The Kestrel

The Kestrel

I spied this evening gravity's bane, ground-
  Defying dusk's dirigible: an airship, soaring,
  Drifting in the dust-driven draft, mooring-
Mounted, engines churning, yearning to bound
Into the sky! Then, down, ‘round, and ‘round,
  As a raptor circles groundling prey, spooring,
  The Kestrel met the mooring, engines roaring.
Breath broken, I watched as her tether wound.
The ship's skin stretched, struts strained,
  Snapped! AND the fire that bloomed from within
Eclipsed the setting sun.  Downward sparks rained,
  Fiery teardrops reflected in their salty kin.
And yet, fantasies of flight remain;
  A tragic crash shan't quash the dreams of men.

— Stace Johnson, 2013

This poem appeared in Volume 9, issue 4 of Tales of the Talisman in May of 2014. It’s a pastiche of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover“, hence the odd, “sprung” meter.

Publication Announcement

I arrived home from my first vacation in years Sunday to find a copy of Tales of the Talisman waiting in my mailbox. This is the issue that includes my steampunk sonnet, “The Kestrel”, which is a pastiche poem inspired by Gerard Manley Hopkins‘ “The Windhover“. (At least one other Colorado writer is represented in this issue: Ian Brazee-Cannon‘s story “A Night at the Club” also appears.)

Tales of the Talisman Volume IX, Issue 4

Tales of the Talisman Volume IX, Issue 4

Basically, I asked myself, “What if Gerard Manley Hopkins had been inspired more by technology than the priesthood?” I dug out my old Norton Anthology of English Literature and refreshed myself on Hopkins’ unique sprung rhythm so I could try to stay true to the meter of the original poem. Hopkins is my favorite poet, and in writing this pastiche, I meant no disrespect toward him or his work. I see it as more of a tribute to his writing, as well as an opportunity to work within a unique poetry framework, where the meter is dictated by the number of stresses in a line, rather than the number of syllables and feet.

Tales of the Talisman is a beautiful magazine, chock full of excellent writing. David Lee Summers did a great job putting this one together, and I’m honored to have my work represented.


Regarding Train Wrecks …

Michael Jackson. Princess Diana. Danny Bonaduce. Anna Nicole Smith. Britney Spears.

Through the vulture eyes of the media, we watch the lives (and deaths) of famous people. If we watch television at all, or even visit the grocery store, it’s unavoidable. It’s almost a vampiric obsession; we we tune in to Entertainment Tonight and receive our daily ration of psychic energy, sucked straight through the camera lens from the life of some famous train wreck. (Since when is it “entertainment” to watch the tragic events of a person’s life?)

The latest is Andrew Dice Clay, and his new television show. God, I thought we were rid of him years ago, but here he comes, rising from the depths like a leather jacket leviathan, hoping to feed on us as we feed on him in an ouroboros cycle. We get to see a train wreck as it happens, he gets money and fame, which contributes to the train wreck, which gets hime more money and fame.

It’s easy to blame the media and paparazzi for this. After all, they are the ones really profiting from the focus on disturbed celebrities. But it’s important to remember that the reason they profit is because we tune in. We buy the magazines. We talk about this stuff around the water cooler.

In short, we are responsible, to a large degree, for the demise of these people’s lives. Yes, I know that blogging about this is not helping stem the fervor; the Web is media, and this essay will add to the 48,900,000 hits that Google currently provides for the search term “Britney Spears.” However, I’m deliberately choosing not to link to any of the sensationalist articles or advertisements for any of the above individuals, because I want to limit my contribution to the problem while still addressing the problem itself.

There’s a reason why I don’t watch much TV. If I watch too much, I feel disgusted with myself for passively contributing to the problem. There are many other things — active things — that I can do, like writing, working on web pages, playing music, reading, or visiting museums. In short, creating and learning.

Instead of watching a train wreck, I could be viewing preserved trains at the Colorado Railroad Museum, a link which I’m not ashamed to include.

Instead of contributing to the destruction of a person’s life, I could be creating a fictional character for a short story.

Instead of reading a lament on a television tombstone, I can write a sonnet for my wife.

In the end, I choose to contribute to the problem as little as I can. I would rather be part of the solution, by creating instead of destroying.


The “Sonnette” is a poetry form that I invented, and a few of the poems on this site are written in that format.  Basically, it’s a shortened Italian sonnet (7 lines) with a rhyme scheme of abab ccc and a subtle turn (or volta) at the stanza break.  Like the traditional Italian sonnet, it uses Iambic Pentameter.

The name “Sonnette” derives from a combination of “sonnet” and “Lannette,” my wife’s name.  The first sonnette was written for her.

For examples of sonnettes on this website, see the following poems:

Missing in Atlanta”  (2006)

Thy Cup Runneth Over”  (2006)

I’ve been creative … really, I have!

It seems I’ve lost track of the purpose of my Creativity Journal recently. I’ve blogged about all kinds of things in recent posts, but not much about creativity.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been creative, though. My band, Steel River Three has continued to play occasionally, and we have two gigs coming up next week. I’ve written a new song (with the valuable feedback assistance of Lannette Robinson, John Jesitus, and the members of Melanie Tem’s writing group) called “New Guy Smell”, and we’re hoping to debut that at the next show. I’ve also been working on editing down raw video footage to produce a demo DVD of the band’s performance at Pink E’s in Westminster. (Video editing on a shoestring budget is much more difficult than I originally anticipated, and it takes forever.) When that project is done, I can extract the audio and create a live demo CD, as well, perhaps with a couple of studio tracks thrown in for good measure. All the big bands do that to get you to buy their live records, you know.

I’ve also done a lot of work for Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem, revising their existing website. The new site is not up yet, pending final approval from the Tems, but it should be available for public consumption soon. I’ve received verbal confirmation from the editor of ComputorEdge magazine that I will be assigned “a few” articles before the end of the year, and that’s great news.

My crowning creative achievement lately has been poetic, though. Early last month, I presented Lannette with a silver skeleton key, a silver-topped leather ring box from Scotland, and an engagement ring. I handed these to her as I read a proposal sonnet (which I had written, of course) at Lily Lake, near Estes Park, Colorado. We will be married on that spot on August 1, 2005, and have our reception at the Baldpate Inn right across the highway from the lake. (That link also has a couple of pictures of Lily Lake and the surrounding area.) The significance of the skeleton key is that Earl Derr Biggers‘ first novel was called Seven Keys to Baldpate, and the Baldpate Inn in Estes Park was officially endorsed by Biggers in the first half of the last century as being virtually identical to the fictional inn he had described in his 1913 novel. Lannette purchased a copy of that novel for me on eBay, and keys have been a theme of the relationship ever since.

Lannette has put up a wedding page at Geocities if you’re interested. It includes pictures of the site, the rings, and a copy of the sonnet.

So you see, I really have been creative and productive. I just haven’t been recording it. I have future plans for this site, though. Using some of the research I did while working on Melanie and Steve’s website, I plan to add some blog management features to this one, which will make it much easier for me to edit and/or delete these Creativity Journal entries. I will also put a “teaser” paragraph on the opening page of the site, so people can have a taste of what the latest journal entry is about.

When I get time, I will add the proposal sonnet to the Original Poetry page, as well as the lyrics (and maybe even an MP3) for “New Guy Smell.”