What’s a Blog?

Naked poetry

I have come to realize that a writer has a real quandary in that when one is working on one project so many other plot ideas pop into your head. Yikes – how to stay focused.

After having a chat with one of my brilliant nephews It became clear that although I am computer literate I’m still a dinosaur at website optimization. I have to admit that I can build magazine style websites , but I didn’t wrap my head around the idea of a blog site – which is why this site looks the way it does. To be truthful in the beginning I learned to build sites as a means to promote my work. In 2013 what that amounts to is a quick run through my pages. The reader may find some of interest and maybe the others would produce nothing but a yawn.

My nephew asked me, after looking at my site, “What interests you? What are you an expert in?”

I looked at him like he was nuts. “Writing, songwriting, art, poetry…like the site clearly demonstrates. His response astonished me, “Yeah I get you do that stuff but why would a person come back to your site…once they have made one visit?” I honestly didn’t know the answer, and I sat with my brain squirming like an ell out of water.  He told me he liked everything on my site – and asked why I don’t blog about it. “Engage readers in your process, your back story, ask for opinions and create a community of like minded people with a running conversation – a blog!” I honestly thought that was what I was doing. He looked at me and said you are posting cool articles – articles that do give the reader a little of the writer – perfectly suited for a magazine.

There are some amazing Blogs out there that started with a simple interest and turned into something amazing.  I suppose that a successful blog is a blog that eventually  sells something, but is that necessarily true?  I will admit that I want you to buy my e-books – selling myself as an author sis tough for me, and I’m sure many authors out there. What I love is to write about anything that interests me, if you are interested in what I’m interested in then it makes sense you would buy my books.

I have been trying to wrap myself around that concept for a few months now – so I haven’t posted much. The thing is there is so much to talk about in writing, poetry, music, and art that I should be able to write something often – so the site will change as I get this blogging thing down.

If any of you have found or find yourself in this situation let me know your thoughts. If you have a successful Blog site – how about sharing as to how it came about? So I will write about what interests me in the context of writing, music, poetry  and art and see where it takes us.

Next time: My take on Ghost Hunting shows.

Here’s an interesting list of successful blogs:

The 100 Best, Most Interesting Blogs and Websites of 2013

Other sites by Ken Lehnig:

http://songwritersdmarketplace.com

http://sandiegoacoustic.com

e-books by Ken Lehnig:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/keninkslinger

 

A Slightly Skewed Class In Poetry Writing

cheshire cat

 

On Writing Poetry

by Ken Lehnig

This article, by the vagabond rambling poet, will take us on a journey, one in which we will examine the art of writing poetry in a different, abstracted, and assuredly skewed manner. (That may wander back into the normal and mundane.) In fact that is the only way the writer (me) can do anything. In and then out best describes the way my brain works. I can’t promise that anything I write will be found in a textbook, because it has been many decades since I have opened a textbook, and I didn’t retain anything then – so I doubt there is little in my memory to retrieve. What I will write I hold as true, based on my journey, but if I have put some established truism, on writing poetry, to memory (and write it here), it is totally by accident, and I apologize in advance – and bow to those remarkably intelligent others. (Readers and Teachers)

Yep, Dear readers, the vagabond poet is going to write a how-to on writing poetry. It won’t be a class for Dummies, because I know that not a single one of my readers are dummies. Let us call it On Writing Poetry 23

Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.’

Doorknob – Lewis Carrol

Class begins:

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

Lewis Carrol

Structure or form:

First, go here to be totally confused, but enlightened. http://www.shadowpoetry.com/resources/wip/types.html

Here is the thing, and you may not like it, you have to study and work with poetic form and structure to be a good poet. It does not mean that you have to adopt any one form as your own, but it may well happen.

We will start with some tuff love. If you take or have taken a formal writing poetry class – you will get this next point made on the C or D on your writing assignment. (Yikes! I have already wandered back into the Normal.)

Writing rambling love, or hate verbiage, is not poetry; it is rambling love, or hate, verbiage and probably should stay in your journal.

(Please, go read ‘Elizabeth Barrette Browning’, Lord Byron, or Emily Dickinson)

Writing bouncy, simplistic rhyming, unintelligible, self-indulgent, in two or three word bursts, may well speak more to your spoken word performance than the poem itself.

(Please read the beat, hippy, street, and jazz poets – Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Richard Brautigan. Allen Watt, Bob Kaufman Drew, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carolyn Rodgers, and note all the forms and structures.)

If you have just started writing what you call poetic ART, it’s not. It is certainly artistic expression and you should be commended for the doing of it. I am for any type of artistic expression, including: Journal writing, for the courage to self-examine emotions; Spoken word writing, for the courage it takes to perform it. But if you are to be an Accomplished Poet then it takes a bit of work, and doing the work will have you write even better. (Do take the time to read the work of other poets, you will be surprised at how relevant poetry is throughout human history, and it will affect your work.)

I know a young man with a real talent, his bent was spoken word, because he was exposed to it, and was moved. In my opinion his work was far superior to the works I have heard, but when he wrote it down, it was difficult to read. I attempted to show him some simple structures. I broke his poem down into stanzas and cut out his emphasized words into single word lines. He still resisted and claimed I was wrecking his ART. Art is not accidental it is intentional. I soothed his ruffled feathers and told him his spoken word was performance art, his effort in that medium was clearly there, not what I read. Form does not wreck your ART, it tells the reader how you want the piece read. Stanzas group thoughts and allow readers to rest and ponder before the next stanza. Art should be a  consistent expression, learn your mediums, then do the best you can to create within the medium. You will discover what works best for you. (To spoken word artists: good form and structure allows for your work to be printed correctly and read by a wider audience.) In the man’s journey he discovered himself as a Poet, who brilliantly writes and speaks poetry. He came to compare poetic form to sheet music, allowing the reader to read it just as it is spoken – an apt comparison.

Love the language:

Read the dictionary. Looking up words is not truly effective, because you don’t know what you don’t know. In my long years on the planet I have noted that common usage words are boring, unless it is parodied. So Dude, that begs a bitchen question: When you write, are you looking for agreement, or are you looking to enlighten the reader? If you just want agreement, or understanding, for your particular feeling, or emotion, text your friends, or write a journal. Trust me here, I wrote journals as a young man, a valuable and necessary start, but now the content seems shallow and trite. Now I write down random thoughts, or ideas, as they come, for poems, stories, and songs. It also is a lot easier on the muse. 😉 Take the time to just peruse the dictionary and write down words that get your attention. Stick them up on your wall or write them on postits, and stick them on your computer.

The work of a poet is to examine his or her own emotions, and thought, and write in such a way as to elevate the reader into I higher understanding, or different point of view. Everything you feel has been written about a million times over human history, and words have been invented along the way that will say in a few words what you may have rambled on for in twenty pages of poetic scribblings. Find the words, to say it better and with economy.

An economic and meaning packed stanza of mine, on gold miners, as an example:

troll’s kin
world tossed
sanctorum
Colconda
digging gritty earth

Play with words:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll

I love words and what words you choose should be extra-ordinary. When choosing words look for sounds and syllabic bouncing, as well as the best meaning, to improve your poem. I found the word ‘jongleur’, a French minstrel, the sound of the word intrigued me. ‘Sozzel’ was another word that intrigued me.  I wrote ‘Sozzel The Jongluer’ last year. The  poem and variations became the genisis for two books of poetry and short stories.

I picked proper strings
and let the rim shot fire
against the cracked plaster’s
calloused ear
so many loud drunken tales and stories told
some haunt,
lingering still,
in smoky shadows

Bereft of kindness
this shelter offers little
but a tune and spirit
down some sad memory
and whatever webs I deem to spin and ply
really only lies about other uneasy worlds
so sozzel the jongleur

The old sot smiles
and his filthy cohort dance
a jiggle of old bones
and graceless promenades
rough hewed, true to the gravel tones I entrain
no eminence grise
no gift
could I yet endue

But through parlance
it behooves me to find comfort
where my tongue’s
lilt has gained some  merit
My kin,
the rag tag and bobtail
fuddle and frolic
let go this day’s nettle and lift your saddened heart
and sozzel the jongleur

Carroll’s famous piece ‘Jabberwocky’ makes the point well. Here he uses nonsense words, the meanings of which the reader has no idea. But the mind ‘Matrixes’, it looks for meaning, just as faces seem to appear in tiles, wall texture, and random print patterns. Having an awareness of this human trait gives the poet a tool, for the reader to find a broader personal meaning to a poem.

Here is excerpt of apoetic exercise I wrote:

Priddle and passel perning on a peer
Saddle up a seaner , brigged and get
Tattle in a tangle, teater and tear
Better a bounder than a booring bet

I dinked this all lost in faddled rhyme
Cast asea only the moon embrates me now
Dark writ in candled awe, besown in time
You and life a pleasant versuasive vow

Ya’all determine whether I succeeded.

Certainly more could be written, the class could go on, and we would all fall into irreversible boredom. I am capable of going on about not much, in a confusing way, for a very long time! So let’s wind it down and just break it down to the rambling vagabonds poetic writing essentials.

A poetic works check list:

1. Read other poets

2. Expand your vocabulary

3. Look at structure and form

4. Work with word sounds

5. Say it in a fresh new way.

6. Look from a new perspective

7. Condense your thoughts

8. Write economically.

9. Seek lucidity

10. Feel the cadence

11. Artistically transform your emotions

12. Elevate your language usage

13. Twist meaning

14. Enlarge meaning

15. Minimalize while expanding

 

Enjoy yourself , even when you are in the darkest moods. Mood , good or bad, is the grist of what it is to be a poet.

You have been given a gift – you are a Poet.

See, how easy that was.

cheshire cat

’We’re all mad here.’

Cheshire Cat  – Lewis Caroll

Content and Context:

This point will be the last for this article, and I think it’s a good one. When you write, read what you have written, and see if it is as you intended. If it has, due to the muse’s contribution, expanded, is it still within the context you intended? From this position begin to edit and improve. I will put a piece down for a day or two and come back to it, not as an editor, but as a reader. When I am satisfied that it is as I intended, then I will look at editing and improving the piece.

The test on this material will be announced.

On every artistic endeavor I have undertaken I started out pretty crude, with work and attention to the craft, I have improved. Every artist is on a journey. I trust that wherever you are in your journey, you will take what I have offered in the supportive spirit I intended.

Keep writing!

 

First appeared in http://lit.org ‘Majestic’     The Ramblings Of A Vagabond Poet

ken lehnig(c)2011

Visit Ken Lehnig’s Book Shelf

E-book published – What now!!!

I just sat down to do another internet search of the best way to market your book. I think I have become an expert in the how to part but not in the actual selling of my books. I now know from all the experts at selling books, the things I need to do. The tough part for me is the marketing – I am a writer and writing is my love and passion not the selling of what I write. If I did everything I read that I am supposed to do I would never write another book. I would be too busy doing all that selling and promoting stuff. I'm sure there are more like me out there and I would love to hear from you about your success' and failures. I have 5 e-books published and I'm writing a 6th. So it seems that it is about time to 'ugh' pay more attention to the marketing side. But DAMN – really? I have a stack of rejection letters and I know not a single one I sent was read. Now I can be logical and say that I know the  Publishing business is changing – into what? I answered myself and went to Smashwords.com and learned to edit and format my own books – and that was hugely difficult and rewarding – I would recommend it to any determined, patient, and disciplined writer – all others don't even try, you will collapse in exhaustion and chronic deflated ego.

There again, having surpassing that hurtle you have to know how to market your own work..

I have read that Publishers are looking at Smashword.com writers now to go mainstream (read paper books), so do I just wait for the magic e-mail from Penquin or Random House. Is it proper etiquette to send an e-mail pointing to your e-books – or that somehow unforgivable shameless promoting? I am told that there are more e-books being sold than paper books. Really? Now make no mistake I love my fans for buying my work – and If you aren't a fan of my writing you really should be. I promise you will like it. Okay! Enough of that.
I guess what we writers do is write, and write, and write;and be pleased that we have the readers we have (God bless ye literate all!) and by sheer will and perseverance write on!

Just in Time for Halloween

One of mine own poems – re-posted in time for Halloween.


On The dark Road

Don’t be on the dark road when the storm’s coming
Don’t be on that night path when evil walks about

Don’t be on that road in the mid-night
You may not make it home.

There is a reason we stay in – shuttered up tight
Your mind can’t handle – what walks in the night
In the wild places – there are fears you’ve never known
Shadows here to reap – the harvest you have sewn

You have heard the stories – of people just like you
Believing there is no consequence – for what they do
When it’s your time – your reason is all but gone
It hides in the shadows – waiting there all night long

Red eyes glare from your closet
And there’s noises under your bed
Scratching on your window pane
That feeling of dread

It’s waiting on that midnight road
To take your soul away
It has a job to do you know
Now would be a good time to pray

You know there is a season – when shadows reap
Maybe you’ve decided to change your selfish ways
Maybe your name isn’t – in that dire book
And those shadows on the dark road will pass away.

Now would be a good time to pray
A good time to pray
If you’ve never done that before
Now would be a good time to pray.

Ken Lehnig(c)2011

Buy my E-book Sozzel The Jongluer Halloween tales.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/ken-lehnig?keyword=ken+lehnig&store=allproducts

Sozzel the Jongluer Halloween Tales by Ken Lehnig

Hi my friends,

For the next 7 Days I am making Sozzel the Jongleur Holloween Tales a collection of ghostly and dark poetry and short stories available for download on all reader devices. It is my way of introducing myself as an author and hopefully make some new fans to my work. I trust you will find this the perfect spooky holiday read.

Best to you all,

Ken Lehnig

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/95619

The Relationship Between Songwriting and Poetry

 

   I am a writer, poet , and songwriter and having practiced these arts most of my life I have gotten a few insights as to what works in each. It is my hope that if the reader is a songwriter what i have written will be of help – if you are not perhaps you may gain a finer appreciation of songwriting and what is good in a song.

This piece was first published in Lit.org 'Majestic'.

  I have had several conversations this week with poets and songwriters about the relationship between poetry and lyric writing. Poets expounded that the art of poetry has a deeper and more defining aspect, while lyric writing is common and shallow. Lyric writers say that the abstract and esoteric nature of poetry is inaccessible, while lyric writing accesses a universal meaning and need, whether it is an aria, or a version of Louie Louie. After listening to, and speaking many well considered, and erudite notions, I put aside my too often eristic tendencies and retired to my chair, in front of my computer, to ponder all that has been offered with such earnestness and passion. I even went so far as to Google the issue, an act leaving me more confused, past my own time worn and well considered opinions – as well as any nonsensical notions I have picked up along the way.

There is no doubt, to me, that music, or the human appreciation for music, is in some way hardwired in us, at the least it is an appreciation developed early in human history. But then so is ‘language’, and the use of language, as a means to tell a story, or convey an abstract concept, the latter, in human prehistory, often the purlieu of the early religious and well suited in those ethereal explorations. The combining of word, and music, is an ancient endeavor, and a natural one. The powerful feeling and sensations that can be invoked with the marrying of music and lyric is, in the truest sense, magical. One can wonder why there is contention at all between the two art forms.

As I have addressed in previous articles, we know that Greek recitations often included music, or rhythmic accompaniment. Music evolved into a very sophisticated form when more and more instruments were invented – out of necessity, so that a common written form would allow for combined performance. That notation system, we enjoy today, gives our voices acknowledgment as the first, and primary, instrument.

Is it in us, as humans, to be creative, hard-wired as I stated? If it is, any number of creative barkings, and thump-drummings, can and will occur. And they most certainly have. Every creative act of humans has the potential for developing into finer and finer manifestations. The barkings of early humans is now speech – a thing that can be refined as gold in ore, or as rough and rude as with primordial attempts. Music can be the hitting of a stick on a hollow tree stump, or the bowed brilliance of a Stradivarius by a Masters hand.

What am I getting at? You may ask.

I am getting at the fact that all art is progression, an a cumulative expression of the human psyche. So when we sit down to write, whether poetry or lyrics, do we do it with no knowledge of what came before? Do we defend our ‘Art’ with venomous rage, and refuse any critique?  Or do we learn a little of what has already been done, from others, and in our own exploration, and see how our work fits into the human artistic tapestry? New things do come into the world and are worthy of attention; usually those things own a kinship with what has come before, and stand on the shoulders of other artistic craftsman. Am I saying that any ‘unique’ interpreter should throw out what they have done?  No I am not – but take the time to see if, and how, that work fits in the artistic matrix. That ‘matrix’ is what is built into us all. We look at new things through that filter, and make the decision to ‘like’ or’ not like’ based upon those preset conceptions. The true Artist is one that knows, whether through study and trial, or by some directed self-awareness, the ‘matrix’ – and knows how to create something different, and new, that will find a place within the existing fabric. This is the reason art created with feces is just something made from feces – Journal writing is, and will remain, Journal writing, no matter the passionate and honest intentions of the creator.

There you have it, the rantings of a near lunatic, sitting at Tea (coffee), on ‘Art’. I will of course offer an example of how this bit of scribbling has practical merit. Poetry has forms, and one should learn those forms. Songwriting has forms , and one should learn the forms.

Why? The brand new stream of consciousness Spoken Word poet asks. Because, my fearless friend, it will make your work better.  More people will respond favorably to your performances, and when you write it down it will be read as you, as the writer, intends.

Why? The brand new songwriters ask, as they pluck happily on a guitar, or tickle the ivories, over the song that, to them, sounds exactly like a Lady GaGa song, and will surly make them rich, as soon as they share it with the first music pro they meet. Because, if you know song structure, and form, you will have an arsenal of tools to be able to write quality lyrics to the next hundred songs, where one might turn out be that hit.

I have spent a great deal of time on poetry as of late – so – let’s spend some time with the songwriters.

I have talked about the ‘verse/verse/chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus’ song structure. This is kinda the norm, these days, for contemporary songs, but it isn’t the only way. I’m going to go around the barn, once again, and suggest some songwriting methods that you probably won’t find anywhere else. Lyric writing ‘is’ poetry! In the sense that it stands on it’s own until music is added. So let’s look at some Poetic Forms that are relevant to lyric writing. Here are four familiar poetic forms that work well for songwriting structure and if creatively tweaked a bit can produce some interesting results.

1. Ballads: These were often written as Broadsheets, were most always ‘tales’ and often written by poets and  sung to existing melodies throughout England and Ireland. Northern and west European ballads were most often written in quatrains (four-line stanzas) of alternating lines of  iambic, tetrameter, and iambic trimeter. Usually, only the second and fourth line of a quatrain are rhymed.

Here is an example of  one ‘o me own:

The black steed rode ahead the storm
His rider clothed in dread
He carried dire thoughts in his mind
Behind, the angry dead

Can you hear the storm there wailing?
It calls out every name
The black rider is there leading
He is delivering the blame

2. Couplet–  usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.

Here is one ‘o my blues song that uses this form aa bb cc. the meter is skewed in the last couplet to accommodate the refrain:

I ain’t had no luck
Drive a pick up truck

My mood ain’t sunny
I ain’t got no money

I’ll do any thing in this big wide world Sue
To get me up close to you

3. Sonnets: This form usually is written in a 14 lines with an ababcdcdefefgg rhyme with 10 syllables per line in iambic pentameter. For this song we can break them into 4 stanzas aabb ccdd eeff and a chorus of two lines gg. I have bent the rules making this 13 syllables per line –  so that it sings well.

(He was)
Early disappointing but a hero in his mind
Traveled in dark places staying with the thieving kind
Wild storms broke the sun deadly shadows across the moon
Holds up the well of heal then sleeps off the drink till noon

It was sadly wrought the gentry two were badly met
They held their purses hard – John Penny’s gun did the rest
Grim bell resonates  – John Penny for the gibbet soon
Gold and copper counts, John Penny in a dreary room

A crossed mate played the Judas- gave up his hide and seek
Jon Penny slipped the noose and preyed further on the weak
Like a rider on the wind with hell hounds on his heels
Fiercely snapping crying vengeance no judge to make a deal

Highwaymen are lonely and most then are surely doomed
Jon Penny riding like a shadow across the moon

4. Free Verse: This form uses both rhyme and cadence/meter where the poet has the freedom to create a feeling or mood. This is the foundation and legitimacy for Spoken Word, although that legitimacy comes from past poets, who knew and understood other poetic form, before venturing into free verse.

Anyway, whether poetry, or songwriting take the time to learn the forms – It don’t hurt to know!

Here is a song lyric that uses free verse in its structure.

She the kind of girl who’s true and formed
Free versed and cursed
With a quirky grace

She the kind of girl with much inside
Weird dark and light
On an angels face

She’s a temptress
And a circus clown
Back flips and lips
Not afraid to fall

Lost gypsy’s dream
I’ve lost my will
Dreams come true

T.S. Eliot wrote, “No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.”

Every poetic form gives the songwriter a platform a foundation to write upon. I hope that I have shown that by knowing poetic form you can tweak it and make your songwriting stronger and maybe just a little easier.

Ken Lehnig(c)2012 version All Rights Reserved

If you like dark, weird, and decidedly off poetry, and short stories you will love –

Ken's Newest Book. 'SOZZEL the JONGLEUR 3 STRANGE REFLECTIONS'

 

Spoken Word

Spoken Word from Ken Lehnig

As a poet have spent my adult life writing mostly inadequate poetry. As I have entered my later years something happened, whether I have made a truer connection to the language, a deeper understanding of the things of life, or I have tapped a channel to some astral library, I don’t know and mostly don’t care. That I can write poetry with some satisfaction at the outcome is enough for me. Whether the work is worthy is up to the reader and listener.

I have always written poetry and would only share those pieces that I deemed worthy. Spoken word is a new concept for me and I don’t often write in the common rhymey and clever word twisty style so often heard in spoken word jams – in no way am I being derisive , in fact, I enjoy spoken word events very much indeed, especially when I learn that most of the participants have no formal understanding of poetry as a literary and art form. I am heartened and often astonished at how poetry is part of our human makeup – at least that is the case I will put froward. Here I offer what I write and it holds up as is does, rise or fall, with no pretense.

 

 

 

The Shadow

 

All Aboard

 

Love

My Mind Is A Carnival

 

 

all poems by ken lehnig(c) 200- 2012

Writer’s Computers Do Crash

 

The computer screen lit up and my rebuilt computer whirred into life. The poor beast, overworked and laden, gave up the ghost two weeks ago. It’s little brother, my trusty laptop, did not hold up the task of taking its place. It too coughed – hicupped – and sadly died. I sat in my black leather chair, in my office, and began to weep. The realization that I had been cut off from the world, severed most cruelly from ghostly relationships, tended so carefully across the ether. No more was I connected to my vaguely artistic works peppered hither and thither on the ethereal strands of the world wide web. I was overcome with a deep dread – I had been slowly cyberized, over the years, by trying to master these devices. How was I connected to the world? Not by handshakes and hugs, but by directed bytes, e-mails, and URL addresses.

I steeled myself up, pressing down the fearful flutters in my stomach. I was going to be strong. I would take my devices – for that is all they are – down to a computer shop where would sit a maven, an expert, who will take my broken wings and once again make them to fly. Soon all would be well. The magical diagnosis was performed and the worst was revealed. They were both old and worn, just like me. The rush of empathy nearly overwhelmed me. Then that which must be asked – was asked, “What do you want to do with them?” I was shocked dumbfounded. ‘Had he no heart?’ I thought. These have been my partners, my companions in arms. We have taken every battle with stout hearts and drives. We have, together, written over a million words. They sat there patiently while I sweat and ached to nudge some morsel from an unresponsive muse. They assisted me in writing all those query letters and felt, I’m sure, sympathy when the rejection letters and emails came rolling in. Do I just cast them in the garbage heap? They deserve more.

Then the brilliant and blessed A+ certified genius said, “Why don’t we drop a new, larger, hard drive and double up your RAM. Then you just reload your operating system and your software and your good to go – won’t cost you near as much as new computer. Your laptop just needs a couple of larger sticks – more memory. Easy! Buit you will lose your data when we re-format.”

"I have everything backed up on a remoter hard drive." Says I.

The light of heaven opened up and I heard the  Muse’ singing in a combined chorus of Alleluia. My friends could be resurrected. I could see the clouds breaking and all those past writers, who struggled with mere pen and paper, all were giving me a ‘thumbs up’. So generous are those previous others, who made their way without spell-checker and the Internet. We computer literate writers, of today, give a nod to those who loved their fine quill and expensive inks, who toiled away pounding the mechanical keys of an old Remington, tossing mistyped pages of incoherent thoughts into the trash.

“So, what do you want to do?”

I blinked as the vision passed and looked, watery eyed, at the techno maven. “Fix it! My food man, my techno savior, boost the power – boost the memory – get me up and on line as soon as you are able. We have work to do”

“Come and get them at five!”

The shakes began. “Five? That would be six hours.”

“Yeah! About that.”

“What will I do?”

“There’s a Mc Donald’s across the street. They have chairs and a big screen TV. Have one or two of those iced-coffees – they are good. I’ll have two or three every day.”

“I turned, thanked him, and found my way to the place he suggested. The iced-coffee was pretty good, as were the four cheeseburgers and three supersized fries. I watched Fox News and was brought up to date on the state of the delusional and evil Democratic Party, all of Obama’s failures, and how the Republican’s have and have always had the answers, thinking that it was good but found it odd that the Good Old Party neglects to enlighten we public, especially when they are in power. Since I was the only McPatron I was allowed to switch to CNN and learned that Republicans are also delusional and evil, and Democrats have and had always had the answers – that being that it is all the fault of the previous administration. I said 'amen' aloud, somewhat sarcastically, having heard it all through the last 10 adminisrations I have enjoyed, wondering how anything ever gets done. I turned on a soccer match and watched just as confused but spellbound by the constant movement and the astonishing enthusiastic screams of 'GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAL!' when the ball got by the fellow gaurding the netted goal. After a bit when I realized that getting that ball in the net was a tiring, exhausting, and nye impossible thing to do – I soon was singing 'Gooaaal' as well, just pleased to see some result come from all the running around and the handless skill it took to play this game.

I stopped watching and pulled out a real writing pad and started this article, wrote the bones of a song or two, a couple of poems, and some sketches of a McCustomer or two. Five o’clock slowly came, my mind no wiser in the political arena, a bit more appreciative of the most popular game in the world, and I, fast food badly fed, and caffeine charged  found my way back to the shop, trying to think of the last time I had taken that much time just sitting with my thoughts and allowing a creative steam to just flow. I made a promise to do it more often. I thanked the techno- wizard, took my now healed and recovered electronic patients home, spent the rest of the night, TV off, loading programs, connecting modems, setting up e-mail accounts, and having a wonderful time.

Even though life has its ups and downs – it’s all still pretty good. Isn’t it?

Ken Lehnig(c)2010 all rights reserved.

 

On Songwriting ‘Red Bone’

This is one of those songs that was seeded by just hearing something that made the Muse ring. I was half-watching a movie and in the film one of the characters had a Blue Tick Hound named Red Bone. The idea that percolated in my head that night while I slept was of a bad man with the surname Redbone – with a dog Redbone tracking him down. I loved that irony. That's it. I wanted an old time feel and a repetitive hook. A friend first hearing the song said 'Don't tell me the name of the song is Redbone.'  Maybe too repetitive, but that's the hook.. The first verse was just to set the scene – poetically descriptive with the fifth line tag telegraphing the outcome.

Redbone

My Red Bone riding on the warm wind
Red Bone howling at the moon beams

Red Bone sniffin' out the bad man
Sam Red Bone soon hanging from an old oak tree

The second verse I wanted to tell the reason for chasing him down. The trick was to do it with solid imagery, but being as clear as I could as to how bad the men was.

A nightmare came out the darkness
The willows weeping cause the witness
That deed surely evil with the madness
Leave behind a life full of sadness

The next was to soften the song a bit by painting with words the feeling of the hound running and baying in the moonlight. I was really happy with the feel of this verse. The fifth line  tag bringing back what it was all about.

My Red Bone running on the warm night
Red Bone howling in the moonlight
My Red Bone nosing out that bad man
Sam Red Bone soon hanging from an old oak tree

The third verse threw me a bit. I suppose I am making a statement here about the affect of murder and whether a person should be allowed to live after tearing an innocent from life and loved ones. The damage is horrendous and unforgivable to me. I do present here that he almost gets away and I imply that he could murders others in trying to get away.

The story hidden in the blood stains
Lost dreams they never gonna gain again
Sam Red Bone climbed on a freight train
The track laid for a man gone insane

I wanted this verse to resolve the story.

But my Red Bone is one with the warm wind
Red Bone howling up at the moon beams
Red Bone done chased down that bad man
Sam Red Bone got his neck stretched, yeah

in an old oak tree

I wanted to put a twist in the story – what if you were involved in such a way that you knew the victims, perhaps saw what the monster had done. Redbone does corner him and you have him in your grasp – it's dark  – it's out in a lonely wood. Would you deliver justice for fear that some Judge may let him go because you didn't give him his rights properly?  I suppose the question I wanted the listener to wrestle with is that it is easy to be an observer and be lenient  when this evil is removed from you. Justice to often isn't served – and some times justice is misguided and just gets it wrong by convicted an innocent person. But here Redbone's nose can't lie.

Justice here done in the darkness
Sam judged swinging from a oak tree
No more bad deeds in the midnight
Red Bone We chased him down in the midnight
Red Bone We chased him down and made it all right

Simple Americana Lyrics, a clear story, a field call arrangement made this song work for me as a songwriter. The rest is up to the listener.

'Redbone' by Ken Lehnig © 2003 Desert Windsong Pub. BMI

Copyright Ken Lehnig © 2011  previously published SongwritersMarketplace.com  All rights reserved

On Being An Artist

On being an Artist

Photobucket It would seem that I am about to veer off road and careen wildly across strange landscapes; far away from the terrain I usually travel.  Not so, dear reader, I am going to go deeper into the artistic soul, and heart, that is the underpinning of writers and poets. I travel that same road we are all on; no matter the level of our competence we share this journey. To this point I have offered my thoughts, on writing poetry, and lyrics, not as an expert – but as a working artist and an observer, perhaps casting a light into shadowy places in our understanding of what it is to be a Poet or Songwriter. I am going to connect some dots – I will do this with no more authority than the fact that I am an Artist – I sculpt, I draw and paint, and I write poetry, prose and songs, all these disciplines come from the same wellhead.  I do hope you are entertained, maybe enlightened, and do forgive the fact that I lack the ability to be mundanely linear and coherent. (If I do – it is a lucky accident, and the connective activity of rouge neurons attempting to conservatize my thinking.)

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self- conscious, and everything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

Ray Bradbury

This article is going to be about the starting point on our journey as poetic writers – the off-road of being a Poet, an Artist. This is for those that feel they have the tools, but not the spark to write well – this will be for those that think the Muse ignores them – this will be for the frustrated and self-critical – this will be for those aching to get  on paper, or a computer screen the language of their souls – those words that never seem to shine, or have the richness that they feel is there – those joyous fountains, sorrowful wails, brilliant illuminations, deep emotive wellings, and lucid clarities, not translated and, alas, stay un-delivered to the world.

My normal process for coming up with this column is, usually, spurred on by some poetry I have read or the lyrics, to a song, I have heard. How that comes about is what may be interesting – it isn’t always the poem or song’s content, but often how I perceive the piece to have come into being.  The mechanics are important to me and I trust that I have, in my vagabond and odd way, delivered some cogent points in that regard. I will address that more later in the article.

I want to explore the very starting point, even before there is a twinkle in the Artist’s eye. I want to write about the seed of artistry, the genesis of that good effort and human outlay we call Art.  The definition of the word ‘Art’ I leave to you to look up. I will not debate Art’s value – I believe that is mote and refuse any attempt at diminishing the need for all Artistic expression in a balanced and healthy society. A person that sees Poetry, and indeed any form of writing, as important as any artistic endeavor, writes this article.

Recognition of self as Artist

I don’t remember when I declared myself an artist. It happened in the midst of doing art. In other words, I was compelled to create and in the process found the artist. There is no right way to become an Artist. I suggest the Artist existed before the recognition, that same recognition being unimportant. A poet begins to write and in the process the Poet emerges. Trust the process. ‘Tis Like taking your first baby steps the, poetic muscles become stronger and more defined.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”

George Bernard Shaw

From darkness to light

This is esoteric – I believe it is in the human soul/mind/body matrix that we are designed as creators. That inherent ability can manifest itself in a myriad of ways. Every thing we, as humans, create is a form of artistic expression. Politics, mathematics, architecture, finance, business, military arts, sciences, all have a creative core – we as humans have created distinctions that aren’t real. and may well hurt us as a society. What we perceive as Art now has become separate and of less intrinsic value – music, painting, crafts, dance, sculpture, and all, have become lumped into ‘Entertainment’. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t an industry to promote and exploit these arts. It is that the worth of the Artist is not comparable to the worth of a Banker. (Well, I may have to rethink that comparison!) The darkness is the void in us and from that void will emerge a person’s human expression. This is separate from and distinct from the evil of trying to quantify a person’s aptitude and intelligence. I wrote the provocative word evil, because it is in the individual to be responsible for their own life, to find that expression. If such quantification helps the person solidify what they already know – fine. But I believe it not to be so, in most cases, being told by an authority, or the score of a one size fits all test, that you have no aptitude for something is irresponsible, damaging, and a recipe for misery. That system was, and is, designed to put people into the existing work force and down plays those abilities that are not considered valuable to society – as arbitrary and transitory as the latest story in the Media.

(The e-mails will now come pouring in. Don’t e-mail me, I am intransigent on this point – my experience will out.) Work is good – art is good! Art can be work and work can be art!  They are not mutually exclusive. Trust yourself. You know if the yearning is there – don’t be afraid to acknowledge that internal artistic urging.

Imitation

Once a person recognizes the artistic yearning the practical brain kicks in. There is no criticism in that statement, it is the way we are made, and what it is to be human. Someone created flint knapping and that skill was taught to others that had that ‘aptitude.’ They in turn created new ways to do the job and that led to other skills, or arts. The first steps in any Artist’s journey is to find an expression and then to imitate the work of other Artists that resonates in them, to me, a joyous time of self-discovery. In learning the rules the mind and body can incorporate those skills and, from there, jump ahead, as new innovations are realized, from that which has come before. Innovations that would not be possible, unless it was on the shoulders of other, previous, innovations – on the shoulders of previous innovation – and so on. Learn the craft!

Mechanics

This is the root of all Art, whether the ‘How To’ was stumbled upon or learned.

In the 80s I sculpted doll parts out of a product used for jewelry. The process started with me thinking I could create a new art form on the shoulders of an existing one, then thinking that the jewelry clay would work. I had to, by trail and error, find ways to make the clay do what it wasn’t designed to do.  Other artists and those I taught created other innovations and a new artistic community was created. I learned doll making before I attempted to create a new Art Doll expression. All art is created this way.

Poetry too has tried and true forms and modern innovations that stand on the shoulders of the poets who came before. I learned those rules early on and as a Poet they serve me well as the context of all of my work. I will consciously pick a form that best allows me to express what I wish to express.

Learn the craft, the rules, first before you creatively break the rules – you can’t create new ground till you know the old, in that relevancy is created.

Discernment

Improvement by choice – the coolest (A technical term) thing that happens to an artist is when the piece reaches out to you and says, ‘This isn’t right! Improve this! Fix this!’ That can only happen if the artist is engaged in doing the work. Trust your own intuition – you will see it in your work and you will see it when others point it out. Criticism is valuable, but it is up to you whether the piece is changed. Every bit of criticism I get I file it all away. It may not apply, to me, to the poem or story at hand, but well may be appropriate to another piece I have yet to write.

You will always stumble when attempting something new, because you look to another and how they do it – but with time and effort, an assured-ness comes into play, and you no longer look to another, but trust in the skills you have acquired.

The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.”

Oscar Wilde

The Fallacy of Failure

Every trip has a first step. There is no failure in Art. Things don’t work and do require fixing, but that is true of every life process. It was said during the Renaissance that nothing was to be made perfectly, for only God can make a perfect thing. The truth is we as humans are unable to make something perfectly – there is no compelling Heavenly ideal, or if there is, not one we should aspire – the work is to make it as good as you are able, up to your personal ideal – at the time. As an artist learns their chops, a voice will emerge. That voice being a clear resound, on what is in the nature and soul of the artist. The poetic voice I have often written about is just that – the self-discovery of a way in which the work of a poet manifests in the form, word choices, and imagery. Will there be periods of unproductive gloom, self-doubt, and self-depreciation –  I am sorry but yes! I do find the times when I’m non-productive very upsetting, but that is because I have an expectation that is being thwarted. In fact I do know that it is a time when my unconscious mind is going over its assets, and the font will again produce fruitful poetic waters.

Lord Byron’s take on those dark moments and the Muse’s neglect:

‘This bosom, responsive to rapture no more,
Shall hush thy wild notes, nor implore thee to sing;
The feelings of childhood, which taught thee to soar,
Are wafted far distant on Apathy’s wing.’

‘Farewell to the Muse’ George Gordon

But if you do find the will to work then remember this:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep,”

Scott Adams (American Cartoonist)

Approaching mastery by intention Avoiding mastery.

The above is a strange statement, but sadly ‘tis true. The problem with mastery is that you go right back to the beginning of the process. Once you have mastered an art form you begin to imitate yourself – sad bit of business that is.  It is better to continue to learn, risk, and keep creating within your chosen discipline. If you are a Poet, write in as many forms as you can, or stay in one if your heart tells you that is right for you, but always work and strive to find that personal ideal that is imprinted on your soul. You may never be satisfied, but I believe that is indeed a joyful place to be – creation/opportunity comes from uncertainty.

Here is the best quote on being an artist I have ever read:

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

Mary Lou Cook

Ken Lehnig(c)2010 repost from an article by Ken Lehnig in the March 2010 isuue of Majestic

On Being Creative