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Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Ojala pudiera olvidar

Posted by E on October 10, 2008

Here is a song that sums up the desire to purge someone or something out of your system, what it feels like to long for death rather than be haunted by the image of someone who ripped your heart out of your chest. A song about someone who made you feel that you could never write another verse, or live to see another dawn without thinking of her. It is a song about purging yourself from a deep wrenching, unrequited and undeserved loyalty and adoration to a person, to a place, to a feeling that only serves to bring you pain.

When I first heard it this year, it brought back all the bittersweet emotions of my early twenties, when all I thought about was this:
Ojalá pudiera olvidar tu nombre
Ojalá pudiera olvidar cuando yo quisiera
Ojalá pudiera olvidar todas tus promesas
Ojalá pudiera olvidar todo el dolor que tu dejaste

Silvio Rodriguez’s hauntingly beautiful, sad song is all about leaving behind the tragedy and agony of what could have been; it is about letting go of the ghosts, and saying goodbye. It is about reclaiming your soul.

This is pure emotion in poetry. It is stunning and visceral. Listen to it.

Ojalá can be translated either as “I hope” or “hopefully.”)

Ojalá que las hojas no te toquen el cuerpo cuando caigan–
Hopefully the leaves won’t touch your body as they fall
Para que no las puedas convertir en cristal.– so you won’t be able to turn them into crystal

Ojalá que la lluvia deje de ser milagro que baja por tu cuerpo.–
hopefully the rain will cease to be a miracle sliding down your body
Ojalá que la luna pueda salir sin ti.– hopefully the moon will be able to rise without you
Ojalá que la tierra no te bese los pasos.– hopefully the earth won’t kiss your footsteps

Ojalá se te acabe la mirada constante,– hopefully your constant (piercing) gaze will end
La palabra precisa, la sonrisa perfecta.– the precise word, the perfect smile
Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto:– hopefully something will happen that will erase you soon
Una luz cegadora, un disparo de nieve.– a blinding light, a shot of snow
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte,– hopefully, at least death will take me
Para no verte tanto, para no verte siempre– so I won’t see you so much, so I won’t see you forever
En todos los segundos, en todas las visiones:– in every second, in every vision
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones– hopefully I won’t even be able to touch you even in songs
Ojalá que la aurora no de gritos que caigan en mi espalda.– hopefully the dawn’s screams won’t fall upon my back
Ojalá que tu nombre se le olvide a esa voz.– hopefully that voice (the dawn’s) will forget your name
Ojalá las paredes no retengan tu ruido de camino cansado.–
hopefully the walls won’t echo the sound of your tired footsteps
Ojalá que el deseo se vaya tras de ti,– hopefully my desire will follow you
A tu viejo gobierno de difuntos y flores.– to your old rule of the dead and flowers

Ojalá se te acabe la mirada constante,– Rep.
La palabra precisa, la sonrisa perfecta.
Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto:
Una luz cegadora, un disparo de nieve.
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte,
Para no verte tanto, para no verte siempre
En todos los segundos, en todas las visiones:
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones

Ojalá pase algo que te borre de pronto:– Rep.
Una luz cegadora, un disparo de nieve.
Ojalá por lo menos que me lleve la muerte,
Para no verte tanto, para no verte siempre
En todos los segundos, en todas las visiones:
Ojalá que no pueda tocarte ni en canciones.

Posted in music, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The sadistic psychosis of writing a book

Posted by E on December 9, 2007


Last night a friend from California emailed and asked what others have wondered as well: how is the Nanowrimo-challenge book doing? I thought I would paste partions of my response to her, in the hope that it would kill several birds with the same stone.

The marathon novel has been gathering dust since precisely november 20th… I had reached 50,000+ words but had to call it short since we were hosting a friend of mine from Spain and I cannot multitask – be a host and a writer, which is strange since she’s a writer herself, but alas! nothing more written since.

I estimate there is still about half a book to write, and then have to get onto cleaning it up for a 2nd draft. Which will be so difficult since I am convinced that it is utter crap. But I’ve been warned not to dismiss it as complete crap until at least the 2nd draft is finished….

A factor that has impeded my writing for the last years is my reluctance to read….I get so frustrated when I read good books and feel that I can never get a manuscript to that polished point…of course this is all a chicken before egg sort of thing, since good books are never written by people who don’t read. Therefore I am perfectly aware that I need to read before I can write anything decent, so herein lies my conflict. I hate reading anymore, though I am surrounded by books.

But having my friend Sofia here for so long has changed some things, and I feel that her arrival was an impetus for me to take up writing again, and not in a lackluster, lackadaisical way but seriously. I mean to get something done and published over the next year. And for the first time ever, I have ventured out into a gay writers’ group here in Toronto, though I am still too terrified to read in public. But I know I have to get there too, because everybody knows that half of being a writer is the ability to posture and sprew bullshit on a stage.

So, if and when the crappy novel gets to 2nd draft, I will be sure to let all my creative friends in on the misery of having to suffer through it. I have stumbled across a quote I am now particularly fond of, written by Nabokov of perverse Lolita fame: “Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It’s like passing around samples of sputum.”

The biggest issue I have come across is that of too much creativity: since I’ve been suffocating under a big load of blockage, now that the door is open, there are too many voices trying to shove through the door, not allowing one another polite access, kind of like trying to get in and out of the subway in Seoul, that nobody can get through intact. During my nano month, there were 2-3 other novels that were trying to break through. I kept notes on one of them, but there was constant conflict. I find I stumble across my most brilliant ideas when I am obligated to do something else. It may be a masochistic trend most writers share, I think, since others I’ve mentioned this to also concurred.

I don’t think I’ve ever been a writer before now, or I deluded myself. What I was, was a poet; but being a bard is such a different thing from a novelist. Writing non-fiction is also so vastly different. Only now am I entering the schizophrenic playground of a fiction writer. There are so many observations I have noted as the process unfolds. I become characters, entering their realm and seeing everything as though I was there, like a virtual movie going on parallel to my everyday life, and I feel pulled in both directions since both realms have the same weight of reality inside my mind.

I am glad to have a month to come up for air; when I am inside a book, it feels like I am scuba-diving into another world, and both the process of submerging and resurfacing are somewhat traumatic. I believe I am the type of writer who works best in strong, intense spurts – I cannot imagine how some people can take years to complete a book. They must go insane after that much time. Kind of like mathematicians who apply their brains to the numbers for so long that they eventually just go mad. Like those guys in A Beautiful Mind and Proof – utterly, droolingly, electric-shockingly insane.

As it is, once I am inside that parallel reality, I don’t want to do anything but live it through – I don’t go out, don’t cook, don’t clean, don’t do anything but live it out in real-time. It may be a bit drastic, but it’s the only way I can do this. I barely eat and barely talk to others. I live on coffee, wine gums and gummy worms, anything I can reach with one hand while I furiously pound at my keyboard with the other.

I would love to reenter the book right now and process it through to the end of a first draft, but the situation of the moment does not allow the insanity to return, at least not for the next month. I will be travelling to Cuba soon, and then moving into a new home after I return. The insanity will have to wait until February.

Not that I haven’t manifested my psychosis in other ways: though I am about to fly to Cuba, I am terrified of flying, and at this point I am less concerned about a wonderful sunny beach vacation than the prospect of crashing on takeoff or landing. Of course, about a week or so ago the sadist in me compelled me to watch a marathon of Mayday shows: six hours of gory, no-survivor, all hope lost reenactments of various plane crashes.

That’s being a writer for you. 🙂

Posted in lesbian, life, literature, nanowrimo, poetry, publishing, writer, writing | 1 Comment »

You’re not a REAL writer if you self-publish or blog

Posted by E on April 23, 2007

Today I ran into yet ANOTHER website where someone poo-poos self-publishing. You know those kinds of people.

Does this sound familiar?
1) self-publishing will never benefit you or get your foot in the door to an “established” publishing house
2) you’re NOT a writer if you write blogs
3) even if you buy a marketing plan with a POD, you won’t sell a single copy of your book on Amazon anyway
4) self-publication will always carry a “stigma” as crap churned out by “vanity” presses
5) you’re a loser for wasting your time and money
6) you’re better off attending expensive conventions and workshops (ran by them, of course)
7) if you REALLY want to know the SECRETS of becoming a successful writer, buy my book / seminar / online course.

It’s all bullshit. Don’t fall for their elitist, superior attitude. And most certainly do NOT buy their book / online course / “professional” advice.

These people are scammers who make their money on the backs of people they seek to intimidate. To scare you into NOT publishing. They are nothing.

Before you feel discouraged by all those nameless faces out there (you know who you are if you are reading this) who say that you are NOT a writer, or that blogging is NOT a form of writing, and you can’t POSSIBLY have any hope of becoming successful unless you get published by a traditional press, ASK YOURSELF THIS:

1. How many of those assholes are really well-known anyway? I mean, are they coffee-table names? Go to the corner and ask someone waiting for the bus “Hey, have you heard of Ms. XYZ?” I bet they haven’t.

2. Is the person saying this conveying an act of superiority, as in “I am better than you because I can spell better and I had a poem published in a magazine once”?

3. Is this person trying to peddle their own material on how YOU can be successful as a writer? That’s a RED FLAG, folks. Kinda like setting up a room at the Holiday Inn and running a workshop on the Secrets of Becoming Rich Fast and making lots and lots of money – but pay me $500 to teach you. Guess who’s becoming rich fast? Not you.

4. THE SECRET: The only, ONLY way to become a writer – drum roll – is to WRITE. You must read lots and write lots. That’s it. Now give me $25.


1. My former Creative Writing professor, with whom I still keep in touch, recently handed me a list of critics and book reviewers. Now I just have to forward everyone a copy of my book and take it from there. They are the same guys who review conventionally-published books.

2. For about $100, I can get my book on Amazon, Ingram, and Barnes&Noble – using a distribution/marketing package available on sites like And hey, look – I didn’t charge you money for the information 🙂

3. I have friends in several different countries. I can get them to plug my book and distribute it there, thereby increasing my distribution levels

And lastly, the SECRET of getting into “conventional” publishing:

4. If your book is well-written, interesting, and you can generate enough publicity for it, it WILL sell.
5. If you keep track of your sales and can prove that your book has “caught on” and sold say, a thousand copies, rest assured that you will get picked up by a conventional publishing house.

The simple reality – the whole publishing industry is just that, an industry. It’s all about money. If they think your book will sell, that there is demand for it, they WILL pick it up. End of story. I know people for whom this has actually happened.

Several months ago the vice-president of a very popular, top POD company was in town and I, along with a couple of other Canadian writers, met him over dinner. It was very interesting to find out that several of their top 10 POD-published people were being solicited by actual agents and publishing houses. Yes, it DOES happen! Don’t let others tell you it doesn’t happen because they are lying.

All of us writers and bloggers are at the mercy of publishers and editors who would rather drive talent into the ground than allow the freedom of diversity to take over literature as we know it. Guess what? They won’t succeed.

We are the way of the future. Just last week, a video podcast was offered a 6-figure publishing deal. Podcasts and blogs are being bought up right and center. Be a part of the future. Change the world, one book at a time.

Whether you believe that you can, or whether you believe you can’t – you’re right.

Take charge of your success – starting today. Start a revolution.

Posted in activism, art, books, censorship, commentary, literature, poetry, print-on-demand, publishing, writer, writing | 7 Comments »

Expats, Writers, Degenerates and other Rarities

Posted by E on April 18, 2007

with-korean-students.jpgKorea, 2001

Sitting here a full six months after publishing my first book, I can’t help but reflect on my progression into a pool of mental stagnation.

From the euphoric high of finally holding in my hands a complete book and brimming with excitement over the next project – “Now that this is done, look how easy it can be! Let’s do it again! Now!”, to being torn at having to choose between different projects, and finally burning out inside my ideas while barely touching the keyboard. And so lately I have been revisiting much of my time as an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea. Life was chaotic, full of stresses and joys that entwined into a symbiotic landscape inside my head, and out of that emerged the most fierce independence I have ever experienced.

I hardly put a pen to paper then, and the temporary act of relinquishing my masochistic need to create, that painful expulsion of memory into creative form, was blissful. I could feel “normal”, no longer propelled to stand apart from others, imbibed with my own secret stories. There was nothing to me but my suitcase and my resume. There was power in this hollowness of spirit. Albeit for a short while in the context of my life, I was free of the compulsion to create anything.

Within that hollowness there were many other life forms, all drawn to the East because, paradoxically for a place where so many natives are fiercely inhibited, it was the land of the unrestrained. I met teachers there who were drunks, expelled from their jobs back in the US and Canada, most who had no certifications whatsoever save for an online degree in TESOL that can be purchased with $400. Korean private language academies were so desperate for teachers they took anyone whose passport photograph conveyed as Caucasian and under 40. A sad but true fact. I was given return flight tickets, a very generous salary, and my own bachelor apartment.

That was the time for people of my generation to escape their student loans, minimal wage jobs and lack of respect – by taking the first offer from an Asian school who afforded you the title of honorable teacher. And yet while there, while seeking solidarity from others, I found myself in a minority of expats – I did not drink, smoke nor use occasional drugs, and well, just about everyone did just about everything. The attraction for male teachers was hooking up with pretty Korean girls. There were lots of them to fit the demand, very skinny and superficial girls who were drawn toward “Meegook” American boyfriends and preferably more than a couple.

And then there were the teachers who had other intentions, who were there simply for the children. I could see it by the void in their eyes and by their sheer inability to converse with other adults; these were people who would never hold a job back home. Eventually they would be fired in Korea, and drift along, from school to school, working without a legal visa, until they simply disappeared.

The appeal for social rejects and pedophiles to just disappear from their home towns, to be handed a flight ticket and a free apartment in a foreign country where children are so much more accessible, can be irresistible to that type of individual. It’s just too easy.

Although I may get some flack for this, I do believe there are more degenerate expat teachers with transparent “degrees” than there are genuine ones.

Asia is a haven for transient backpackers looking for quick cash and young grads who have a hard time finding employment after graduation. Standards for hiring are abysmally low – you only have to look presentable in a photo and speak English with no accent – not that the latter criteria is easily enforceable: I worked for an entire year with a French Canadian guy who could barely be understood by the foreign teachers. But he was nice-looking with blue eyes and was interviewed over the phone by a director with almost no English conversational ability.

During the time I was employed at my school in Seoul, out of seven foreign teachers, four were regular drug abusers who liked to chase their pot down with hard liquor. When Steve and Andy, two New York-based teachers, took their week-long holiday together in Vietnam and Thailand, they returned with a sizeable amount of marijuana and hashish. As they got high in their apartment, they laughed and shared how they managed to pull off such a feat – part of the stash had been smuggled in Steve’s rectum.

Aside from the “good” times, there were many things I disliked about my stint in Korea, but there was nothing I hated more, more than the crowding and shoving on the subways, more than the spitting and the open stares from ugly men, and that was the expats.

But as I sit here reflecting on my year and a half in South Korea, I am reminded of another type I met abroad. There were not many of them around, but the few who did come were wonderful, inspiring individuals who genuinely wanted to make the most of their experience. They loved the children and were warm with all the students, young and old, who entered their classrooms.

me in Koreaat a Korean festival in Inchon

I came across people like that at expat community groups who met in pubs and restaurants across Seoul. There were lots of gay people there too, and one of the groups I’d joined was Seoul Sisters, a network made up of lesbian Korean adoptees who had returned to explore the land of their birth, and Western women who were either teachers like myself or stationed at the US army base.

I met creative people who were artists, writers, photographers and far beyond such definitions, and had transformed their lives and experiences into art. Such individuals humbled me; they had the strength to be themselves entirely, to drop the interchangeable masks that most people hold up in front of their genuine selves.

During the times I was desperate and wanted to do the “midnight run” back home, I would go on the internet and read the personal accounts of others who were in my place. Isolated in Korea, sometimes the only places we could interact was through the internet. Some isolated teachers had their own blogs or contributed to message boards such as Dave’s ESL café, where just about every ESL-teaching expat eventually makes a stopover. Even after returning back to Canada, I continued to read the accounts of likeminded spirits, people who were not deterred, either by site monitors or the pressure of other teachers and bosses, from speaking truthfully about their experiences.

One individual in particular made potentially the biggest contribution to the Korea ESL experience, by keeping up a significant blog and writing a book titled Island of Fantasy that became published through Lulu, the same press I used for my own material. His experiences paralleled my own to such degree that I often felt as though in some way I knew him. Indeed, I could easily have ran into him since we were in Korea at the same time and frequented some of the same places.

Shawn Matthews was a brilliant writer, full of humour and sarcastic wit to satisfy even the most jaded of readers. When I finished reading his book I must admit to feeling somewhat jealous – he had beaten me to the punch line, he’d written the book I intended to write. He was around my age, and there he went, putting out a memoir that took words and experiences right out of my mouth.

Over the last year I thought of his book as I put together the final draft of my own manuscript. Although what I was writing was on an altogether different subject, I derived some inspiration from his adventures, and was very satisfied with myself after I finally published my own book.

So this brings me back to a few months ago, when I was trying hard to tear myself away from the writer’s block that had enclosed my new project. Suddenly, it occurred to me to look back on Shawn’s blog for some satirical inspiration. But as I looked it up on the net, I quickly discovered that it had disappeared. The blog was gone! What had happened to it?

I googled Shawn’s name and to my shock, found out that Shawn had killed himself a month before. This person I had not met but had become synonymous with my own Korean experience, with my own desire to be a successful writer, had taken his life by leaping off the roof of his apartment building in Beijing, China. He had been teaching in China over the last year and apparently over the later months became constantly jeered and harassed over the internet by other teachers who disliked his opinions. They had gone so far as actually call him a pedophile on some chat boards, which could impact his teaching career. This turn of events, coupled with his state of depression over a girlfriend and perhaps other personal matters, made him snap. So on May 23, 2006, this young man could not take it anymore and committed suicide.

My effort to process his death was surreal. It was a tragedy that so much potential be lost, be thrown away like that. And as I found myself crying for someone who had been so alike myself, I was suddenly given the lesson of worth. On a deeper, more significant level, this realization snapped inside my body like an chord, resonating louder, reverberating though my being. I was outside my own self, looking at this other person who was beautiful and talented and did not value his own life enough to preserve its magic. A young man who had everything going for him – his youth, his health, and a brilliant mind. All gone in an instant.
For the first time in my entire life, the message finally sank in. In the past I had come so close to being where Shawn was, to throwing away all the good I had but did not see it right in front of me.

And the other thing I did not see until recently: the very act of not writing, of not fulfilling my potential, as an act of defiance against my spirit. As a lashing out against my own sense of self-worth. For every day I do not create, I tear another page out of the manuscript of my own fulfillment.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s words never had more weight than today – When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.

Posted in books, china, commentary, culture, death, ESL, expat, korea, lesbian, life, poetry, suicide, teacher, thoughts, writer, writing | 4 Comments »

Video podcast becomes 6-figure Book Deal

Posted by E on April 16, 2007

Here’s a tidbit for all of you who still think stale old conventional publishing is the one-and-only, tried-and-true way to go:A recent quote from Publishers Marketplace:

“Internet sensation (and recent winner of the YouTube Video Award for Best Series based on viewer voting) creators Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols’s THE NINJA HANDBOOK: A Guide for Non-Ninjas To Become More Ninja-like, claiming to be the first “video podcast to book” deal, to Julian Pavia at Crown, for six figures, at auction, by Joe Veltre of Artists Literary Group (NA). Ask a Ninja is represented by UTA and manager John Elliott at Mosiac Media.”

Indeed. There are thousands of people every year, from online bloggers to video podcasters, to unwashed-in-their-parents’-basement-nerd-geeks who operate fan-driven websites, who are offered hundreds of thousands of dollars, some millions, in publishing and take-over deals.

The young guys who created YouTube, the other people who started Television without Pity, and so many others on the web, have been bought out in multiple million-dollar deals by major corporations.  There are online bloggers with a bigger fanbase than most Canadian writers today. Publishers come to them, and not the other way around.

Wake up and smell the possibilities, people! A new world is on the horizon. If you want to wait around for a publisher to call you – guess what? He won’t. He’ll be too busy having lunch with me discussing my new book tour. He’ll be too busy calling up people who have a track record of generating their own publicity and their own success. 

There are countless possibilities to begin making a name for yourself, the very least of which involves peddling your manuscript inconsolably while doors are getting slammed in your face. You don’t need to kiss a publisher’s ass any longer.  

YOU are your own agent.

Get busy. Start today. 

Posted in art, books, canadian literature, commentary, literature, media, news, poetry, politics, print-on-demand, publishing, technology, thoughts, writing | 1 Comment »