Saturday, January 7, 2017

Is There Anybody Alive Out There?

This blog does everything wrong.

That’s the message I heard loud and clear as I sat through a webinar this past Thursday night: A successful publisher and editor disclosed strategies for building an audience and generating page views.

She had everything down to a science, exposing the flaws of this very site.

You see, I need to get outside of the need to express myself. That’s not what someone else needs. Oh, they’ll follow the arc of a personal story, and they’ll appreciate if I can share an insight I gained along the way, especially if it’s counter-intuitive. Because then readers will share the post to their own circle of friends to make themselves look helpful or clever.

As part of this marketing strategy, there’s also the all-important packaging… headline, images, layout… that can turn web posts into “small works of art.”

In a practical sense, I know she’s right. What I learned Thursday can be applied to anything I do in the business world.

In my heart, I also know she’s also wrong.

Click-bait isn’t art. Craft helps, but formulas don’t produce art either. Isn't art, at its core, an absolute celebration of self-expression?

Producing art is a primal force. Since the “brand theme” of this blog is New Jersey, I’ll illustrate it this way: Bruce Springsteen, before the E Street Band starts to play, shouting into the darkness, “Is there anybody alive out there?”

A Mid-Winter’s Poem

With this in mind, I'm posting something I wrote last night. I'm not claiming it's art; it's certainly not click-bait. It's just my small attempt to put a unique mark on the world.

I had been watching “The Last Waltz” on Netflix… marveling at the performance of a younger Van Morrison (“one more time”), when I was moved and haunted by The Band’s “Evangeline,” sung by a younger Emmylou Harris.

I let the dog out and a now-older me produced the first poem I've written in more than a dozen years, cheekily titling it in reference to Longfellow’s masterpiece. It's not necessarily addressed to anyone in particular, just to anyone alive out there in the forest primeval:

A Tale of Suburbia 
I summon you tonight, Evangeline.
As I behold the passage of time
In the breath of the bone-chilling cold. 
My old black dog.
Cloudy-eyed, shedding,
Struggles to his feet and
Shuffles to my side. 
I scratch his dry nose,
And open the back porch door,
Exposing the darkness.
The crack in my bones. 
Come, Evangeline,
Hear the scuttling of time.
The claws of the moments we lost.
My words in the bone-chilling cold. 
I long for the warmth of our souls.
I mourn for the warmth of our souls. 

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