Monday, September 25, 2006

then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid

Can I get a bit bloggy on you for a moment? I know I tend to dissect this oddity of blogging more than is really necessary. This analysis of blogging betrays that I probably take it far more seriously than I ought to. Or perhaps it just goes to show how hyperanalytical I can be about anything if I am at it for long enough.

I think there are some of us out there that have to write. It is not necessarily about social connection or a devoted readership (don't get me wrong, both of these things are lovely to have), but about an innate need. It is an outlet of sorts. My cousin K remarked yesterday that, in the past few years, I have become increasingly open in a way that I never was when I lived on the east coast. She is partially right. When I lived on the east coast as a working class stiff, I was remarkably closed off. I wrote ever so rarely, when I should have been writing endlessly during that time. I did not write then because I did not want to reckon with what those pages would contain.

None of us ever succeed in perfectly representing ourselves in our writing. For one thing, we are only writing about how we are perceived, which is never quite equivalent to how others view us. Secondly, even the best writer cannot capture themselves completely. There are things we are meant to remember and things we are meant to forget, things we are meant to notice and things we are meant to ignore.

But I did not write for a period of time because, when you have to write, you just put pen to paper: strange, unpredictable words come out. I look back on the few scribbles that I did scrawl when I lived on the east coast, and wondered why I did not recognize what was happening. The words were right there staring at me, but back then, I refused to go back and reread anything I wrote, lest I should see, plainly, a battle that was begging to be fought.

In typical fashion for a crap writer like myself, though, I have dropped a ridiculous red herring with that preamble. I actually have a question for you few gentle readers and writers. And I think the question has more to do with writing than it does with blogging, to be precise.

When I am confined to the restrictions of an airplane, I finally settle down, stop swallowing pop culture trash by the bucketload, and consume books. And since I have been (and will be) spending a good amount of time on planes of late, I have picked up on a particular phenomenon. Most recently, it happened while reading an anthology of short stories. Because I seem to be getting nowhere in my quest to arrive at a point any time soon, I will stop to observe that I consider the short story one of the purest indicators of writing ability. If you don't believe me, I am sending you back to read Story of an Hour and A Rose for Emily. Maybe my love for short stories and poetries is really a reflection of my commitment issues, but I will continue to contend it is because those forms of writing are the most breathtaking.

Okay, really, now I am getting to the point. After reading one story by Daniel Alarcon and another by Stephen Elliott, I was allowing some twisted form of ventroloquism to occur. Because I am a crap writer, you cannot necessarily tell. But I can tell, I can tell that at least one of my recent posts was basically just channeling their voices into telling my story.

I am wondering if I am just suffering from a predilection for plagiarism, or whether this happens to everyone. I did not steal any words. I did not steal any facts or details. This is about style and voice. A better example than mine is one where a talented writer mimics another (oh yes, and when a talented writer does it, it's called an homage, rather than mimicry). Here's a rather well-known William Carlos Williams poem:
This is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Kenneth Koch decides to play with this poem, and here's what he comes up with:
Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

Kenneth Koch is purposefully using William Carlos Williams' style in his poem, but doesn't this subconsciously occur in a more subtle manner? More often than not, when a new song hits the airwave, it's inevitable to start naming the musical influences. Radiohead is an evolution of Kraftwerk. Muse has notes of Queen. Wolfmother is channeling Led Zeppelin. That one Keane song sounds like a blatant U2 rip-off. I like to give these bands the benefit of the doubt, that they did not mean to copy those that came before them. But you can't control what you absorb from the environment, how it shapes what you produce. I would imagine even the better writers out there do not write in an undisputed, original voice.

Did I even get my point across? Zounds. After reading Elliott and Alarcon, and quoting two great poets, I am feeling even more guilty about polluting the world with such useless words. But, tomorrow, I am probably going to gush about that William Carlos Williams poem, just to warn you. Forgive me. I simply cannot help myself.

p.s. Why all of this post should come as a revelation to someone who regularly steals song lyrics is beyond the limits of logical reason.

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