Friday, September 24, 2010

I became a poet for the wrong reasons.

Let's start with this true story:
I was a stand-in on a movie filming during the year of 1993.

One night, we were filming at an apartment building on Fountain and El Centro.  In the first hour of work (while the apartment interior was being readied), the cinematographer came up to me and said:
"I had a dream about you.  You were on the Santa Monica Pier wearing clown shoes."

He said it loud enough for other crew members to hear.

I couldn't do anything about what he said: I was scared of being fired on the spot.  And I was making a decent enough amount of money as a SAG stand-in for the length of the shoot--so I kept very very quiet.

The other crew people said nothing; they kept doing their work so the first shot of the night could be filmed.

When the film shoot ended, I told myself that I didn't want to experience anything like that again.  I didn't like being bullied and powerless and resolved to not take abuse from others without at least attempting to fight back.

Cut to five years later: I became involved in poetry because I liked the scene, a lot of the people and the opportunity for recognition if I was found to be "good enough" to be a featured poet at a venue (likely a coffeehouse or independent bookstore in those days).

But I didn't like egotism or bullying.  And when other poets chose to regard me as "someone to f--- with", then I didn't hesitate to stand my ground and/or risk angering people by fighting back.

Needless to say, various spoken and unspoken varieties of punishment, ostracism, "it's your problem, don't bother me with it" and "we don't want you associating with us" resulted.

As far as poetry was concerned, I wrote the kind of (mostly narrative) verse I felt comfortable with.  I didn't anticipate the death of most of the "most anyone can play" coffeehouse/independent bookstore scene (though I could see a decline beginning as early as 2002-03).  And, like a lumbering triceratops, I haven't made the transition to academia-friendly, strongly form-and-image-conscious "there's no mistaking this for anything but a REAL poem" work.

Some people like the poetry I write--others (influential tastemakers included) don't.  And I'm still a creature of 1998 who has essentially stopped going to certain readings where the spotlights shine on:
1. MFA/private-study/retreat-friendly high-minded verse
2. "Look at us, we're more hip and special than you are!" backscratching.

Obviously, I'm a wretched specimen who partially wanted the kind of star status I didn't receive in my lower-level work in the film/TV industry.

And maybe someday, I can adjust to merely being a bit player blessed with witnessing several really talented people--some still on the scene, some deceased--at their artistic peaks.

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