, traveling abroad, corresponding with accomplished writers, and I participated in the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series.

My literary heritage largely came from the American Beats, especially Allen Ginsberg and Richard Brautigan; the British poets, namely Blake and Coleridge; and mystics, like Hafiz, Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai; as well as Walt Whitman, E.E. Cummings, W.S. Merwin, early on Shel Silverstein, and then later the great Hispanic poets, particularly Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda. Now I’m living in Asheville, writing, producing poetry events, and also working as a musician.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

How did the translation work of these two poets, Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda, come about?

Caleb Beissert

As I glossed over previously, I was at WCU studying poetry and foreign language when I began translating these two poets. It must have been my attraction to Surrealism that led me to García Lorca. I had read a few translations in Bly’s Leaping Poetry, eaten up Lorca’s lecture Theory and Play of the Duende, and fallen into Poema del cante jondo. I was fascinated by this idea of the duende and also with the marriage of poetry with music, seen in the influence of Andalusian flamenco music on his work.

An interest in Neruda also came through my gravitating toward Surrealism, though I must acknowledge that neither of these poets wrote exclusively or even primarily in this style. One day my Spanish professor assigned the students to attempt a translation of Neruda’s famous “Poema 20” from Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. I thoroughly enjoyed the assignment—probably the only one who did—and it was then I realized I could translate. From there, of course, the complexities of poetry translation began to unravel. I studied essays by Gregory Rabassa, John Felstiner, Margaret Sayers Penden, Eliot Weinberger, and read many bilingual or “bisexual” editions, as a good friend likes to call them.

Eventually, I timidly showed my translations to a few trusted poet friends/mentors, among them Dr. Mary Adams and Thomas Rain Crowe, who encouraged me to continue the work. It has been a process of frustration, learning and accomplishment. Many late nights of pulling out my hair. I’ve dabbled in other Spanish-writing poets, such as César Vallejo, Rafael Alberti, Pedro Salinas, Vicente Aleixandre, Nicanor Parra, and Manuel González Prada; however, it was García Lorca and Neruda I spent the most time with, grew to know them through their words, heard their voices, conversed in dreams, and eventually compiled enough English-language adaptations for two books.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

How the translation work inform the craft of your own poetry?

Caleb Beissert

I find myself writing odes to people and places I’ve never known. I’ve written poems to or after these poets, places and ideas from their poetry, even employed mimicry for effect sometimes, but going deeper, I’m sure it has changed the way I think about language, construct lines, choose words, though the translation process itself does that as well. I have developed my own poetry while spending a great amount of time with these poets, therefore their impact on my work is tremendous. It is hard for me to see, because often one must step away from his or her work to get an accurate picture of it, but I know the influence is there.