October 2008

Confession: I have never read a Stephen King novel.

In fact, I believe I have watched only three film adaptations of his work: The Shining, Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile.

But when my girlfriend insisted that I had to write King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, I decided to take her up on it. Last night, I stumbled across a great passage:

“And whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, There’s someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

In all my years of writing, I have never had someone who believed in me quite the way Trisha does. (Perhaps other than my parents, but it wasn’t the same.) I have stalled time and time again, coming up with various excuse for not “putting it [poem, story, novel] out there” but I find I no longer have the energy to think of excuses. And I’m genuinely ashamed when I do.

To add to the list of themes/things that will appear on this blog, I want to make a point to share some pieces of poetry or fiction at least twice a week — even if I’m just digging out some piece of crap I found in a journal from three years ago and I’m considering revision. Maybe possibly. I’m a big fan of maybes. They prevent me from actually having to make a decision or a commitment.

So tonight, to get started off with guns blazing, I will share the latest revision of poem called “Juxtaposition.” (more…)

I discovered I have a certain affinity for films made in certain years and eras, particularly those set in New York.

I have entitled this post “The Many New Yorks (part 1)” in anticipation of continuing some sort of series. There are many New York films that I could elaborate on, but for the purposes of saving space, I will speak to just one for now.

Recently, I watched Kids (circa 1995) and found myself seeing a completely different New York than the one I currently inhabit. This was a grittier, darker city where even the Upper East Side looked a little shabby. (Cue scene where the main character is standing outside of the 77th Street subway station.) In brief, the plot of this equally dark tale revolves around a seventeen year old kid, Tally, who is hell-bent on deflowering every virgin girl he meets. He’s disgusting, unapologetic (but not in a good way), misogynistic, and worst of all, ignorant. Tally believes he is immune to any consequence, including disease. But that illusion is quickly shattered for the viewer when one of his girls turns up HIV positive – and the kicker – Tally was the only boy she had ever slept with.

Needless to say, there is no happy ending.

But while film itself disturbed me for days, I do credit it with getting me to consider the cast of characters who exist in 2008 New York. Or 1978 New York or 1898 for that matter.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

I can still spot shades of Kids in certain corners and avenues. I believe that while the architecture or the landscape of the city has changed, the Tallys and the Jennys are probably still out there, experiencing the dramas of the day.

To further support this in conjunction with this particular film, I have observed that STD/HIV rates are on the rise again in certain populations, including adolescents. To think that the tragedies of 1995 still occur today is entirely possible, and sadly, realistic.

While we believe that we are better educating our youth, microcosms do form. When Kids was initially released, it was marketed as a documentary. Even after it was declared a narrative film, people were still deeply disturbed that teenagers would behave as depicted in Larry Clarke’s film. But as the filmmaker and others associated with Kids pointed out, the reason it hooked people into thinking it was a documentary was because those situations do in fact exist.

And while I love New York for all that it is – even in the face of all that is cruel and terrible – I think the bubbles it has a tendency to form actually enable behavior like Tally’s. New York is a place where many people come to fulfill their biggest, sometimes craziest dreams. It has an air of invincibility. I suppose that those born and bred here may feel an even stronger pull toward that invincibility.

They are the kings and queens of their own insanely drawn circles — and they can continue to spin at whatever speed and whatever cost they choose until the world outside of New York catches up to them.

In my next segment, I’d like to consider New York in two lights: the place/character that allows all your dreams come true and the place/character that seems to make everything fall apart.

(Stay tuned…I’ll probably go on about something else first.)

When I was seventeen, I got the nickname Grits. My friend, Q (yes, I admit that sounds almost as strange as Grits) bestowed the name upon me because he said it described the tone of my poetry: gritty. It also coincidentally shared an internal rhyme with my given name, Britt. To this day, there are only a handful of people who know me as this name. They are fellow writers who, along with Q, experienced an artistic adventure during the summer of 2000.

When I’ve been at the end of my creative rope, I’ve often called upon that summer and those friends/writers for inspiration. So it seems only natural that I should title my blog after that appropriately chosen nickname.

It was eight years ago and I can still remember the specific smells of The College of New Jersey campus, the bad cafeteria food, and poking fun at Loser Hall (pronounced Low-sher) where we workshopped our poetry and fiction. 

Which brings me to the one of the central principles of this blog: the future. I have always been a person obsessed with the past – relationships, parental and familial breakdowns, the accomplishments, travels, the disappointments, jobs gained and lost, music, clothing, books, streets I used to wander down – basically anything there was to ruminate on, I’ve ruminated, marinated, and probably could have seasoned a thousand steaks by now.

About two months ago, I moved to New York. And something changed. (Well, doesn’t something always change when you move to New York?) But it was huge – bigger than I expected. I realized I still had a hell of a lot of growing up do. A lot of figuring out and tweaking. (Tweaking isn’t quite the right word, but it’s hilarious and I hope you enjoy mocking it.) Perhaps I can give you a smile with that one.

So the focus of this blog isn’t on any one topic, per se – except that it must drive towards new ideas and philosophies. It can use the past when necessary, as in the way we are supposed to use the past – as a means of understanding ourselves and the world. No more packaging of my own mastications.

And this I believe will taste much sweeter.