Our Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”

6275825-a-pile-of-reference-books-isolated-against-a-white-backgroundI have a friend who said to me, “Words are powerful things.”  It was quite some time ago, but I believe I was saying something hurtful at the time.  And, as a writer (one of my few true skills), I had the ability to make my words really sting.

I’ve heard that there are studies in which the power of words was tested by saying “I love you” and “I hate you” to dishes of freezing water to see if there was any effect.  Reportedly, the ‘loved’ samples made beautiful crystalline formations, and the ‘hated’ samples made very fractured-looking structures.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I DO know what words can do to a person.

It’s rather hypocritical of me to be hurtful with my words, since I can still remember the things that were said to me as a child by my peers.  And let’s not talk about adolescence.  It’s because of that lingering pain that I have felt the need to amp up my words into a full-blown arsenal when I feel slighted.  It’s the desire to one-up the other and dish out more than you’ve received.

Words are indeed powerful things, and just as I’ve seen the hurt I can cause and have been caused, I’ve seen what KIND words can do and what my own have done for others.  I’ve had someone very important to me tell me how I always seem to say the right thing, the best, most perfect thing to help them stay grounded in that moment and maintain perspective.  You know what?  I like the feeling it gives me to have THAT effect on someone better than the scarring one.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m in a couple writers’ groups.  We ALL have this power, and ALL have this responsibility.  Even if you’re not a writer, the pain that words can cause can still last.  I’m sure the people that hurt me from childhood and on weren’t exactly Shakespearean in their verbal skill.  So may we all bear in mind the power of words, and pause before we do some damage to someone, because oftentimes that damage lasts far longer than it took to even speak.

Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”   

  

Someone once said to me, “Words are powerful things”.

They can be used to help, or to hurt, an array that each one brings.

I’ve used my words in scathing ways, cutting deeply as I could;

I’ve also used them to let one know their pain is understood.

     I hope that when my time is up, what’s left when mine are heard

     Is something benevolent and sincere or else be deemed absurd.

     May others feel the light of love that’s hopefully interred

     Every time, from here on out, within my every word.

I have a gift to use my words in all the ways I do;

I’ve often been praised for all the shapes that I can mold them to.

But I must revere that power that I know they each contain,

Remember all the times they’re used, intent to cause one pain.

     May each sentence that I share leave no darkness that’s inferred,

     And if I fail in that regard, leave the recipient undeterred.

     Unless productive, taking flight like a paradisiacal bird,

     May no harm and only help be born by every word.

© Jordan Alan Fox 

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“Turn Up Light and Sound”

I saw the band Rush on Friday, October 12th.  Rush is a band I’ve loved since 1989, and they’ve been a musical and lyrical inspiration since then.  In fact, I credit them with expanding my own lyrical skill in the first place.    MusicallyRush has always been a creator of challenging and interesting material, and have influenced and inspired uncountable amounts of musicians over their 38-year recording career.  Geddy Lee is still my all-time favorite bass player, Neil Peart is one of the most widely recognized monarchs of the drum kit as well as of lyrics, and Alex Lifeson is an unbelievable guitar player, capable of very emotional and technical solos, and able to play an incredible array of styles.

A picture on my wall of Geddy Lee. It was taken by the band’s late longtime photographer, Andrew MacNaughtan.

I only saw them once, in 1990 or ’91, and  I sat way up in the 3rd level.  As a result, I didn’t feel like I was even there.  I was also very young, had the attention span of a gnat, and wasn’t mentally able to take it all in.  I wanted to see them last year, on their  tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of their signature album, Moving Pictures.  Veterinary bills kept me from being able to attend, and there was no way I was missing this one in support of their newest album.  It was absolutely amazing.

Detractors of the band have consistently pinpointed one reason for not liking Rush, and that’s Geddy’s voice. He’s known for singing in a very high register, and it was especially stratospheric in the earlier part of their career.  His voice can’t quite do the highs as much anymore, and it’s reflected on the last 2 albums in the lower range he chooses.  I’m curious as to how much that effects their decision when choosing which songs to perform.  One thing to consider when analyzing his performance is that he sings while playing some incredibly complex bass lines, as well as the synthesizer parts.  He’s practically a band unto himself.

The show definitely focused on the latter-half of their career, with the exception of classics that would be murderous of them not to include, such as their hugest commercial success, Tom Sawyer.  And Geddy’s voice held up better than I expected.

Rush, as a group, have a very jovial way about them, and this always translates onto their tours, despite the seriousness of their album content.  They always do slapstick films on the rear projection screen, have roadies run on stage in bizarre outfits, and have done things over the last few tours such as having washing machines on stage out of which roadies take t-shirts to throw into the audience and having a chicken rotisserie which roadies come out to baste while wearing chef’s hats and aprons.

While I was intent on taking the show in and not missing anything (who knows how many more tours there’ll be), some of the glow still disperses as daily life overtakes the memories.  Thanks to the magic of youtube, however, there’s an entire catalogue of performances recorded on cell phones (with surprising quality), including the show I saw in Philadelphia.  Getting to rekindle the magic is priceless.

As for the album they’re supporting on this tour:  Rush, in the past, has done numerous long songs (entire sides of albums, sometimes) with a story being told via the lyrics.  The latest offering, Clockwork Angels, is a full concept album, and it’s also surprisingly heavy musically.  One treat that they did this time was work with author Kevin J. Anderson to produce the story as a novel as well.  The novel helps to make more sense of the album since Anderson had 300 pages to work with as opposed to 12 songs.

In the book, Anderson (who has been friends with Peart for many years) drops lines from Rush songs and other references that long-time fans will understand throughout the text.  Inspired by this, as well as the experience of the concert, I wrote a poem which uses song titles in the same way.  I also chose a really obscure rhyme scheme.  Instead of using couplets or rhyming every other line , I waited 3 lines after the initial one to rhyme.  I did this to honor the 3 members of the band.

Turn Up Light and Sound (What a Rush) 10/14/12

A 22-year devotion,

To see these 3 on lighted stage

The aural assault, the lighting’s dance–

An evening charged with emotion!

And as these stars advance in age,

There may not be another chance,

So I ponied up what entry cost.

It didn’t matter, to make this night;

I’d work out paying bills somehow.

I couldn’t bear this opportunity lost,

To miss them in latest limelight

Circumstances I couldn’t allow.

Stage hands scrambled all about;

I sensed the countdown impending.

They made their final preparations

Before the band could come out

To amaze all who were attending,

And feeding all our anticipations.

Like a body electric, the stage came alight;

We watched the big screen animate.

You bet your life I had to be there,

Hear those mystic rhythms that night,

An evening to leave our mortal state

And revel in a show beyond compare.

And hours later, to have been exposed

To a musicianship, a stagecraft

Lovingly honed for 4+ decades,

To some of the greatest rock composed,

A spectacle upon which we can graft,

And a euphoria that meets the accolades.

Nothing lacked in their chemistry,

Other bands seen a far cry from this.

I wished for a time stand still, to perceive,

Savor, prolong the sweet miracle before me,

For vapor trails become of this bliss.

I pray the afterimage will never leave.

 

© 2012 Jordan Alan Fox

Rush – YYZ Live 10/1212 Philadelphia PA Wells Fargo Complete Killer Multicam HD Show 2012www.youtube.comAwesome show. as always with this amazing band.this is one camera angle out of 4 that will be an amazing mix. if intrested inthe complete show email me at ba…

“The Anarchist” Rush@Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia 10/12/12 Clockwork Angels Tourwww.youtube.comThe Anarchist, Rush, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA; October 12th, 2012; Clockwork Angels Tour

Rush – Tom Sawyer – Philadelphia 10/12/12www.youtube.comWells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA, October 12, 2012. Entire show filmed (stage shot), partial show (screen).

RUSH – “Headlong Flight” – Official Lyric Videowww.youtube.comThe official lyric video for “Headlong Flight” – the first single from the new album Clockwork Angels – available everywhere June 12th. Pre-order here: http:…

RUSH – “The Wreckers” Official Lyric Videowww.youtube.comThe official lyric video for “The Wreckers” – the new single from the album Clockwork Angels

Subdivisions – Rushwww.youtube.com”Subdivisions” is a Rush song often considered to be describing feelings of isolation, boredom, conformity, and sadness springing up from teenage life in the…

clockwork-angels-hardcover-book.html

Clockwork Angels

Open Mic Night

I did my second official public poetry reading 2 days ago.  It was through one of my writers’ groups.  It was at a coffee house, so anyone could have been there.

That’s why I was psyched to do it.  I would have had my other writer friends for support, including my best friend, but my work would get exposure to unbiased strangers.  Make that “SHOULD have gotten exposure”.  It was pretty much just the writers that showed, so I don’t know if it counts.  There was no unbiased audience, but I WAS willing to do it if there was.

I got a great reaction regardless, even on the pieces I chose that I was less certain would go over.  Yay, me!

Oration Adulation

On Friday, Feb. 17th, I did my first public reading as a poet.  I had read my work to friends and to each of my writers’ groups, but never truly before an unknown audience.  It was a really cool experience (mainly because it was so well received!).

One of the women in one of  these groups asked me if I’d ever done love poems, because she wanted to set up a performance of he said/she said tales of Valentine’s Days past.  It would have a male and female poet (the two of us) reading original poems written about several stages of relationships.  The stages were, in order: Meeting/Games, Lust, Love, When Problems Start, When It’s Over, Regret, and a Finale which would be about still having some hope for the future (she didn’t want to end it on a downer).  We were to read at a bakery with which she was acquainted, Apron Strings Bakery in Millville, NJ.

I fortunately had at least two poems that fit each category, and our two sets of poems overall actually meshed very well.  The audience turned out to be only six people, but they really loved our work, and that’s always a great feeling.  What was especially awesome was having them say how refreshing it was to hear a male perspective on these topics that actually showed emotions and deep thoughts that they weren’t accustomed to being privy to.  This, I believe, was the point to the whole reading.  It was even called “He Said/She Said”.

I originally had accepted my friend’s invitation to being the “male voice” as a favor, but it turned out to be a very rewarding event.  I’ve been thinking lately about trying to get an anthology published, something to which I’d never given any serious thought before.  After the positive reactions I’ve gotten from both writers’ groups on my work and now from a true objective audience, I’m wondering if it’s time to pursue it.

The Written Word and Words Yet Written

In one of my writers’ groups, our main focus is writing exercises, wherein a “prompt” is given, and we would then take 20-40 minutes to write something based on the prompt.  You don’t HAVE to write on the prompt; you can take just part of the prompt, or do your own thing entirely.  This isn’t a strict environment; it’s a way to spark the creativity and get people to actually write even if it’s something they won’t use later.  We have a 30 minute or so period at the end in which we share what we’ve written, if desired.

An example of prompts we’ve been given in the past are: “satisfaction”, “superstition”, “Her laughter broke the silence….”, and “How to make a dragon”.  The last one had a specific scenario about a scientist doing all of this DNA stuff to create his/her own dragon.  I don’t really write stories, so I used the dragon as a metaphor in a set of lyrics I created.

And that’s what I want to focus on here today.  No, not dragons or metaphors based on them.  It’s the fact that you can give a prompt to 15 different people and get 15 different creations.  It’s amazing.  What makes imagination and creativity work?  And what makes it work differently in each individual?  It’s miraculous.

There are the “mainstay” members that are there almost all the time, people that sporadically show, and others that come once or twice and never again.  But everyone that’s come even once and shared what they’ve written has conjured something no one else has.  Every one of our “core” group that shows up definitely has their niche style.  One guy writes fictitious slapstick humor that’s so over the top that, if made into a movie, only Jim Carey could play it.  One guy has a sci-fi/horror bent with a twist of sexual thriller.  One likes her romance, and another likes her lust and violence in equal measure.  Those are just some examples.  But they can all change it up on you.  The Jim Carey guy, for example, every so often will break out something that’s surprisingly tender and genuine.  Frankly, I’m in awe of his skill.  The lust and violence writer will write a very personal poem every once in awhile.

My own contributions, as I wrote in a post that seems very long ago at this point, are poems and lyrics.  I really don’t deviate from this; it’s what I do.  There are an incredible amount of pieces I wouldn’t have written if not for the prompts, and many concepts that the prompts inspired simply would never have come to my mind otherwise.  I owe the group a great amount for that.

The other writers’ group I’m in focuses on more technical aspects, such as scene structure, character development, finding an agent, making sure your manuscript is ready for submission, etc.  As I said, I’m not a story writer, but I like to go to those meetings for the camaraderie, and who knows?  I may write a story some day.  This group had a meetup last weekend, which was the character development session.  I’m a bit blown away by how much work it is to do prose.  I’m overwhelmed at the moment.  I’m not giving up on it, but it’s eye-opening to see how much research and groundwork must be done.  Quite the opposite of what I usually do, which is very emotion-fueled.  I write my lyrics which (hopefully) get a reaction from the reader/listener.  I write as a reaction to something I’ve lived or seen, and I do most pieces in a single sitting.  I’ll create most of my prompt-based work in the 20-40 minutes given, and a lot of the time my first draft is my final draft.  Or, at the least, very few revisions are ever done. It suits my attention span to write what I write!

I have a new respect for the “story tellers” now.  Not that I didn’t respect them before, but now I see what they have to go through to create what they do, if they’re going to do it convincingly.  Power to them.  I still could jump into that realm, and it would be a good personal challenge, but I think I know where my bread is buttered.  My lyrics.  It’s where my true talent lies, and I actually NEED to do it.  It’s how I process my world, and how I purge my demons.

Everyone in these groups has their own style and preferred genre, and I’ve got mine, it seems.  Creativity is an incredible, inconceivable thing, and what’s more incredible is how everyone has their own voice.

Poetry

One of my writers’ groups had a discussion on poetry last night.  This being my field of creativity, I, of course, HAD to go.  It was a very lively discussion, too.  A lot of the people there said that they used to write poetry, but haven’t in a very long time for various reasons.  One person, if I’m remembering this correctly, thanked me for continuing to do so.  What I remember clearly was my reply: “I didn’t have a choice!”

This is quite true.  My first poem that wasn’t forced out of me by a teacher was written when I was 14.  “Dreamdeath” was the title.  I had a view of poems as being girly, or pansy-ish, or whatever, and was as such not given to thinking that this was something I would want to do.  At least not consciously.  I couldn’t say why I wrote that first poem that day except that I was COMPELLED to do it.  I still have the fear when I tell someone I write poetry that they’ll apply the stigmas I believed were there when I was 14.  I’ll tell people I’m a lyricist, which is true since I do write musical accompaniment to a lot of my pieces, but I think it sounds a little more macho maybe to say lyricist instead of poet.

Regardless of the name one uses for what I do, by 16 or 17, I was churning out poems/lyrics.  I did intend them to be used in songs even then, having bought my first bass guitar and amplifier at 16 and figuring I was going to be in the next Motley Crue (he admitted embarrassingly).

My favorite bass player now, Geddy Lee from the band Rush, once said in an interview that to become a better musician, you had to play with musicians better than yourself.  It will force you to elevate your skills to their level.  I think the same thing works for writing, or it did with me, at least.  I started out writing lyrics (very sadly) similar to those of the music I listened to.  It was shit.

I eventually got into bands like Rush, Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Sting, and others which have actual, real-live intelligence put into the words.  By elevating my lyricists of choice, my own skills elevated.  I got pretty good, if I can say so, but then I read something new:  John Keats.  Kaboom.  I progressed by lightyears over where I’d been.  I didn’t even read that much of Keats in the grand scheme of things, but it changed what I did.  Perhaps it was the phrasing, some use of alliteration, I don’t know.  I’m just glad it took hold.

Many, many years later, I still need to do this, my writing.  In fact, I think I write my songs so that my words will have a vehicle, rather than writing words because songs need lyrics.  I have demons to exorcize, and this is how I do it.  I can’t imagine what and where I’d be without this outlet.

I have gotten so much positive feedback from those with whom I’ve shared my writing, which is almost as rewarding as having created the work in the first place.  I have heard artists of all types refer to their creations as being like their children, and that they had to “birth” each one.  I agree with that.  I do see them as like my children, and I’m proud of them.  You want them all to be successful in their own right, but of course this just isn’t possible.  You still want the best for them, though, and want them to be regarded well.

Regardless of whether or not this makes any sense to you and equally regardless of whether you choose to call what I do lyrics or poems or simply WRITING, it’s something I still HAVE to do.  It’s almost as important to my existence as blood, air, and physical sustenance.