Singer, by Valzhyna Mort
A yoke of honey in a glass of cooling milk.
Bats playful like butterflies on power lines.
In all your stories blood hangs like braids
of drying onions. Our village is so small,
it doesn’t have its own graveyard. Our souls,
are sapped in sour water of the bogs.
Men die in wars, their bodies their graves.
And women burn in fire. When midsummer
brings thunderstorms, we cannot sleep
because our house is a wooden sieve,
and crescent lightning cut off our hair.
The bogs ablaze, we sit all night in fear.
I always thought that your old trophy Singer
would hurry us away on its arched back.
I thought we’d hold on to its mane of threads
from loosened spools along Arabic spine,
same threads that were sown into my skirts,
my underthings, first bras. What smell
came from those threads you had so long,
sown in, pulled out, sown back into the clothes
that held together men who’d fall apart
undressed. Same threads between my legs!
I lash them, and the Singer gallops!
And sky hangs only the lightning’s thread.
Like in that poem: on Berlin’s Jaegerstrasse
Arian whores are wearing shirts ripped off
sliced chests of our girls. My Singer-Horsey,
why everything has to be like that poem?
Tikhii angel proletel
Russian. Trans. A quiet angel flew past
A common Russian expression when a group becomes aware of a long silence since the last person spoke.
From Elements of Style, by Suzan Lori-Parks
the NEA hoopla
Overweight souther senators are easy targets. They too easily become focal points of all evil, allowing the arts community to WILLFULLY IGNORE our own bigotry, our own petty evils, our own intolerance which—evil senators or now—will be the death of the arts.
History is time that won’t quit.
If you’re one who writes sitting down, once before you die try dancing around as you write. It’s the old world way of getting to the deep shit.
A playwright should pack all five, all six—all 7 senses. The 6th helps you feel another’s pulse at great distances; the 7th sense is the sense of humor. Playwrights can come from the most difficult circumstances, but having a sense of humor is what happens when you “get out of the way.” It’s sorta Zen. Laughter is very powerful—it’s not a way of escaping anything but a way of arriving on scene. Think about laughter and what happens to your body—it’s almost the same thing that happens to you when you throw up.
action in the line
The action goes in the line of dialogue instead of always in a pissy set of parentheses. How the line should be delivered is contained in the line itself. Stage directions disappear. Dialogue becomes rich and strange. It’s an old idea. The Greeks did it and Shakespeare too, all over the place. Something to try at least once before you die.
People have asked me why I don’t put any sex in my plays. “The Great Hole of History”—like, duh.
Take a little time, a pause, a breather, make a transition.
[S]ome objects do seem to retain the pulse of their making. This pulse intrigues me. There is a breath of hesitancy before touching or not touching, a strange moment. If I choose to pick up this small white cup with its single chip near the handle, will it figure in my life? A simple object, this cup that is more ivory than white, too small for morning coffee, not quite balanced, could become part of my life of handled things. It could fall away into the territory of personal story-telling; the sensuous, sinuous intertwining of things with memories. A favoured, favourite thing. Or I could put it away. Or I could pass it on.
How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious? There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten? There can be a chain of forgetting, the rubbing away of previous ownership as much as the slow accretion of stories.— Edmund de Waal, The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
The significance of plot without conflict
In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures—which permeate Western media—have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.
The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general—arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.
New years’ morning, by Carl Adamshick
A low, quiet music is playing—
distorted trumpet, torn bass line,
white windows. My palms
are two speakers the size
of pool-hall coasters.
I lay them on the dark table
for you to repair.