January 29, 2007

Going Berserk

I am a lover and a student of language. Reading and writing are to me like Bonnie and Clyde, like peanut butter and jelly, like crime and punishment. I love synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, anagrams and even momanems. Playing with words, lighting linguistic pyrotechnics, teasing out multiple meanings, even ignoring correct punctuation and following the rules to make my diction gooder interests me.

One idea in particular, and it is not particular to just the written word, is the concept of form and function. That a particular passage says what it does, or perhaps more correctly it is what it says. Killing the two proverbial birds. There is perhaps no better example of the successful synthesis of form and function than these lines from Alexander Pope’s An Essay On Criticism. Pope is implicitly talking about form and function

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And smooth the stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax strives some rocks vast weight to throw,
The line too labors, and the words move slow;
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o’er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.

I have often thought that Pope and some of the other poets who specialize in the rhymed couplet would be good source material for some of today’s hip-hop artists. How’s that for a mental picture, Dr. Dre rapping The Rape Of The Lock! Sorry for the digression. I have often explored this concept (form and function) in my own writing and hopefully there are several examples in the excerpt below titled Berserker:

Two boys fishing.
Two hungry boys cast through the mid day shadow of the rusted green foot bridge trying, hoping to lure a perch or two out of the South River. The murky muddied water flows by embracing only a small circle of ripples as their lines dip into the cool depths. The mirror surface is nearly smooth, marred only by the drops of vomit.

The family grilling.
The earth grounded public grill still smokes. Under the canopy of cool leaves a cheap ragged black and red baseball cap on a man with shiny black shoes, thin black socks anchoring pillar stone white legs. Iridescent Bermuda shorts and a too small faded green tee shirt with a cheap neon airbrushed green and yellow heart with their names, that refuses to stay pulled down over his white hairless mole speckled belly that heaves from lungs tainted with asthma and pollen. A yellow tinged woman skinny with breasts that look like golf balls in a sock, chain smoking a pack from the first light. Daughter cutting through the rolling freshly mowed green aiming for the white, brown primer spotted Pinto station wagon in the black lot. Son unruly teetering on the brown bank crumbling seeking destruction. The man tells the woman that he knows that haggard boy there on the bridge. He looks just like someone he used to work with. He cannot remember the name.

Roared like a bear.
The vile spewed into the air as anger and sickness. Vision twirling in royal maddening kaleidoscope purple and gold music. Heavy shirt, changing shape. Lost inside and out. Trapped in time and memory bowing to the gods inside.

Free at last.
The dark flat rock, wrenched from its prison, free from the hand. It arched out over half the river then touched down wetting, skimming free curving up again and down only to rise again and down into an ever descending series of arcs before settling down and through, resting, trapped in the deep bottom.

Out of your depths.
She glides through the slow water smooth and true, instinctively relishing the coolness. Time and again she dives deeper and deeper seeking the coolest place, the coolest water. Ahead she sees it, bright and shiny. Interesting, caught somehow in still motion in the winding water. She goes closer, irresistibly drawn to its strangeness. Suddenly without forethought she reaches. The hook pierces into her lip and she is drawn out and up into the glistening suffocating sunlight.

This selection is the middle section from a much longer narrative. Following the classical five act form, it is an exploration of the same moment in time from multiple points of view, much like cubism in painting.

I chose the title Berserker for several reasons. It is a word and a concept that comes from the Norse culture and I am fascinated by the Vikings. And I just like the way it sounds. The modern word probably comes from the Old Norse words björn (bear) and serkr (shirt). To put on a bear shirt was to become the bear. Berserkers were frenzied warriors believed to be invulnerable in battle. The irony is of course that the boy is anything but invulnerable.

The boy, he would be about 13 or 14 years old, is on a bridge, stuck between being a man and a boy, between reality and hallucination, between life and death. Around him two boys are fishing, a somewhat unusual family is having a cookout and someone is skimming rocks on the river. All disconnected events yet bound together by time and space.

The reader is drawn into the river in the opening paragraph then (hopefully) down into the depths before being unexpectedly yanked out at the end much like the fish. In a sense the reader is the fish, fascinated by the lure.

I know this is a bit different from my usual drivel and if you have read this far thank you for your indulgence. I know I am word geek but I make no apologies. Thanks for reading.


DebD said...

This was lovely. I enjoy the written word but struggle to write well. I hope (think) my blogging is helping in some small way.

November In My Soul said...

Don't sell yourself short,y0 do a wonderful job of writing on your blog. Thank you for your kind remark.

November In My Soul said...

Don't sell yourself short,you do a wonderful job of writing on your blog. Thank you for your kind remark.

King of Peace said...

"she is drawn out and up into the glistening suffocating sunlight"

As are we who read your well-written lines. Thanks for sharing.


Jim said...

It was good to see you at the game yesterday. I hope I didn't freak you out!

I love the words.