Friday, April 20, 2012

Finding, and Losing your Voice

When I was 18ish, I read Brenda Ueland's "If you want to write".

At the time, I had been dismissed by my 3rd high school, and although I knew I was clever....

I secretly wondered why I couldn't plug into the academic system.

Part of me thought maybe I was genetically disposed to failure.

My mother told me I was afraid to succeed.

But Brenda Ueland informed me that intelligence never surpassed creativity.

Her words encouraged me enough to dare to start writing poems,songs and propaganda.

But it wasn't until I received Finley's famous "Fireball" speech that I began to understand how to harness what was in my mind, and then gain the ability to transfer it to paper.

Every time I sat down to my keyboard, before my fingers touched the keys....I would (and still do) go through this ritual where I would close my eyes and pretend I was talking to people at the bar, or in a church pew.

It was that easy. I simply wrote my Klecko conversations.

To my amazement, some people actually liked my writing.

Often times I'd hear people describe my style by saying something like.....

"He sure has an interesting voice."

This made me feel good.

In a short time I was able to get gigs writing for publications, things were starting to look up.

But that's why it is paramount in my opinion that a writer has a mentor that cares enough about them to help them continue their growth.

In all walks of life, it has become apparent to me, that most people are not willing to subject themselves to somebody elses authority.

The praise and criticism that I get from Finley don't get dropped on me in a weekly, or daily basis....

Mike offers his opinions when he gets around to it.

I'm bringing this up because in the last 12 hours, I have sent him the skeleton of a poem that I was working on. It is an important piece.

When I asked Finley if he had any thoughts....his response was that although it was an interesting read, it simply wasn't a poem. It was more of a story, and Finley believes strongly that there is a clear division between these camps.

Then, a couple hours later I received an e-mail from Mike with the following information,

This is Finley now........

The rhubarb piece is good. You reel people in with the rhubarb supply material, and then wonder, but antithetically you counter-wonder, "What would the young Kleckos have made of this?"

Four lines in a row do this:

So after placing my order, in the back of my mind I started to think......

"What was that Kim Ode rhubarb poem?"

But then I stopped for a second, and kinda recoiled in fear.

My mind flashed back to the Klecko of 10 years, and 20 years past.

You need to "underwrite" sometimes, not going to the hyperbolic positions like kinda recoiled ...

It's a question of natural-sounding transitions ... otherwise we are listening to you thinking and sometimes it is not real-sounding ...

One solution is to do what Family Guy does, and just charge into these digressions without pausing to say, "I just wonder ..."

It's a common feature of your story telling so I think you need to devise a few ways to get to these gems more comfortably

One way is to say:

Thought: what would 28 year old Klecko have said about this?

Or a typographical transition , like a blank paragraph space, then you just jump in:

The rhubarb reminded me of a poem.
28 Year Klecko: Hey, dude, don;t be such a pussy


The rhubarb was delicious, of course


I think that after a poet finds their true voice, it is common for them to find such comfort in their style. When this happens (and I'll just speak for me)I find myself unconsciously trying to imitate myself.

Finley looks at each written piece he runs across, and then critiques it w/o prejudice.

It doesn't matter how cool you are, what awards you've won, or the back story to the image you are trying to convey.

Each effort needs to have the strength to stand on its own merit.

Finley told me that the main reason poets are lame is because they fear doing what it takes to become a better writer.

"So what does it take Mike?" I asked....

You know he smirked when giving me this reply....

"You have to be bulletproof."

P.S. I hate being so hyperbolic !


  1. +^)

    I never know if I'm being critical because I'm crabby, or because it's the right thing to say.

    A poem can be a story, but the thing about a poem is that change happens inside it. At the end of even a very short poem you should be a different person in some way. Even if the poem just confirms the status quo -- your brain cells should still be bootstrapping and reconnecting like crazy, deepening what they know.

    And maybe I'm skittish about being the hero of my own poem, but I worry when you get the last word in your own poem. The world should be telling you something, not the other way around.

  2. The famous fireball speech, for those who are new ...

    We were having burgers at the Nook. Klecko was tinkering with a run at a book. It would be Klecko On the World, starting with baking and bread but reaching out to the far wings of the cosmos.

    It was his own breadth or grasp that prompted me to put down my napkin and say, "Here's what you gotta do. You write in a style that assumes greatness. Every sentence you tell people is going to have majesty and impact. You never let down, you keep giving readers the very best that is in you. Your chapters are a series of fireballs smashing into the reader's comfort zone .... within each chapter the sentences are also fireballs."

    I would never have given this advice to any other writer. But Klecko had the high spirits and desire and powers of storytelling -- a preposterous amount of it -- that he could pull it off without it being bullshit.

    It WAS great advice! I'm not embarrassed to say so!