Review of Steal Like an Artist

I picked up Steal Like an Artist at the Delray Beach Library for a buck and read it over a few hours.

Written prior to Show Your Work,  but like his other book, Austin Kleon work is filled with practical insights for approaching the creative process, examples of the advice in action and techniques for getting a better understanding of one’s own position in relation to one’s chosen family of creators and other issues of practical concern to a creative.

One such instructional section that I like particularly related to homage and inspiration in relation to one’s creative work and process.

Creation as Curation

All great artists are voracious consumers of cultural products.

I’ve spent more money on my personal reading library than is really sensible given my financial conditions – but the sense of joy that they haven give me, of being able to look back at notes that I left for myself or seeing which passages thought were important at the time and so underlined them amuses me to no end so I feel that it is worth it.

Then there’s the smell of books…

Anyway, Kleon’s advice is to make an assessment of where it is that you’re taking from, to ask yourself why, to really determine how the pieces of what you read gets more or less mixed within your self and how it makes it’s way into your art.

You know who really killed it on this mission before Kleon ever wrote about it? Henry Miller. His works The Books in My Life, The Time of the Assassins, not to mention sections throughout his oeuvre, all do this and help world build him as someone equally worthy in status to those he names.

Theft and Art

Emerging from historic, symbolic culture – all art is theft.

Technology certainly changes society and the realm of the possibility, but at a fundamental level, nothing is new under the sun.

For instance my favorite novel by Milan Kundera is  The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This is literally an updated, inverted Anna Karenina. Star Wars is based on numbers myths from antiquity. I’m living my life largely based on Henry Miller’s and the goal of my creative work is to turn Dostoyevsky on his head. The list goes on, the take away being that the quest for excessive novelty can lead to bad art and that transformation rather than mere imitation of work – as in the above – is new and ought be viewed as such.

The “Rules” for Creativity

In my preparations to move out of the country I went through a number of old boxes that contained documents of works that I’d written when in my late teens. Reading them 15 years later was amusing, not just because of the vast divide in perspective that has developed since then but also as I realized that I was not waiting for something external to validate my creative journey but that I just did it.

I also came across the 1930’s type writer I’d purchased for myself and a number of notebooks that I collected my various art compositions in. Seeing these made me recall my college days and how much I loved working with a small group of friends to make collages, drawings, paintings, and performance poetry.

It’s these sorts of experience, Kleon says and from experience I concur with, that help build up a more holistic approach to art.

The book is a quick read and cheap so I highly recommend it to all.

And if you have the time watch this Tedx Talk by Austin, it’s worth it.

100,000 Digitized Art History Books Now Freely Available Online

Celebrating its 4th anniversary, the Getty Research Portal has been redesigned to more easily download 100,000 freely available digitized art history texts. You can search through the entire collection directly, or filter by creator, subject, language, source, or date range.

Thanks to the freely downloadable materials, creatives looking for inspiration as well as scholars and researchers can now view copies of rare books and other titles without having to travel to specialty libraries.

Walter Benjamin Wrote Sonnets?!

Carl Skoggard is indeed correct when stating in the opening of her article Read Early Sonnets by Walter Benjamin, for the first time in English: Heatbroken, One of the Great Thinkers of the 20th Century Turned to Poetry that it is little known that Benjamin wrote poetry.

I’ve read several of major work by Benjamin and was totally clueless. Needless to say, I certainly plan on getting a copy of his book of sonnets to gain a new perspective on the man. For those that may also be interested, read the LitHub article and/or sample some of the poems in the collection below.

Sonnet 1

Disburden me of Time from which thou’rt vanished
And of thy presence free me from within
As in the twilight hours red roses free themselves
From all mere marriedness of things

The heartfelt homage and the bitter voice
I forego calmly and thy burning lips
And yet more burning brow enshaded purple
Just below the black gleam of thy hair

So may that image fail me too of praise
And ire which thou wouldst offer
Underway while very like a prince

Thou didst the banner bear its symbol to unriddle
Plant in me thy sacred Name instead
Name without image Amen without end.

Sonnet 34

I sat one night to ponder on myself
And round me thy sweet life did stir
The mirror of my mind glanced back
As hadst thou just looked out from in its depths

Then came the thought: Thou sucklest me
Into thy breath I shall my self surrender
For like grapes hanging are thy lips
Which have mute witness borne to inmost things

O friend thy presence has been wrested from me
Like one asleep whose hand looks for the wreath
In his own hair so in dark hours I for thee

Though once thy cloak did round me go
As were there dancing and from within the midnight throng
Thy look did snatch the breath out of my mouth.

Sonnet 45

My Soul why art thou always in search of the Beautiful one?
Long is he dead and the rotating globe so
Attends to its spinning that no one still misses the hero
My Soul why art thou always in search of the Beautiful one?

Why dost wake me O Lord with such weeping and groaning?
Ah I was looking to sleep and lamenting disfigures
My desolate state in which Desolate one thou dost share
Why dost wake me O Lord with such weeping and groaning?

And so one night I held in my heart a debate
Falling mute and ashamed I determined on silence
No longer my sorrow to show to my Soul

No more to wake her my griefs to assuage
Though see from her mouth sleeping she allowed to ascend
So many a sorrowful song Her tears flaring like candles.

Unknown Number Sonnet

Waking were his glances my sole light
For errant traces and the starlight
Of his eyes the only beam
Bestowed upon my sleeping places

Now such companions are no more
Mute did the mirrors of all Spirit shatter
In these heavens which their glistening laugh
More blessedly transfigured with each morrow

Even when they wept they stood as pools
Themselves to nourish by the fall of heavy drops
Whose fragrance would outlast the shower

And in the fullness of their tears
Would those things speak which yet lacked names
Much as leaves may speak in gardens.

Review of “Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing”

Reading Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton reminded me how to be attentive to the variety of creative decisions that determine the voice of a work. How they can be interpreted, improved and evolved from different experiential exercises. The book contains focus on various voices – pulpy, sardonic, confessional, etc. – along with “before and after”  changes. Theres illustrate how a few different decisions can radically alter the ease and enjoyment level of the reading. Some of the various traps to watch out for that Edgerton cites are the “beige voice” as well as talking up or down to the reader. As all of the fictive dream – the neurological firings in your brain that are activated during the process of readings words on page or screen- occur as the results of words, best get them right. Right?!

There are, additionally, exercises contained within for identifying the ways in which honing in on voice in specific passages can radically improve the experience of the reader and how some choices can lead to it “going wrong” in one’s writing. For instance, say one wanted to get the reader to slow down. Not to scan the text; as so many are apt now to do. Well, the solution is simple. Place a number of shorter sentences back to back. This is a particularly effective practice following longer expository passages. Explaining difficult things, after all, requires the combination of lots of pieces. Much as in the same way that sentence variation forces the reader out of the simplistic subject verb object constructions.

The book is for both writers of fiction and non-fiction and addresses something that is very important as it relates to today’s media landscape – talking up, down and beigley to the reader. Explaining every and all thing can cause passages to drag on and o n. If they are known by the reader, it’s a bore, and leads to mental lagging. A good writer, Hemingway and others have stated, leaves something for the reader to want to discover. Writing in too high of a voice is the struggle that I’ve had, having an advanced academic background I can sometimes lapse into uncommon terms that are, nevertheless, quite useful for understanding today’s world. But this isn’t all about me. This is not purple prose, either, which I’ve only found in contemporary Latin American literature, is not gone in to but that’s just because it’s so rare in American fictional and non-fictional works that get published.

Edgerton’s colloquialisms, and the linguistic playfulness of the text was, I thought, a little corny at first. However it did grow on me. Plus, I recognized what he was doing with it. Not only was he describing insights into what makes a well crafted writers voice; but he was also demonstrating it! By sharing this, as well as the hat of instructor, he’s helping to show one of the Walt Whitman quotes about – I’m stacatato-cattically summarizing her : “there being multitudes that exist within each of us”. It’s true. There are!

Les’ lessons are follower by exercises to either read, write or re-write. The book is an attempt at a comprehensive attempt to teach the craft of good writing, plot, etc. but just focus on narrative voice and the voice of characters. He lists a large number of books that go into these other areas, and it’s clear with his familiar with them that a lot of experience and time went into the formation of this book.

I finished the book not only informed but also interested in seeing the dynamic that exists in his writing workshops. Having attended several writing workshops as an undergraduate at Florida Atlantic University and in Prauge, Czech republic as part of a University of Michigan program – not to mention other informal gatherings – I’ve always found workshops a productive place where people provide new eyes to help you see things you may not be aware of because you’re too close to the work, or wasn’t aware of some insight or whatever other reason that shows up when people gather with strategic and creative intentions.

I like how following this book one can apply like dissection tools onto the writings of your favorite writers in order to better place their style in history rather than a burden. Stealing can always be great art, but only if it’s great art does it get called great art – not just because it’s just an iteration of the same efforts. That last quote, ya, that’s me. Put that on a goddamn site so i can get me da stats higher.

Review of “Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds”

As part of my professional development as a Creative Director, despite my title of “Creative Strategist”, I decided to read a book by the Chief Creative and Brand Strategy Officers of Sapient Nitro, a very large brand and content marketing agency. Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds, written by Gaston Legoburu and Darren McColl could easily have been one of those shamelessly self-promotional type of works, which seeks to show in book form a number of client successes and merely hint at the type of research and creative work that goes into the marketing projects they manage. While they certainly do include a number of their success stories, this is done primarily to illustrate the developmental and publishing process related to “storyscaping”.

To put this new form of marketing action the books begins with a delineation of the power of human narrative going back to the time of man when we sat around fires and told each other stories to distract us from the fear of animals and tribes surrounding them. In reviewing the elements of short narratives I found myself recalling much of college elective course in Storytelling. This is actually a knowledge set that I’ve found myself consistently drawing on in my ideation for Fractl, which I find amusing as after I’d decided to take it a number of people said that this was something that’d I’d never use. Following this the authors provide an overview of the various ways that the internet has changed the development of effective business to consumer marketing communications. They point to a digital/traditional divide that exists in marketing and are even handed about it saying that while the latter still has its place, it’s due to the dominance of virtual worlds for mediating decision-making processes and the more number of contact points with customers that it’s something that companies neglect at huge potential risk to their bottom line.

The application of Joseph Campbell’s ethnographic and literary/mythic concepts related to the hero’s journey was, for me, surprising but also sensible as it’s appropriate for relate the product of a brand to the hero’s quest. It frames desire as, well, heroic self-development rather than personal satiation.

The recent Pepsi television ad that has been receiving much, deserved, flak for its social insensitivity is a great example of this. In the video while a heroic goal is met, the cessation of social strife stemming from systemic economic and racial marginalization and oppression, the cause for it – mutual enjoyment of Pepsi – is, well, stupid.

A more appropriate example of such heroic help is provided in the analysis of campaigns that SapientNitro did for a UK gambling company and a ski resort. For the gambling company they were able to apply UX principals to their app – there’s always a co-constitutive relationship between marketers and producers – such that they were able to provide an improved “excitement” level for bettors. For the ski resort they were able to consultancy that would lead to investment in digital photography equipment and smart chip technology so that guests were able to share their experience and thus encourage the most convincing form of marketing – word of mouth.

By “building worlds” the opportunity is created for people to connect with brands in immersive and cooperative ways. With the emotional responses to these “Experience Spaces” that lead to sharing as the goal, consumer research helps improve the response and helps to build brand identification and loyalty. At this point Legoburu and McColl outline relationship between the steps leading from brand strategy and product positioning to an organizing idea and experience space that leads to the “storyscape”. They’re clear to point out that this is not a linear path but a conceptual totality that adjust to the many variables which exist within consumer insights and their purchasing journey.

Part two of the book switches tracks to focusing on how it is that an organization’s purpose can be clarified, uncovered and applied in the office and in marketing to increase brand value. The purpose is something that Legoburu and McColl say is not found from talking with the president of the company but an internal assessment of their operation due to the fact that their can be an excessive focus on profits on the part of management such that they lose sight of what they are actually delivering. Lest this seem esoteric, let me provide an example given in the book. Whereas Hanna-Barbera’s leadership defined themselves as purveyors of cartoons, Walt Disney conceived of themselves as providing family entertainment. Because of this wider scope of their operations, Disney was able to rapidly diversify their productions into other profitable areas while Hanna-Barbera slowly stagnated.

The chapters Walk the Walk, Insight to Desire and In Their Shoes, all provide an outline for how a creative, marketing department can transform various forms of research and data points in order to better understand the typical consumer narrative. For someone like myself, who is familiar with Marxist and Freudian interpretations of social and commercial activity, the book reads like a bowdlerized Marcuse with aphoristic rather than baroque formulations. Lest there be some confusion on my evaluation of the book here, this is a compliment to the authors. The author’s discussions on marketing mix modeling, adaptive worlds, and their relationship to the epistemology of customers is, I dare say, incredibly insightful for determining how to influence behavior and maximize on opportunities. This is a great book that I marked up significantly and I definitely fore see myself revisiting in the near future.

On Research for Unraveling

When I began writing Unraveling, it was a much different story compared to what it has now developed into. My early chapters and the notes for the project focused primarily on Jesse and Aaron. My vision was limited to exploring the dynamics in their lives that they were struggling with – respectively lost status stemming from familial/social causes and hedonistic nihilism that began following undesired repercussions of previous decisions. Put another way, the two main dynamics I wanted to explore were “what do you do when something occurs that’s completely outside of your control that you don’t want” and “what do you do when something happens that you don’t want but that was a result of your actions.” Because of this I conceived most of the other characters that I’d outlined merely as foils to their foibles on the path to achieve their goals – revenge over the person that had caused the loss of status and personal enlightenment.

A primary intention behind my writing, as I first conceived it, was to better understand my own personal development. Aaron and Jesse’s narratives contain a number of auto-biographical elements. As I continued to write out their stories and interactions, however, I came to realize that continuing with these limits not only made me miss out on developing some great characters but also caused me to exclude some of my own areas of expertise and interest. Since you’re supposed to write what you know about, I realized it was worth some time re-conceptualizing the project. Since doing that I’ve radically changed what I’d include in Unraveling.

As I decided to expand and explore the secondary character’s back stories I came to see how this not only made them richer persons in the book, but also added new depths to their interactions with Jesse and Aaron (and now others). Happy, for instance, was previously just a means for helping Jesse and Aaron get things that they needed. He became a business/social model for Jesse as well as a sage figure for Aaron. This transition from drug kingpen to force of benevolence in the community, think Stringer Bell/Damon Pope meets Huey Newton, required me to do more research as unlike Aaron and Jesse’s stories, which I knew well given they’re based on certain times in my life, I wasn’t as familiar with that type of psychological development. Put less delicately, I’m not black so I felt uncomfortable presuming that just through my imagination I’d be able to come up with a robust character for him and those around him.

To better write his character as well as those in his orbit, I decided to do research. Here’s what I came up with.

Autobiography of Assata Shakur
Angela Davis: An Autobiography
Black Against Empire
BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family
Revolutionary Suicide
Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
The Spook Who Sat by the Door
Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why

Thankfully, I’ve now completed the above research I wanted to have done before really getting into Happy’s chapter and am now a few books away from completing the research I’ve already started for Ela. While this was a long delay on the project, I look forward to being able to be able to write Happy’s chapter with greater verisimilitude to similar historical characters!



Interview with Ariel Voyager

I began interviewing artists and writers from or based in South Florida about two years ago as I felt that there weren’t enough outlets to showcase and promote creatives and their projects that I felt were worthy of a larger audience. The idea was, in part, that through our conversations those works could take on a clearer relationship to the artists and their views which would, hopefully, engage people intellectually in a way other than the art form of choice and hopefully bring them some patronage.

Since I just self-published a book of poetry, I decided that I would take an hour and interview myself for the same end. In order to do this I’ve decided to name the author of the poetry book Ariel Voyager whereas the interviewer will be Ariel Sheen. This is to allow me the ability to have some humorous back and forth as well as for some somber reasons that will become apparent in the interview. I took an hour to write this, and it should take no more than 10 minutes to read.


Ariel Sheen
So when were you first introduced to poetry?

Ariel Voyager
I guess you could say at birth. My namesake comes from the British poet Percy Shelley. There’s a biography of Shelley by the same name that my father had read while in England studying with L. Ron Hubbard. Shelley signed the bottom of his correspondence Ariel, a character from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest because he so resonated with that character.

Ariel Sheen
Poet from birth then, eh?

Ariel Voyager
Something like that. When I first started to write regularly I was 16. I became involved in the West Palm Beach Poetry Slam community and for several years participated in performance poetry competitions.

Ariel Sheen
I presume you know that your collection of poetry basically has the same title as Pablo Neruda’s most renowned collection. What was the reason for that?

Ariel Voyager
Being coy I’d respond that it’s just a simplistic thematic description of what’s inside… Being candid I’d say the contemporary poetry market is something that’s ultra-niche and that if name recognition is enough to encourage someone to buy my book then so be it. The artists of today are always re-working the content of the past based on the needs of the present, so to me there’s nothing wrong with this.

Ariel Sheen
So over how long a period did you build this collection of poems?

Ariel Voyager
About 15 years. I think it shows too. You can definitely see some growth both emotionally and aesthetically in them.

Ariel Sheen
And were these all “real love poems?”

Ariel Voyager
What you do you mean by “real love poems?”

Ariel Sheen
Well excepting the ones that seem to be more about social issues related to love – like Dowry Street and Hipster Pedagogue – were most of these poems that you wrote for someone, you know, while you were in love with them?

Ariel Voyager
I’d say that most of them were written with someone that I was involved with in mind, but despite the title of the collection whether or not I was in love with them is a different story.

Ariel Sheen
What do you mean?

Ariel Voyager
Well I’d just mentioned emotional growth on my work. The majority of these poems are from my early twenties. Now being in my early thirties I would define this as a period of my life when I was emotionally stunted.

Ariel Sheen
How so? And if that’s the case, then why share them?

Ariel Voyager
I wanted to share them because though the sentiment behind some of them aren’t always “loving” in the sense of adoration and appreciation they’re still compelling as writing.

Ariel Sheen
And how has love changed its meaning to you over time?

Ariel Voyager
A lot…

Ariel Sheen
Care to go into specifics?

Ariel Voyager
Well. It’s just that that’s a big question. Do I start talking about how as a child, the period of life when most people have that modeled for them, by saying that I had no standard presented to me as to what romantic love was?

Do I start during my pre-to-late teens, when the relationships both my parents were in weren’t based on what I would call a robust feeling of love but resignation to responsibility and desire for security? Or do I begin in my early twenties, when I set my mind on being a writer and then devoured the works of Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Milan Kundera, and Friedrich Nietzsche? Do I detail how I felt intoxicated by the ideas and narratives they presented and how it had deleterious effects on my romantic relationships, my perceptions of what love is, what it could be and its relationship those seeking to pursue a life centered around the Belles Lettres?

Do I open in my late twenties, when the accumulated pain from that world view was pushing me to read psychology and counselling books so I could have a new view of love? That doesn’t seem appropriate either as it took a while for that to really seep in. Perhaps I should commence from more or less the past year, when those vacillations between the adolescent and mature world views finally stopped because I can say that I have a mature understanding of the term based upon reading and experience? I don’t know…

A page from my early 20s notebook


Ariel Sheen
Well, that certainly gives me an idea of how your views have changed. I’d asked as I noticed drastically divergent perspectives on love in poems like A Simple Request and the Ode poem compared with ones like Those Skeletons and Silk.

Ariel Voyager
Yes, well, those were all for different people at different times in my life. The latter two from when I was a teenager and was obsessed with the British Romantics. The former I wrote when in my early twenties and believed that selfish, amoral behavior was the manner in which to embody love for oneself (thanks Nietzsche!) and also up the quality of adventures that would be grist for future creative works.

Ariel Sheen
So then Menagerie, which is clearly about your ex-wife… Was that one of your mature poems about love?

Ariel Voyager
Heh, not really. I wrote Menagerie two plus years after our divorce while single. Towards the end of our relationship I’d been reading a lot of books on communication skills for couples, how to overcome fear of vulnerability, how to forgive, how to develop emotional intelligence. You know, the things that schools don’t always do because parents are supposed to but don’t always do. With this in mind I decided to write what I wanted the relationship to be like since the actuality of our life together was so divergent from what’s expressed therein.

Ariel Sheen
That’s, well, kind of sad.

Ariel Voyager
What happened, yes. But it was my fault for marrying someone that didn’t genuinely love me in a mature sense, let alone herself. To be fair I don’t think that she was alone in that. I certainly was dealing with some issues then that deserved correction. After all, we were engaged after two months of dating and two months later moved to Barcelona on a whim.

As for the poem, a couple of my friends expressed similar sentiments so I get it. But I think at this point in my life that it’s important to really understand the workings behind such an attraction and unraveling as it helps people to process the experience and guard from it’s recurrence. I’ve known far too many people that have found themselves suddenly single and broken mentally and emotionally and seem unable to move on. It was just a coping mechanism.

Ariel Sheen
Interesting. So you writing as an exercise in catharsis.

Ariel Voyager
Not just me, but scientists as well. Writing and other forms of creative outlets have a purgative effect of the negative energies we feel.

Ariel Sheen
True. Which is a good transition for the next poems I want to ask you about slash check if my periodization of your poems is correct. That means your last two poems Un/Binding and The Ascent of Icarus…

Ariel Voyager
Are the only genuinely recent poems in the collection. They are in part about my refutation of the character/caricature I’d adopted by identifying with such literary masters.

Ariel Sheen
I knew it! So you still think of them as masters?

Ariel Voyager
Absolutely. I can appreciate their craft while being critical of their content. They informed my world view at a deep level for a long time in a way that I can’t deny.

Ariel Sheen
Can you tell me a little bit more about those poems? They’re the only ones that seem to exist as a pair, they speak with the greatest urgency, they seem to display the maturity you’ve been talking about and they’re the only poems that have an element of time in them – excepting what’s clearly an addendum on Notes.

Ariel Sheen
Well, I re-connected with a former lover from my early twenties about two months ago. My muse from that period of my life. More than that, really, as I’ve not had another one since and despite several “serious” relationships. She was the only one that I felt truly understood me on a spiritual level – which speaks rather poorly to my choices for romantic companions as they were chosen more for presentation rather than personality.

Anyway, we’d first met when I’d started to fall under the spell of those writers that I talked about before. Yet despite this she elicited in me a willingness to be vulnerable – a quality I’ve struggled to embody as it makes me feel uncomfortable – and we shared what I felt to be a profound intimacy. I’m normally very intense and high energy, but when I was with her she calmed me down and I felt at ease. It wasn’t just that we had some similar issues in our upbringing, but where all of my other lovers have sought to make me their project – a lawyer, a professor, a therapist, a politician – but she just accepted me as an aspiring artist on a journey.

Which is ironic as after graduating from FAU and I sought adventures like those I’d read about in On The Road, Off The Map, The Thief’s Journal, Journey to the End of the Night, You Can’t Win, Tropic of Cancer, Sexus and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I traveled abroad in Europe for a long while and in the mean time she moved several hours by car to pursue a new career.

Ariel Sheen
So that’s the story behind the line “I proffered naught but hope a decade plus ago/That when we next see each other again it’d be like it was”

Ariel Voyager
Yeah. I’ve since looked at my journals from the time so know for sure that I rationalized my breaking off contact with her as a combination of “I’m doing her/us a favor as the distance between Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale makes this unsustainable” and as I was hurt I was no longer able to see her. I thought I was being mature at the time and moreover realize now that then I started to shut off those parts of myself down that I’d later see as necessary for a healthy relationship to work. For a long while self-sabotage, unfortunately, was a bad habit of mine when dealing with emotions I didn’t know how to properly process.

Through some form of Facebook magic (Thanks Zuckerberg!) she popped up on my “People You May Know” feed. I liked one of her photos and we started talking again that evening, making plans to see each other two days later.

In the lead up to seeing her I was more nervous than a drug mule at a pat-down check point at the border. Over and after lunch all was great between us and the day after next, as I did not do so in person, I confessed my shame over my behavior on the phone and told her that she’d grew into the woman that I always thought she would – which was true.

She said something to me that cut me to the core. She said that the way I treated her years ago made her believe that she was “just another girl” to me. I told her there and then she was wrong, but didn’t go into the details about it that I have here. Instead I wrote those two poems with hopes of getting to know her again.

Ariel Sheen
It sounds like you still love her.

Ariel Voyager
I mean, yeah. I do. Shortly after the new year I even found myself going through old notes to find a passage I’d copied from a book I’d read not too long ago that touched on what I was feeling:

“Romantic love offers not just the excitement of the moment but the possibility for dramatic change in the self. It is in fact an agent of change… Romantic love takes on meaning and provides a subjective sense of liberation only insofar as it creates a flexibility in personality that allows a break-through of internal psychological barriers and taboos… It creates a flux in personality, the possibility for change, and the impetus to begin new phases of life and undertake new endeavors. As such, it can be seen as a paradigm for any significant realignment of personality and values.”

But I’m also aware enough of my thoughts now to recognize that an element of this attraction is my idealizing of our past, wanting to make amends and, most importantly, that her interpretation of what we shared has a very different emotional inflection than my own.

Ariel Sheen
So what do you think will come of it?

Ariel Voyager
Oh I’m doubtful anything will other than a gradual falling off. Were any of my former lovers to contact to me with such a story as the one I’ve told above I couldn’t honestly see myself giving them the opportunity to demonstrate they’ve changed. Now there’s major, major differences between them and her and of course, and the phrase “Sometimes second chances work out better than the first because you’ve learned from your mistakes” certainly comes to my mind, but I can’t downplay the truth of how hard it is for someone to shake away a negative view that’s been accepted as true for so many years. That’s brain chemistry. Years of specific neuropathic associations. I may be forgiven, as she’s told me that I am, but those make my desire to test the waters have to work extra hard against that well worn track. Plus, our physical distance makes an easy re-acquaintance impossible. I may be willing to make the effort to see and be with her, but whereas ten some years ago that was what was wanted I feel that now it just comes off as, well, weird despite my having no real desire to stay in South Florida and have because of the uniqueness of my job the ability to move wherever I’d like. Ironic when you think about it…

Ariel Sheen
Finding irony amusing instead of fighting for what you want? That doesn’t sound like you. It sounds like you’ve given up! Isn’t love worth fighting for?

Ariel Voyager
I think love conquers all, yes. But that’s not what we have now. Maybe there’s some mutual fondness over long past memories and pleasure in conversation, but beyond that I’m can’t honestly say there’s more to it. I’m a romantic, for sure! But I’m also a realist that can see that while something more would make for a great story, it is, however, unlikely.

Ariel Sheen
How does that make you feel?

Ariel Voyager
There was a time when I would have fixated on it and felt pain for not getting what I want. But I know that this would lead to another round of depression and self-medication and I’m so over that cycle so I’ll take a longer view and take comfort in the memories and the unforgettable reminder not to lower my standards as to the qualities that I should be seeking in a partner that fits my particularities.

Ariel Sheen
Ok. Interesting. Look at you Mr. Mature. Let’s move on to some other poems. I was wondering about the poem The Hipster Professor, The Leftist Demagogue and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. That poem, which has many of the qualities of a short story, seems so be referring to real people rather than placeholders for common academic stereotypes. Am I right?

Ariel Voyager
Yes, those are real people! The Leftist Professor was Simon Critchley and the Hipster Demagogue was Micah White, who would later be one of the two co-founders of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I met them both at an academic conference at SUNY Binghamton several years ago.

Ariel Sheen
Besides being critical of them, you seem to be somewhat critical of yourself there.

Ariel Voyager
Yes, well, that’s because I was. I’d wrote a draft for that poem years ago and when coming back to it was of a very different mindset. That said I still think their politics are shit.

Ariel Sheen
How do you think that love ought to operate on a social level?

Ariel Voyager
That’s a bigger question than one I’m ready to answer now. For now I’ll say that I think love relates not just to the people you choose and who choose you as a romantic partner but is evident in social values as well. In Heaven’s Mansions I try to show how selfish it is to build beautiful spaces meant to be enjoyed and wall them off. In Dowry Street I try and point out the absurdity of a society that keeps so many people close to poverty that they’re willing to turn a sacred ceremony into a means of supporting themselves. These are aspects of love, at a larger scale than exists between two people, that I think are worthy of recognition and discussion. I write about this in more detail in some of my more explicitly political poems.

Ariel Sheen
Do you have any other creative projects in the works right now?

Ariel Voyager
No, because after all of the above came to your awareness in a manner that you couldn’t avoid, you killed me.

Ariel Sheen
True. Though you have to admit it was a long time coming…

Ariel Voyager
True. So at the end of this interview let me then ask you, do you have any other creative projects in the works right now?

Ariel Sheen
In deed I do! I’m taking a break from the serial novel project I’ve been spending the past year or so doing character and historical research on to work on a comedic screenplay in hopes of it being adapted to film one day. Golden age of film and all.

Ariel Voyager
A comedy? Wow. That’s quite a divergence from your rather serial novel project.

Ariel Sheen
Yeah, well, I need a change from working on what I hope will be as impactful as Atlas Shrugged and I’ve had enough people tell me I’m funny that I think I might be able to get paid real money should I get it in the right hands.

Ariel Voyager
Well, I wish you, and thus me, the best of luck in your endeavor.

Ariel Sheen
We are not the same, but I thank you nonetheless! Bye Felica!

Noam Chomsky’s Love Poem to His Wife

That desire felt by imperialist Europeans when
First discovering a resource rich region
With a population still primarily organized along tribal lines
And no modern military apparatus
Is nothing next what I felt when I first laid eyes upon you.

My heart burns hotter for you
Than the napalm dropped
On civilian non-combatants and crops
Of Vietnamese and Cambodians
So that the U.S. could maintain
Military and economic influence
Near the regional centers
between with the world’s largest populaces.

Oh so unlike the hundreds of bodies
Of indigenous Guatemalan villagers
Tortured, killed and dumped in mass graves
By soldiers trained
At the School of the Americas
In order to protect U.S. investments
And overthrow yet another democratically elected
Avowedly socialist government,
I’ve never tried to hide my feelings for you.

Whereas newspapers
Such as the Wall Street Journal,
Washington Post and New York Times
All publish to serve the interests of the capitalists that
Control the world’s countries through their political cronies –
I have never said a word that could be construed as a lie
So when I say that I love you until the end of my life
You know that this is true.

Whenever I am around you
I feel like I am glowing –
A sensation similarly reported by those children
That have spent time playing on and around
The Russian tanks destroyed by the US’s
Depleted uranium shells in Iraq during
The first Gulf War –
And my life anxieties disappear
Like environmental activists in
South and Central America and Africa trying
To bring attention to the dispossession of indigenous peoples
And the destruction of their means of subsistence
For the benefit of foreign oil and mineral corporations.

Though you’ll never depend on me
In the same way that many
Third world satraps of US interest do –
For I cannot provide you with loans, guns, tanks, bombs
Computers, training, helicopters to throw dissidents out of,
Lists of people to be dealt with and other such spook stuff –
I hope you know that should things ever get rough
I will be the rock on which you can rely upon.


If you enjoyed reading this poem consider purchasing my first collection of love poetry or the first part of my serial novel.