In the past few weeks, I have watched two different video reviews of Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera. The first was made by the crew of the Nostalgia Critic in conjunction with Shark Jumping, and can be found here. The other was made by Lindsay Ellis, and can be found here. My first experience with Phantom was in late elementary school (maybe the fifth grade? I distinctly remember understanding who Micheal Crawford was when Chad mentioned him in High School Musical the first time I saw it), and I was somewhat obsessed with it for about a year and a half. My mom had the two-disc Original London Cast album and I would listen to it constantly. It was kind-of my Twilight. I was able to get my hands on an English copy of the book, which I also greatly enjoyed. And then there was the movie. I knew immediately that it was bad. And I knew that it was bad beyond just “Gerard Butler cannot sing” (though Gerard Butler can not sing). But as a high schooler I didn’t have the language to explain why.
So, I have a poetry analysis due on Monday, and one of the things that I’ve been trying to do is find the poem that I’m supposed to analyse. It’s not that I don’t have it– the Prof. printed it out for us and gave us each a copy– but other than the physical copy, it doesn’t seem to be anywhere. It’s been suggested to me that because there is no name attached to the work (it was found on a casualty of the Falaise pocket) that it would be hard to find. It’s not that I can’t do an analysis on the poem based on his prompt, but that didn’t stop me from emailing the Library of Congress. I should hear back from them by next week.
When we were discussing the poem in class, I mentioned that the poem seemed (to me) to be constructed, because of the juxtaposition of the surroundings. It is dated 6-6-44, or D-Day to the Allies, and the caption says that it was found on the body of the soldier that (presumably) wrote it on 19 Aug. 1944. That’s a simple narrative, the soldier was on the beaches on D-Day and killed towards the end of Operation Overlord. But, being human, my thought process seemed to reject that simplicity. Life is rarely so organized.
And that’s so weird, because it’s totally plausible that that happened! And it’s also bizarre because my mind basically invented a narrative that it then summarily rejected. And why did I even invent that narrative anyways, the Author is Dead! (In this case, quite literally.) Why should it matter who this person is or was?
Well… because I like to think I matter? I mean, I have enough of a problem with my Cartesian demons telling me I don’t matter, I don’t need anyone else to say it. And if something I writes goes all Zardoz on a society, I’d maybe like the credit? Or maybe not, that movie was weird… In any case, even if I’m reduced to an author function a la Foucault, at least my name is still attached to it. Maybe I just feel sorry for the guy– I’m reading something he wrote almost 75 years after the fact and I don’t even know his name.
Maybe wanting to know that says something about what I want out of writing.
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”
–Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society
Now, I would hardly call myself a Poet. I have written poetry, but that doesn’t make me a Poet. For one, I have very little chance of dying of TB any time soon, nor is my father obsessed with bees. I am not a disillusioned veteran of a world war, and there are no rumors that I am a vampire. I do shut myself into my room probably more often than I should, but I actually use commas– probably too much.
I am a writer though, and I have been a writer for longer than I have called myself that. And art has always come naturally to me, I can play a few instruments (mostly percussion), I draw, I paint, I sing. My obsession has always been in the creation and discovery of the new. So yes, I write– poetry, prose, music, etc. It is the natural extension of myself and my thoughts. But it is not a “want”, not really. It is something I love, and something I love doing, but it is something that comes not from a place of desire but a place of urgency. I can no more want to breathe than I want to write.
And I suppose that’s part of the problem I have with explaining why I “chose” to do this, which is what the prompt is really asking. I didn’t chose this, I was going to be a chemist. I was going to wear lab coats and wash test tubes. Not that science isn’t a path to creation and discovery (I’ll link to a post here where I talk about how art and science are really the same thing once I get the chance to write one), but it’s generally considered the far more sensible option. I’m still trying to be sensible, working on adding a Technical Writing major and applying for internships. But the creative impulse is far from sensible. It overwhelms and envelops– it’s kind of like the Force. And unlike most people, artists can’t turn it off. At least I can’t.
At Orientation, I was given some advice that I thought I was following– “Do what you’re good at, not what you’re passionate about.” I had thought I was lucky– I’m decent at science, and I am certainly passionate about it. And yet here I am. Because of changing majors, I was thrown into a crisis of identity that I am still trying to overcome. All I know now is that I am a writer, I always have been, and I don’t think I could be anything else.
video by melodysheep