When the Lyrical Muse Sings the Creative Pen Dances – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

If you’re a regular reader of my national African-American cultural arts column, you may have noticed that I have not been posting articles as frequently as I once did. The reason is simple enough. Having reached a certain point in the research for my current book-in-progress (at least one of them anyway) I had to reduce as many additional writing obligations as possible to fully concentrate on completion of the work.

For me, this is the part of authorship when the lyrical muse sings and the creative pen dances. The greater bulk of the more rigid tasks of verification and documentation have been satisfied, and imagination may be allowed to take over the processes of narrative construction. The resulting musical flow of image and language stamp the work with its own unique identity. And its own self-defined meanings destined to merge with different readers’ interpretations of the same.

The Writer and the Times

I started the national African-American cultural arts column on July 13, 2009, with a story about the debut of Johnny and Me, Savannah author Miriam K. Center’s play based on her friendship with the late 4-time Academy Award-winning composer Johnny Mercer. That was followed by a profile of acclaimed artist Jerome Meadows.

The next month, August, saw the launch of the controversial series on the trial (and eventual execution) of Troy Anthony Davis, convicted for the murder of Savannah policeman Mark Allen MacPhail.  Not writing about Davis’s trial, to my mind, would have been a case of gross negligence. Doing so was one early indication of what readers would discover over the next few years: basically, I found it impossible to restrict myself (as asked to do) to the subject of “the arts” as pertaining to African Americans.

Please check out the full post by clicking here: When the Lyrical Muse Sings the Creative Pen Dances – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

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Reflections on Ode to the Good Black Boots that Served My Soul So Well (poem) by Aberjhani

“But why exactly were these shoes so important to Vincent? Why had he carried them with him for so long, beaten and worn as they were?” – Ken Wilber, from the essay A Pair of Worn Shoes (“A Pair of Shoes” painting by Vincent Van Gogh from Southern Review.org)

The story and intent behind my poem, Ode to the Good Black Boots that Served My Soul So Well, is not extremely different from the story and likely intent behind Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, A Pair of Shoes (see image above). In philosopher Ken Wilber’s book, The Eye of the Spirit – An Integral Vision of a World Gone Slightly Mad, the author retells a story first shared by the painter Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) about a pair of “enormous worn out misshapen shoes” painted by his friend Vincent.

The now-iconic Van Gogh (1853–1890) created the image after serving as a caregiver for 40 days and nights to a miner who had been so badly burned that doctors gave him up for dead. Vincent Van Gogh could not accept that prognosis. He had not gone to the mines to paint but had traveled there in well-made boots as a young pastor intent on ministering to whoever might have need of him. 

After laboring with love to nurse the man back to some degree of health, the scars that remained on the miner’s brow and face looked to Van Gogh like scars from a crown made of thorns.

Please enjoy the full post by clicking here:
Reflections on Ode to the Good Black Boots that Served My Soul So Well (poem) by Aberjhani on AuthorsDen.

Song of the Black Skylark: Poem in the American Literary Halloween Tradition

Song of the Black Skylark (poem) by Aberjhani on AuthorsDen

                    (Black Skylark title art graphic by Postered Poetics for Aberjhani)

Does the enigmatic figure of the Black Skylark referenced in this blog title have anything to do with Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” (1845), with Walt Whitman’s “The Mystic Trumpeter” (1872), or Abram Joseph Ryan’s “Song of the Deathless Voice” (1880)? It shares with Poe’s classic poem the image of a dark mystical bird. On the other hand, the presence of an eerie beguiling melody establishes a strong link to Whitman’s and Ryan’s poems.

Obviously, the poem Song of the Black Skylark is from the book Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black. It was not until the first edition of the book was about to be published that I began to understand the origins of the Black Skylark. The following is what I noted as my understanding grew deeper:

It dawned on me that the book was actually conceived many many years before…In fact, it began as part of a writing assignment in a class taught by Wendy Parrish at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, way back in the day before people used the phrase “back in the day”…. That was when I wrote a poem called The Dark Bird, describing a creature that was frightfully heroic in life while being somehow oddly connected to death.

At that time, the word “metaphysics” was unknown to me so I was more driven by a feeling than a concept. The central image that formed around that feeling disappeared for two decades before re-emerging and evolving into the Black Skylark that not only soars through the pages of Visions, but through those of a novel also [now] completed.

The poem is set in the city of Savannah, Georgia, but its themes are universal. Readers are cordially invited to decide for themselves how well it fits into the tradition of the American Halloween poem pioneered by Poe, Whitman, and Ryan:
Song of the Black Skylark (poem) by Aberjhani on AuthorsDen.

by Aberjhani

Author Gore Vidal and the Sexual Signs of Our Political Times (Part 1)

Author Gore Vidal

Author Gore Vidal

Between ongoing debates over governmental reforms, the plight of illegal immigrants, same-sex marriage, and a world economy as fragile as the Gulf Coast marshland, conversations focused on politics and sexuality have rarely been as heated as during the sweltering summer of 2010. The debates may be  progress now but many elements of what they address were tackled head-on by venerable author Gore Vidal in his 1999 book, Sexually Speaking, Collected Writings.

Although the campaign slogan “You’ll Get More Gore” failed to help the celebrated author win his 1960 bid for Congress, it succeeds well as an apt description–and for some perhaps a warning–of what readers encounter in Sexually Speaking. Stamp such a title onto a book by nearly any other American author and one’s imagination might do a fair job of conjuring images likely to sigh and moan their way from one page to the next. Place that same title on a book of some fourteen essays by the ever razor-tongued Mr. Vidal and one must allow time and space for serious reconsiderations.

Ins and Outs of the Subject Game

Matters of sexuality and gender have throbbed heatedly throughout the pages of the author’s work since his classic 1948 novel, The City and the Pillar. However, equally represented in Sexually Speaking are engaging Gorian takes on the vices and virtues of politics, the highs and lows of the literary life, the illusions of sanctioned history, and disillusionment with anything resembling hope for the future.

Reading Vidal on politics and sexuality is like listening to Michael Jordan on basketball, or to Oprah Winfrey on pretty much anything. He knows the ins and outs of the subject game because he grew up immersed in it. Born the grandson of legendary Senator T.P. Gore, and the son of Eugene Vidal, a man who served as director of the Bureau of Air Commerce (under Franklin D. Roosevelt) the future writer grew up with a front-row view of major changes in the American political guard during the mid-1900s. He even came to claim some family ties to the Kennedys and in his first memoir, Palimpsest, gives a friendly nod to his “little cousin,” known to lesser mortals as former vice president and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore.

Accustomed to the workings of political power and the very human flaws of those who wield it–a theme he dearly loves and which most political leaders probably do not– Vidal writes with as much insight and outrage as he does wit and impunity. Such scribblers are few indeed who could, or would, report as he does in the essay “Eleanor Roosevelt.” While noting that one of American history’s most revered political couples, cousins as well as man and wife, made a dynamic political partnership, he observes also that they were among the oddest of bedfellows: “For one thing, Eleanor did not like sex, as she confided in later years to her daughter. Franklin obviously did.”

Moreover, it would take the satirical audacity of William Burroughs’s ghost to propose Vidal’s idea that a certain former president and statesman plotted the creation of a certain republic–a.k.a. the United States of America– simply to enjoy each other’s… well, company. (This author, lacking the level Mr. Vidal’s audaciousness, can only refer readers to pages 269-270 of Sexually Speaking for further details.)

Since most of the essays in this volume were published initially, starting in 1965, as book reviews for such publications as The New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement (London), Vidal frequently locks literary horns with a number of other writers. One telltale clue to his approach to book reviewing can be found in the Random House Dictionary definition of his first name, Gore: “1) Blood that is shed; 2) to pierce with the horns or tusks.” In other words, pity the author who fails to meet Vidal’s own standards of literary excellence. Not only will he dismiss said writer as a closet buffoon but employ the intended review as a forum for his own considerable erudition on the subject at hand.

Notes on a Glorious Bird

One superb example is the essay, “Tennessee Williams: Someone to Laugh at the Squares With.” And laugh he does when taking on two biographies of his late great playwright friend– “One is a straightforward biography of the sort  known as journeyman; it is called The Kindness of Strangers (what else?) by Donald Spoto. The other is Tennessee: Cry of the Heart (whose heart?) by a male sob sister who works for Parade Magazine.” Whereas he acknowledge the writers’ attempts at serious biography, he also uses the occasion to set records straight, refuting charges of misogyny against Williams, and yawning at erroneous references to himself.

CONTINUES HERE WITH: Author Gore Vidal and the Sexual Signs of Our Political Times Part 2

by Aberjhani

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