Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.


March 2015

He plays the guitar.

There’s a guy I know named Maxfield Martin. Just met him. He’s in his 80s. Plays the guitar. But not just any guitar, the steel guitar. You know, the kind that sits on a stand horizontally across the lap. A steel slide in the left hand, picking the strings with the right.

Anybody remember Roscoe Swerps? That’s what he played way back when. Sad country songs.

But not Maxfield Martin. Man, that guy can play. I mean, yeah, he can make that guitar cry, but he can flat-out tear it up with screaming foot-stomping rockabilly phosphorescent bluegrass.

Maxfield Martin told me a story.

I’ll share it with you some day soon.

A Walk to the Pier (updated)

This is the next installment of my poetry jag. This was written as a reflection of family trips to the beach. I don’t expect everyone to fully connect, though there might be some resonance for those with similar experiences.  I used InDesign to incorporate photos with the text, but couldn’t figure out how to cleanly post the finished document.  I decided on the Portable Document Format, aka as the PDF.  And to see the post requires one more click.  We ask that you please bear with us.

A Walk to the Pier

Do you hear voices?

Writers (and writing advisors) like to talk about voice.

“You must find your voice,” they say.

I hear it so often that it must be true.  I can think of a couple of authors that have an identifiable voice.  Cormac McCarthy. Kurt Vonnegut. I might be able to identify their writing in a random setting. I just looked up and down my bookcase to see if anybody else jumped out at me. Lots of good storytelling on those shelves, but not necessarily a strong authorial voice.

Here’s another spin on the idea of voice that might be more important than the author’s voice – the characters’ voices. In the hands of a good writer, the characters in the story will all sound a little different.  And I’m not talking about exaggerated regional (hillbilly/southern/yankee) dialect.  I’m not a fan of dropping (droppin’) the g off words or having your character say bar when, in fact, it’s a bear chasing him.  It’s more subtle than that.

It’s in the pacing.  Some people speak slowly, in measured words.  Others are rapid fire pontificators.  Some use certain words and phrases, you know what I mean?  Some are loud, others are low talkers.

Stephen King’s short story, A Death, which was just published in the New Yorker, illustrates this principle.  (Although the story is not in his horror genre, it does have a couple of graphic scenes that might spoil your appetite.  Don’t read it before eating.)  Pay particular attention to the character Trusdale.  You can literally (not literally, but almost) hear his voice. Same with Sheriff Barclay.  We hear the characters, not Stephen King.

Here’s the story.  Enjoy.

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