The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Archive for October 2018

The Prose Poem That Wasn’t

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Third Wednesday arrived two weeks ago.  This is the third time I’ve said this in the past few years.  Seems that the editors over there “get me,” which is an egotistical writer’s way of saying I’ve found a literary publication that deems my work publishable, enough so to put me up for a third time.  Yay me! Every writer has to find their audience. I guess Third Wednesday and their readership is my audience.  Or maybe it’s more the case that they’re saying my writing is their flavor.  I appreciate that. I see TW as a grass-roots, blue-collar poet’s venue, and I’d team up with such folks any time.

The only thing is that I sort of backward-assed my way into TW both last year and this year.  As I described herein, I landed second place in their George Dila Memorial Flash Fiction contest last year.  I did it with what was essentially a prose poem and had always been a prose poem, but it had a narrative element to it and had never really happened in my life.  No problem. Call it flash fiction. I’ll take what recognition I can get. I entered the same contest this year with “Thinking of You,” but no dice for recognition.  It came to me as a poem I’d worked on two years ago but that I couldn’t get to go anywhere, so I converted it into a prose poem thinking that it might work well for the flash fiction contest and ol’ Jeff Burd could walk away with another prize.

Nope.  Instead, one of the editors got back to me and said, “Nuh-uh.  But we like this as a prose poem. Can we publish it like that?”  Hells yeah, bro! I’m not going to pass up the chance to get published!

The problem with “Thinking of You” being a poem in the first place was that maybe it wasn’t “refined” enough.  Puke. Or maybe it didn’t do enough “poetic things” like subvert expectations. There wasn’t enough eloquent sound devices evident (prosody, dontcha know?).  Perhaps it didn’t make deft use of metaphor.  It didn’t change the way the reader views something.  I’ll argue with you on at least two of those counts. I think I’ve got a helluva extended metaphor operating here, and some good sound devices at the start and in the “climax.”  You tell me. Here’s what it used to look like.

Thinking of You
The surface of the silent pond
in the middle of the pines mirrors
the blue sky but for mayflies jetting
back and forth.  Algae breathes
in the shallows along the banks.
A drake unfolds a shimmering caret
behind himself as he skims across
the idyllic pool.  He arcs to his left,
and then his honk like a trumpet blast
rips across the water.  He flaps and flails
as he lurches skyward, but a snapper
locked on his leg pulls him down.
Shrieks born of mortal combat echo
off the trees until the drake goes down
in a flurry of splashes and bubbles.

One thing that was wrong with it, as pointed out by poetic partner extraordinaire Barbara Bennett, is that it wasn’t obvious who the narrator is.  What side is he on? Is he the drake or the snapper? Seems like an odd existential query, and one I’ll wager Camus never posed. Or Sartre, that lazy bastard.  I’ve never considered myself to be neither a drake nor a snapper. Maybe that surprises you because my last name is Burd and obviously I’d be the drake (duh). But maybe you’re just a wiseass like me who likes to pun upon his own last name.  And maybe I’m not the narrator and maybe this isn’t a lyric poem. But maybe it is.

No matter.  I put the poem away for a while because I was tired of working on it.  Also, I remembered a hard lesson I learned long ago: You don’t have to squeeze blood out of every turnip.  For fuck sake, just practice writing sometimes and let it be. In the least, you’ll be better off for the practice.  But then I stumbled upon it ‘round ‘bout the time Third Wednesday announced their flash fiction contest again last spring.  I decided to get it out and rework it, especially bearing in mind what Barbara said.  Taking the line breaks out made it a prose poem, and possibly a flash fiction according to how TW views the concept.  Whatever I did must have worked in one way or another because I have another published piece that I’m happy with.  Wanna see the final piece? Private Message me on Facebook or reply with a comment to this post, and I’ll get you your own copy of it. Otherwise, I’d be undercutting TW by putting it up here, and I don’t want to do that because they like me.  They really like me!

This is all getting to a discussion of genre.  Does it matter if a piece is a play, an essay, a piece of fiction, a poem?  Yes. Without doubt it matters. But it doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as some high-minded elbow-patch academic will tell you it does as he looks at you over the tops of his reading frames and through a cloud of Captain Black.  Hell, a lot of them would tell you there’s no such thing as a prose poem. A piece is either prose or it’s verse. There is no hybridization of the two. Bullshit there isn’t. A lot of those same people probably believe in eugenics, too. Just know that poetry dominates everything.  As an Advanced Placement teacher friend of mine told me years ago, once you get poetry, you get everything in writing. Furthermore, it’s a good idea that whatever you write, write it as if it’s poetry. Make use of all those elements. Combine that with some other advice from last year’s George Dila Memorial Flash Fiction Contest judge Philip Sterling, and you could be onto something.  He said:  Just concern yourself with the integrity of the individual work.

Finally, I almost forgot to mention.  This issue of Third Wednesday also features a poem by Ted Kooser.  Good job, Ted! It’s nice for you to get some recognition and for others to realize your poems are good enough to appear alongside mine!  Many of us have been watching your career unfold for some time now, and have been hoping you’d come along. We’re so proud of your development.  Keep it up, old sport.


Written by seeker70

October 17, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I Can Fix the Cubs

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So why does a team that won 95 games this season need to be fixed, anyhow?  Simple.  They didn’t play to their potential.  They have one of the most talented lineups in baseball, and should be lacing ’em up as I write this.  Instead, we’re watching other teams in the playoffs.  Or even other sports.  Welcome to new expectations, Cubs fans.  “Wait ’til next year” is no longer the optimistic rallying cry, and it shouldn’t be with the salary numbers the Cubs are posting and the potential that exists in their lineup.  “You’d better win it next year” is far more realistic, and should continue to be the expectation for at least the next 3-4 years.

Remember… way back in the day?

I’m more than familiar with what the Cubs faced this season.  A top-tier pitcher who went 1-3 in eight starts and didn’t pitch at all after May 20.  A former MVP and perennial candidate who only played 102 games and never found his power.  A top-tier closer who saved 22 games but none after July 18 due to injury.  But still, Joe Maddon pulled through.  “Smoke and mirrors,” they said.  And it’s true.  It takes a high degree of talent and genius to take any team with those problems as far as they went.  But smoke and mirrors doesn’t work in the playoffs.  Power pitching shatters the glass; timely hitting and the ability to manufacture runs aerates most ballparks, home or away.  Unfortunately, the Cubs were still playing “smoke and mirrors” when they needed to change the game plan.  But you can’t change into a new mode you never really utilized throughout the season.

First, we need a full-time lead-off hitter.  I’m hoping that Daniel Murphy wasn’t a summer rental.  He hit .297 for the Cubs, a lot of that coming from the lead-off spot.  But you know Joe Maddon, the “mad scientist.”  He’d rather use the “lead-off by committee” approach.  I don’t think anybody knew who was leading off most days until they showed up at the ballpark.  And while it’s been fun to watch Anthony Rizzo dig in to start games, it’s little more than a gimmick.  Management backs Maddon on this.  The days of Dexter Fowler are long gone, but we need them back.  So if Murphy hits lead off and plays second base (his natural position), what becomes of Javier Baez?  He moves to shortstop.  But what becomes of Addison Russell?  Goodbye.  The club needs to maintain integrity, and being so closely linked to a second player who has faced (and and continues to face) domestic abuse charges is too much for the Cubs to maintain respect across their entire fan base.  Character counts, not just for individuals, but also for franchises.

Speaking of “mad scientist” Joe, it’s also time to give Ben Zobrist a firm handshake and slap on the back and say thanks, but goodbye.  I like the guy plenty, but he’s a reason why Joe is so experimental.  The guy can play so many positions that it’s tempting to put him in wherever on any given day.  But Zo is past his years and can no longer excel at a single position day in and day out while still producing at the plate.  He’s getting in the way of several players making it to the club from the minors and having a decent stay to see how they’ll work out, and that’s a helluva good reason to let Zo go.

Kyle Schwarber?  Gone.  I like that guy plenty, too, but he’s a career-ending injury waiting to happen so long as he has to endure the grind of NL play.  He can’t do it with his frame, even with his tremendous weight loss last off season.  Get him to an AL club, and he’s got years and years left in him as a quality DH.  Certainly other clubs see this and somebody out there is willing to part with a top-tier starting pitcher.

What?  Another top-tier starting pitcher?  Yes.  I hope like crazy that Darvish rehabs and comes back to live up to his salary.  But we’ll need more than Darvish.  Jon Lester is on the backside of his career.  He’s hopefully got two more years as a top-tier starter.  Outside Kyle Hendricks, who improved later in the season, the rest of the staff includes a trio of innings-eaters in Cole Hamels, Mike Montgomery, and Jose Quintana.  That’s great.  Every team needs a few hurlers who are a cinch for 6-8 innings every time out.  The bats will pick up for them so long as they keep the team in the game.  Hamels plans on retiring after next year, so there’s need for help now, or at least the ability to develop potential help.  So, more dominant pitching, please.

Bullpens fluctuate a lot year to year on most teams, so I don’t see the Cubs struggles there as fatal flaws.  We have some solid middle relievers.  Morrow will be back next season to close out games with authority.  Bench players like David Bote and Albert Almora, Jr., and Ian Happ are great and should stick around, as should Tommy LaStella.  But how about a solid, everyday batting order?  Beyond having a consistent lead-off hitter, power in the power positions every day would be a refreshing change, wouldn’t it?  Rizzo and Bryant in the three and four slots would look downright traditional.  And I guess that’s what I’m getting at.  Traditional practices in baseball are traditional for a reason—because they work.  A lot of people will say, “But no, that’s not how Joe Maddon works.  That’s not why the Cubs hired him.”  I see that.  He’s a great manager, despite his meddling almost costing the Cubs the World Series in ’16.  But there’s no need for so much experimentation.  It ends up getting in the way of traditional practices when those are most needed (i.e. the playoffs).  Take the pieces you have, which top to bottom are among the tops in baseball, learn and use much, much more classic baseball strategy, and watch the Cubs return to glory next year.  If Joe can’t or won’t do that, then goodbye, Joe.


Written by seeker70

October 8, 2018 at 8:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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