spoken words of magic…


as i’ve taught my students about spoken word the last few weeks, one of the cool things is to find fresh poems for them to have as examples. i’ve shown them my good friend James Wilson and slam poetry sensations Taylor Mali, Sarah Kay, and Buddy Wakefield. this is a wonderful poem by Buddy. by the way, i’ve been careful to edit for the students. enjoy…

 

Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars (Hope is Not a Course of Action)

By Buddy Wakefield

If we were created in God’s image
then when God was a child
he smushed fire ants with his fingertips
and avoided tough questions.
There are ways around being the go-to person
even for ourselves
even when the answer is clear
clear like the holy water Gentiles would drink
before they realized
forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.

I thought those were chime shells in your pocket
so I chucked a quarter at it
hoping to hear some part of you respond on a high note.
You acted like I was hurling crowbirds at mockingbars
and abandoned me for not making sense.
Evidently, I don’t experience things as rationally as you do.

For example, I know mercy
when I have enough money for the jukebox.
You know mercy whenever someone shoves a stick of morphine
straight up into your heart.
It felt amazing
the days you were happy to see me

so I smashed a beehive against the ocean
to try and make our splash last longer.
Remember all the honey
had me lookin’ like a jellyfish ape
but you walked off the water in a porcupine of light
strands of gold
drizzled out to the tips of your wasps.
This is an apology letter to the both of us
for how long it took me to let things go.

It was not my intention to make such a
production of the emptiness between us
playing tuba on the tombstone of a soprano
to try and keep some dead singer’s perspective alive.
It’s just that I coulda swore you had sung me a love song back there
and that you meant it
but I guess sometimes people just chew with their mouth open

so I ate ear plugs alive with my throat
hoping they’d get lodged deep enough inside the empty spots
that I wouldn’t have to hear you leaving
so I wouldn’t have to listen to my heart keep saying
all my eggs were in a basket of red flags
all my eyes to a bucket of blindfolds
in the cupboard with the muzzles and the gauze
ya know I didn’t mean to speed so far out and off
trying to drive your nickels to the well
when you were happy to let them wishes drop

but I still show up for gentleman practice
in the company of lead dancers
hoping their grace will get stuck in my shoes.
Is that a handsome shadow on my breath, sweet woman
or is it a cattle call in a school of fish?
Still dance with me
less like a waltz for panic
more for the way we’d hoped to swing
the night we took off everything
and we were swingin for the fences

don’t hold it against
my love
you know I wanna breath deeper than this
I didn’t mean to look so serious
didn’t mean to act like a filthy floor
didn’t mean to turn us both into a cutting board
but there were knives sstuck
in the words where I came from
too much time in the back of my words.
I pulled knives from my back and my words.
I cut trombones from the moment you slipped away

and I know it left me lookin’ like a knife fight, lady
boy I know it left me feelin’ like a shotgun shell
you know I know I mighta gone and lost my breath
but I wanna show ya how I found my breath
to death
it was buried under all the wind instruments
hidden in your castanets
goddamn –
if you ever wanna know how it felt when ya left –
if ya ever wanna come inside –

just knock on the spot
where I finally pressed STOP

playing musical chairs with your exit signs.

I’m gonna cause you a miracle
when you see the way I kept God’s image alive.

Forgiveness
is for anyone who needs safe passage through my mind.

If I really was created in God’s image
then when God was a boy
he wanted to grow up to be a man
a good man
and when God was a man
a good man
He started telling the truth in order to get honest responses.
He’d say,
“I know.
I really shoulda wore my cross
again
but I don’t wanna scare the gentiles off.”

ukulele’s play happy music…


i love playing the ukulele. the name of the instrument comes from the Hawaiian word for swatting bugs. this band plays a lot of them. for your enjoyment, The Ooks of Hazzard.

it was an accident…


“The truth is that nobody knows what that magic combination is that produces a first-rate piece of work….

All we can do is prepare the groundwork that allows for the ‘lucky accidents’ that make a first-rate movie happen.” Sidney Lumet

 

“Most of the good things in pictures happen by accident.” John Ford

 

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i typed those quotes wanting to talk about preparation, but then i decided to write about accidents. how many miraculous things come out of things that happen which are outside of our control. accident is often a negative word, because of the nature of accidents. often in an accident people are hurt or things are damaged due to them. but every once in a while, something accidentally happens that is a great thing. if it weren’t for accidents, we wouldn’t have Velcro, microwaves, post-it notes, or potato chips. also there are people who are famous by accident, including Mel Gibson, Evangeline Lilly and Marilyn Monroe. not that they weren’t talented or hardworking, it’s just that their big breaks came by being the right place at the right time.

lots of accidents happen on movie scenes and end up being left in the final edit, from Viggo Mortensen breaking toes, dodging knives and nearly drowning in the Lord of the Rings trilogy,  to beer cans being thrown at John Malkovich’s head as he had just come out of John Malkovich’s head. and one of my favorites from Midnight Cowboy, where an actual taxi nearly ran over Dustin Hoffman and he reacted by uttering the famous line “I’m walkin here!” the ultimate Sanford Meisner moment where an actual reaction was caught on film and became one of the most memorable lines in movie history. i’m sure it’s still quoted to new york cab drivers many times a day.

so sometimes accidents can be a good thing. i guess it depends on how you look at it.

excuse me a sec. what are you babbling about?


 

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain …and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal… Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club”

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this past tuesday, marked the 30th anniversary of March 24, 1984. the day that The Breakfast Club convened for saturday detention at Shermer High School. i’ve always loved this movie. who can not like the premise of these kids who start from all different walks of high school and by the end of one day forge friendships. we can only hope that they didn’t go back to being in their cliques the following monday. i like to think that Bender and Andrew spoke to Brian the next week. i like to think that Claire and Allison were able to acknowledge each other in the hall or even have a conversation. and i think that’s why John Hughes leaves us with the end the way it is. we have hope that the typical high school garbage can be overcome. we want to believe that, and that is why we love this movie. the scene at the end as Simple Minds anthemic “Don’t You, Forget About Me” plays while Brian’s character reads the essay Mr. Vernon tasked them to write is probably one of the impactful scenes for me from a movie. i mean, i was Brian in high school. so, maybe go watch The Breakfast Club sometime this week. and remember who you are.

the main thing…


“That celluloid, the actual film that runs through the camera, is dead. That’s gone, and now digital is here. But storytelling with cinema never will die–ever, ever, ever. The way stories are told may change, but it will always be.” David Lynch

 

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story, it’s the most important thing in any creative process. you have to convince people to care about the artistic endeavor. from painting to film, to music, people have to connect with what you are feeling or experiencing. that can be something simple or complex. it’s why people who have no interest in sports watch the Olympics. NBC has become great at telling the stories that go along with the games, and that is what draws viewers and compels them to root for the underdog or the favorite. same is true for shows like American Idol. it’s not about the music as much as it is about the hard luck story of the contestant who is struggling to make it in the music biz.

my favorite Academy Awards are the acting awards followed by the screenplay awards. i think performances and writing are the true test of a beautiful film. in essence, the best original screenplay or best adapted screenplay is an important award to me. i love great writing and great interpretation of that writing. if a movie is nominated for best picture, and doesn’t have any acting nominees, or it isn’t nominated for screenplay, then i question it’s validity. there are nine best picture nominees, but between original and adapted there are 10 nominees for screenplays, so I believe that if you have a Best Picture nomination, then you should also have a Best Screenplay nomination.

story is what drives everything. even in our ever present, day-to-day doings. we have to live a bigger story than the meager existence that many of us call life. who are you compelling with your story? how can our stories impact others? how can our stories impact the world?  what story are you living today? would a movie of your life be nominated?

play at your own risk…


“I want to risk hitting my head on the ceiling of my talent. I want to really test it out and say, ‘Okay, you’re not that good. You just reached the level here.’ I don’t ever want to fail, but I want to risk failure every time out of the gate.”-Quentin Tarantino

 

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that is an interesting quote from Tarantino. he’s one of my favorite directors and i love that he is talking about risk. i find it fascinating that he seems to be saying a failure is an end to his talent. i would say that if you are a risk taker, then failure is the beginning. you’ll never know how good you are until you’ve failed numerous times. but maybe i’m not grasping the context of the quote here. maybe he’s talking about failing at the very height of the ceiling, or maybe he is just saying he doesn’t like to fail. i don’t think any of us do, but i think we need to learn to embrace it if we are ever going to reach the apex of what our potential is. and there is a huge difference between failing and wallowing in that failure. i’ve been there. failure shouldn’t define us, it should inspire us to drag ourselves back up and do it again. so push through. allow yourself to create ceilings that you can bust through so that failure is the launching pad for the greatness within you. if you never take the chance, you will have a whole bunch of maybe’s and almost’s to talk about someday.

a book i picked up….


filmmaker

 

called “the Film-maker says” has been of enjoyment to me as of late. it’s little snippets and quotes from movie directors. i’ve used a few of them here as i write. they make great conversation starters, and i’ll use them in my classes as the year winds down.

i love a good quote. and this book is brimming over with not only great words, but contradictions on side by side pages. there are some quotes that are funny. some are sad. some are very thought provoking. it gives a little bit of insight from behind the camera that you might not always get. i recommend it for something to break the ice, or provoke thought.

“With some pictures, people leave the theater and it’s forgotten. If people see a picture of mine, and then sit down in a drugstore in a neighborhood or have coffee and talk about it for fifteen minutes, that is a very fine reward, I think. That’s good enough for me.” Billy Wilder

on writing…


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Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.

George Cukor

I read somewhere that David Mamet said there are no good actors, only good scripts. fitting coming from a playwright. i believe there are good actors. great interpreters, but i also believe they have to have great words to speak. i’ve seen so many great actors in plays and movies alike be horribly under-utilized and the limitations had to do completely with the story and the script.

so i say to all of you that write. write well. and i will say to all of you that act and direct, interpret well. the world needs better stories and better performances.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”  John Keating-Dead Poets Society

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got into a twitter conversation…


just enjoying re-reading where I was a few years ago.

Musings from Slow Pony

with a person who tends to bully other people with the bible.  i was accused of being biblically ignorant.  my original intent with engaging this person was to ask them to stop being so judgmental of “seeker” churches and their choices with how they attempt to reach people.  pretty much if you don’t preach the gospel the way this person thinks it should be preached, then well, you are wrong and sending people to hell.

my thought is if God can use donkeys, bigamists, prostitutes, murderers and utter failures, then He can tell His story through a poorly crafted movie sermon.  it seems quite often people place the responsibility on man and his ability to discern and study.  i believe that God does the work and the drawing.  if Christ is lifted up, He will draw all men.

now don’t get me wrong.  i’m not for willie nillie biblical errors…

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