What Death Becomes

Long have we all wondered what happens after death and maybe if we did know we would take comfort in the rest of our lives. Some of us have perhaps been closer to death then others and know some of the answers and yet may have even more questions than others. It’s taken me a long time to figure out the questions and list them. Yet still I wonder if we want to know the answers. Many of them I don’t wish to, but need to know if I want to live normally, which would only be possible if the answers are the wrong ones. Internal struggles can drive us insane, thank God for poetry so at least we can confuse others with our confusion!!

If only to know what death becomes
perhaps then folly would cease to feign
perhaps then wars would find repose
wars afar and wars within
and my mouldered skin could feel the rain.
If only to know what death becomes
perhaps then light would stick to day
perhaps no more would I stumble and wake,
awoken by dream and awoken by bane,
awoken by blight and fallen by vice
and the sundown shadows would start to fade.
Would you teach me to pray
and would I know if my words are right and heard?
Would you keep my desires free from malign
and let Heaven’s whispers lend me a week
so I may share in the last and refine?
If only to know what death becomes
perhaps I would not wonder over faith and fate
just accept what is too rich and too late.
Perhaps then I might find some words
and maybe just then see all through grace.

Jordan Baker
2014

What Next?

It’s done, it’s over, it’s published. 38 pieces whittled down from dozens more, 1054 lines of poetry and God knows how many hours and cigarettes. It’s been emotional, rewarding and stressful.

So now then.. what next? For months I’ve been anticipating getting out of the poetry game for a little while at least, starting a novel and other projects but also feeling a need to take it easy. It’s weird though because here I am, mere hours after publication eagerly awaiting my copies of the book to arrive at my house, being able to enjoy having no urgent commitments and a day of pure relaxation and I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve always considered myself someone who needs something to be doing, if not purely for the fact I get to complain about a demanding schedule.

In recent times the thoughts of possible new projects have been banding around my head, a novel seeming the likely next step as I had looked forward to giving my idea a go. That eagerness has faded somewhat as it was naturally postponed as TFA work was concluded. I’ll be commencing that work regardless of what I decide to do, but so far have never found the novel-writing discipline. I’ve always wanted to write a play, maybe I’ll look into that, who knows?

I’ve also considered the possibility of re-releasing These Waters in the future. This would include a rebranding and re-working of the pieces in there and some new poems alongside it. On the other hand I really believe I owe myself a break from poetry having dedicated so much to it over the last few years.

I guess the only logical solution to my problem is to give it a few days in knowledge that my brain will keep working and ideas will come to me. At the same time my desire to be occupied will give me new motivation to get cracking. If only I knew how to not be stressed, as lying around watching TV shows only seems appropriate if I’m using it as a distraction from work I’m supposed to be doing.

Nevertheless, this chapter of my life is over and I look forward to finding out what happens in the next one. Dreams will still be possibilities and I won’t stop making them play out. I can promise that even if I can’t promise myself what the next step will be.  

 

What Makes It Good?

After I posted last night I’m glad to say I wound up going to bed in a much better mood than I was in a few hours earlier. Just to say I’d done something productive during the day I began putting the formatting for my book together, way in advance. This allowed me to look at the pieces I had more objectively, and where I’d said I was ’10 pieces’ short, in reality it’s more like 1 or 2. That’s what we do to ourselves, not just writers but the human race in general. Are we ever really proud of what we do? Do we ever give ourselves credit where it’s due? No, because the simple fact of the matter is we all want to be ‘THE BEST’.

The strange thing is; who decides what’s ‘THE BEST’? What makes something good? As usual I lay in bed for hours thinking, something which is really starting to irk me, but I digress..

Several months ago I wrote a piece I wasn’t overly impressed with. I liked the idea and some of it was strong but I’d never considered it a poem I’d use in TFA. Perhaps I’d gone about writing it the wrong way or something, but never mind it was there for later if I needed it. I put the poem to the back of my mind until a long time after I’d written it when the piece got reviewed. The review was awesome and the word ‘incredible’ was used a couple of times. I messaged the person and jokingly stated that they’d given me a problem because suddenly now I had to consider this piece. They replied that it would be an ‘injustice’ not to. The moral of this anecdote is that what is good to one person is poor to another and vice versa. So on that thought, who decides what’s good and bad are often the people who decide if we succeed or fail.

In the writing world it’s publishers and editors who decide this. Say a piece I submit doesn’t match their personal taste, they’ll reject it surely? But that doesn’t necessarily make it a ‘bad’ piece. Had a different judge read it they may have enjoyed it and published it. Is this simply the case or is there something that makes something ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

I’ll continue using writing as an example. Let’s take poetry since we’re talking TFA. I’ve often gotten reviews or talked to poets where the person will mention they ‘prefer’ metered pieces to free verse or even haikus to sonnets. Would this lead them to be biased then? I’m going to use a poem I wrote as an example and specifically look at two similar review extracts of it.

Example one:  ‘I usually don’t enjoy perfectly rhymed poems like this – but this was great. The rhymes weren’t cheesy or forced’.

Example two:  ‘I barely noticed the rhyme, which for me is a good thing because I am not fond of rhyming poems, usually, but this is exceptional. Subtle rhythm, I love the use of “vice” as a verb’.

OK, so if they aren’t fans of rhyming poetry, but enjoyed the piece does that mean it was ‘good’? Did I therefore do something right? Perhaps, yes. But what if the person’s hatred for rhyme was so strong they dismissed it on principle? The two reviewers both felt the need to mention their dislike for rhyme. As I can tell, this means one of two things. A) I did such a good job rhyming that they wanted to congratulate me for impressing even themselves, or B) They put it in there as a subtle criticism. Yes, the piece was good, but perfect rhyme is wrong.

So if they were editors at a magazine would that piece have made it in? What if I revealed that this piece was in fact REJECTED from a magazine not so long ago? The poem was sent to the editor, accepted onto the shortlist and then not used in the final print edition. Was the final selector perhaps not into perfect rhyme, no matter how well it was used? Did one person like the poem and another not? I’ll never know.

I suppose I’ll have to conclude this rambling somehow. I think if you write or do something that you’re proud of you should never have this feeling changed. Not everything is an accomplishment to everyone. Because they don’t take an interest it doesn’t take any achievement away. I am a fan of Poe, but I do not like EVERY piece he wrote. I plan to run a marathon in the near future, to me that will be an amazing accomplishment, 6 billion people live in the world, how many will care that I did it? One final example, my book is close to release- I’d be amazed if any of my close friends bought it. This is simply because it isn’t for them.

I still don’t know if there’s anything specific that makes something good or bad though.