"Therein lies the problem, the performance is lost on the collectors of experiences, not the lovers of performance. Art is not for the sake of drunk kids who need a story to tell about their weekend, it's a mockery of poetry and a waste of my fucking time. Your selfie doesn't pay my rent, motherfu**er."
Silas lit another cigarette.
"I'm not saying we had any integrity, we were trying to get laid. I'm just unwilling to be a plaything for the meek."
He took a drag and finished his beer.
"Art is dead, we are caricatures of our own self-worth, exploiting to be exploited."
He took a pull off the Jameson bottle.
"What is fame, but self exploitation with health risks? The age of music, the age of true art, is either dead, or more likely, never existed." (Zach Roz)
In this series so far I’ve introduced you to three of my pupils at the Writer’s Retreat of San Buenas, the purpose being offer “human interest” stories to complement my usual blogs about process, style, finding one’s voice, discipline, etc.
My fellow instructor and one of my hosts in Costa Rica, author Ezekiel Tyrus, provided these basic tools during his much more practical workshops. My workshops were more esoteric, introspective, and conversational, asking that the participants ask themselves a simple question: why do I write?
They all had different answers, naturally – whether it was a sensitive suburbanite, a career journalist, or a professional composer – but then we all do. Sharing those perspectives openly helped each of us to creatively grow outside of our self-imposed boundaries, in addition to expanding our experiences far beyond our comfort zones.
It also made us realize that while writing is a solitary occupation, we are not in this struggle alone.
Poetry Is Not Dead; It’s Not Even Resting Its Eyes…
One night we had a Spoken Word event, where the retreaters all read from their work, most of which had been written during their stay, as part of exercises assigned by Zeke.
The event was hosted by Zach Roz, a free spirit and charismatic host of his own popular Spoken Word series back in San Francisco.
When I first met Zach at the San Jose airport, he was reserved and rather shy. Not in a moody, standoffish way, but in a genuinely humble and pensive way. I could tell he had a lot going on beneath that calm, quiet exterior – some of it dark.
I didn’t realize exactly how much until he opened up to me a bit about a troubled past with some familial complications, the types of drama many of us experience, but not all of us are able to sublimate into Art that can be shared and thus elevate total strangers within its range of communication.
This is why many of us write, I learned, or rather, confirmed.
Zach revealed an entirely different personality while hosting and reading that night. A sweet introvert was suddenly an entertaining and evocative emcee, whose work was as fluid, fresh and deep as a Costa Rican river:
Elevated Exaltation P. 1 (Letter to a Friend)
What you’re experiencing is an absence of absolution.
There are terrors that will never end.
The joy of an artist is a small joy-
A brief beam of light in a hue unknown to the human spectrum.
A rising enlightenment toeing the line of madness,
A temporary oneness.
You may suffer much discomfort.
You may never deal in certainties.
There is much you will question.
You will deal with unscrupulous accomplices under
Poor working conditions
With very few benefits.
You will feel fear.
You will experience death.
You will also experience life-
That is commendable. (Zach Roz)
Go ask Jack
He’s my guy,
Jack knows the trade.
I get my beer,
I read my book, saying few words-
Enjoying my little purgatory-
I think best amongst riotous louts.
“An absence of absolution”
Caresses my corneas
Stabs of regret take my breath like
A Siberian ice shank,
Cigarettes may distract me enough-
I got that goldfish brain these days
That wino brain with the
Not often well enough to talk.
I think they understand,
These purveyors of fine spirit-
They see men’s souls
They see barren deserts
With them ancient eyes
Full of stories not worth telling
Preaching to a generation
Not accustomed to listening.
It must be a frustrating bore to
These vacant patrons
With all that life
And not much to show for it-
In a tangible way at least.
They have those stories
They had their lives
But nobody really cares
When it comes down to it
All you have
Are muddled memories
And a vacant stare.
It was not only these loaded words but also their passionate presentation that touched all of us in the room. I share them here on this platform as an example of not only stellar creative writing, but also how one can tap into that stream of consciousness bubbling beneath our often-deceptive surfaces with a sense of bravery and strength, achieving emotional catharsis and artistic fulfillment.
Otherwise, unless it’s purely for profit, why write at all? Ultimately, that’s a question only the writer can answer. Sometimes helps to listen to others, though.
PHOTO: NICK HALVERSON