A Little Perspective From Tom Church

Posts tagged ‘art’

Ten Must-Read Short Stories

Hey guys! How’s college, you ask? Not bad, thanks.

Let’s get down to business though! Or actually, let’s get away from the formality and talk about short stories. One of my personal favorite literary mediums, I’ve got loads of short story collections at home and have brought a few with me. I can’t get enough. Sometimes I’ll say “that’s enough poetry” and stop reading poems for at least a few good hours. “That’s enough of Greek plays for a while.” “That’s enough philosophy…” Some subsections of literature make me feel queasy after a while.

But it’s rare that I ever get fed up with short stories. Perhaps it’s because I know where to look. I’ve got all my favorite guys nearby all the time–my Lovecraft, my King, my Vonnegut, my O. Henry–and needless to say, the Internet helps sometimes if I don’t technically own what I’m reading.

Today I am in an awfully literate and musical mood. I am feeling as poetic as ever. And I wanted to give you guys the low-down on what some of my favorite short stories are; the select tales that stand out in my mind as being truly spectacular. For each story I relate, there will also be a song; perhaps the song is what the story reminds me of, or vice versa. Perhaps playing the song while reading makes the experience all the more sublime. I will be sure to elaborate, don’t worry.

And four more things!

1) For your convenience, I will be sure to label the story in question as being relatively “short,” “medium,” or “long,” emboldening whichever one the story in question happens to be. That way you know what you’re getting into. These stories all take less than twenty minutes to read, and some take even less than five. Trust me, they’re bite-sized. But they will (hopefully) fascinate you, just as they fascinated me.

2) I will have you know that this is indeed a “list” post, meaning that I will be listing these things in order from least-appreciated to most-appreciated. However, don’t take that to mean that these are my top ten favorite short stories of all time. That list is ever-changing. These are merely ten stories that I hold in very high regard for some reason(s) that will hopefully be made apparent upon a read-through.

3) I will not use more than one story per author, to spice things up. And the stories (and songs) will be linked within their respective places in this post, so that you don’t have to search frantically all over the Internet.

4) The blog only allows so many Youtube videos to be embedded on the page, so some will show up merely as links, you may click them and be taken straight there.

Enjoy!

10) A Rose For Emily — William Faulkner

short | medium | long

This story is chilling and peculiar. It can sort of be classified as a “thrilling” read, but I wouldn’t say it’s a horror story; it’s just not something I’d really expect from Faulkner after trying to understand The Sound and the Fury.

Now, hold on a second. I know that I just recently wrote a post about scary Internet stories, but you can trust me when I say that I have my reasons for including any scary short stories on this list (there are a total of four, counting this one). I am generally a fan of scary stories and concepts, so this one got my attention and has held a place in my mind ever since. I can’t name many stories written in the first half of the 20th century that are so absolutely strange. This story is unique, both as a styling of Faulkner and as a work of literature during his period in history. As far as I know, people regard it well.

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/wf_rose.html

This link will take you straight to the story. It reads in a bit of a formal fashion, but stick with it and I’m sure the ending will surprise and interest you.

A Song to go Along

If you’re reading a creepy story, you’ve gotta be listening to something slow and edgy, perhaps a little haunting. That’s where this Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s song comes in: it’s called “A Journalist Falls In Love With Death Row Inmate #16.” It is about just what it says, and it is both strange and somewhat endearing.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

9) Little Drops of Water — Kurt Vonnegut

short | medium | long

This story is a step in the opposite direction. There is something magical about Kurt Vonnegut’s stories, and I don’t know if I could ever really pinpoint it, but one of the best ones I’ve read by him was “Little Drops of Water.” It deals with an older man who often has loose romantic flings with his younger piano students; but one of those students decides not to be taken so lightly, and the events that unfold are a stroke of genius.

https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/jenor/ADS/HarpersMagazine-2009-06-0082535.pdf

Above is the link. Like I said, this story is opposite to “A Rose for Emily;” it made me happy when I finished.

A Song to go Along

This story put a skip in my step, and naturally I’d pick a song that does the same. I’d go with an upbeat Coconut Records song, particularly “It’s Not You It’s Me”…

It’s a feelgood song worth dancing to!

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

8) Uncle James — E. Nesbit

short | medium | long

Out of the millions of children’s stories on the planet, some of my favorite have been by Seuss, Milne, and Nesbit. Edith Nesbit wrote fantastic childrens’ stories, lots of which involved dragons. Her style is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, but perhaps a little more grounded in reality, because many stories involved young, princess-and-commonboy protagonists.

“Uncle James” is one of those stories. Tom, the gardener’s boy, is in love with the young princess Mary Ann. They live in Rotundia, a world where things meant to be big (elephants, whales, etc) are small, and things meant to be small (guinea pigs, rabbits, etc) are big. The story is wonderfully written and even admits at a few points to be skipping over the more boring details of what occurred.

http://www.online-literature.com/edith-nesbit/book-of-dragons/2/

Read it and enjoy! And then go back and read the stories that will never fail to make you feel like a vulnerable little kid again.

A Song to go Along

Listen to “White Daisy Passing” by Rocky Votolato. It’s a pretty, Elliott Smith-esque song that turns a normal walk into an endlessly pleasant experience. And I’ve always associated children’s stories with nature and comfort, wonder and tranquility.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

7) The Boogeyman — Stephen King

short | medium | long

Reading this story for the first time was terrifying. I couldn’t sleep well for weeks. Maybe I was merely young and impressionable, but honestly this story is masterfully creepy and awesomely surprising. It’s a must-read, absolutely, for any horror fan.

http://loloyd.homeip.net/ebooks1/Stephen%20King%20(Bibliography)/1970’s/1977/Short%20Stories/Stephen%20King%20-%20Night%20Shift%20-%20The%20Boogeyman.pdf

 

This story is guaranteed to deliver.

 

A Song to go Along

Well, I actually have two. The first one, “Haunted” by Radical Face, is a primer. It gets you in the mood, makes you feel haunted and eerie. It’s like wind blowing down a subway tunnel, or climbing into bed with the lights off. It’s just the right atmosphere to instill before reading a creepy book. Immerse yourself dammit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoCiyB8dMPk

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

Then listen to this song while reading. It’s from the Dead Space video game original soundtrack. It’s actually pretty horrifying and yet also unobtrusive, because it has no lyrics. Give it a try.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfbV6sSrn_4

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

6) I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream — Harlan Ellison

short | medium | long

This story is truly mortifying. It’s an astoundingly dark take on the progression of robots and computers, set in some strange future, where a handful of humans live together, taunted and tortured by a merciless Artificial Intelligence. The narrator is one of these people, and he talks about who they are, and who they all used to be before the machine systematically wiped out humanity. It seems that the only reason they are still alive at all is to be treated as playthings, because a computer with no test subjects apparently is capable of growing bored. The ending is strange and may be pretty shocking, but it’s a story that deals with one of many possible futuristic outcomes. And while it’s a little bit hard to foresee happening, it’s still brain food in a way. It gnawed at my mind for days.

http://pub.psi.cc/ihnmaims.txt

Read it, dwell on it, curl up in a ball.

 

A Song to go Along

The song “Anthem” by Emancipator is, in my mind, a perfect fit. It has that synthetic, futuristic, tech feel that this story offers. It’s kinda slow, dark, and fosters a contemplative mood. Try listening to it while reading and see what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PEGDGxZdzA

You will be a changed human.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

5) The Last Leaf — O. Henry

short | medium | long

O. Henry stories have always been the best. They have plot twists, which in my eyes is a sign of creativity and intelligence. And they’re not cheap either, they’re genuinely clever. And mostly they tend to be meaningful, which is something I can easily appreciate. “The Last Leaf” is one of my favorites.

http://www.online-literature.com/donne/1303/

It’s witty, it’s quick, and most of all it’s touching.

 

A Song to go Along

A song to go along? How about the song that hasn’t left my iPod since sophomore year: “The Past and Pending” by The Shins. No matter how many times I listen, there is something so compelling, so soft, so soothing and intimate about this song that makes me want to listen again. Most songs dry up and go away, but I will always listen to this song when it comes on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6dYB35lF_0

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

It’s fantastic and it’s calming, and it fits well with the story. CHECK IT OUT!

 

4) Pygmalion and Galatea — Edith Hamilton

short | medium | long

Now, this story isn’t actually the written property of Edith Hamilton. She’s just the Greek historian who managed to simplify it from poem form and basically synopsize it. But no matter what form it takes, I will always love this story. It’s about a man who detests women and decides to create a female sculpture in order to expose all the flaws of the gender–what happens next is not worth spoiling. I’ll link you guys to the Hamilton retelling of this story but encourage you all to read Ovid’s 10th poem in Metamorphoses, which fully accounts for the supposed experiences of Pygmalion.

http://www.dl.ket.org/latin/mythology/3fables/love/pygmalion.htm

It is one of the more touching love stories I’ve read before.

 

A Song to go Along

I like soft love songs, and so I’ll let you guys give this a listen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aZh261KZWI

It’s one of the prettier songs I can call to mind, and it makes me feel sad and in love at the same time. And while the song may end on a bit of a morose note, and while certain parts of it may seem flaky and too honest, it just reinforces my own notions of true love and of keeping promises–in any case, it’s a pretty song, and I recommend giving it a listen. It may make your read a bit more interesting, and hey! It sounds like the narrator of Lua is disillusioned with the idea of love, just like Pygmalion.

 

 

3) A Calendar of Tales: August — Neil Gaiman

short | medium | long

If you have not yet read Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales, go do it! Or better yet, have them read to you! Just pick a month and give it a listen, they never disappoint. Gaiman decided to connect to his audience by asking them what ideas they had about all of the months of the year; then he handpicked certain Twitter replies and wrote stories about them. It was a fantastic and generous idea.

My favorite of them all is August, closely followed by April and then July. But here’s a direct and obvious link to August:

http://keepmoving.blackberry.com/assets/desktop/pdf/neil-gaiman/august-story.pdf

This one is all about forest fires, and also the kinds of misconceptions humans have and perhaps the false sense of security they sometimes have in the face of danger. Ultimately, though, it’s just really poetic, and made me feel good at the end. It made me happy.

 

A Song to go Along

This song. Red Right Ankle by The Decemberists. It’s beautiful and charming, just like the August story. It makes me feel like sitting outside on a stoop, shooting the shit with someone close, watching things happen in the heat of August.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYwkmPKsctQ

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

2) The Yellow Wallpaper — Charlotte Perkins Gilman

short | medium | long

This story is probably the greatest psycho-thriller story I ever hope to read. It was the most insightful and interesting look into the mind of a psychotic I’ve ever seen, written by someone who may or may not have ever been this sick. Without spoiling it for you, I will just go as far to say that the narrator in the story, a woman on “holiday” with her husband, who is a physician, is afflicted with some sort of mental issue which causes her to become depressed. The rest is warped.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/literatureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf

It is a bit long, but honestly it is perhaps the most rewarding “long” short story here. I promise.

 

A Song to go Along

I can’t even really think of a song to match what kind of eerie feeling this story manages to purvey. Here. Listen to the sounds Jupiter makes via electromagnetic waves. It’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3fqE01YYWs

You’re welcome.

Listen to this “song”:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

1) The Green Morning — Ray Bradbury

short | medium | long

This story is right out of The Martian Chronicles. Brief aside, of all the things and people I owe my relationship to Erin with, Bradbury is probably number one. We bonded over him quickly and excitedly because every story, every single story we’ve ever read by the guy is fantastic. He’s imaginative, creative, brief, simple, and yet so thought-provoking it’s ridiculous. We can never get enough of him.

Normally I’d go on and on about “Usher II” which is Erin’s and my favorite story in The Martian Chronicles. That story is absolutely fantastic, especially if you know your Edgar Allan Poe. But I decided to go with a story that wasn’t scary, and that didn’t require too much prior knowledge to certain things to appreciate the story. So I went ahead and chose “The Green Morning,” which is by all means spectacular.

http://anton.shpigunov.com/2011/07/the-green-morning/

And for your further enjoyment, if you appreciated that, you can read the entire book here. Pick a story and go with it, they’re all short and all fantastic.

 

A Song to go Along

A good song? Hmm… how about “Broken Afternoon” by The Helio Sequence?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYOEm_H5nQA

This song is vocally powerful but instrumentally soft, as if the singer is preaching or proclaiming his ideas. It’ll make you think of Johnny Appleseed when you read the story, or Benjamin Driscoll rather: the Johnny Appleseed of Mars.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed! If you ever want more musical or literary recommendations, be my guest and ask me. I will absolutely give you guys some pointers.

Thanks for reading!

 

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Being Silly (Thom’s Thoughts)

There are many people who would boldly proclaim the importance of seriousness, the wonders of sternness, and the power in silly sobriety.

I am not one of those people.

Generally, I believe that the most powerful behavior is that of happiness, and what better way to show you’re happy than smiling? And dancing and being goofy and singing? It shows that you’re uninhibited, that you have no fears and that nothing bothers you deeply- you are your own shield, your own Aes Triplex.

People grow up, don’t they? People get big and smart and they start working and they don’t ever quit. They devote their entire lives to doing something they choose, but they can’t back out of it as easily as they’d sometimes like to. And to some people, it seems so bleak. It’s turning into something different, and that means that you can never again revert to what you once were: just a kid.

But that’s not totally true. There are people in my life, and people in everyone’s lives, that have, quite simply, grown up “the correct way.” The perception differs from person to person, but mine is this:

The correct way to grow up, to grow old, and to die is as a happy child, seeking fun in ever newer and stranger ways.

Now, immediately, you may think:

1) What of innocence? Will it ever be broken, or will we practice ignorance?
2) What of well-being? When does ‘fun’ for us become too irrational, too harmful to ourselves?
3) How in the world will we sustain ourselves?

These questions are easily tackled. Just like many other aspects of life, the trick is simply said and yet not simply done: balance.

Innocence will be broken. Ignorance has long-term negative effects that we don’t want to ever see slap us in the face. Instead, what we do is we learn, for learning is fun- and while not everything we learn will please us, we will understand that happiness lies in our perspective of ourselves and our surroundings, not objective facts and saddening probabilities. The only fact we need pay any attention to is that we are who we want to be, and we are happy because we are happy.

As for our well-being? Well, seeing as we aren’t going to end up completely oblivious to the negative effects of our behavior (since we’re gonna learn, right?!), then we’ll know not to do anything risky, and not to do anything completely and totally bad. Drugs. Law-breaking. Other reckless behavior. Those things are only pleasing for unhealthy people, anyways, and we’re going for healthy! There are so many ways to be fun when you simply open up your eyes to the strange and unique beauties found in everything. Imagination is powerful, and so are the goofy and uncoordinated physical capabilities of our bodies. I swear, jumping can keep me entertained for hours. I’m sure it will as an adult, too. Maybe you, the reader, will not necessarily find it as amusing… but you get the picture. The only sorts of fun we should rule out are those that have negative outcomes on us or on others.

And with these two main tenets, we are able to sustain ourselves. Provide for yourself. I do not mean graduate from high school and study for the best-paying career you see as being reachable. I mean graduate and study and perform what you love, what you feel you could do for ages and ages. Do what you like! And be happy around others. Any people who insist upon being pessimistic douchebags? Well, who needs them? If you can’t seem to lighten them up, it’s always okay just to make sure you aren’t around them much.

There you have it! Be silly, childish, goofy, dorky, fun, and weird. Smile lots and be sure to mind your own business. Don’t intrude on others just for the sake of being bright and sunny to someone who might not like getting jumped by a grinning psycho. And avoid risky behaviors.

There. A guide to life, of sorts.

Goofball

What a weirdo.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Responding To Criticism (Thom’s Thoughts)

There is a fine line between helpful insight and thoughtless malice. In the words of Harry S. Truman, “Art is parasitic on life, just as criticism is parasitic on art.” While I don’t necessarily believe that art affects life in such a negatively connoted way, he got the second half right.

Criticism is meant to change, whether it be for good or bad. Criticism, at its base, is stumbling upon a function that is not your own, and then depositing some sort of input to alter the output in a way that directly benefits you or everyone else.

This is helpful insight. This is walking up to a painting and saying “I like how the whole face is blank except for the nose. But I say add an eye, then we’re in business.” After an hour or two of perfecting the eye, the artist is overwhelmed with praise from the art community, all due to the help of the wise onlooker.

And then there is the malice we see so often. Things that are said with no intention of improving the subject in question. I am not fond of this kind of criticism, for I see no point in critiquing someone’s work negatively when I know I could not do better myself. I give books chances and I focus on the positive aspects of lame movies. You can ask Erin- “bad” movies that we consider cheesy are often our favorites just for that reason. I enjoy the professional as much as I enjoy the mediocre, but in different ways. I am not trying to preach from a soap box how it should be; I am just saying how it is. My case is, most likely, not the only one.

It’s difficult to take criticism. It really is. Even if it’s helpful. My writing career has been nothing but praise and  helpful insight.

I remember writing a story about a male ladybug killing a chameleon and riding back through his small village, suddenly a hero. It was a silly, childish story, but it was a story. I was proud of what I made.

It had mistakes, and it had plot flaws. And it had all sorts of strange quirks that were particular to myself at the time that no one would have understood. My dad walked me through each and every one, by no means an English major, but wise enough to show me a thing or two.

I remember being in tears by the end, because what I saw as a sturdy block of Emmanteler cheese, my dad saw as flimsy, pre-packaged Swiss. The story was ruined. I messed the whole thing up beyond repair.

My dad told me I didn’t. He said with a few simple fixes, the story would be as coherent and understandable as ever, and just as entertaining. He said I didn’t have to sell my soul to fix my story.

That’s how it should be. You shouldn’t have to give up the entirety of your story, your creation, to ‘fix’ it. And perhaps it’s just fine in the first place; it’s really up to the artist to decide. It’s as subjective as you want it to be. But be sure to weigh your stubbornness in with the rest of the factors you come up with.

Recently, Erin put up a portrait she drew of me. I admitted to her that it wasn’t her best work, and that she isn’t the best at drawing people quite yet. Who can blame her? This is her first year in any formal art class, and she has avoided drawing people almost entirely before this unit. She did a good job.


Apparently, not everybody thought so. She received some form of malicious criticism one morning about her portrait of me. And while I won’t go into detail, and I don’t necessarily wish to dwell on it… no matter how much someone else says “don’t listen to them, it isn’t worth it,” it hurts. It always does.

I love Erin, and while she’d never admit it openly, she’s very critical of herself, which is lame. I tell her all the time to be proud of everything she makes, every last little thing. If nothing else, she made it, and she reserves the right to ignore any criticism, helpful or not, and keep it the way it is.

And when she figures out how to do just that, I know she’ll be more than just a brilliant and talented, promising young artist; she’ll truly understand one of those unspoken tenets of creation and artistry:

There is only one person in the world whose pride in your work matters, and that is you; therefore, be proud of it all.

There would be a large and desolate hole in the world of art if this tenet were obeyed any less than it has been, and is today. And I’m sure many artists teeter on the brink of pride and shame at multiple points in their career.

I have so much faith in you, Erin. And maybe if I do, you will too. (:

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism. 

Gustave Flaubert’s Take On It (Thom’s Thoughts)

Today is testing day for Sophomores and Freshmen. So that means, naturally, that the course of my day must be interrupted. My classes are tweaked to strange lengths of time that make no sense, and are very antagonizing. I have nothing to do. I sit here and jot on a notepad what I’d like for my birthday party, which is in less than a month. So far, I’ve only got the theme: reptiles.

Yeah, just kidding. The theme will be ‘fun,’ like it always is. Or sometimes is.

I sit here, listening to “Midnight City” by M83, and think: man, it’d be great if I could get locked in a room with a typewriter about now. Maybe then, I’d put a dent in my novel.

But I can’t. All my strange, literate fantasies never come true. It sucks to be so societally tied to responsibilities that we can’t do what we want to do. I think that’s a pretty major flaw in today’s world, don’t you think? We spend all our lives working something that, depending, we may or may not want to do, just to end up retiring and having one-seventh of our life to do a frugal amount of what we wanted to do all along.

Note to self: pick a job you like.

I think I’ve always ‘ranked’ things in my mind. For example, I rank the color red as number one on a list of all the colors. However, red is in no way my favorite color. It’s just a color. I like yellow, because it means happiness. But that’s like, fourth or something.

Similarly, on a list of all the professions in the world, writing is first. Followed by… well, I haven’t finished the list. Maybe firefighting, it doesn’t really matter what comes next.

I have a reason that writing comes first, though, and a reason for these ranks is quite rare. But here it is:

Writing is everything that we have.

Picture a huge venn diagram with millions of intersecting circles. The circle in the middle is labelled “writing” or “communication,” or better yet, “expression.”

My dad asked me once why I chose writing as what I wanted to do. It was always so obvious to me that writing was my first choice, but I really never mentally elaborated on why. Later, I had a small revelation that brought me to the basis of my reasoning:

Specializing in biology means you specialize in biology. Specializing in physics means that you specialize in physics. But will these biologists and physicists ever be able to truly articulate the extent of their findings? Possibly not. Quite possibly, these people will speak the language of their occupation, which is stifled compared to that of the English language.

I believe that, as a writer, it would be my duty to incorporate everything I know into my work, and do so in a way that everyone could easily appreciate and understand. This means what I know about biology, and physics. And art, and music, and the behaviors of Sumerian peoples from thousands of years ago. And things I invent and make the hell up.

Biologists study biology, and physicists study mathematical applications. Writers study everything.

I want to know everything, and I know that’s irrational. But that’s what I want. My idea of heaven would be to know everything for what it is, to know all the aspects and the features of it all.

That yearning I feel may possess some degree of naivete, but I see no harm in understanding the universe for what it is. Writers try understanding in ways more creative, comprehensive, and even practical than scientists and theorists. Writers are philosophers.

And fiction or non-fiction, we create the universe the way we want to see it.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

[P.S. WordPress gave me this quote after I’d written this post out, as an incentive to write more:

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
-Gustave Flaubert ]

Pigs and Cats (Thom’s Thoughts)

 

I draw two things, mainly. Cats and pigs. They’re fun and silly and I like making them say disjointed little things that have little to no real meaning.

My favourite, perhaps, is one where cats are holding a meeting. One is standing at the podium, and he says, with an air of importance, and of course, in a yowling fashion: “I… have a dream…” A nearby cat is raising its hand, saying “Wat time iz lunch?” And a pig, looking culture-shocked, sits numbly, with a sleeping kitten on his head.

Tragically, this same drawing was ripped recently, when I showed it to some kids in my French class. One of these jerks ripped the back of it, failing to remember that my prize drawing was on the other side. He received quite the verbal lashing.

I have others, though- to start you off, I’ll show you that one, damaged though it may be (and a bit bad quality-wise, but isn’t everything?):

As you can see, that little cat is saying “Wat time is lunch.” Also, you can see the tear at the top of the page.

The drawing itself is a bit cruddy, and up close, its cruddiness increases almost exponentially. But if nothing else, I like what the cat’s saying.

Here’s another:

Here we have a small kitten, fawning over a pig’s trough. “Mister Pig, I can has your trough?” it asks tentatively. The pig looks a bit surprised.

Here’s a third:

Here we have a shocked, rigid kitten yelling for his friend, Pig, to get the bucket off his head. Sadly, the pig is also tied up, having a bucket on his head. A very sad predicament for them both.

And lastly, a fourth:

A small cat, asking a pig and a cat (who are very obviously great friends) if they’d like more tea.

Pigs and cats, while being maybe my only area of remote expertise, is at least a thrilling, entertaining, and quaint drawing niche.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

What It’s Like To Not Win A Poetry Competition… Or Several (Thom’s Thoughts)

I checked my e-mail some time ago, and noticed again the absence of any sort of notification from the websites I’ve been on the lookout for: World Poetry Movement, The Young Voices Foundation, et cetera.

With an air of finality, I directed the page to worldpoetrymovement.com. The big contest. The one I’d entered in November hoping to win a thousand goddam dollars, hoping to win even a dumb medal.

The winners were announced a few days ago- and I wasn’t notified.

Floundering, I ctrl+f’d the page and typed in: “Tom.” “Thom.” “Thomas.”

One Thomas. Thomas Lynne.

I lost.

It was much the same with the Young Voices Foundation, and the other measly little grant-reward contests I’d entered. I was, and still am, completely heartbroken.

I laughed darkly, tabbing over to aestheism in a last-ditch creative effort to write out a blogpost for everybody; I thought, I’ll write poems about what it feels like to lose poetry contests and enter them in next years’.

Up until this point, I’ve been very stingy about posting personal work on the blog, much in contrast with Erin, who loves to put her art and her writing in her posts. Which I like. Almost secretly am jealous of, because I just don’t seem to have the stones to do it.

But this loss blew me out of the damn water. I want to know what everyone and anyone thinks of my poem, and it’d really be unfair to talk about my loss and not share my work with anybody. So, at least this time, I’ll let everybody see. Maybe I’ve got a voice in the back of my head saying No! Save it, for when you’re famous! It’s not under copyright! But my inner Voice of Reason backhands that snotty, cocky little bitch every time he says something, and plus his voice is annoying anyway.

Here’s the poem I entered:

Stormthoughts: Books As Umbrellas

Cummings once said that the world laughs in flowers,

That the world is mud-luscious after Spring sends Her showers,

That patient balloon-men wait smiling for hours

And the tastes of mankind and war are sour.

 

And Sylvia Plath makes for bad bedtime tales,

“And they stuck me together with glue,” she wails,

And the shingles on rooftops fly off in the gale.

I look out my window and my breath is stale.

 

I return to my books, Dorian Gray keeps his looks,

Peter Pan bravely fights dastardly Captain Hook,

Pierre Aronnax spins water-tales in logbooks,

John Le Carré tells of burglars and crooks.

 

Sometimes I like to think Steinbeck was wrong,

That his “pains” found in “rains” are comforts after all,

For my reflections in puddles make me look very tall.

I think Sadness, like Madness, plays tricks on us all.

I know it’s not amazing, fantastical or brilliant. I know that the effort I put into it may be surpassed by many, many others who entered the same contests I did.

If there’s one thing that losing’s taught me, it’s that I should never stop appreciating those who believe in me.

Cheers to an honest-to-God shot at something big.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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