Sunday, May 31, 2009


So, today, instead of a pack-rat post, I want to write a little bit about … well, writing. Specifically, yesterday’s writing, as a bit of a window into my skull. You see, somebody asked whether I just whip these verses out, or whether I have some of them tucked away somewhere, to pull out for a particular comment—so I thought I’d use yesterday as the example.

None of Yesterday’s verses were planned out in advance. You may recall, I am only just recently back off a hiatus, and I am sort of stretching my writing muscles a bit, not sure of my steps just yet, not quite re-accustomed to this sort of writing. (When I first stopped, I had a bit of a withdrawal period. I could not read the news without hearing a potential verse, but I knew I had to have other priorities. I could not allow myself even to write down the ideas, because I knew myself; I knew that writing down the ideas would never be enough. Best to nip it in the bud.)

I have been looking for topics to write about. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it is chore. I have a few topics I really want to write about, but I need either A) a really good idea for a verse, or B) a lot of free time to crank one out the hard way. I usually (but not always) prefer the former. So yesterday (Saturday) found me reading the newspapers (at the table and online), checking out news sites, mulling over this turn of phrase or that. Then off to Pharyngula, which generally (but not always) has the densest concentration of stuff that I find versible. Ah… the first one I see is “Pinky Swear!”. I would love to write something about this; the whole concept is annoying. I look to the website; not for me. I am reminded of Marx (Groucho, of course): “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” If I act that way, why sign? If I don’t… why sign? But the problem is, none of it comes to me in verse. Move on.

A novel creationist argument” is next. One of the most concentrated veins of stupidity ever mined. Even better? “Drool.” What a great word—it has tons of rhymes (at this point, I am privately going through the alphabet—bool, cool, fool, ghoul, houle, jewel,…), and a good number of synonyms. Serious versical potential. The only delay on the first verse was the kind of school. I started with “graduate school”, but that had a syllable too many. “Grad school” had one too few. Once I had “business”, the verse was done more quickly than I could type it. Next… I knew I wanted “fitness”, which really limited the rhymes; I also decided right about then that I wanted lots of references to drooling—thus, the “mouths agape”. I toyed around with the “sensation” rhyme attached to the “swimming pool” rhyme—it may fit better there, but separating the two allowed two verses, so I cheated. The last verse, I don’t particularly like. I wanted to get a “slobbered” rhyme in, and I was running out of “-ool” rhymes.

10:00 AM –
I knew a girl, in business school,
Of perfect constitution;
Her looks made all the fellas drool--
Refuting Evolution!

Her outfit at the swimming pool
As everyone could witness,
Left mouths agape, and made a fool
Of reproductive fitness!

She gave to every slavering tool
A ticklish, warm sensation
Which they relieved, cos nature's cruel,
In furtive masturbation.

It's God's design, not nature's rule,
When life has left you clobbered;
We know that Darwin wasn't cool--
In fact, I'll bet he slobbered.

Then I go out and weed part of the garden. In the rain. Have some lunch. Plant some herbs (three varieties of basil, and some cilantro—too wet to plant much else). Come back inside, and check Pharyngula.

Damn. I wanted to write about that. It’s the New Hampshire Same-Sex Marriage bill. I wrote “Oh Noes! Teh Sanctity!” about New Hampshire’s civil union law, and it needs updating. Unfortunately, I am experiencing serious writer’s block on this one. Maybe it is too important; I don’t know. I will keep trying.

Oh… damn, again. Cool video. And I missed out on the Friday Cephalopod, which was a cuttlefish, too!

Truth in labeling? Ok, this one is a four-inch putt. See, there are very few words that rhyme with “selves”, and one is “shelves”. (“Elves” did not come into play.) I knew the first and last lines, and the whole thing took not much more time than it took to type it out. (Confession—the vast majority of the things I have written as Cuttlefish are what I would ordinarily consider initial rough drafts. The blog format does not really lend itself to coming back and editing.)

2:03 PM –
If God helps those who help themselves
We might find God on self-help shelves;
We'd take a book, and look inside,
But God's the sort who likes to hide.
In time, one hopes that when we look
We'd find a different sort of book,
Like these we see upon the shelf:
"There is no God, so help yourself."

Go talk with neighbors. Walk the dog. Go to the greenhouse and buy tomato plants (22 plants, 12 varieties). Have supper. Note that entire family is away doing separate things. Get ready to watch some basketball. Watch basketball/drink beer. Somewhere around 9:30, check Pharyngula again.

Another edition of stupid creationist questions.” Bingo. I think maybe three or four comments were up already. So, I start my process somewhere around 9:35, more or less. First verse zips by, but the last line is “since babies are delicious!”, which I intended to rhyme with “nutritious” in V2. “Means-genes” was a natural rhyme for V1, and as soon as I hit on “teens”, the form was decided. I knew I wanted something with “fitness” or “fit” or something like that, so “baby on a spit” suggested itself. I could not use the word “baby” in both verses, so I re-examined L4—I could have used “since toddlers are delicious!”, but “taste like veal” was such a sweet phrase that I had to use it. About now is when I realized that the final line of the poem had to somehow bring in the idea that “fitness” was defined by having healthy babies… or perhaps, by having babies who themselves have babies. So, “babies” as a last word sounded good, which left me with very few options to end V3. The “need-breed” rhyme showed up quickly, and the alphabet search quickly came up with “creed” to finish that verse. I was a bit stumped for a bit, trying to figure out L1-3 for V4, since my structure called for three consecutive rhymes. I know I tried out a few different phrases, none of which panned out, before hitting on “eat”. I think I actually hit on “complete” first, and tracked back to “eat-sweet”. Even then, I was stuck on “babies taste so sweet”, which lacks syllables; “barbecue” was tried and initially rejected, in a different form, because “barbecue” is a noun in the American West, and a verb in the American Northeast, and the first structure did not work in both. (No, I don’t recall what it was.) When I came back to it, I had the structure right, and it stuck. The whole process took just over 15 minutes. Longer than it took to type it, but hey.

9:56 PM –
"Survival of the fittest" means
Regardless of related genes
My kids should never reach their teens
Since toddlers taste like veal.

And I can make myself more fit
(As Darwinists should all admit)
By roasting baby on a spit
For one delicious meal!

Nutritionists all know I need
My protein, if I'm going to breed
It's Evolution's sacred creed--
No ifs, no buts, no maybes!

A healthy mom has got to eat,
And barbecue is oh, so sweet;
Well-fueled, I'm ready to complete
My task of having babies.

I then spent some time ego-surfing, to see if anyone had noted my previous verses. Yeah, I admit it. Shut up. Noticed, to my great surprise and delight, that two more people bought my book. Very cool. Looked at Pharyngula... Saw the Bill Donohue post very early, and thought “no”. Too serious, and too horrendous. The man is beyond contemptible. Thought some more. Tossed around the “mote/beam” bit for a while with no success. I knew I wanted to juxtapose his concern for the true victims, the priests, with the “victims” anointed by the press—the greedy, money-grubbing raped kids. I hit on the notion of BD focusing on the one kid who was not in desperate trouble… and this is what showed up.

11:04 PM –
If just one boy somehow escaped
While all his friends were being raped
Bill Donohue would soon be there
To give the lad his tender care
He'd cater to his every need...

While all around, his playmates bleed.

In truth, it is not an accurate portrayal of BD’s views. But that fits—nothing BD has ever said has been accurate.

All said, I have spent much more time writing this analysis than I spent writing all four verses. I think I’ve touched on all the major points. If anyone is interested, and I did not answer something, just ask. Oh, yeah, and buy my book.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.


Andy said...

Good to see the inner workings.

So, how do you choose the rhythm/beat/meter (whatever you call it in verse)?

Is it dictated by your favourite line or does it just sort of happen somewhere along the way? Or something else?

Cuttlefish said...

Heya, Andy--

I seem to have a favorite, or a few favorites, that I naturally fall into, but even there I find there is quite a bit of choice. Usually, I suppose it just happens; one particular line suggests itself, and that dictates what I look for in other rhymes. Only very rarely do I change meters after working on a verse for a while (I'll decide that anapestic feet just aren't working this time, or some such).

And then, there is the solemnity/frivolity aspect. Tetrameter is less serious than pentameter, and my topics are often on the less-than-serious side, or perhaps an ironic take on a serious topic. For a serious topic, the more serious forms (like a sonnet, perhaps) may be more appropriate. Or even just a single couplet.

Andy said...

Oooh, some technical words (I don't know much about the subject except that I began to like whimsical verse over thirty years ago through the likes of Ogden Nash).

So, off now to look up "tetrameter, etc".