Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Free(But Maybe Evil. . .)

I write bad poetry. I hope to some day soon write decent poetry, and before I die at least write good or even great poetry.

But writing poetry is not nearly so simple as "expressing yourself." Like all things worth doing, it is hard to do well.

As I try and learn how to write decent poetry, I've been wondering about formal verse versus free verse. . .OVERSIMPLIFIED DEFINITION: formal verse has meter and rhyme, free verse doesn't, except perhaps occasionally.

I don't know if I like free verse or not. . .my gut reaction is to think it's trash. . .but when I look closer, I'm not sure. . .T.S. Eliot is free verse, and I'm starting to like a lot of his stuff(I've always loved his ideas, but just recently have I started to enjoy some of his style).

The thing is, free verse is the spirit of the age, and I doubt any real poetry would ever go over well. . .

Oh well. Here's a silly poem about my inability to say goodbye, and it sounds more dark than it really is; it's really an experiment, an attempt to say the same thing in formal verse(Pretty strict Iambic Tetrameter), and then again in free verse. . .here goes:

I never seem to say farewell
The way I would desire to
I stumble over words that tell
That I have not the skill some do
To say goodbye, and therein kill
The communion that with it brought
Joy so bright that I feel it still
(But joys we hold too close shall rot)
And here's my failure, here's my flaw
I cannot suffer joy to fall
I cannot bring an end to awe
Or deny beauty's wond'rous call
I am learning slow to live but I
Wonder if I'll ever learn to die?

I never seem to say farewell
The I wish I could, the way I would if I had but

the ability(which I lack)
I murmur something about being forced to leave, in such a tone that tells

That I lack that(the ability)
which others seem to have attained
To smile, wave, and say goodbye
so Murder
The wond'rous communion that brings such
that still, still is felt within my soul
But Joy
clung to too desperately rots to putrid stench
This, this is my problem and my flaw
I won't see this
(the murdering of joy)
I won't see this
(The tragic death and end of awe and
some days, like today and everyday I also find
I cannot force myself to pretend I do not hear, and
so avoid the cry of
They are teaching me, writing on the blackboard
And I am dutifully learning, scrawling in my notebook, but learning how to live
But shall I ever learn to die?

I realize now that I purposely tried to make the free verse ridiculous and bad at points. . .
but I wonder. . .there's something about Free Verse, even if I hate it . . . it's called free verse for a reason. . .but oh well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Madness Part 2: Ice Cream and old Pianos

This last Wednesday, a week ago, in the midst of madness, I experienced a day full of the unprecedented grace and favor of God.

To begin with, it was the due date for my Faith Term Paper, the day before the early action II deadline for Biola and THI, and Don Rags(translation: quarterly meeting with teacher to go over progress in class, discuss my Term Paper for Shakespeare, and turn in fourteen pull questions[second translation: Informal handwritten essays]).

Being a procrastinator by nature, and given the ridiculous amount of work I had to do, my pull questions got pushed to the last minute. . .literally. I finished my Term Paper, did one pull question out of the nine I had left, went to worship practice, and then came back with eight staring me in the face.

And then I very foolishly took an hour to write out a song, entitled "The Terrorist's Love-Ballad"

Hey, when the Muse comes, she comes.

One thing was clear. there would be no sleep for me that night.

I tell a lie! Actually, I fell asleep on a Romeo and Juliet question at four o'clock. I woke twenty minutes later due to my dog Aslan scratching the sides of his crate and whining. Perhaps I'm being silly, but it seems to me that he was trying to wake me, seeing as how he stopped and wagged his tail as soon as I was visibly awake.

Anyway, I was still working on pull questions when my normal Torrey-day waking time-5:30-came around. I showered, got ready, and went back to writing pull questions.

And continued writing pull questions on the ride to La Mirada.

And before Faith class.

And during all of study hall.

And I finally finished the last one after everyone had already started walking to class, and ran sprinting to class.

A whole new meaning to "last minute"

Anyway, Don Rags went well(even if there weren't as many leaves falling to complete the picturesque scene). Though it's not required, I dressed up in slacks, shirt and tie. And here, friends, is where the madness ends, and the wonder and favor begins, and I must switch to a more narrative tone, and, I fear, embarrass my musically brilliant(and excessively shy and modest) classmates.

I stood outside during lunch, pulling slightly at the double Windsor knot of my tie as the day grew steadily warmer. During my panicked writing in study hall, I had been picked out to receive a free ice cream sandwich, and I was now munching contentedly on the frozen treat. I had been expecting to finish my snack in comparative silence, when everyone around me sprinted off towards one of the empty classrooms. I was soon told the cause of such excitement: MaryKate had found her way into a room with a piano.

It was an old, neglected upright piano, wretchedly abused, dented and thrust in the right angle formed by a glass window and poorly-painted wall. It sat there, more for the sake of practice than performance, catching sunlight in the deep scars scratched on it's once-glossy surface, collecting dust, going unplayed while the ivory slowly grew darker and darker, and keys refusing to rise back to their place.

After she finally unlocked the door and let us in, MaryKate was so adamant in her refusal to sound even one note for us that I soon abandoned all hope of hearing any music, when she finally returned to the bench and set her fingers delicately to the ivory.

Silent, we watched as she began to coax a gentle melody from the decrepit old thing, letting out a deep and profound sigh as she did so, as if there was some deep sadness intricately tied up in the action. She nodded gently with the music in this frightfully beautiful image of the commonplace and the angelic, very neat in her New Balance tennis shoes working the pedals, short curly hair in the sunlight, and music coming from an instrument that looked utterly incapable of producing it. The room felt completely still, as if no one dared make a sound to disturb the tranquility of the moment.

She finished, and all applauded, despite her protests. The group called for more music, and someone, of whose acquaintance I do not yet have the pleasure, played ragtime. I feared the old thing would shatter under the lively pounding. It survived however, and Mr. Christian Bearup sat down to play.

The familiar opening strains reached my ears; it was The Blues, by Switchfoot, played with more intricacy than drums and guitars could afford, a mingling of rhythm parts and melody that revealed the hidden glory of that song, which so often strikes the listener as sub-par, until the fifth or sixth listen when all the subtleties are discovered. Christian brought out all of these subtleties and displayed them, moving from verse to chorus to verse again, repeating, repeating, every time building in beauty if not in volume, layering intricacy after intricacy. Jon Foreman would have turned green with envy.

While he played, Gabriel leaned against the wall, his back to the piano and eyes to the floor, a look of pained study and rapture on his face, looking completely immovable. When Christian arose, I looked at Gabriel, wondering if he would give in to our pleas for him to take turn at the piano, seeing as how all the others had. His past denials made me doubt that he would, so when he moved towards the bench, Rafi and I(rather rudely) employed first shame, and then physical force to see him securely seated before the decrepit piano.

And then he played.

He jumped straight into a piece of unbelievable speed and intricacy, pure classical style, a perfect marriage of reckless madness and ordered precision. His arms and fingers danced rapidly over the keys as if of their own volition while he bent over them. Soon, his whole form was thrown into the piano, his head bending low over the ivory, his back going suddenly ramrod straight, and in the end, the intensity of the piece caused his labored breathing to be heard over the music.

A site administrator came to kick us out, but upon hearing him, was unable to interrupt him. She came in several times and exited; once, she raised her hand and opened her mouth, but closed it before forming any words, leaving in the same silence she had entered in.

When he finished,the long held in applause and wonder was warmly and loudly expressed. Given Gabriel's shyness, I shall not repeat any of it. . .but it was brilliant. Finally, we were ushered out of the room, marveling at the brilliant sounds skilled hands could coax out of that jumble of wood, wire, and ivory that once again, lay lonely in the still room, looking for all the world as if it had never been played.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Madness Part 1:The Color Green

This last week has indeed been a whirl of glorious madness, of much writing, not enough thinking, and very little sleep, St. Augustine, anberlin. . .and the color green.

To be quite honest, I'm having some difficulty recollecting the exact order of events. Suffice it to say that every shred of my "spare" time was consumed by my efforts to complete my Term Paper and college applications. . . and all the random tasks that are a part of normal life.

The trouble with the Term Paper is that it was also my writing sample for the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola. . .and, as I was told by Mr. Bartel, this "should be the best thing you have ever written" and I should "make every word beautiful".

Talk about pressure.

I survived though, and in the process, gained a deeper appreciation for St. Augustine than I could have gained any other way. Still, as I suppose I always will, I wish I could have done better. The harder I worked, the more I realized how utterly incompetent I am. I guess that's just how life is; we are always striving for a perfection we cannot hope to reach.

One afternoon, waking from a much needed hour-long nap, I had a curious revalation.

I saw the color green for the first time.

Now, clearly, I have seen the color green before, but. . .I had never seen it, if you take my meaning. That is to say, I had never before seen anything inately beautiful about green. Not so with other colors, such as deep, vibrant reds and natural, rustic browns. . .

ok, so call me crazy, but I like color. . .maybe it's left over from my failed attempts at painting.

Anyway, I never really saw what was so great about the color green, never understood why anyone would want an emerald. Any aesthetic appreciation for the color was bound up in associations; for example, "Green reminds me of beautiful Irish hills" or "Green reminds me of beautiful pine trees on the mountains", etc. It's not that I didn't like green. . .I just didn't see what was so great about it. . .It was a color to be used when other colors were used up, when you had already squeezed all of the glorious maroon and electric teal out of the paint tubes.

I'm beginning to see how ridicuous this is. Maybe I was just still sleepy.

Anyway, I looked out my window and saw my world in the fading sunlight. . .

The scene itself was beautiful, the commonplace backyard and poorly kept houses bathed in golden light, as if some abundantly wealthy King, in a fit of luxury, had ordered them so gilt.

But it was not the scene that grabbed my attention. It was the color green that flowed, from the groups of palm trees to the plastic bucket to the tangled vines on the woooden fence in disrepair. . .for the first time, I saw something beautiful about the color green seperate from nature scenes, without resorting to such adjectives as "bright" and "living". . .

okay, maybe it's not such a big deal as, maybe not worth telling anyone about, but in the midst of the madness and stress of the week, any glimpse of beauty was welcome, especially a beauty I had never tuly appreciated before. I ran to the other windows, staring out them to marvel at this new wonder, this new sight I had seen a thousand times before.

Friday, January 9, 2009

In Need of Grace. . .

It is 3:47.


I have been up late doing homework, trying to finish all the day to day work by the end of the semester so that I have time to finish my college application and term paper for that application before the deadline.

I am a procrastinator(in my defense, this is a hereditary vice). So, this means that when in early November, when I missed a week of class, instead of taking care of the make up assignment(listening to two online context lectures. . .sort of like saying a hundred Hail Mary's for penance) right away, I waited.

And waited.

And waited. . .

Until here I am, trying to cram them all into this one night, right as everything else is due, and the whole weight of my future education is resting on these next few days.

That said, I made tea, and began listening to the lectures, and they were amazing, covering the legnth and breadth of Religion, Politics, Culture, and Philosophy from the late 16th century to the present. . .ok, I know it sounds boring, but believe me! It was Dr. John Mark Reynolds! It was amazing!

Yet, amazing as they were, they were long. And it was 3:36, and I had just barely finished, and I was very ready to go and try and snatch two hours of rest before having to get up and undertake the arduous journey to La Mirada for class in the morning. . .

. . .and out of my stupidity and lack of awareness for what I was doing. . .

I deleted one of my context lecture summaries.

Meaning I have to retype it. . .

. . .meaning I have to re-listen to parts of the lecture.

Meaning I'll prolly be up all night and try and finish some more work.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Fanfare, please!

Friends, Romans, and Countrymen, lend me your ears(and maybe your money)!

Let the heralds be sent forth to the furthest reaches of the internet to proclaim that I, Jonathan Adriel Esquinca Alvarez Diaz de Los Angeles, am finally joining the ranks of the super-opinionated and pensive souls that make up the blogging community.

In all seriousness, the creation of this blog is really not quite as momentous as all that. At some point, I will try and fill this blog with poignant and profound words that will move you all to tears and make you better people. But right now, I just feel flippant, which is why this post is so ridiculous.