Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place


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A Novel of Horrifying Clarity

F451

I spent the month of April engaged in writing poetry every day, so as a reward and a respite I spent most of May reading. One of the books I read was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

For me, this novel is like Moby Dick— I have not read that book, but like a lot of folks, I basically know what it is about. I already knew the basic plot of F-451:  In some future dystopian society, books were considered subversive and detrimental to the well-being of society, and certain people, called Firemen, routinely burned books whenever they were found. The protagonist of the novel, a fireman named Guy Montag, has an epiphany when he actually reads a book. Books make you think, he discovers, and he becomes quite disturbed about this. And this novel became quite disturbing to me.

Since F-451 was selected as my women’s book group current read, plus the fact that I have an autographed copy of the novel, I figured I better get it read.

Like many of us, I too am one of those readers who tends to think a book is “good” if I enjoyed it; and conversely if I did not enjoy it, then there is something wrong with the work. After reading this novel, I have come to the conclusion that I could not apply such a judgment on it.

F-451 is a wonderfully crafted work that I thoroughly did NOT enjoy. The book is good because it achieves its purpose, and because of that I do not like it.

Bradbury is a master craftsman of the written word. His prose reads like poetry– beautifully chosen words that pithily convey the story (the book is less than 200 pages). His words are prophetic:  if we lose books, then ideas cease to be exchanged, we stop thinking, we become brain-dead, and then our society finally succumbs.

The novel was published in the 1950’s, during the McCarthy era, when freedom of expression came under fire. However, Bradbury  commented over the years that F-451 was not about government censorship of ideas. Rather it is about what happens when we become so addicted to other forms of entertainment that we forget how to engage in the thinking process that reading books compels us to do. This novel is chillingly prophetic. Montag’s wife and her friends become so involved in watching their reality shows on their wall-to-wall televisions that the characters in these shows become actual family members to them.  As a result, she emotionally disengages from her real-life husband for them.

In an LA Weekly article written in 2007, author Amy E. Boyle Johnston states, “[Bradbury] says the culprit in Fahrenheit 451 is not the state — it is the people. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, in which the government uses television screens to indoctrinate citizens, Bradbury envisioned television as an opiate. In the book, Bradbury refers to televisions as ‘walls’ and its actors as ‘family,’ a truth evident to anyone who has heard a recap of network shows in which a fan refers to the characters by first name, as if they were relatives or friends.” (Johnston, 2007 )

I wonder if Bradbury, before he passed 2012, saw the parallels in the evolution of our current technology: giant flat screens televisions streaming reality shows, interactive gaming, and endless forms of social media. How many times have you seen couples and families together in public each engaged with their own separate mobile devices? All this technology is intended to connect us, yet it is driving us all apart and “dumbing” us down to abysmal levels.

So this brings me back to my initial statement that some of us (including me) label a book as “good” only if it entertains us in the way that our devices, apps, and visual programming entertains us, and it is “bad” if its ideas challenge us to confront uncomfortable realities. I am not saying one should not enjoy a book, just don’t let that be the only criterion for judging it. Ask yourself if it makes you think. Have we become like Montag’s wife who is horrified when she discovers her husband has read a book? She ultimately turns against her husband because her fantasy world is threatened when he forces her to confront reality.

Are we headed that way too? In a horrifying moment of clarity, I am forced to think that Bradbury’s prophecy may be coming true for us.

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Magnetic Poetry: Drunk on Catnip and Instinct

Magnetic promptI came across a site that I am adding to my list of resources:  Magnetic Poetry. You’ve seen these before, I’m sure– those little magnets you move around ro make verses. You can fool around with this online now. From a little play session I derived this:

Drunk on catnip and instinct,
tortoiseshell goddess of the night,
you howl your lovesick love song
in a flood of full moonlight.
Your clowder of lovers
from my back fence leap
to worship your beauty
And rouse me from sleep.

jgloyd 2016

Postscript:   I thought the word “eat” in the image was “cat”.  What a totally different poem I would have crafted if I had followed through on “eat”.


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Learning the Craft: Ray Bradbury on Fahrenheit 451

Besides actually writing, listening to  other riders talk about their craft is another way to learn how to write. YouTube is a great resource for this.   One of my favorite authors is Ray Bradbury, and he was particularly generous in giving interviews and talking about his process. Here is an 11 minute video of how conceived and wrote Fahrenheit 451 .


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Final Drafts and Future Plans

shakespeareApril was devoted to writing.  Thirty poems.  My goal was to get over a creative slump and make writing a daily habit once again.  I don’t plan to slide back into that abyss.   I will be the first to admit that most of the poems I wrote in April need a lot of work.  However, there are a handful with which I am quite pleased.   I have reposted them below.

What’s next?  I have heard before– and here affirm– that to be a good writer, you must read good writing.  So my focus for May is to get caught up on some reading.    In June my book group will be discussing Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, our city’s selection for the Big Read program.  My plan is to finish this by the end of May.   I also plan to read as many as I can of Shakespeare’s 150 sonnets.  (I’m weird, I know it, but I am a poet — LOL!). Throw in some Steinbeck and Robinson Jeffers if I have time.  As far as writing, arting, and blogging?   I plan to do these frequently throughout May.

My thanks to those who supported my attempt at “writer’s therapy” through your comments and likes.   May the muse be with you all.

Selected Poems from April:

A Moon-Song Tritina

Apricot and lavender hues at dawn
on the beach under a setting full moon
my thoughts converge into a morning song.

Fractured word-bits turn to song
on the cool wet sand at an ocean’s dawn
made clear and smooth by the waning moon

Like ancients singing by the light of the moon
with their drums beating out a fireside song
to the eternal pound of the surf at dawn,

On the beach at a moon-kissed dawn, my thoughts conceive a morning song.

***

At the Beach

Lacy white foam splays over dark wet sand.
Soaking in, it sizzles like a steak on a grill.
Golden sparkles on sapphire water, blinding to the eye.
A wad of newspaper tumbles in the breeze getting
caught up in a tangle of wilting sea kelp.
Did I remember to take the laundry out of the dryer?

****

Somewhere between the Lo Mein and the Egg Fu Young They Fell in Love

A rain-slick night,
Red lanterns hang over a dark wooded booth.
Imperial Dinner for two.
Crab Rangoon and spring rolls.
Don’t forget the hot mustard.
Kung pao chicken and sweet-and-sour pork.
Stir fried broccoli in oyster sauce.
Their hands touch over the fried rice.
Moo shu pork and ginger beef.
Steaming cups of jasmine tea.
She giggles at his jokes.
Time slows down, eyes lock.
Check please.
Fortune cookie say:
“You will marry the person across the table.”
Fortune cookie say:
“Don’t panic!”

****

The Tale of the Four Thieves

Four clever thieves, living close and thick,
Robbed from the homes of the dying and sick.
Despite the plague they stayed in good health
and amassed a fortune of ill-gained wealth.
The sheriff searched long for the thieves he sought
Until Luck turned her eye and they were caught.

But the judge declared they would not die
If to his request they would simply comply.
“Tell me, I pray, of your profound good luck
And how this sickness you managed to duck.”
The ring leader stood and commenced to say:
“It’s a magical potion applied once a day.

Distill fine oils into a flask–
Excuse me, sir, which ones, you ask?
Lemon, Rosemary, cloves strong and dark,
Leaves of Oz and cinnamon bark.
Blend them together with sweet almond oil.
Inhale it deeply the sickness to foil.”

The judge was astonished and stood from his seat.
He eyed them coolly and said, “Rise to your feet.
We shall make this elixir you so freely give
and if it’s successful you will continue to live.
But even so if it does not fail,
The four of you must stay in jail.”
And so thus ends the four thieves’ tale.

****

On Sonnets

It is a sonnet today, why oh why,
Magnificent in its melodic form.
Five feet of iambs, it is not a lie,
Fourteen in all, a rigid rhyme the norm.
Today I have no time such verse to write
It takes long stretches, ample time in hand,
Such beauty crafted in eternal light,
Not in the dull wasteland where now I stand.
Mundane, the word that drags the poet down.
Though sonnets fly high on softened breath.
The day-to-day rigors in which I drown
My sonnets they take away unto death.
I tried my best with a free heart to bring
A sonnet on sonnets with grace to sing.

****

I Remember

I remember my mother shaking me awake so we could,
in hurried hushed voices, sneak off in the night like thieves.
I remember my father’s 68 Olds with its new car smell
As we sped across the desert in the darkness.
I remember having breakfast in places like Barstow
And Bakersfield and– eww– towns like Fresno.
I remember the colors of the Grand Canyon,
The herds of elk, and the bears
Peering through car windows in Yellowstone.
I remember the summer where we explored, it seemed,
every cave and cavern between Carlsbad and California.
I remember our kicks on Route 66
My family and I on our yearly road trips.

All poems, LJGloyd (c) 2016