|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
DAY 2 OF LET'S MAKE SOME EXQUISITE NOISE!
As promised, for the next several days I will be featuring some of the incredible poets who have appeared in ASKEW POETRY JOURNAL, Issue #14. As they say in baseball, at the top of the order, our first batter will be F. Albert Salinas. Albert, as he goes by, is an intense, passionate voice with all the music and pain that is associated with Latin culture in this country. I have no doubt you will enjoy this selection and will see far more of him in the future. Albert's poem "MOSCAS" will be seen here as the featured article for three days and then archived in the YOUR WORK/YOUR LOVE section of this blog.
By F. Albert Salinas
Cholitas with blue eye shadow and Aqua Net hairdos
threw chingasos— tore each other’s clothes off
for everyone in the barrio to see. A nipple
the size of the small tortillas my grandma made
with left over flour flopped out from under a yellow tube-top.
The girl with the gold cross necklace retaliated and
two quarts of café con leche spilled out of a black bra.
There were sharp smacking sounds like the ones my grandma
made working masse for tamales Christmas Eve. It was summer.
Tiny beads of sweat gathered on the dim mustache
of the girl with coarse hair on her arms.
Their perfumes covered the smell of garbage collected
in the sidewalk gutter. They bit into smooth shoulders.
Mascara smeared onto the others’ skin, brown lipstick
onto each others’ necks. A Vans tennis shoe flipped off
one of the girl’s feet as she stumbled back.
She stayed on the ground with her open hand out
in front of her face to keep the other girl away.
One of her earrings was torn out of her ear, and
she heaved for air, panted.
I’d seen my mother lying in front of my father on the floor
in this same defense and then I remembered what it felt like
when I wanted to melt into the ground rather than be hit again,
so I reached out to help the girl up from the ground,
but all she did was cover her exposure with her forearm.
Someone from behind told me to stay out of it,
so I backed away and for a moment I wished
I had never seen her nakedness.
THE WELL READ WRITER
Stephen King has probably said it best, "If you haven't got the time to read, then you haven't got the time to write." No matter what your form, whether prose, poetry, or expository writing in all its permutations, there are only two ways to really improve your art and craft.
First, write until you go cross-eyed. There are any number of works on the craft which claim that the first five novels a fiction writer turns out (approximately a half a million words), are just a warm up for the possibility of a successful story. The Muse only knows what this could translate to in poetry! It takes a long time to shake off the other voices and styles you have been soaking in and begin to find your own voice.
Then all you need to do is find a story that an editor doesn't reject out of hand because it does or doesn't sound enough like their favorite author. Follow this with the various negotiations with the other departments and you might actually see your name on a cover. Yes, you can avoid it by self-publishing, which only means that you need to sell between five to eight thousand copies of your work to be regarded as possibly viable. Oh, notice I said YOU have to peddle...Amazon gives you a home but not much else.
So, with all the write, write, write, why should you have to read also? Because, like it or not, in order to learn language in all its subtlety and nuance you need to immerse yourself in an ocean of words. GOOD WORDS! Dickens, Melville, Thoreau, Salinger, Dickinson, Hemingway, Bradbury, Bronte, Kerouac, Plath, Talese, Vidal, Shakespeare. That's about a month's worth. (Just kidding!) This is where you stop reading like a member of the audience and start reading like a novice author who doesn't know their ass from a hole in the ground.
Does that sound a bit discouraging? Well, it is at first. You need to learn to deconstruct the things you read. At first you'll feel like a film student. They're the ones you hate to go to movies with because they audibly dissect the script, camera work, make-up, costume choice, etc., until you want to stuff their head in the popcorn box you're holding.
Don't worry, just as this becomes what they live for, so will your modified reading habit evolve for you. As you begin to understand and recognize more of the mechanics of each individual writer, your own style and craft will improve. You will be better positioned to modify and invent those individual stylistic points that will separate you from the mob and, hopefully, have some editor view you as that "new and fresh voice" they say they're always looking for. If nothing else, it will make you a real annoyance at family gatherings and nights out with friends.
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis