Out Of Control – Out Of Definition – The Writers Of A New Era

I have a strong affection for modernism. It is a deviation from the Victorian standards of high morality and the strict rules, regulations, and religiosity of the early English settlers. Toward the 19th century we find stories written out of the native tongues of the sons of early immigrants, for the indigenous were already here. What was taboo becomes an exploration of the human sensorial palette, an acknowledgement of the hedonism and the pleasure seeker in us all. Modernism was born out of the urge to experience something different and Americans in particular started to hear from people of many different backgrounds, colors, and political parties. I would venture as far to say that following World War II many of the soldiers, having visited far away lands, brought the memory of the far east back to America. Those men, having fallen in love with the art and language of the far east began to revel in those customs on American soil and we find an insatiable interest in eastern philosophy. Let us take for example “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac, a novel about a young man traveling through life looking for transcendence from the dandyism of America.  One distinct element of post modernism is the entrance of the voice of men and women, marginalized, and widely read. There are many elements to identify modern literature, and I have included a few that I feel make post modern literature a dynamic force of social and political change.

Writing Out of Definition

Does being a black American male limit maintain or define my experience? The character flowing out of the pen could be of any race nationality or creed. They could be of any sexual orientation, said or unsaid. When I write out of definition I become the character in the story , I lose my heritage, I lose my class, and age. I lose my culture and all the limitations and essentials contained within the parameters of the social construct. Read Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Out of definition the writer is free to be who ever he wishes to be.

Writing out of Form

I attempted to write a villanelle. I wanted to convey a message and I couldn’t figure out the best way to convey the message through the limitations of the villanelle poetic form.  The villanelle form would be a fixed 18 line poem consisting of 5 tercets and a quatrain. Take for instance a draft of Bzzz, a poem I tried to fit into a villanelle.

A1 She whispers in Melinda’s ear “I’d like to be a bee.”
B Flickering in and out of consciousness Melinda hears a swarm of bees
A2 Bzz, door rings
A Franklin, frankfurter, I had the oddest dream
B You can catch more fly’s with vinegar than honey
A1 She whispers in Melinda’s ear “I’d like to be a bee.”
A Bees die by self mutilation
B Satisfaction in sugar preserves, self preservation
A2 Bzz, door rings
A I sat at a desk for eight hours at 8
B Synthesizing sound; you can catch more fly’s with tea
A1 She whispers in Melinda’s ear “Id like to be a bee”.
A Synthesizing symbols, stringing scenes of sequential realities
B Flying, billowing clouds, bathing in rose petals,
A2 Bzz, door rings
A Synthesizing words, worlds of make believe
B Bathing in rose petals, supersonic flights past tall blades of grass
A1 She whispers in Melinda’d ear “I’d like to be a bee”.
A2 Bzz, door rings

The poet who writes in the form can sometimes play with the words. It could be that line A1 reads a particularly different way, in tercet 3, than line A1 reads in tercet 1. The most annoyed and inspired poet will play with form if one has to produce a villanelle. The poet who doesn’t follow the form will have an easier time authoring a poem, of several volumes.

Out of Structure

There are many writing workshops where veterans, teachers, writers will say the structure of a short story, memoir, or narrative should be A, B, C. The writing is not like building a machine, although it can be. There isn’t a structure upon which to hang a plot.  I remember reading books as a young adult and being excited about the books that would let the reader choose an outcome that would lead to a different ending. Would you choose differently each time to see what the different choices lead to?

Out of Linearity

One of the closest examples of this is the script of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. It follows a couple who have no memory of each other dating again. The relationship begins again after the two meet for the first time after dating each other for several years. Linearity follows a leads to c and one can give a concrete step formula of how he got to c. Is any of this really true? Are those concrete examples the way the reader got to c. The idea that the past is the mother of the future is unreal. Let us suppose we ask an engineer how he came up with a formula for the creation of a machine. He may say the idea of the finished product came first and then he started to create the formula that would become the machine.

Out of Control

Writing out of control requires no judgement of the author as a writer or the story or poem and message begging to flow through the pen. The subject matter could be anything. Many out of control writers, write books that are listed as banned books. Sometimes they become exiles of their native countries. Sometimes the message will be associated with a sense of urgency almost as if the books illuminating the passages find you and beg you to take them with you. Events will occur in such a way that ignites the process and triggers the knowledge one has to write the story.

* Image by David Bradley

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