Masks & Mirrors

This has to be the weirdest Halloween Season of my lifetime. People have been wearing masks everywhere for months now, and will be for many months after. I’ve got plans as I do every year for All Hallows Eve, yet they may take place only here at the house.

Our plan is to have our own little Halloween here at the hacienda, not attend any parties, and if anyone stops by for Trick or Treating, that’s fine. I will wear my plague doctor mask underneath my costume mask and hand out the good stuff as usual. It will be the first non school night Halloween in a few years now and before all this pandemic related chaos I had been looking forward to it. We always go all out for Halloween. In 2017 I was Spiderman (AGAIN), in 2018 it was a months long quest to assemble the best Darth Maul costume I could, complete with the most screen accurate lightsaber which by itself set me back hundreds of dollars. For 2019 I put together a Leon Scott Kennedy cosplay starting with an actual police officer uniform as a base, and authentic tactical gear, just to go the extra mile. This year’s costume will be less elaborate.

Symbolically, a lot of masks have been coming off people and institutions this year. I suspect a few more will fall this Halloween Season and in the next few months. Some of our friends and family may not react well to this. In all honesty, I’ve cut myself off from quite a few people over the last few years, because they are delusional. We are almost to the point where some major illusions are going to be shattered once and for all. Of course, some people will still cling to them, like those poor old Soviets that missed Stalin until their own dying days. But the rest of us, who can still see reason will have to pick up the pieces and move forward as best we can. To put it in appropriate Spooky Season terms, the light of the new moon will show us some things in the darkness we didn’t want to see, and the full moon on the night itself will reveal some very bad news for our freakshow economy.

There. That is my formal Fortune Teller prediction for Halloween 2020. Perhaps, like that time in second grade when one of my teachers read my palm before Trick or Treating and told me I would go to college, get married and have two kids, it will be eerily accurate. Perhaps only some of what I foresee will come to pass. But, if even only half of what I suspect we will see come to light it will be one hell of a ride over this next year. Massive financial fraud. Money laundering. Stock market manipulation. Conspiracy to…well, you get the idea.

Coincidentally, if my fortune telling proves correct, some shocks to the system should be right around the time this book comes out:

Counterfeit Collective is all about that fake society

So, we might all be too busy standing in bread lines to buy it, but hey—at least it will be out! That’s progress, right? I absolutely love what the artist did with the cover art concept I had. This country is a circus on the best of days, and really needs to grow up and become something better …like a Ren Faire or a Community College.

This project is a short volume of poetry exploring themes of illusion, delusion, lies, damned lies, statistics, nationalism, racism, denialism, all sorts of isms. Some of the poems have been published previously, others were written to fit the theme. It is about the masks our society wears to fool us into playing the game, the masks we wear into the carnival, how many of the games are rigged and all that goes along with that. Given how dark this year has been, I sometimes wish I had opted to go with the other theme I’m collecting poems for, which is much more spiritual, but here we are. That one will have to be next year if we live.

After the formatting is done and the ebook hits the market, there will be print copies eventually, but there is no firm date on that yet. Once I have sample copies, I may know more. Next month, if all goes well, I’ll be entering a contest in another genre, with at least one script. Next year I’ll have other things coming out in one form or another. It’s challenging trying to look past the train wrecks that are already here and those I think I see coming up, to focus on those things I want to bring into being. I’m sure everyone can relate to that on some level.

I hope you all stay safe and sane, and keep working towards a brighter future. I voted early this past week and dropped off our ballots at the usual official drop box location. This is the most important election of my lifetime. If you haven’t already, you need to go vote. It is well past time we had adults back in the rooms where national decisions are made.

Next time, I’ll update with where to find the book once it is published, what I’m working on currently, and what I hope to be doing in the future.

May the Force be with you. Always.

National Poetry Month

In the spirit of National Poetry Month, I’ll share a few of mine, what ideas or situations inspired them, and which poet’s styles influenced them. When I was growing up, there were books by e.e. cummings, Leonard Cohen, Edgar Allen Poe, Yeats, Frost, Kerouac, Basho, Rumi and others lining the bookshelves. So many styles of poetic expression to explore and learn from. Add to that the books of songs from many of my parents favorite musicians, and the poems and songs in the Lord of the Rings books I started reading at an early age, it’s no wonder I dabble in all these things.

Here are a few of my own, some previously published and others not.

time delay

had I had a handy handle

on anything at the time
my i might have missed
the fallout from the line

whereas

without the wherewithal
to withstand

the demented demolitions
in psycho culture landmines
its
explosion
was
extraordinarily
effing
ERUPTIVE

&

I was quite concussed.

“Time delay” received some positive feedback from a literary journal, but was never published til now. It is probably the most obvious which of my influences is at work here. There is a poem in the book “100 Poems” in which e.e. cummings describes a slow motion explosion and that was the part of that poem which inspired this bit of wordplay. In mine, I’m toying with words that begin with the same letter or sound, and describing my allergic reactions to the culture in my country in my younger days. Now, it is safe to say that I do have a handy handle on things. TD was written in 2016.

Intangible

the ghost that walks

through this venerable house

is long past gone

–yet it walks on

the places it made for itself

fallen into ruin, crumbling day by day

it dreams old dreams, retraces old steps

where other spirits fade away

the deep bells toll

the cemeteries fill

with every other soul

it strides onward still

the haunts change

but the fabled weight of ages

finds the stubborn wight unchanged

where other spirits fade away

the ghost still roams

through this weird world

it’s long past gone

–yet it walks on

the dreams it dreamed for itself

fallen into ruin, crumbling day by day

it finds new places, learns new steps

where other spirits fade away

Intangible first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, and later on Instagram where I posted a picture of the poem in print. It is harder to say which of my favorites influenced this one, and it is about the feeling I’ve sometimes had as I’ve grown older. As friends or family members or people I’ve known pass away, and I’ve somehow kept going, despite some serious situations that might have gone the other way.

“Sonnetra”

Though it flows in the course of honeyed words
Or silent, certain gestures ever thus made
Akin it is to fabled springs in enchanted wards
Ambrosia in our cavernous world of shade
There are two truths that define it forevermore
It may flow from lie and return to lie
It flows in spite our desire that it die
Felt, unfelt--it writes all our tearful lore
In all the days that will define our time
Its storm rolls in, and passes beyond
Ere the days diminish, this much is clear
Hold fast thy course, or by phantom lights steer
Onward, ever onward where thou desires't remain
Above all, have a care, in thy travels here
That thee does it thine way!

“Sonnetra” was one weird idea. The last line came to me first, and the title is kind of a pun. I don’t know where these ideas come from, people…I just roll with them. I’ve only written a few of these in my life, and there is not much call for sonnets these days. It is the age old observation that love sucks, and you might as well just love yourself first and do what you need to do for you. For this one, I really tried to channel Edgar Allen Poe for the style and just to carry the idea to its conclusion. It is obviously a riff off Sinatra’s “I did it my way” and it amused me to imagine either Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston singing this sonnet to that tune in full Thor regalia. It is almost as “out there” as the poem “Contrast” which appeared here some time ago.

So, there you are. Just some poems to celebrate National Poetry Month. One day, they will all be part of a collection, even the weird ones. Until then, I recommend some of the other poets I’ve been reading lately. Billy Collins, Andrei Codrescu, Erin Belieu, and Sandra Hochman.

Poetry can be profound in a few lines. Three, or one hundred and three. It is also sometimes just fun to play with words. It is great to read at any time, but is especially helpful if you find yourself in a rut. Then you can turn to the mystical musings of Rumi, or just experience the raw thoughts of someone else, and see your own humanity reflected in whatever kind of fun house mirror that person has going on. If nothing else, it will probably give you ideas.

Contrast

A stately procession

of perfect silhouettes

cast in proper fashion

of shadow play etiquette

dissembling (i

t

s

da

mna

b

ly

gninedaed

Projected princes, princesses

Kings, Queens and combatants

a pantomime of yesterdays

successors and advancements

we are

tahw

we

yldetaeper

d

o,

dearie

os t’nod eb a teppup

–turn things on their heads!

–nrut sdaeh no rieht sgniht!

Why not?

© 2016 Peter Newland


Ideas. Where do they come from, anyway?

This poem is one that isn’t going to be submitted again. (It was part of one submission last year as a counterbalance to the more structured poems that I was trying to sell at the time, but no dice). It’s one of those that doesn’t fit anywhere. It may be in the collection I put out whenever there is enough of them to call it a collection. It is interesting, but was just a weird little experiment in styling with some e.e. cummings influenced word play and formatting fun.

It could have gone on, with the same contrasting verses style, but it would have been just more of the same. It’s the rare poem that holds my attention and genuine interest beyond a page length. Once you’ve got the idea across (whatever it is) it is done. Poems are odd things anyway. Even poets don’t always like poetry. I’ve written songs, stories, poems and essays, and every other form of writing is easier to access, understand and comment upon.

It depends as much on mood in the moment of reading as it does on anything else, really. In putting together recent submissions, one day I might feel a verse truly missed the mark, and on another might not see anything else that could have been done with it to convey that idea. So I can understand how someone might look at the above and think “WTF is this crap?” I have myself. At other times, it seems okay. It is just a sort of short hand Socratic dialogue in verse form. “Contrast” is point-counterpoint, call and response structured and non in the same poem.

It is just discussing the pretense we engage in when we structure expression along certain lines, which can be done beautifully, but is a contrivance. So the imagery of pomp and circumstance in some measured, precise lines and then the Jester says “yeah… screw that.

It was fun.

Some of the other poems I’ve struggled with recently are more structured. Some seem to write themselves and the expression of the idea is not terribly difficult to fit into the form I’ve selected. Other times, it’s just brutal. Yes, if we keep working at it, we can always craft the verses into something workable. If we do it well enough, we may even find a way to keep the meaning we intended clear. It’s only when we somehow surpass even that stage that our meaning might be conveyed to a reader  without too much pondering on their part. Writing evocatively becomes more challenging when you are restricted to fewer words. Everyone should try writing poetry and songs, even if that isn’t really their thing. Just making the effort can teach us a great deal.