Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creators: Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye, Spoken Wordsmiths

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creators are Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye:

Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye performing.

It was late at night and I was out cruising the highways and byways of the world wide web. I came across these two spoken wordists. Liked them a lot. And wanted to share their creative storytelling with you.

It only goes to show you what you can find when you are not looking.

Fermenting

One of my favorite words is fermenting. It’s such a fine word. Letting something sit on the brain and allowing the subconscious to work on it. That’s fermenting for you. I get a line like: “I am a horse, have always been a horse, would always be a horse. Until the witch turned me into a boy.”

The first thing that happens: I am startled. Where did a line like that come from? I don’t know but I am ready to follow wherever it leads. Whatever dance it chooses to perform.

Now some may think I should whip it into shape, make it become what my little pea-sized brain wants.

But that’s not the way of the tao, as Laotse let us know over twenty-five centuries ago. I let it go fermenting. I stick it in the back of my mind, check in every so often. Used to think I was the only one who did this. Then I heard the playwright Edward Albee talk. He said that he will get an idea, stick it away to allow the subconscious to work on it. Check in six months later and see where the idea has flown. Then back into the subconscious again. He does this over a two-year period. Eventually it is full-grown, and a work of art.

After a bit of fermenting, I pull it out for the old look-see. Just so you know, a bit may be six months, sometimes shorter, sometimes more. Nope, it’s not ripened and back into the old subby-conscious it goes, tucked away in the cool, dark places where it gets a chance to grow healthy. From time to time, I pull it out for some nourishment.

Once the idea is ready for the garden, I take it out into the warm sunlight of consciousness. Water it some. Feed it some plant food. And off it sprouts. Soon I have a full-blown work.

It takes a lot of patience for fermenting. It is well worth the time I give it. Look at what it did for Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen. What a lot of writers blame on writer’s block, I call fermenting, giving a work time to sprout muscles and spread its roots.

So be patient. Do some fermenting.

Do you have a favorite word?

2016, the year that was

Well, it’s another year flushed away. Lots and lots of excitement has been going on here at Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such. Uncle Bardie passed the 300th post.

Sundays continue to be a free-for-all with such insightful pieces as “The Beast That Ate America”, “The Neighborhood Lawn War” and “15 Reasons Why Uncle Bardie Is Old School”.

Early in 2015, Uncle Bardie began a series on creativity and creative artists each Friday. It was to encourage the Readers to find the creative gene in themselves. Mondays became movie day. Friday’s Creator Corner and Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week continues in 2016.

“Uncle Bardie Does ‘Hamlet'” replaced the Story Pompt posts on Wednesdays. Hamlet winds itself into 2016. Uncle Bardie has had a ball, reading between the Hamletian lines, calling attention to those items that inquiring minds want to know. Answering questions like: When does Hamlet do laundry? Sometime in March or April, the Hamlet series should be coming to an end.

It will be replaced by a weekly satire called “Politics in America”. Politicians and their ilk will get the full Uncle Bardie treatment, and in technicolor no less. That should be a hoot. It’s all here to entertain Uncle Bardie’s noble gang of happy followers.

I know there’s a lot of pressure to post a list of best posts for the year. Since all of Uncle Bardie’s posts are the best, I can’t choose just one. That would be like picking out one child over another. I might have a favorite but I don’t want to hurt all the other posts’ feelings. After all, how would you feel if you were left out?

So Happy New Year. 2016 is gonna be something else. May each of ye have a safe and hearty New Year’s Eve and wake up on the other side, ready for a myriad of possibilities.

I do have a question for my readers. In the past, all my post have been 2000 words or less. Except for one story. It is my intention to continue that tradition. However, occasionally I would like to post a long story of 5000 words or less. I would not post more than one every three months or so. And I would most likely post it on Sunday. Currently I have a story that I culled from my novel called “Patsy Finds Love”. Would you, my Readers, be interested in reading a longer piece of fiction?

Why I do lyrics

Some people quilt. Some crochet. Some play cards. Some play music. Some build things. Some solve puzzles. Some take up gardening. My stepfather rebuilt grandfather clocks. Or if you’re my former neighbor, you wash your car and spiff it up. Me, I write lyrics.

I’m talking hobbies, of course. We don’t do it for the cash although occasionally someone is able to turn their hobby into a profit-making venture. No, we do it for the pleasure of it. We know it will never pay for itself but we do it just the same.

Now where I came by this desire to write lyrics I will never know. There is no songwriter in my family that I know of. Yet I’ve been writing lyrics and poetry all my life. At least as far back as to the time I was nine when I wrote my first poem, “Chewing Green Corn”. Even now I look back on that three-stanzaed sucker and wonder what made me do it.

It was a long time gone before I could create anything that I would call a decent lyric. One that was worth showing anybody and calling it mine. Mostly it was about love or the longing for love, the rhyming of moon and June. Liking Rod McKuen in those days did not make me better at the craft of creating a good lyric. In fact, I found myself picking up many of his bad habits.

Then, sometime in the seventies, I began to write lyrics about things other than love. My God, hearing “Feelings” for the five millionth time would cure anybody of that habit. Somewhere along the way I learned I could write humorous lyrics as well as the other stuff.

Once I get that opening line it’s just a matter of gardening. I start planting roses and pretty soon I have tulips. Then I’m in there doing some weeding and out goes the inessentials. Along the way occasionally I get lucky and come up with a line I really like. Like the one from “Shoes Done Me In”, “Separate closets and shoes get lost.”

Now you know why I am partial to certain musicians like Mark Knopfler, Ellis Paul, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, Dan Fogleberg, Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Cole Porter and Bernie Taupin. There’s nothing like a good lyric to get my attention. When I hear one, I am surprised and in awe of the talent that created it. I always feel like I’ve learned something new. It may be a phrase or a way of saying something that I had never heard before or a feeling that was imparted through those words.

As I say, it’s just a hobby. No reward but the sheer magic and pleasure of birthing something that never existed before. Guess I’ll keep doing it. Who knows. I might win the lottery and hire Ellis Paul to write some music for one of my little ditties. You never know.

Do you have some kind of hobby?

In Praise of Prompts

What is a prompt? It is a trigger to get the subconscious boogying. Prompts come in all sorts and varieties. For the creative person, they can be very useful.

Food, that piece of broccoli lying on your plate, may remind you of a teacher you remember fondly. He was a wonderful teacher. You haven’t seen him for years and you’re wondering what happened to him. He had a kind face, an interesting face. He was a vegetarian with a fondness for broccoli. You haven’t thought of that man in twenty years. Over the next few days your mind keeps returning to that stalk of broccoli, how similar it was to your teacher’s face. Your mind just won’t let go of that teacher. Then it hits you. You decide to paint a portrait of that face. And you are off on a new adventure, rediscovering the face that lunched on a thousand stalks of broccoli. The painting you finally complete may be of the teacher as a husband or father, as an old man or a young man. That trigger, of broccoli, made you explore the many facets of that man’s life.

One day you are leaving school and you see a penny dropped onto the concrete. You reach down and pick it up. For some reason, you accidentally drop it again. It makes a sound. An interesting sound that causes you to go hmmmm. You drop it again and there’s that sound. You bounce that penny against the brick wall next to you. The sound is different. Pretty soon you are dropping all sorts of change onto the concrete and the dirt or against the brick wall. You are listening, listening hard. This activity is becoming all consuming. You spend hour after hour dropping things, not just change, but pots and pans, wallets and knives. You are falling in love with the sounds. Before you know it, you sit at the piano, trying to reproduce those sounds. Within a short period of time, you have a completed piece of music. All because of one little penny you found in the parking lot.

You are a scientist and you have been working on a problem for twenty years. It’s had you stumped. You are at a party and someone hands you a glass of wine. You accidentally drop a crumb into the wine. You start to drink the wine. You go to sip the wine. You notice that crumb staring back at you. Hmmm. You sit the glass onto the table, then you drop another crumb into the wine. They are close together. Looks like those two crumbs like each other. Looks like they may even want to date. You take your finger and stir the wine. Now they are across the glass from each other. You stir again. Now it looks like they are near, but not so near that they are waltzing. Again and again you stir the wine, fascinated by those crumbs in that glass of wine. You go to the lab the next morning and reproduce the experience from the night before. Bells and whistles go off inside your head. It’s the answer to your twenty-year quest thanks to that prompt of a crumb in a glass of wine.

You observe a grasshopper on a leaf. You watch him for a few minutes. He leaps to another leaf. He spends a few minutes there and you shoo him off. He is not a quitter. He goes to another leaf, and then another, and then another. It’s a dance and you are the choreographer. It hits you what a perfect dance nature can present. You start observing squirrels scampering in their quest for nuts. You watch your cat jump high in the air, your dog go catch. Before you know it, you have choreographed a complete new dance all because of that grasshopper.

Prompts, triggers can be very useful to a writer. They help the subconscious come up with new lines of poetry, new dialogue, new characters. Say you have a heavy case of writer’s block. You’ve been trying for months to shake it off. It just won’t quit. You set your writing aside. You are just not going to try anymore. You turn on a piece of Beethoven’s music. Perhaps “Fur Elise” or “The Emperor’s Concerto”. You sit there totally absorbed in the wonder of that music. Or you find yourself looking through some old postcards from the early part of the twentieth century, or you are reading a novel you have read at least thirty times. One line jumps out at you and knocks your subconscious on its rump. Suddenly you are writing, not just for a few minutes but for hours.

Sometimes when I don’t know where to begin a chapter or a blog or a story, I pull out a book of photographs. I start looking deeply at one of them, letting my mind explore that time and that place. There are other times I will be watching a movie and I get the answer to a problem that I had been trying to solve in a story. Or I read a line of prose, like this one from A Moveable Feast: “And then there was the bad weather.” It starts me on a whole new journey with a character or a story, detouring me from what I thought might be the plot. It may start me me off on a new story or a new poem.

We are lucky. Writers have so many choices when it comes to prompts. It may be a woman in a restaurant, a man in a nursing home, a blanket with a strange pattern, the cover of a book, a stack of dirty laundry, a neighbor’s cat, the words from a dream, a postcard. You name it. Anything can prompt our subconscious with inspiration.

So be brave and trust. You never know where that subconscious of yours will lead.

What is your favorite kind of prompt?