Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I'm back after spending the past two weeks on vacation! I didn't want to lose anyone by letting everyone know that I'd be gone for two weeks, so I kept it on the low and thought I would surprise everyone by just logging back on and posting after I got back. Sherry and I went to the Caribbean for ten days and then to North Carolina for another three days. I expected to come home to a warm Maryland, but, man, am I sorely disappointed. It's cold here and, I shouldn't be surprised, rainy!

The Caribbean was great! We went on a cruise to Bermuda, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico, and we enjoyed every bit of our time out. It was a nice time. Bermuda was colder than I wanted, but apparently, the cold front that we were experiencing on the east coast as we left pushed through with us to the upper Caribbean. However, as we made our way south, it warmed up quite nicely. St. Thomas was our favorite stop, and if I could arrange a week there, I'd be very happy.

I was able to ingratiate my artistic senses on the trip. While in St. Maarten, we took an art tour, and I met an artist/poet while there. Here name was Ruby, and she's an island local who is self-taught. We bought a book of her poetry (along with a nice short story) and a couple of her prints. We enjoyed our visit with her. I'll probably focus one of my next posts on her poetry and her ability to tell a good story which is something I think we've lost as a culture for the most part. Every painting she painted, she had a good story to tell, and she captured that story in her art. Her poetry is good too, and I think it captures her life well.

While on St. Thomas, we took an excursion on a Pirate ship and went snorkeling in Honeymoon and Christmas coves. We swam with a green sea turtle and a Ray along with many other colorful fish around the coral reefs. It was a blast! I could do that all day long. By the way, Sherry snorkeled in Bermuda while we took a trip on a catamaran, but I chickened out because the water was just too cold for me there. She saw a few fish, but I think she was disappointed at the location they took us too. It was too choppy for them to take us to their normal place, so they took us somewhere "new." It wasn't as good of a place based upon their responses and Sherry's description of the waters. Plus, everyone who went in froze to death! Not me!

The Caribbean trip was a sans-kids trip where Sherry and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. The kids stayed with our parents (Ian in North Carolina with my parents and Aidan in Maryland with Sherry's parents). They had a blast getting one-on-one attention from their grandparents too, and it was a little vacation for them. When we got back, we picked up Aidan and headed down to North Carolina to get Ian where we stayed for another three days. We had fun down there on Memorial Day by going to the beach and spending the day swimming in the ocean. Ian and Sherry swam for about three hours. Again, I got in up to my waist, but the water was a little cool for me. It'll be bath water there in about four weeks, but for now, it's a little cold. According to Sherry, though, it wasn't as cold as Bermuda. That's funny since Bermuda was due-east of where we were that day and is in the Gulf Stream. I suppose Bermuda's waters must be much warmer now.

I came away from the trip with a little gem. While in St. Thomas, I noticed all the men who were running our snorkeling trip on the Pirate ship were wearing these old coins around their neck. I was immediately interested in what they were. I found out that they were coins that were found in local shipwrecks from the 1600s. Most of the coins went back to Spain, but some were sold to local jewelers who took them and make pendants out of them. I got one and will always wear it around my neck. On the certificate of authenticity, it states that the coin came from a treasure that was found on May 15, 2008, (our 9th anniversary!), from a Spanish ship that sunk in 1648 (Santa Maria). It's a two-bit .999 silver coin that looks every bit of the 300 plus years it has aged under water. It's real cool, and I love it. When you see me next, ask to take a look at it! There's a lot of history in it! Plus I like wearing it!

Well, I could go on and on, but I've got to start getting organized. I have a lot of projects that I have to finish, and I need to start now by getting myself back on a schedule. In addition, I have some new projects that I need to begin, so I'll be busy for a while. I have some very unique writing jobs, and I'm looking forward to working on them. I know that my clients are glad I'm back too, but I have to admit that the time away has refreshed me, and I know my writing will be better as a result. As well, I have a publisher who wants me to write something in my own name, and I want to make time for that too.

I'll be sure to post more frequently from here on out, and I think I have some interesting things to discuss!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night -- Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Read this poem aloud, listen to the musical qualities of the poem, and you will hear what makes Dylan Thomas one of the greatest lyrical poets of the 20th Century. Lyrical poetry is meant to be read aloud, and it is beautiful to listen to when read with emotion. Try it, and I'll bet you'll love the poem.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


What rainy, cool weather we have been having here in Maryland over the past ten days! Every time I turn around, the weatherman is adding another rain-filled day to the ten-day forecast. I'm beginning to think that I live in London! We endured our April showers, and now, when I'm expecting May flowers, I'm getting May showers. I shouldn't complain, and I'm really not. There are places all over the country that are dealing with drought. At least I know that my well won't run dry anytime soon! I would just like a few sunny days every now and then. Perhaps I could cut my grass if that were to happen. As for now, it grows and grows under wet conditions. The miracle in it all, though, is that, where there was brown nothingness two weeks ago, there is now green growth.

I'm still dealing with a bit of an internal drought regarding my play. It seems that I have trouble with my own writing. I think it's funny that I can write without a problem when I'm writing for someone else on subjects that I am really not interested in, yet when I write for myself on subjects that I'm passionate about, I hit major roadblocks. This play is but another of many projects where I've suffered throughout the process.

When I think of this "writing process" and the pain that it sometimes brings, I can't help but think of Dylan Thomas. Dylan Thomas was one of the world's great poets, and he was perhaps the greatest lyric poet of the 20th Century. Welsh by birth, he died in 1953 while touring the United States at the age of 39. Thomas was quite transparent when talking about the writing process. He once stated that he wrote poetry at the rate of about two lines per hour. But slowness at writing did not stop him from going through draft after draft until he found the right words. He was known to have revised some poems up to ninety times before he published them. Talk about pain!

It is painful to write well. There is no doubt. I think that is what separates the great writers from the good ones. Revision and rewriting are the most intense, confusing periods of a writer's life. This is what I'm going through right now with the play. What felt good coming out just didn't work in all spots. Sure, there are good things that I want to keep, but there are many things that need to be re-done. So, back to the drawing board I go to see if I can make the entire play work for me. I know what I want it to be like when I'm finished, and I know where I want it to go, but there are countless directions I could take to achieve the same end. My job is to find out which direction is the best for the play. And to have direction, I need to know where to begin, and that is one of my base problems. The middle never seems to be the issue. It's the beginning and the end that I take issue with. But to get it right, I must re-examine the middle to fit new beginnings and ends each time I try something different. When it's all said and done, it feels like I'll have ninety plays to choose from.

As a former writing instructor, I know that the writing process isn't taught very well to students. We always talk of writing and revision, but revision often said quietly as if it's an evil word. Most students can get through college nowadays without ever having to go through multiple revisions on papers. Most English majors too! No one is so gifted that revisions aren't a fact of life for writers, so why is it that we don't accept this component of the process as we do others? Fifty years ago, it wasn't the case. People understood that they had to work for something in order to benefit from it. They understood that first draft quality wasn't acceptable. Today, that is not the case.

I believe that it is just another reminder that we have become lazy. We don't want to put in the extra work. We don't want to rack our brains with direction and perfection. We want to write and put it out there in rough form, hoping that we have a hit. That doesn't work, and that's why there are few great writers among us who are not over fifty years old. Believe me, I'd love to think that the first draft of my play is acceptable and will be picked up by a Broadway production company. However, as I read through it, I know that it's not. I know that I need to write a line a hundred times in order to get the best line I can get. I know that it's going to take months not weeks.

This is not the same Mark talking now as it was a few years ago. A few years ago, and all the way back to my days in the MFA program, I was arrogant and lazy. I believed that I could write quality stuff without all the work. Well, age and life have taught me differently, and I'm still coming to grips with all of the effort needed to produce something worthy. My poetry still suffers from a lazy mentality. If I were to just accept the work ethic of Thomas, I could perhaps write some fantastic poetry. As it stands, it's just good poetry right now. But should I accept good? I don't think so. Everything I touch should be great, not good. The same with this play, no matter how much it hurts.

The moral that I'm getting to is that art isn't about inspiration and a few minutes of work. Post-modernism tries to teach us that it is. It tries to instill in us that all art is Jackson Pollack and a dripping paintbrush. Well, it isn't, at least in regards to writing. The great poets didn't frolic in the sunlight all day and write for a few minutes at a time. They slaved over their work. The inspiration is the same with all artists, but for poets, and all writers for that matter, inspiration is just the beginning. The work itself is long and intense. What that teaches me is that I need to stick to my inspiration, not give up, and fight through the process. If I do that, then I will have what I've always dreamed of having -- a quality piece that everyone can appreciate on an artistic level.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Yes, Writing can Suck

What do you get when you cross a poet with a play? 157 pages of junk! That's not a joke, folks. That's reality. What's the use in hearing all the good stuff about writers and writing when you don't hear the realities of the writing process? The truth be told, writing sucks at times. And right now, I'm in the throw of one of the sucky times of the writing process.

Nothing seems to be going well with this play. At first, it flowed rich and creamy, and all of a sudden, bam, whammo, shaboom, it grinds to a dead stop, shredding proverbial shards of metal all over the office on its way to the scrap yard. This is when it sucks. When you have an idea that works, and you can't finish it. When you can't even write a complete sentence because everything you write makes no sense at all anymore.

You want to hear all the good things about writing? You want to hear all the great stories of the writers? Well, before you can understand any of that, you need to understand why all the great writers were alcoholics and suicidal maniacs. The writing process is that reason. Writing sucks, and the ones who make it through the black hole of despair deserve the credit they get for sticking to it and making it work.

Right now, though, what I have is 107 of 157 pages of garbage that goes nowhere. But why, you may ask, did I bring the poet into all of this? The poet is the artist in all of us who wants to write, but the poet is only prepared to write a few lines, not a book, not a play... the poet wants to be memorable in as few words as possible, scratching out a few lines that make him the next poet laureate of the US of A. But nothing has prepared him for the ramshackle of confusion that awaits him when he thumbs through the hundreds of lines he has written, all supposedly coming together to a dramatic climax. The good lines read alone are poetic, yet put them together, and one plus one no longer equals two in this world.

So, if you want to know what the writing process entails for works of art, here they are: confusion, doubt, emptiness, mental exhaustion, anger, depression, and fear. That is the writing process, and don't let some writing teacher tell you any different. If it were easy to create something different, something unique, and something meaningful, then everyone would be doing it. But it's not easy, and the poet turned writer evolves by making it through the process and coming out victor -- piecing the shards together and creating something worthwhile. That is the writer.

Now, if you don't mind, I have to get back to my scrap yard.