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Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Poetry Friday: “The Grossest Poem, Ever”

“And now for something completely different…”

And by ‘different,’ I mean the complete and utter antithesis of the pastoral, reflective, poem-y stuff I’ve been throwing at you the last couple of weeks.

The idea for this came to me after reading some poems – from somewhere I don’t recall – about dirt and boogers and monsters and such.  Icky, disgusting things.  But the poems, to me, fell short in one area – none of them were really gross.  Overboard gross.  Top-of-the-trash-heap, knock-a-buzzard-off-a-manure-wagon gross.

I decided that what the world needed, at that very moment in time, was the Grossest Poem, Ever…and by gosh, I was just the person for the job.

It was fortunate for me that I wrote it, too, because it formed the basis of one of my current manuscripts – a poetry collection of gross, weird, and disgusting things, from vomit to vampires, mud pies to milk bubbles.  (What’s that, you say?  Milk bubbles aren’t gross?  They are when I get hold of ‘em!)  I still need to write another 5 or 6 poems to complete the manuscript, but it has taken a backseat to my current project, that winter-themed collection I’ve told you about.

So as always, I hope you like my Poetry Friday offering; it’s definitely ‘different!’  And for more poems, Marjorie at Paper Tigers has the whole Poetry Friday list!

The Grossest Poem, Ever

The poem you’re about to read
Is neither smart nor clever;
It is, however, possibly
The grossest poem ever.

The plot is thin, the story weak,
The rhymes are very simple;
It hints at things like hairy warts
And how to pop a pimple.

It deals with snot and mucus, too,
And phlegm and giant boogies;
It mentions puke and pus and poo
And slimy yellow loogies.

This poem, I should warn you now,
Might make your belly sicken;
Especially the part about
How toe jam starts to thicken.

It talks about the stuff inside
An ugly, swollen blister
And why you shouldn’t pick your scabs
And throw them at your sister.

It uses words like “stinky pits”
And “vomit,” “barf,” and “spew;”
“Regurgitate” and “smelly belch”
And “hurl,” to name a few.

So there it is – the grossest poem!
Thanks for getting through it;
I only wrote it ‘cause my teacher
Said I shouldn’t do it.

-Matt Forrest Esenwine

Poetry Friday: “Perspective”

After last week, I just had to post this poem this week.

I mentioned in last week’s Poetry Friday post that I find it interesting how two or more people can look at something and each walk away with a different experience.   Even though we may view the same thing at the same time, we look at it through our own personal set of filters – our tastes, preferences, emotions, life experiences – and therefore see or feel that thing in our own unique way.  It’s what ‘perspective’ is all about.

Then, later that day, I read Mary Lee Hahn’s post about stars, and the last line, “You’ll never know the stars / unless / you change your point of view”.  This got me thinking about perspective again; in particular, a poem I wrote last summer about – you guessed it – stars!

I hope, after you’ve read this poem, you’ll have a chance to go outside this evening and view the night sky…and contemplate the same thing I did.  In your own, unique way, of  course!

(For more great Poetry Friday offerings, Renée at No Water River has the complete roundup!)

Perspective

One quiet, moonless summer night,
The stars above the only light,
I lay down in the grass to catch the view;
And as my troubles slipped away
I marveled at the Milky Way
And all the swirling worlds I never knew

A million of them in the sky;
I couldn’t try to count that high,
And so I watched them twinkle silently.
Each point of light, a little sun…
I wondered if somewhere, someone
Was lying down and looking up at me.

- Matt Forrest Esenwine

You Can Learn a Lot From a Boysenberry

Several weeks ago, I was picking berries around my property when it occurred to me that what I was doing could actually be applied to writing and producing – as well as to life in general.  (What can I say – as a writer of poetry, I’ve developed a sort of radar for metaphor!)

Seriously, though, I started thinking about it and came up with five lessons I’ve learned from berry picking:

Patience

Just because a boysenberry looks ripe, doesn’t mean it is.  The pericarp, or outer wall of the seed, may be nice and indigo-black, but leave it on the branch for another couple of days, and it’ll be practically bursting – plus, there will almost no seed left.  If you can’t wait, go ahead and pick ‘em when they’re ready…you’ll definitely enjoy them.  However, in berry-picking, as in life, those of us with a little patience will be rewarded greatly!

Group Effort

Speaking of seeds, have you ever tasted one boysenberry or raspberry seed by itself?  Even if you did, you’d barely be able to tell, because they’re so tiny.  Individually, the flavour is difficult to discern – but when you have en entire berry of bulbous seeds, that’s when you can really taste their true deliciousness.  Although each one might be ripe, full, and perfectly developed, by themselves they would barely be noticed.  But put them all together, and you’re talkin’ some good eating!  A boysenberry truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

Tenacity

Don’t judge a bush by its branches.  The berries you see hanging are likely not the only berries on the bush.  Lift a few leaves, and SURPRISE!  There may very well be a plethora of sweetness waiting for you underneath.

Then again, you might have to just keep looking.  I love the bushes that have big, juicy berries dangling from every branch, but sometimes there just aren’t any.  Sometimes you need to not only lift the leaves and poke around, but go in search of other bushes you may not even know exist.  I’ve discovered plenty of good, healthy boysenberry bushes because I had to.  When what you want can’t be found, it doesn’t mean it’s not there…it just means it hasn’t been found.  Keep looking.

Diversity

When you think of ‘berries,’ what comes to mind?  Raspberries? Blueberries?  Strawberries?  Even if you’re into the more exotic varieties like wolfberries (also known as goji berries) or acai berries, we all tend to think of berries as having a particular ‘look.’  Most people don’t realize how diverse the berry family actually is.

Case in point:  which of the following is, botanically speaking, a berry?

- grape
- persimmon
- tomato
- banana
- pumpkin
- pineapple
- avocado
- watermelon

If you guessed “all of them,” well, congratulations – you obviously studied hard on your Botany 301 exam while your drunk college roomates were having that wet t-shirt contest the night before finals.  Yes, every single one of these is, indeed, a true berry.  I’ll save you the details on why; suffice it to say that it has to do with how they grow and develop.  And you know what?  Boysenberries, rasperries, and strawberries aren’t true berries.

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Rebirth/Renewal

This final point is not as metaphysical as it sounds; it’s actually a fact of nature.  Boysenberry bushes grow on a two-year cycle – one year, they will produce tons of berries, the next year, hardly anything.  Then the following year, the berries are back!  So in order to try to guarantee berries every year, the bushes need to get cut down to only about a foot high at the end of the season.  Pruning puts the bushes in ‘regrowth’ mode, so to speak, so that the following year will be berry-ful.

Likewise, in writing, audio production, or even life, sometimes it helps to just stop what we’re doing and start over from where we started having problems, if not from the beginning.  Is there a friend or family member who is constantly causing you grief?  If they are a drain on your emotions, perhaps it’s time to simpy end the relationship and move on.  Are you having trouble reconciling a plot point or fleshing out a character?  Perhaps you need to consider revising your plot – or eliminating or significantly changing the character.  Can’t get the right sound you’re looking for in your audio production?  Yes, you might just need to keep working on it…or it could be that you need to rethink your entire approach.  Quitting and starting over can often be a wonderful thing, if you’re willing to try it.

Love and other metaphors…

Did you know that boysenberries, rasperries, and strawberries are part of the rose family?  For someone like me, who loves berries (even if they’re not true berries!), it makes perfect sense.  Roses have, for centuries, symbolized love or friendship, and being a guy, I’m not much into receiving flowers as a gift; but give me a slice of warm blueberry pie, a chocolate-covered strawberry, or even quart of fresh black raspberries, and I’m in Heaven.

Ah, yes, love is, indeed, a many-splendoured thing, and comes in a variety of shapes, colours, and flavours.

Think I’ll go out to the garden and see how the tomatoes are doing.

Poetry Friday: “Purgatory”

I have to thank David L. Harrison for this posting.  Last week in his blog, he posted a new poem (you can read it here) which reminded me of one I had written a few years ago about the same subject.  It got me thinking about how and why we view things the way we do…

A group of one hundred people could all witness the same thing simultaneously – a tree, a sunset, a rock, a catastrophe – and each one would see it, feel it, and remember it differently (I’ve written a number of poems about this concept, actually).  A perfect example of this is to take a classroom of children outside to view something mundane like the lawn or the sky – nothing too exciting or stimulating - then bring them inside and ask them to write down one word that describes what they saw.  You’ll get very different answers because each child views life through their own thoughts, interests, and personalities.  We all do.

That’s what’s so great about poetry!

One person can look at a leaf caught in a spiderweb and think stand-up comedy (like David did) while another can look at the same thing and think death (hence, the title of MY poem).

So here it is; it’s a bit more prosaic than most of my poetry, but I wanted to relate the experience as a story as much as a poem.  There’s a distinct narrative I wanted to get across, and even though I wrote it for adults, I wanted younger readers who may happen upon it to be able to understand the gist of what I was saying.

This was published last autumn in the Licking River Review, and now, a year later, with fall fast approaching, I suppose it’s the perfect time to ‘resurrect’ it.  Hope you like it!  And if you want to see more Poetry Friday posts, you can find the complete roundup at Random Noodling!

Purgatory

On its gentle descent to the grave,
a lone maple leaf
found itself
suddenly suspended,
ensnared
in a spiderweb.

Caught halfway
between life and death
it hung,
contemplating
a tenuous existence.

Not wanting to complete
the journey
downward,
the leaf was satisfied
to accept this fate.

Better,
it thought,
than the alternative –
dirt
and rain
and thick-treaded soles.

But as the days grew shorter
the weeks grew long;
and the leaf
dry and brittle with age
watched
longingly
as friends and family passed.

Unexpectedly
a burst of wind
loosed the grasp of the web;
the leaf
now free to fall,
eagerly
descended in anticipation
and finally
happily
found rest.

- Matt Forrest Esenwine

Mourning the loss of tradition

This post has nothing to do with plot, rhyme scheme, or call to action.

It has nothing to do with radio, TV, or kid lit.

It has to do with something much more important.

I needed to take a break from poetry, advertising, and children’s writing today to pass along something that has been on my mind since Labor Day Weekend.  It’s not really about 9/11 – it’s more about Americans’ attitudes toward patriotism – but since it is Sept. 11, I thought today was as good a day as any, if not better than most, to pose the question:

What’s happened to the national anthem?

Specifically, what has happened to the reverence we used to have for it?  I was taught from a young age that whenever “The Star-Spangled Banner” started to play I was to stand up, remove my hat, place my right hand over my heart, and face the direction of the nearest flag – and darn it, that’s what I did.  That’s what everybody did.  It was just the way it was.

If you could sing it, even better.

These days, however, it’s a different story.  At the risk of sounding overly nostalgic, times have drastically changed - and I don’t know how, when, or why.  I realized this while working as the announcer for the Hopkinton State Fair, a very popular event held every Labor Day Weekend here in New Hampshire.

Every day during the fair (which runs five days starting on Thursday), we play the national anthem.  As the announcer, I preface the song by letting attendees know where the four flags are located on our fairgrounds, via our public address system.  I then state, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our national anthem.”

At this point, any one of a number of things may happen.

Most people do, indeed, stand, take their hats off, and turn to face the flag in respect.  Some place their hands over the hearts.  However, many simply sit there, as if they hope the inconvenience of it all quickly passes.  And sadly, others continue about their day, walking, talking, and eating as if nothing exceptional has occurred – oblivious to what’s going on.

Oblivious, or indifferent.

Again, I ask:  what happened??

Since when did the national anthem – and our flag – become so uninspiring and disrespected, and when did we as the collective American society become so blasé and dispassionate?  How do we justify and honour the sacrifices made in our past for the sake of our freedom, if we take them for granted so easily?  How can we allow young servicemen and servicewomen to continue to die overseas when we are unable or unwilling to spare two minutes to stand up and listen to “The Star-Spangled Banner?”

I’m not even asking you to take off your hat, or put your hand over your heart, or even try to sing - but at least STAND UP and make it seem like you give a damn.  The only reason you’re able to chat with your friends right now, or eat your pizza, or write your blog, or do anything is because there were (and still are, fortunately) thousands of Americans willing to put their lives on the line and their own happiness on hold to protect this country, its people, its laws, its culture.

Asking you to be grateful for two minutes isn’t, I don’t believe, asking much.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t want to come across as being preachy, I’m just trying to understand the rampant ambivalence I witness.  Do our citizens not care?  Do they not know?  Have they forgotten?

What happened???

Although, the more important question is…what happens next?

Finding inspiration, one pie at a time

As you probably know by now, my day job is voiceover work.  As a professional voice talent, I get paid to read radio and TV commercials, narrate videos, and do on-hold telephone messaging and voicemail.  But because I’m the type who likes to help others when I can, I also lend my voice occassionally to student projects.  Because of the nature of these things, there is usually no budget, so the only thing I receive in return is the satisfaction of having helped someone trying to break into the entertainment business and perhaps my name in the credits.

And I’m ok with that!

For most of us, at some point in our lives someone gave us a helping hand to get to where we are now, and I like to be able to ‘pay it forward,’ so to speak.  Earlier this year, I did some voicework for a group of Ringling College of Art and Design (Florida) students working on their final project - an animated short - and it was just completed about a month ago.  I thought this might be a good opportunity to follow up on an earlier post I wrote about what spurs us to do what we do, and how we begin our career journey…as well as to get a glimpse of how computer-animated films are made.

Keep in mind, this was not produced by professional animators; it was created entirely by three film students, Adam Campbell, Elizabeth McMahill, and Uri Lotan, looking for their first big break!

When Elizabeth sent me this final version, I couldn’t believe how professional it looked…and sounded!  She and her partners managed to rope in not only me, but also well-known voice actor D.C. Goode (you may not recognize his name, but you’ve heard his voice – trust me!), among others.

I asked Elizabeth to talk a little about the project, to get her perspective as a student filmmaker:

- What made you decide to get into animation? 
I have always loved art and creating.  I had never really animated or done any film work at all before college, just drawing.  I thought about going into Illustration or some other design field but at the time animation was more of a challenge and a mystery.  I had drawn and painted before, but I had never brought a character to life.  I was drawn to animation because it was new and exciting ground, built upon the same foundations of the other visual arts but taking it in entirely different directions.

- What, exactly, was this project?
This was our graduation thesis – the capstone of our four years at Ringling.  It is a requirement that all students in the computer animation major create a short film.  We spend the second half of our junior year in pre-production on our films and then our entire senior year in full production.  Most films are created entirely by one student but Adam, Uri, and I decided to team up for our film.

- How did you & the team come up with the concept for this project?
We came up with the idea of a western town full of pie citizens late one night for a side project.  We had a day off from school and instead of working on homework we decided to use the time to make a 24 hour film, just for fun (we didn’t even come close to finishing it).  The night we got together to plan out the film for the day ahead one of Adam’s residents had given him a pie.  Somehow that turned into us making a bunch of western themed pie puns and jokes.  Months later, when the time came to pitch ideas for our thesis film we pulled out the pie western and reworked it into a full story.

- Goes to show you never know where the next great idea might come from.  So briefly, what was the process you used to put this all together?
That night of us sitting around making jokes and silly drawings was the real birth of the film.  Later in the production of the film we’d get together every so often like before for gag sessions to brainstorm new lines, events, changes to characters, and other ways to make the film better.  In the concept stage we reworked the story, characters, and camera quite a bit through our team meetings, script, storyboards, and ultimate animatic.  Alongside story we worked on development art for the film, exploring the look of the characters and environment.

- And that was just pre-production, so that was your entire junior year.  What did you do after that?
In our senior year came the actual production of the film.  First was modelling our characters, roughing in our sets, and texturing and rigging our characters for movement.  It was during this time too that we set out to find our voice actors so we could lock down our dialogue before we hit animation.  Then came Layout where we create an edit of our film in 3D from the animatic with rough posing and timing of our characters so we can lock down our cameras.  From layout we entered a period of about eight weeks of animation.  Once animation and our edit was pretty locked down we began working with our sound designers and composer.  At this time we finished up building our sets, texturing them, and planned out our lighting.  The last few months of work on the film were spent in lighting the shots, rendering them out, fixing things, and tying up any loose ends that were still hanging around.

- Wow, what a lot of work for a senior project!  Where do you go now with the film?  Is there a future for this project?
The future of this film is to get it in front of people and seen!  That’s really all there is.  We worked on it, had a great time, and now we’re all working on other things.  We’re just trying to share it with the world right now!

- What is your personal career goal?  What would be your ultimate dream job?
I’m always the worst person to ask about explicit goals or role models, because I don’t have them!  My goal really is to make cool things with great people, to constantly be challenged, learn, grow, and make a living doing it.  I’m excited to see where that takes me.  (ED. NOTE:  Adam is now an intern at Pixar, Uri is apprenticing as an animator at Digital Domain’s new Tradition Studios on their first feature film, and Elizabeth is in LA working as an intern at Syyn Labs.)

I want to thank Elizabeth for taking the time to answer my questions; I find it interesting and inspiring to learn how different people work towards their dreams.  And even though she says she doesn’t have them, Elizabeth’s goal to make ‘cool things’ and be ‘constantly challenged’ are good enough goals for me.

Since I spoke to her, this film short has been accepted to the LA Shorts Fest and will also be shown at Siggraph Asia, a huge computer graphics and technology conference to be held in Singapore.  All I can say is good luck and best wishes to the three of them!

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