10/23/13

Picture of the past

You
leaning against the door frame,
lackadaisical you
with your half-ass smile,
holding a picture of me as a boy

Back then I was
blue-eyed and sentimental
with half-long hair,
spectacles, a dreamy stare,
I was the soppy dude
everyone made fun of

You
laughing and tearing apart
the picture of me as a boy,
tiny pieces of my past
floating to your feet

And I bend down,
pick them up,
throw them in the dustbin.
Without looking back
to where you're still lingering,
I whisper, "Thank you."

10/11/13

Should we write poems that rhyme? And if yes, why not?

To rhyme or not to rhyme—
that's the question, folks!
I don’t write poems that rhyme. Or let's rather say, I hardly ever do. The main reason is that I find it too hard, too much work. My native language is German, my second language French. I don’t even have the chance to live in an English-speaking country; on the contrary, I guess only Uranus is less anglophile than the country I’ve chosen to live in. You’ll have guessed, I’m talking about France – you know, that small part of the global village that, like its national heroes Asterix and Obelix, tries to resist. In our particular, it’s the use of English as the international means of communicating they try to fight off. Rather skilfully, too – each time I stumble upon yet another translation made by my French clients (they insist, go figure why), I imagine their American or British partners sharing a hearty giggle when they read it. 
So, from the start, writing a poem in English means a bigger effort for me than for those who speak, hear, write, think in English all the time. In order to find the right words that express what I intend to say, I have to rummage through online dictionaries, write down a list of synonyms, speak them out loud to see if they sound right, counter-check them to be sure they hit the exact aspect or concept or image I had in mind. 
Words are tricky for all of us; they can lead us down a wrong path. 
They’re even trickier for non-native speakers. Yet I’d never allow the fact that I'm a non-native speaker to be an excuse for failures or weak parts in my work. 
To keep things short, I don’t do rhymes because they would mean a supplementary effort. They’d be an unnecessary distraction from what I really want to express. More often than not, it’s not me who writes a poem, it’s the poem that demands to be written. I’m not the message, only the messenger, I guess. Spooky but true.
Logically, thus, rhyming is out of my league. I don’t want to compose a satisfying line only to discover that its last word is impossible to rhyme with. Another important point: rules for rhyming are not the same in German and English, so an extra-extra effort would have to be made. In German, you see, only perfect rhymes (“sight-flight”, “madness-sadness”, “reign-gain”, to name but a few) are considered proper rhymes.
If you attempted to rhyme “sea” with “see” or “bent “ with “ant”, or God forbid!, “bough” with “cough”, you’d be sentenced to read Coelho and Derrida and Heidegger until your brain cells turn to jelly!
Many poets, even contemporary ones, like rhymes. Others would out themselves as allergic to rhyme. Which makes me ask whether today, we should still write poems that rhyme or rather not. I’m not talking about me – I do like a good rhyme but are really much too lazy to write it myself, as pointed out.
Some further thoughts. Try as I might, I cannot fight off my linguistic heritage (for instance my reluctance to accept anything but perfect rhymes as rhymes; even alliterations, which I love and which I use quite frequently, do not sound like “rhymes” to my ears) and my cultural upbringing. I’m very Austrian, go beat me. Of course, as an Austrian with a little literacy, I’ve read turn-of-the-19th-century writer Karl Kraus, who has discussed rules for rhymes. He was a mighty strict guy. Now, Kraus stated that rhymes must convey a bigger meaning, something that transcends the pure melody of sound and the simple significance of words.
To rhyme “mother” and “brother” doesn’t add anything to the simple statement of family ties – Kraus would have torn you apart with a witty essay if you had tried to use that pair. “Mother” and “smother”, on the contrary, would be a perfect, almost Freudian match for a poem about a mother-son relationship. Kraus would've been be happy (I guess).
I have to confess that I didn’t grab all the facets and details and subtleties of Kraus’ theory, which he defended almost violently. Yet somehow, I’ve always kept in mind that rhyme, when used as l’art pour l’art, for the mere sake of rhyming, has no value whatsoever. Sometimes, it distracts from the real meaning of a poem, it distorts grammar, it overthrows readable structure.
Worse: more often than not, its goal is to conceal a perfect vacuity of content.
Rhyme has to add something to a poem, another level, another understanding, another je-ne-sais-quoi. My only attempt of writing a poem that rhymes has taken me more than a week (much longer than any of my other poems), has been fun but tedious fun, and its sole purpose was to entertain, to amuse, hence its little literary merits. The rhymes’ purpose was to make people giggle.
Now any comment, new insight, controversy, contradiction, anecdote will be welcome.
Tell us: what do YOU think re. poetry and rhyming? Have you written any poem that rhymes? If no, why not? If yes, would you mind telling us why and how? Would you mind sharing a link to that poem, eventually?

10/7/13

Poetry's dead (a non-promotional promotion read)

"the solid and thoughtful cow"
poetry 2.0 by Dieter Moitzi
available today on amazon
and smashwords
for only US$ 0.99
The metro doors slammed shut with a bang, the train sped out of the station. Xavier found a seat and gazed at his fellow travellers. They were only a sparse Sunday crowd, most of the others looking the part: prim and proper middle-aged, middle class suburbians, some with kids in neatly ironed shirts and blouses and navy-blue trousers or skirts, their shiny hair parted in the middle; most of them probably riding toward a boring Sunday lunch. One old lady wearing her pearls like a shield against the squalid functionality of the metro sat across from him. She was looking outside, her mouth pinched in a way that signalled she had switched to uncommunicative mode. 
Xavier slipped his hand in the breast pocket of his black shirt and took out his mobile. One of his friends had published a poetry collection, and he had promised he’d read the ghastly thing and give an honest feedback. Why anyone still bothered writing poetry and worse: publish it was beyond him. Poetry was dead, wasn’t it? No one read poetry anymore. No serious publisher would publish poetry anymore. 
Why would they, honestly? 
There were simply too little words in a poem, no story, no plot to talk of, not to mention a tedious propensity to dwell on moonlit skies (or as an option, just as horrid: starlit skies) and the green, green, green hills of some uninteresting countryside nobody cared for but the poet. 
With a sigh, Xavier switched on his mobile, chose the Kindle Reader program and opened the file of his friend’s book. His friendship was being tested here, for sure. The cover showed a brown cow that was looking steadily into the camera, half-blurred but for its warm, dark eyes. In the background, Xavier could guess a foggy October-landscape. Again, he man sighed. Did the cover try to tell him something? Alright, it went along with the title “the solid and thoughtful cow”. But what did all this mean? 
Xavier looked out at the station the train had just entered. Unwillingly, he was thinking of his philosophy lessons at the Sorbonne, many many years ago. The professor, a self-described communist Nitzschean who, paradoxically, would only ever wear priceless suede jackets and designer jeans, could talk for hours about his favourite philosopher and rant against those who misunderstood the German genius. Xavier remembered most vividly one lesson where the professor had started a debate about Nietzsche’s most famous phrase that God was dead. With a chuckle, he recalled one of his fellow students, a red-cheeked, plump girl from New Hampshire, who had protested in her shrill voice, searching for words in French. Of course, she hadn’t stood a chance against her teacher, who had had decades to learn how to win any decent argument. Not that the girl had anything serious to hold against him; all she could do was brandish her naïve faith the way a virgin in a B-movie would brandish her cross to ward off a vampire. 
Xavier returned his gaze to his mobile screen. He started to read the first poem and was rather pleasantly surprised. No moon, no stars, but vivid images, a biting bitterness, with a pinch of existential angst. Few words, as he had feared, but each one seemed perfectly in place. At first, he didn’t get the meaning of the conclusion, until he remembered his friend was blogging, too, and had garnished his blog with the photo of a pair of deep blue eyes he had found online. Fitting, Xavier mused. 
He read on. Still no moonlight, still no greenery. Urban scenes, serene and to the point. He was enjoying his read. Finally, without noticing, Xavier had reached his destination. He switched off his mobile, bewildered because he hadn’t realized how long his metro ride had taken. He had been too busy reading and thinking. 
Maybe poetry’s not so bad after all, he thought. Makes you reflect on things, makes you meditate on your grip on the world that surrounds you. That's something we don't take time to do very often, for sure…
But let’s remain realistic, Xavier said to himself as he climbed the stairs toward the exit. My dear friend won’t become rich overnight. It’s just poetry, after all. 


"the solid and thoughtful cow"
poetry 2.0 by Dieter Moitzi
available today on amazon
and smashwords
for only US$ 0.99

10/5/13

What demon drove me to create a website?

A screen capture of my website http://www.ebook-fix.com
Today I’d like to tell you a bit more about my latest project, ebook-fix.com. It’s the main reason why I haven’t been writing as much as I’d have wanted to and why I haven’t been blogging at all. 
I first thought that I might want to work for fellow-writers when, some months ago, one of my writer friends asked me to help her out with the cover design of a book she was about to publish on amazon. I willingly agreed because I’m a graphic designer and because that’s what friends are for in my eyes. What followed was simple and fast: she sent me the image file that needed to be worked on, I did my best to make her happy by doing my job, she liked the result and was happy indeed, I was happy because that’s what you normally are once a job is nicely done. 
So far so good. 
Then, just before summer, I downloaded a book for my Kindle reader. I rather liked the writing and the plot, but what annoyed me was that the Kindle-version of the book was really shoddily made. The text was poorly formatted, I noticed grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, and twice, a sentence was cut off in the middle only to be continued in the next paragraph. I spent more time sighing and rolling my eyes and shaking my head in “No! No! No”-mode than enjoying the book itself. 
Now, having published ebooks on amazon myself, I know how limited you are when it comes to formatting your book for Kindle-readers. It’s a tricky business, too. You strictly follow the Amazon Publishing Guidelines, you think your ebook will be perfect, and when you preview it, there’s a lot of nasty stuff going on. Paragraph indentations disappear (why?), page breaks vanish (why??), spaces between a title and the following text become inexistent (why???), other unwanted spaces appear out of thin air between paragraphs (why oh why?????). 
It’s as if a poltergeist had taken control. I even noticed that things looked fantastic when previewed on my PC and a mess when I opened the file with the Kindle-reader on my iPad. A riddle, a mystery, something that made me want to bang my head against the wall until it bled. Or until a neighbour screamed to make me stop.
So I did some research and some tests. Many tests. Uncounted tests, to be honest. And lo and behold! I found out what is possible and what is not possible, and how to work with this limited array of possibilities to still make a book look really nice, be it on the PC or the iPad or any other contraption. I patted myself on the shoulder and said, “D., that could be a nice thing to propose to my fellow writers out there!” 
That’s how the idea of ebook-fix.com was born. 

What exactly is ebook-fix.com about? 
The site is an online offer for people who want to self-publish their writings in Kindle-format on amazon or as a Word-document on Smashwords. We propose several services at reasonable rates. Whether you want your text to be nicely formatted according to the Amazon Publishing Guidelines, whether you need a graphic designer’s creative input for your book cover, whether you’d like a professional to proofread and edit your manuscript—all this and more is available on our site. You can choose any one of these offers, or two, or even the three of them. We also offer additional services for free, for instance to lend a helping hand with your book launch and book promotion or to give helpful advice for the publishing process. 
I say "we" because I'm not all alone in this. For the moment, we’re three in the team, each with a different professional background and different competences. But there’s a professional for every step of the ebook you’re about to publish, plus it’s an adventure of three very close friends, so it gives us the chance to work together in a domain we all love: literature. 
The longest and hardest stage was to create a nice and neat website that would reflect our philosophy and our characters. Hard and long because I’m a graphic designer who creates mainly printed or printable documents. My knowledge of the digital world, of programming, of creating websites is, well, let's say rather limited. And I have a full-time job that only left me the weekends to work on the project. Write? Read? Go for a walk? Forget it!
But I did find the time and energy to finish a first draft that went online at the end of last August. The feedback was encouraging but we received some less enthusiastic input too, concerning the site layout itself. Which didn’t surprise me because, once the site was finished and online, I didn’t really like it anymore, either. Huh! What a surprise! I guess I’m worse than my worst clients: things have to please me a 200% in order to satisfy me. 
So I worked some more, simplified things, re-did the layout and design to make everything clear and spacy and classy. 
All this to tell you that yes, it's done. I've finished my job, the new version is online now. 
Why don’t you have a look and tell me what you think about it? Why don’t you tell those friends around you whom you know to be dreaming of publishing their books on amazon? We’re open, we’re ready, our rates are really low, we do this for the pleasure of helping writers and of promoting literature and indie-authors all over the world. 
Don’t forget—we created the site for you, so you will make it live and evolve! 

Here's the link: http://www.ebook-fix.com
And you can contact us at contact@ebook-fix.com
 

10/1/13

SAVE THE DATE: New Book Soon Available

Another announcement that fills me with pride and joy: my new poetry collection will be launched next week on Monday 7th october, 2013, on amazon.com and an all local amazon-websites worldwide. 

Once more, it will only be available in Kindle-format. The collection has approx. 101 pages and contains three poems already published in the fantastic "Vine Leaves Literary Journal" plus many others that I haven't been published before, except for some first drafts that I have published and discussed with my friends from the Literature Network Forums.

The book is called "the solid and thoughtful cow" and has been produced by my online service ebook-fix.com. So save the date, dear friends—I'm looking forwards to hearing from you and to having your feedback (both negative & postive, of course)!