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Archive for the ‘Monologues’ Category

Humanity is on the receiving end of a good deal of vitriol and abuse these days.

Fundamentalists of all stripes yearn for Armageddon, a “great cleansing”, a final accounting that will separate the sinners from the righteous, the forsaken from the saved. Whacked out environmentalists and New Agers look forward with gleeful anticipation to the upheaval and destruction that, according to the Mayan calendar, are due to wreak havoc on great tracts of the planet on or about December 21st, 2012. Weird. Please note: these folks are usually separated by huge, yawning gulfs in terms of their philosophy/ideology and yet here they are pining for the same thing: the wholescale destruction of vast populations of their fellow human beings.

It will start in the Middle East. Ancient scores settled with modern day technology. The Holy Land rendered uninhabitable, reprisals that envelop the world.

Or maybe a dirty bomb in Manhattan.

A meteor from outer space.

Alien invasion…

Everyone in agreement that mankind is doomed…and deserving of every rotten thing about to happen to us. A pox on our heads!

I find this kind of thinking hateful, a self-loathing pathological in its pure virulence. Both sides are also seemingly allied by their belief in “original sin”—homo sapiens are vile and depraved from birth (and maybe before). We are beyond redemption (most of us) and should pay the ultimate price for rejecting the presence of a higher power (God or Gaia; it amounts to the same thing, right?).

Our crimes against the environment condemn us, no question. We have stripped and burnt and undermined and defaced a substantial segment of our natural world. Our voracious appetites, rampant consumerism and selfishness have also directly contributed to a disproportionate amount of suffering inflicted on the majority of our planetary brothers and sisters. We possess every creature comfort and it is entirely at their expense. There’s a First World because there’s a Third World.

Hey, I get all that.

But I also know that we walked on the moon. Sent down a paper-thin craft, guided by a computer that was little more than a glorified pocket calculator. Got Armstrong and Aldrin to the surface, then brought them back alive.  And we’ve dispatched robot probes to just about every planet, even have a vessel on the verge of entering interstellar space

Think of the books, theater, dance performances, movies, the artwork and architecture we’ve created; the way we’ve related to our environment in positive ways.

Now try to conceive of the complexity of the minds capable of imagining such things. Men and women imbued with gifts and insights which allow them to alter the way the rest of us perceive the universe.

We know of nothing more astonishing or inexplicable than the human brain. It makes the fanciest, state of the art super-computer look like a, well, a soul-less calculating machine. Which is what it is. Sorry, all you geeks out there.

The brain is capable of extraordinary mental leaps and bounds, possessing a muscularity and agility belied by its rather mundane appearance. Two pounds of inanimate tissue containing trillions of nerve endings. Every millimeter interlocked through ever-changing networks of electro-chemical connections. A magnificent feat of engineering. Clever beyond its designer’s wildest dreams.

Maker of horror and holocaust.

Jesus Christ and Buddha.

Of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

…penicillin and Groucho Marx.

Keep screaming and waving your pictures of Kigali and Katyn…meanwhile, I’ll continue my stream of conscious rant/monolog about the Salk Vaccine and the eradication of smallpox.

I will concede there’s strong evidence we’re killers, born and bred.

But we also come equipped with a conscience, a little voice that insists we atone for our wrongs. It allows us to acknowledge the darkness but prohibits us, by specific commandment, from despairing, even in the complete absence of light.

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A flurry of activity around here, finishing projects and scheming new ones and, meanwhile, trying not to over-do it on the work front.  That means maintaining a regular regimen of stretching, getting out of the house at least once every day for a walkabout, even if it’s only to the library and back. That also means reading more and trying to familiarize myself with this notion of “relaxing”. Re-lax?

I’ve been devouring lots of memoirs of late, a genre I usually wouldn’t touch with a fully charged cattle prod. But I’m not talking about the recent crop o’ crap—whining, self-indulgent wankfests—I’m referring to stellar efforts by Bernard Cooper and Frederick Exley. Exley’s A Fan’s Notes is an amazingly accomplished and courageous book. Two titles by Daniel Pinchbeck have also impressed, Breaking Open the Head and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. I find his ideas and conjectures far more lucid and comprehensible than the late Terence McKenna’s; I predict Monsieur Pinchbeck is gonna be a star. He’ll alter more than a few consciousnesses before he’s through…

I’ve been bringing in lots of hard to find books via interlibrary loans…but, unfortunately, I’ve acquired a rather formidable stack, all of which must be read within a finite, prescribed time limit. No pissing about. Brilliant stuff like Graham Robb’s Parisians, Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor, The Great War and Modern Memory (Paul Fussell), The Good Soldier Svejk (Jaroslav Hasek) and an anthology of modern German poetry edited by Michael Hamburger. And more on the way…

Ah, but don’t think I’ve been devoting myself entirely to leisure. Surely you know me better than that.

I have not one but two major projects nearing completion. You heard right.

It’s always bothered me that much of my early work (pre-1997) is out of print. There were a number of limited edition chapbooks produced during that interval (That First, Wound-Bearing Layer and Genuinely Inspired Primitive), poetry (violins in the void)…and none of it is available any more. Sold out. A cursory check on-line tells me that a few enterprising souls are offering these hard-to-find editions at a pretty steep price.

So I’ve spent the last couple of months assembling, culling and editing two short volumes, clocking in at around 115 pages each.

The first, which should be out in mid-July, is New & Selected Poems (1984-2011). Over 25 years of my best verse brought together in one nice, compact tome. These poems are personal and revealing, condensed almost to the point of combustion…I love them but they scare me. I think the short Afterword I’ve provided at the end of the book explains why.

The other volume is a compilation of my short prose pieces and monologues. I’m calling it Stromata and the material it covers dates back to 1992. Stromata will be available the end of August.

The two books are intended to be companion volumes and their design will reflect that. You’ll see what I mean—I’ll upload the covers once our pal Chris Kent has put something together.

Both books will retail around $12 and, no, before you ask, no advance orders. Nothing until I have the first shipment from Lightning Source sitting in my front hallway.

Looking forward to an exciting summer…although I wish this mix of sun and rain we’ve had so far would be replaced by two weeks of hot, dry weather. A real Saskatchewan summer. Ah, well, it’s still early days. Other than the horrendous mosquitoes, last summer was just about perfect. Here’s hoping for lots sun, fun and reading in the months ahead.

See you at the lake.

Remember to bring a good book.

Here are ten poems, excerpted from New & Selected Poems, just posted on my Scribd page.  Click on the link and go have a look…

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Couldn’t get into serious writing yesterday–still catching up on research on my western novel, The Last Hunt, and I’m not yet at the point where I can begin to tackle necessary revisions.

My science fiction story needs one final polish/run through before I send it off.  I’ll likely get that done today.

And so…yesterday.

Decided to create a little something with Garageband.  The first effort wasn’t very good but the second tune had promise (as soundtrack music for the creepiest film ever made maybe) and then came the third number…

Well.  I didn’t really set out to create a spoken word bit, but that’s how it came out.  I was poking around my notebook and came across a series of phrases that, if you put them together, would almost make a kind of narrative…

I plugged in the microphone and gave it a shot.  The very first vocal track was perfect and then I started building and shaping music around it.

The end result is “The Midnight Detective”, a 2 1/2 minute effort that plays around with noirish conceits and comes together for a rather tasty finale.

This piece should work on whatever audio player your computer employs (if it’s fairly new) and, of course, you’re free to download it and share it with pals and like-minded folks who might get a charge out of my whacked out, postmodern detective.

You’ll find more of my musical noodling and spoken word efforts on my Audio page.

Click here to listen to Midnight Detective

* This post is dedicated to Caroline Ames–Happy Birthday, kid.

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imagesThat’s how I refer to them.

My tunes have no shape, they flow and twist enigmatically, illogically.  Mood music for troubled minds.  Score for a science fiction film never made.   Shimmering in the air around you, disappearing without leaving behind so much as a sprinkle of fairy dust.

There’s a strange dichotomy at work here:  I’m using this advanced, amazing computer to simulate and record almost any instrument known to humankind…and flubbing and screwing up and patching and improvising…and ending up with some in-teresting stuff.

I’ve got over an hour of music stored in an iTunes folder.  Every note of it selected, struck, plucked, bowed, strummed or sampled by yours truly.  Using virtual instruments, of course, since I’d be virtually useless if you gave me a real one.  Sue me, I’m an eejit savant.

So far this one is our favorite.  Hand’s down.  A bit of spoken word but just about all instrumental.

I call it “The Departed” and dedicate it to absent friends.

And awayyyyy we go…

The Departed_ XIII (V.2)

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imagesOh, yes…

Time for another selection from my growing library of audio experiments.  Learning something new with each tune…and this time I’ve combined a fairly lengthy (well, okay, three-and-a-half minutes, but right now that’s lengthy for me) instrumental piece with an old prose poem from my violins in the void collection.

Sherron and my sons think I’m starting to get the hang of this technology.

But, friends, I’d like to know your opinion.  Give it a listen and then speak your mind:

Atmospheres XVII (V.2)

(Note:  After getting word that the recording level might be giving some of you trouble, I went in and boosted the output, raising the volume some.  Hope that helps.  As previously advised, probably best to listen to my stuff through headphones.  That way you get the full effect…)

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imagesI warned you I had fallen in love with Garageband and that there would be more of my stuff recorded and set to music.

Here are four short-short stories, my version of “flash fiction”.  Ethereal, odd, evocative.  Literary and auditory Rorschach tests.  Give them a listen…and then tell me what you see.

Submitted for your approval, as my old pal Rod Serling would say:

Cliff Burns Reading Prose Poems (V.2)

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imagesWell, this is cause to celebrate.

This happens to be blog post #100 and, if that isn’t enough, later on this week this site will receive its 50,000th visit.

Wow.  That’s an overwhelming number of people coming to a blog devoted to a Canuck writer who has eschewed the big time, stubbornly maintained his singular vision with an orneriness not often seen in writing circles.

God bless you, folks.  You’re all the proof that I need to reassure myself that the indie path is the one for me and I shall continue to produce work that fits no niches or stereotypes or genres, confident that smart, discerning readers will find me…and help spread the word.

To mark this auspicious occasion I’ve recorded three of my favorite short-short stories, adding music and sound effects to enhance the experience.  Once again, Sherron lent a helping hand, pulling the whole mess together.  The final result surprised and delighted me to the extent that I think it’s safe to say there will be more such efforts in the near future.

Ah, heck, enough of my jabbering.  Have a listen to these pieces and, as always, I encourage you to leave a comment, letting me know what you think…

Cliff Burns Reading Short Stories (V.2)

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