Zymurgy (zy-mur-gy; zī mәr jē) is chemistry that deals with the fermentation processes (as in wine making or brewing), There are zymurgy clubs around America, a brew pub called Zymurgy in Torrance, CA, and even a magazine called Zymurgy. It’s a fancy word for something we didn’t know we had a fancy word for. In words like this, experts, specialists, and aficionados find each other.
A toast to the Grog By Bill Reynolds
Hold your drink high as we all salute, Stand proud and tall as you toast our success. Long we have toiled to blog the last dribble, To the craft of zymurgy, my final tribute.
To the blessings of grog from the art of the craft, I brought you my twaddle, the sweet and the daft, With creative support of that spirited guest, I sent you my poems, the poor and the best.
From the wine to the beer, The ferment and brew, The stout and the red Went straight to my head.
My thanks to my readers, Both critics and lovers, And for the crafters of zymurgy to brew, Grateful to all, I am thanking you too.
Wine to the left, beer on the right,
Look both ways and have a great night.
Of the gaps be mindful, it’s been so delightful.
The title of this quatrain poem is taken from a New York Quarterly, ‘Craft Interview’ with James Dickey, as quoted in the Introduction to The Art of Poetry Writing by William Packard. I’m new to poetry writing, but I have always loved it. Thus, I concur with Mr. Dickey’s assessment.
The Greatest God Damn Thing by Bill Reynolds
Beating hearts bring words as rhythm flows,
the brick and mortar for posing forms.
They come to me in words of prose.
I wrangle with words to bring the storms.
I feel the beat as I tap my feet,
I catch the bop and I keep the time.
My world finds rhythm to keep the beat.
I seek my Po-voice and find the rhyme.
Mind and spirt bring forth my emotions.
Poetic verse grows as I now can hear it.
Out of me come plans and potions.
The poem I’ve written is part of my spirit.
The pleasure I found in hearing the sound.
My voice is here and my voice is there,
My emotions can show a feeling we share,
My poem’s my gift to everyone around.
Read, write, and love poetry silently and in several voices
as you look both ways on the highway of life.
See and hear all the rhythm and rhyme.
But, mind the silence of the gaps.
What would it be like today, if I could see all the faces that you have reflected? You only reflect me the way I look today, older and very different than when we first saw each other. I don’t recall that day, because it was almost 70 years in the past. Before that, you had reflected many other faces for as many reasons.
Since before I was born, you always had your place in our home, on the west wall of our dining room. There, you were centered on the wall, above the old sideboard buffet, which was also a permanent fixture. As anyone walked past you going to, or returning from, the kitchen; you reflected their profile. Before leaving home, we all stopped and faced you for your final review and blessing as we took one last look. Mom and Dad used you to check the look of their hats reflected in your glass.
Since your total viewing area is only one foot by a yard wide, you never revealed much about us below the neck and shoulders. Yet, you remained our primary, go-to mirror even after several full-length mirrors were installed. I recall the day my brother stood staring at you when he pontificated, “You know, Billy, you’re only as good as you look.” I never agreed with him. Did you? I suspect that how people look is important to you. It’s your purpose.
Every year, on Palm Sunday, someone would change out the palm frond strip hung prominently across the top of your frame, where it would remain for the year. That was sort of the family way of dressing you up for Easter Sunday. It was always the same.
The only time you, or any of those items around you, were moved, it was for painting walls or changes to the floor coverings. But you, the mirror, and below you, the side board, were always restored to your rightful, prominent places. Mom and Dad did not change furniture often, but they never booted you from your space.
How many photographs, cards, messages, and notes were stuffed between the edges of your glass and your frame? What did they say? Were they important?
You are in old pictures from my grandfather’s house (the one my mother grew up in), taken long before my birth, showing you along with two side sconces, both long gone. I never met any of my grandparents, but you did. I’m sure my Mom’s father looked at his reflection in your glass. Maybe her mother, too. I can envision him holding his young daughter up for you to see. Who else saw themselves, and the reflection of others, in your glass?
Beginning in the 1920s or 30s, every member of my family must have looked at you. When did you come into being? Every friend who ever visited our house saw their reflection, and probably that of others, when they looked at you.
You have survived the Great Depression, the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy years, World War II (and possibly WWI), several rough moves, and whatever untold disasters that occurred during your 44 years in my parents’ home. For the past twenty-five years, you’ve been undamaged by my hauling you from one end of the country to the other.
Your ornate frame has a few nicks and scratches revealing hints that the wood beneath your gilded frame’s lamination is red. The corners of your frame are secured with two wooden dowels each, all attesting to the creativity and craftsmanship of an earlier time, when some master mirror maker worked magic.
While you’re a handsome and distinguished antique, it’s not you the mirror that provides the mystery and intrigue. It is the many thousands of faces that underwent self-examination as you watched, the hundreds of times a tie or hat was straightened with your approval, or when an Easter Bonnet was set to one side, and then given an approving nod.
Oh, mirror on my wall, holding the history of thousands of changing faces within your glass panes, do you remember their smiles and their tears. What do you remember? What secrets do you hold? Will you show me those reflections so that I may see whose lives you’ve shared? I recall with fondness and sometimes sadness, the pictures in my memory of the many times I stood nearby, and watched, as others used you to reflect a special moment in time. Show me their faces today, so that we might name the names.
When you look in a mirror, wonder.
Who else has looked this way? Who will?
Look! But, look both ways, and mind your gap.
I’m not sure what I expected from How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark. But it was better than that. I make all the writing errors, especially using too many words. So, while I was looking for what might improve my writing, I learned much more about our craft. Writing short applies to all writing, but the focus of the book is intentionally writing well using fewer words.
Some of the best, most memorable English language writings are short. I try to keep my blogs brief, but they often surge over 800 words. I’ll continue to work on that; to chop, murder, and cut.
This book was great. For one thing, it’s a readable, friendly style to my liking. If you’re a writer, journalist, poet, or ad hack, this is a good book you. You can plow through it quickly.
The 35 brief chapters are divided into two sections. Section I, How to Write Short, has chapter titles that deliver on the promise to improve short writing. Such as the following famous short writes:
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
“A feeling is an idea with roots.”
Or, from the top of my blog page, Into every life rain must fall (from “Into each life some rain must fall” ~ Longfellow)
Dr. Clark provides motivation and reasons for short writing.
To enshrine (monuments)
To amuse (jokes, snarky comments)
To explain (instructions)
To narrate (microfiction, live blogs)
To alert and inform (text messages, news blurbs)
To remember (notes, lists)
To inspire (proverbs, quotations, prayers)
To sell (adverts, resumes, bumper stickers)
To converse (Blog comments, Q&A, social nets)
The second section consists of 13 chapters where he tells how to write short with a purpose.
Even if you’re only mildly curious about writing short, I recommend this book.
Some WordPress blogs provide prompts that are helpful practice for developing the craft of writing short. One I like is one liner Wednesdays. Can you can suggest others?
Who would not like to get the point across in fewer words? Okay, some, but few.
I just finished watching Look Both Ways, a 2005 Australian independent movie. I watched it because I had one of those idea moments today.
As I was walking on a sidewalk next to a busy street, I approached a minor street to cross. I glanced left, but was not yet crossing when a car came from behind me and turned right, quickly passing directly in front of me. She was driving a little too fast, did not signal, and may not have seen me. I checked to my left again for traffic and safely crossed the street.
Before I reached the opposite side, I realized that I had not looked to my right to ensure no cars were coming from that side. I recalled being told repeatedly, as a child of five or six, to look both ways before crossing the street. While the threatening traffic was on my left, I should have looked right.
I’m also in the process of reading How to Write Short, a book by Roy Peter Clark. Dr. Clark’s book has me thinking about how effective we can be with few words. Thus, I had one of those rare moments when an idea comes to me.
Look both ways can serve as my metaphorical phrase for living life—staying alive and healthy. I can see it as considering all sides of an issue (pro and con), hearing people out who may think different than I, discerning dangers of life, being careful, remembering lessons from our childhood, trying different things and new places. Can you add to my list?
Here is my advice: look both ways.
There are about a half-dozen books with the title Look Both Ways. I only found the one movie and I’m glad that I watched it. I enjoy that kind of flick. If you like artsy, emotional, love-story-ish movies with lots of music and relevant singing in the background, give it a go, mate. I had to get my ear tuned to the Aussie English, but I managed. I found it for two bucks on Amazon, but you might find it for free on YouTube. Warning: tear jerker. See the official trailer here.
There is no vegemite in the movie, but she does say, “Are you giving me the flick?” That must be Australian for Are we breaking up or Are you dumping me?
Furthermore, starting this Tuesday, each blog I post on Our Rainy Journey will end with some comment about “look both ways,” at least until I tire of it. And, yes, there is rain in the movie—they get wet.
My music–I like 1970s soft rock and disco, although they’re not exclusive to my play lists. During the 70s, songs didn’t have the same meaning they do now. These days, my current emotions change how I hear that same music. Today, my music taste is deeper and broader.
I can listen to a song and apply it to any time in my life–past, present, or future. Beautiful songs stir me emotionally. I have thoughts of love and family–those memories we carry with us. As I listen to lyrics, I contrive personal interpretation and meaning.
I’ve selected four songs: one from the late 1960s, two from the 1970’s, and one from the mid 1980s. While song writers couldn’t foresee my thoughts and feelings years later, it often worked out that way.
A Whiter Shade of Pale (by Procol Harum, 1967)
I don’t know the writer’s intent or inspiration. Some have said it has to do with a sexual encounter. It also parallels with the Titanic tragedy.
It’s a wonderful song. Most Brits and I have enjoyed it for years. This was the most-played song in England for the past 75 years. It’s haunting and mysterious. I see it as sad, but in an oddly good way. In the manner that sadness is not always a bad part of life.
I selected the video with Sarah Brightman (circa, 2000) because the older video with Procol Harum, a product of its time, is not my favorite. This one has better imaging and Sarah’s singing of A Whiter Shade of Pale is great. The original, by the original group, is the classic favorite.
The intent and inspiration for this Eagles classic is well-documented. But, it depends on when they were asked. There’s a lot written and said about this one. What Don Henley said in a 2002, 60 Minutes interview was, “It’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.”
I agree that this is about life. I blow off the tie with LA. As my life moves forward I feel emotions and do things to experience life. I think my past, given what life had to work with, combined with my consciousness to make me – me. My two favorite lines in this song, which is also haunting and mysterious are:
“We are all just prisoners here, of our own device” …………….and
“We are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”
Even more straightforward, this song is about their (musicians and writers) experience at The Troubadour, a club in LA where musicians met, back in the day. It’s a look back.
I love this song. I’ll say haunting again. This one draws me back to my younger days (my 20s and 30s) when I had more tomorrows than yesterdays. It’s not only about the dreams. It is about the feelings. I can still have those feelings when I listen to songs like this. The video is especially good because of all the pictures of the artists and musicians. I enjoy the photos casting the dark rainy nights.
When I first heard this song, it came to me as a beautiful love song that could ride through eternity. Is there an end to love? Later, I learned that Cohen’s inspiration for the song was the Holocaust. He’s spoken of the string groups that played as others were gassed and burned. That changed the song for me. But did not the victims have love? Weren’t their loves in this life being cut short?
While I’ll never forget that Leonard Cohen wrote this song because of one of the most profoundly sad times in history, I cannot let go of the love and how it is a forever thing. Love and its beauty (with Leonard’s haunting voice) is what this song is about.
The video doesn’t betray Cohen’s inspiration, but it clearly implies long time love. Except for flashbacks, the people in the video share more yesterdays than they will tomorrows.
Music mines deep into the treasures of our minds, hearts, memories, hopes, and dreams. It changes as we change, while it stays the same. May we enjoy music and the love songs that evoke our emotions. Let’s all find ecstasy in the music that makes us who we are; be we happy or sad, in or out of love, young or old. Let’s all dance to the end of love. And may that end be an eternity away.
There’s too much information available to cover this area adequately. My research indicates that we become less creative as we age. Perhaps we do. But I would not say ‘less.’
We change with age: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I think we also change creatively. I don’t think we become less creative so much as our creativity becomes altered as we adjust to all changes in our lives. Certainly, significant aging and mental problems (dementia) and physical illness have their effect.
Blocks to creativity
Creativity is an attitude. Our curiosity sleeps with our creativity. The more curious we are, the more creative we seem to be.
There are too many blocks to mention each one. We all sometimes have blocks.
When I tell people that I am not as creative as they are, they often want to fix me – to give me advice on how to be more like them (do as they do, believe as they do, be as ‘open’ as they are). They would also advise me to be myself, blinking not an eye at the irony.
I don’t say that I’m not creative. Of course I am. Everybody is creative. But we are not all the same. My creative nature is more sensitive to that of other people, thus they are my preferred source of inspiration. I confess: I struggle with creativity. Many of us do. So what?
I think the blocks to our creativity begin at birth. We are born creative. As far as we know, it is a uniquely human trait. Children are wild with the creative process (in most cases) based upon the behavior we can see. We don’t know what we can’t see. We do not know the thoughts of others. We only hear what they tell us. Over time, our creativity struggles with life, society, judgement, our own human condition and nature, as well as that of others.
We don’t know what creativity is (no, we really don’t). We only know when we have it or when we do not. We can see it in the work or behavior of other people, but we cannot see into their minds and hearts. Like quality, we know it when we see it.
Value of music in creativity
I can read while listening to classical music (no lyrics), but no other genre. I must write in virtual silence. But I also find music as stimulating to my own creative process as anything. I have no idea how it would go if I did what a so many other artists do with music. But I know this: it helps in two areas.
One is in the magic of creativity itself. The other is in the execution of the work. Think of these two aspects as you watch Jonas Gerard (age 75) in the video below, creating with live music at his studio in Ashville, North Carolina.
“The rhythmic influence of music is an important part of his (Jonas Gerard’s) artistic process…. The music allows him to work unpredictably and intuitively, kicking it into another mode and bringing it home to a subconscious space where he can respond to the rhythm, and the direction the paintings suggest to him.” (from http://www.xanadugallery.com/2013/Artists/ArtistPage.php?ArtistID=7399)
The following is good regarding music.
“In addition to stimulating creativity, music can help contribute to the development of a more creative mind.”
“Creativity is within each of us and the very reason the world exists.” ~ Frank Fitzpatrick, Why Music, Part 6: Music and Creativity
Einstein was interested in both creativity and music. He tied the two, even suggesting he would be a musician, were he not a physicist.
“If I were not a physicist,” he once said, “I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.” ~ Albert Einstein from Alice Calaprice, The Expanded Quotable Einstein (as quoted by Fitzpatrick)
Afflatus [əˈflātəs/] (n)
Afflatus is a divine creative impulse or inspiration. The word literally means inspiration. It does not refer to the usual sudden originality, but to the staggering and stunning blow of a new idea, an idea that the recipient may be unable to explain.
Add music to this and creativity becomes limitless, in my opinion.
Duende [do͞oˈendā/] (n)
Duende is the mysterious power of art to deeply move us. It’s a quality-level of passion and inspiration that may be felt by anyone. It can be the artist as they work. It can be the observer of the piece, the reader of the text, the listener of the music, the watcher of the act or dance.
When you are next moved like this, speak to the spirit within you, “Ah, my Duende, you feel it too?”
Mental health and Creativity
This is confusing, and for some of us, maybe a bit dangerous. No one is more artistic, creative, or on a higher creative plane because they suffer a mental malady. We can be both mentally ill and creative. How one effects the other is unknown.
There is sufficient research to indicate some correlation between the two. But nothing indicates that being drunk, high, depressed, or any other mental condition causes people to be more creative. Normal healthy people can be, and are creative. Throughout history, the same can be said for troubled artists and creative souls. It’s the difference between ‘because of’ and ‘in spite of.’
I can now move all books on creativity from my writing table to the bookshelf from whence they came. I want to thank Elizabeth Gilbert for Big Magic and I am grateful to my friends and fellow artists/writers who suggested it. While I still have a lot of issues with what Gilbert proposed, I wouldn’t have taken the time to do the work had I been in total agreement with her.
From whatever source your creative ideas flow, may they flow to you in abundance. May you be orgasmic, chilled and thrilled with ideas, concepts, and plans. May you make the best of all your days being creative and doing your thing (art, writing, music, etc.) and enjoying the universal gifts shared by others. May the spirit of duende haunt your heart and mind, thus bringing you to a spiritual bliss as only we humans can experience.