12 March 2010

Ekphrasis Report #4

This was a lovely, small meeting of just a few like-minded (and variously-minded) artists. Present were S, an actress and drama director; AM, a poet; J, a poet; (for part of the time) AR, a poet and singer-songwriter; and myself.

I began by sharing something new for me: a short story. The only prose I’ve shared with this group before was the little theoretical article I wrote for Comment. I usually share poetry. So this time I shared a rather wild piece of short spiritual fantasy, rather Charles Williamsian in nature. I assigned readers for the characters, which didn’t really work well. The piece is not set out like a play at all: the narrator is integral, the main character’s thoughts are written out on the page, and bits of dialogue flow into the narrative. But having my friends read aloud did help to carry the piece along. Otherwise I think it would have been a bit dull for them to listen to me read it. Maybe not. It’s the tale of a young man who repeatedly refuses all offers of grace, choosing instead to cling to his illusion of autonomy. Things start falling apart, and eventually he falls apart, literally, disintegrates, dissolves. My fellow Ekphrasians suggested that I make the offers of grace more clear and strengthen the virtuous character in the story: she’s rather passive, and it seems she’s just offering him love, not salvation. I’m kind of trying to suggest that they might almost be the same, or at least that love can be a stand-in for grace in a work of fiction. Or that a step towards love is a step in the direction of grace because it is a step, however small, out of self. But I agree with their suggestions and will work on fleshing out the virtuous character. She needs a scene of her own.

Next, S shared a scene from a play that she’s writing for a drama class. Now, S is an extremely brave person and a fascinating character. She is very admirable for many reasons. She’s fun, outspoken, expressive, dramatic, and very clear-headed and well-grounded. She’s entirely aware of the strongholds of liberalism and yet maintains her convictions with glowing happiness. I love how she can be herself in the midst of foul perversion, seeing the perversity with open eyes and joyfully sharing of the virtue God has given her. This play is a case in point. She’s so sick of the sexual promiscuity at her college that she’s writing a kind of “Virgin Monologues” or “Apology of Virginity.” And it’s delightful. Such a thing might make you cringe if it were the least bit cheesy, saccharine, or sentimental. It’s not. Hers is fun, lighthearted, then heartfelt and gritty, with a healthy dose of self-examination and humility. The characters are delightfully alive. The dialogue is fast-paced and believable. She’s got a great sense of timing and structure. She’s inventive, too, bringing in a curious “Chorus” kind of character and developing fascinating antiphonal techniques. She just shared bits of it at her school yesterday, and it was well received. I’m hoping hers will be the one play the class chooses for full production. Now, wouldn’t that be radical?

Then AM shared the same poem she has shared in the past, but with an added section. It’s a long, thoughtful, very mature poem reflecting back on her granparents’ past through the media of Christmas carols, sepia photographs, 50s songs, and memories. Then it contrasts this apparently idyllic, nostalgic daydream with their past, where “twisted mittens” grow into a symbol of her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s. It’s a very mature, profound poem, well crafted and carefully executed.

Next, JA shared a poem that (again!) I could not critique. His craftsmanship is exquisite. His lines are precisely hewn, his meters natural and exact, his tone balanced. He’s got an interesting technique in which some stanzas are in regular print and others in italics, and the italicized ones are meant to be a more introspective voice reflecting on the somewhat more narrative presentation of the regular-font-stanzas. The poems are short, tight lyrics, sometimes with a wisp of story, usually with a memory or a reflection as their impetus. They have a weight of their own be virtue of their careful craftsmanship.

Then AR showed up, lovely Apple laptop in hand, to share some of the songs he’s written and recorded recently. His work is an adventurous combination of poetry (he writes the lyrics), composition (he writes the music), performance (he plays piano and guitar), and technology (he dubs in drums, etc., and then creates all kinds of layers and effects). Unfortunately, just as he was sharing a song a very unhappy, uncompromising Librarian made her displeasure felt through cruel words and a facial expression worthy of the Wicked Witch of the West, and we hied ourselves swiftly out the door. She barely restrained herself from delivering a kick to our collective pants.


Rosie Perera said...

I love your Ekphrasis reports and am so glad your group is continuing well.

You meet in a library? Why not in someone's home? Then there would be no scowling Librarians to kick you out.

Iambic Admonit said...

Thanks; I'm glad you enjoy reading them. These meetings really are nourishment for my creative soul.

We meet in a different place each time, kind of rotating around because the members live widely spaced from one another. So one month we'll have it down towards the southernmost members' area, another month we'll have it further east, then the third month we'll have it at my house (which is the furthest west). Because of people's wildly variant schedules as well as the geographical spread, the group is never the same twice. I never know who will come. That's part of the fun. One the one hand, I'd love to have a group more like the Inklings that met very regularly and always knew when and where (and could go on for hours into the night!), but I also enjoy this variety. For now.