Monday, 30 July 2018

Why Me, Rhyme?

I hope I'm cautious enough not to fetishize--an incautious word--the ideas of Stephen Sondheim, the legendary Broadway lyricist and composer. (But for one thing, his two volumes of annotated lyrics--Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat--contain some of the best writing I've seen anywhere lately. I refer to the commentaries.)
For Sondheim, rhyme matters. "True" (bone/phone) not "near"(bone/home). "A perfect rhyme can make a mediocre line bright and a good one brilliant," he writes. "A near rhyme only dampens the impact" (Finishing xxvi). (I should point out that he's talking about song lyrics, not poems.) He says it another way: "A perfect rhyme snaps the word, and with it the thought, vigorously into place, rendering it easily intelligible; a near rhyme blurs it" (xxvii).

In this, as in other ways, Sondheim inspires my work through Oak Floors! and my habit of packing my Merriam-Webster's Pocket Rhyming Dictionary wherever I go. "The sounds we rhyme with come at the end of the word, beginning with the vowel sound in the word's last syllable," notes the PRD, a tad clumsily.

Here's my latest--an observation to a cat-owner at the end of his/her rope:
Whiskers was fun, then a nightmare
of fits and spits and kitty-snits galore.
Matters had sunk to the point where
to get some sleep you'd seal your bedroom door.

Out of context, maybe also in context, such versifying seems silly, unless the piece works out. People come to Evelyn (the observer) with their cat problems. Which she can solve. What Evelyn discovers, however, is that dear Whiskers, in the end, doesn't matter. What matters is the human connection between cat-owner and what Evelyn becomes: cat-whisperer. "It's you feelin' the feline blues," as she says.

Anyway, I've spent more time on that verse while writing this blog entry than I'd spent on it before. My point is that rhyme is hard as hell to pull off if development of story and character is the objective, not chuckles or wit. Evelyn in this scene, if it's to remain a scene, must get us from cat to cat-whisperer to whisper. That intimate.

This kind of thing is fun, if you like puzzles.

Oh yes, then the music comes in.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

The Other Musical

Today I was biking through Hillsdale, the 50s-era subdivision of south Regina, where I lived from '61-'71 and '95-'11. Ten years ago, as I was recalling, I'd been hard into the research (= roaming and gathering) that fed my Hillsdale Book
Early in this process of writing a musical I thought of re-visiting the Hillsdale material for musical purposes. That didn't last long. But the theme of coming up with ideas for other musicals besides the one I'm writing continues. Just last weekend, after I heard Tom Wayman read from a short story about some environmental activists and other local citizens of the Slocan valley, not to mention a pair of lovers, I told Tom that I thought it would make a great musical. He was no more convinced than my poet friend Suzannah had been when, after I heard her read from her new book about The Bachelor, I told her that I thought it too would make a great musical.
I'm happy with what I've got going. By Aug.21, the end of a two-week stint at the Johnson Cultural Centre in Cypress Hills, I plan to have the first draft of Oak Floors! completed. So I can show the script and the music. Toward that end, I've begun to format everything according to conventional standards so it will at least look finished. 
Speaking of looks, here are some of the companies who worked on an apartment like the Oak Floors.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Amenities Tease

The title says where I am--trying to work out what those two words might mean for each other. In my piece, a room known as Amenities had been promised for many months. Formerly a storage room closed to tenants but originally the janitor's residence (occupied by a fellow named Chris Heathcote), one that opened to both halves of the building, now Amenities would mean common room, equipped with kitchen, wifi and cable, living room, dining room table, library, and vintage photos on the walls. (Also a few bits of heritage bric-a-brac.) The gold "A" on both doors seems to glow--so great has been the anticipation. 
Of course, when the A room does open, the first to use it are the building owners, but that's another story.
When the tenants do get in there, first order of business is to figure out what amenities are, which is where the tease comes. Because amenities could be construed as snippets of conversation, perhaps freeze frames, fragments of song. Whereupon someone has the bright idea to propose that story-telling must have been the first amenity.  Now the tease is on for sure.
But it doesn't matter. Whatever amenities are, people love the room.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Oak Floors: The Building

Dedicated followers of what I do online--good windy evening, Aunt P and Uncle Q--will recall a thing called "Building Poem Building" in which I tracked, complete with 24/7 webcam, the construction of two residence towers on the URegina campus in the summer of 2003.
Sorry, I just searched to see if there might be a link but couldn't find one. I did, however find this review of Hillsdale Book, my 2015 poetry collection published by NeWest Press. I mention this now because of a realization I've come to about Oak Floors!, this musical I'm writing. 
The realization--which already seems obvious, even before I utter it--is that the building itself, the Oak Floors, is the main character of the piece. I'd been leaning toward the young university student (Patty), or the self-taught janitor, or the wildcard/historian/spirit-of-the-hallway I've called the flaneur [with the triangle over the a] as the figure we care most about. Imagining the physical/historical building as the main player, with characters fit around its narrative, seems a useful way to go. (And, I suppose, would be in keeping with what I've always done in my books, which is to start with the where.)
So the play moves into the vestibule, through front door, along the hallways, into the boiler room and individual suites, into the Amenties room (Amen!) and, in the climax of the piece, up to the rooftop patio one starry night. Add scenes in a downtown park at the top and second from the end, and a scene of straggling back to the Oak Floors, and I've got myself a complete first draft of the piece, when I've got it.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Oak Floors!

I've long enjoyed the word quixotic. From a distance. None of its connotations of flighty, capricious, hastily imagined or luck-based seemed trustworthy. It helped to read enough of Cervantes to appreciate our Don Quixote, from whose name, of course, the word derived. Don Q was an innocent, a pure believer. Delusions? Nah.
So goes the thinking that leads me to/from calling my pursuit of Oak Floors! (which, as you see, I now write with the exclamation point, as in Oklahoma!) quixotic. It truly is the impossible dream, if such a thing once existed. There are so many reasons it won't work that it takes one really good one--my own determination to succeed--to sustain the project. That and the small daily solutions to some self-imposed problem.
These small solutions don't amount to a hill of beans, even a Hill of beans, except that as long as they keep coming, I know I'm alive. Yesterday: instead of finding five or six spots for a series of memos that chronicle the ever-closer conversion of the Oak Floors to condos, I'll put them all in a single song, which I'll have to write.