Archive for February, 2016

A Place to Put Your Angry

February 28, 2016

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on
Prove they can be better than at any time they please
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty, decent folks can frown on
You can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me

Kris Kristofferson, Jesus Was a Capricorn

Been living here for fourteen years
I’m stuck inside a rut
I’m surrounded by losers
And piles and piles of smut

My wife took all my money
And left me in this hut
I can’t believe I fell
For that evil stupid slut

My rent just got doubled
And my salary was cut
Everywhere I turn
Another door is shut

You need a place to put your angry
When it wells inside your gut
You need a place to put your angry
When life kicks you in the nuts

Follow me. I’ll help you find
A way out of this pinch
We’ll find someone to blame
Or we’ll find someone to lynch

by Richard W. Bray

Passy Aggressiva

February 27, 2016


Did I forget to tell you
That your boss left a note?
“Come to work or you’re fired”
Is all she wrote

I made you egg salad
Was it such a fiasco?
There wasn’t any mayo
So I just used Tabasco

Glad to hear you’re dating
We were so distressed
So you like the other gender
Whoda’ ever guessed?

Everyone agrees
He’s the best you’ll ever do
But we can’t figure out
What he sees in you

So I forgot to feed your pets
Don’t be such a bore
You need to check your values
You can always get some more

Lighten up as little
And give me a break
You’re so uptight
Like you never make mistakes

by Richard W. Bray

Songs of Self

February 21, 2016


Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!

Langston Hughes, Theme for English B

Is illusion
Bringing pain
And much confusion

We tear our lovely
World to bits
To believe
That we exist

We devastate
And we devour
Stuff and power

What is life?
And what is matter?
Songs of Self
Just make us sadder

by Richard W. Bray

O fairest of Creation

February 21, 2016


A universe of traits
Lively and sedate
Butch and straight

Matron and girly
Smooth and curvy
Delicate and nervy

Nimble and bold
Young and old
Precious like gold

Fun and feral and silly and wise
In every shape and shade and size
You make the world a lovely place
In three point seven billion ways

by Richard W. Bray


every act of hope and love (A Rebuttal of Sorts to that Sad Mr. Larkin)

February 14, 2016


Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Phillip Larkin

In our lust for power and pelf
We pass on pain to son and daughter
I’ve passed along much hurt myself
It spreads and spreads like dye in water

Our lives are sad; our fate is strange
Life just seems like one big trap
Human beings will never change
Is existence merely crap?

Life is pain; there’s no exemption
I don’t seek meaning up above
Succor pain and seek redemption
In every act of hope and love

by Richard W. Bray

An Interview on Writing Lyrics and Verse with Richard W. Bray Conducted by Richard W. Bray

February 7, 2016


Question: When you write in the first person, are you writing about yourself?

Answer: Not necessarily. The decision to use first or third person is often made for phonetic and/or syntactical reasons. For example, I chose first person for “It’s Better to Burst than Ripple Away” largely because it sounds better in first person. For example,

compare this

I’m a rough and tumble cowboy
In a civilized time
My boots are gonna ramble
Till the end of the line

with this

He’s a rough and tumble cowboy
In a civilized time
His boots are gonna ramble
Till the end of the line

The first person just sounds better. And going the from the bilabial m in my to the bilabial b in boots is a smoother transition.

Question: Is this what you meant when you wrote that poetry is a journey across syllables?

Answer: Yes. I can see you’ve done your homework. That’s important for an interviewer. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself like the time Charlie Rose asked a guy who had stabbed his wife: “What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your life?”

Question: You have referenced Robert Pinsky’s elegant little book called The Sounds of Poetry.

Answer: So you’ve read that book too. What’s your question?

Question: You need to stop being such a spazz and wait for the question. You’ve written that there’s always tension sound and meaning.

Answer: Yeah. It’s a constant tug-of-war between what you want to say and how you want to sound.

Question: Are you a rough and tumble cowboy in a civilized time?

Answer: Not really. I’m more of a “Can’t we all get along?” sort of a guy.

Question: Do you ever wish you were more of a rough and tumble cowboy?

Answer: Sure. And I’m very sympathetic to guys like that. And I probably wish I were less cautious and more mavericky.

So your writing is a variety of wish fulfillment?

Answer: Sometimes. But more often I write about the types of people and behaviors which annoy me. “Fastidious Fred”, for example. The genesis of that poem was a news feature I watched about an extremely uptight famous performer who was ironing his own shirt before going onstage.

Question: Who?

Answer: I’d rather not say.

Why not?

Answer: Because it wouldn’t be nice.

Question: But isn’t the pursuit of Truth and the creation of art more important than being nice to people?

Answer: No. It’s not even close.

Question: But there must be at least a little bit of Fred inside you.

Not much. I hate ironing and I’m lousy at it. But like Fred I’ve certainly been guilty of idiotic stubbornness. In a more general sense, however, if you’ll pardon my circular reasoning, Fred comes out of me so he must be inside me. Adrienne Rich wonders about herself (and this applies to all writers): What kind of beast would turn its life into words? And writers turn their lives into words as spiders turn their lives into silk.

Question: You wrote “sometimes I think I have a long way to go when the poem suddenly informs me that I’m finished.” Can you give me an example of when that happened?

Sure. It happened with the last thing I wrote, “Put the World in its Place” which I expected to be much longer. But after I inverted the order of the two stanzas I had written, the poem said, “You’ve made your point. There’s nothing to add. Now shut up and take a shower; it’s time to go to work.”

Question: You also wrote “Sometimes I begin writing a poem knowing exactly what I want to say and it turns out just like I planned. Sometimes. Other times I set out to write something, but I end up writing something else.” Can you give me an example of when that happened?

Answer: Sure. Originally “Unspeakable Things” was going to be an Emperor’s New Clothes narrative where someone, probably a kid or a newcomer to the town of Lidane, was going to ask why nobody ever talks about the giant box in the center of town or perhaps he was going to ask why they don’t just tear the stupid thing down. But after writing three descriptive stanzas, it was a little late to begin my narrative and the poem said, “Wrap it up, dude. You made your point.”

I notice Lidane is an anagram for denial.

Answer: You probably think you’re pretty clever for figuring that out.

Question: You write a lot about denial.

Answer: No I don’t.

Question: How do you decide if what you write is a song or a poem?

Answer: Usually I know from the beginning based on its structure. For example, if it’s iambic it’s probably a poem and if the stresses are more spaced out it’s a song. But sometimes I argue with myself right up until the moment I post it.

Question: Do you primarily consider yourself a songwriter or a poet?

Answer: Neither. I think it was Robert Frost who said you can’t declare yourself a poet; someone else has to do it for you. And no one that I know of has ever accused me of being a poet. And I can’t be a songwriter because I don’t know anything about music. Besides, I’ve only ever read one book about songwriting, and no one has ever set any of my words to music. So I’m just a frustrated would-be lyricist waiting for someone to email me saying, “I just have to make a song out of something you’ve written. Time to quit the day job.”

Question: I noticed that you write a lot about alcoholism and substance abuse.

Answer: I noticed that too.

by Richard W. Bray (and Richard W. Bray)

Put the World in its Place

February 5, 2016

yyyyyyyyyyyyyyman woman

Time was away and somewhere else

Louis MacNeice, Meeting Point

Together in a room
With no one else around
We dance to a tune
That doesn’t make a sound

Where dreamers rhapsodize
Inside a cozy space
With my eyes locked in your eyes
We put the world in its place

by Richard W. Bray