Theater Thoughts: Thor: Ragnarok

As Marvel Studios continues down its path to cinematic and universal domination, they have begun to take a lot of chances with the kinds of movies that they are making, and the kinds of heroes they are focusing on. It is not a stretch to say that the latest installment in the universe, Thor: Ragnarok, is no exception...

Read More

The Funeral Procession

"Why did we pull over mommy?"
I said, wiping the sleep from my eyes.

Often when driving on one of those
long, straight, back roads of Kansas, 
the flicker of the rows of corn would
be just enough to lull my mind to sleep.

"We've stopped as a sign of respect."
A cloud passes over, dimming the world.

I look out the window on the other side
and see a long train of cars, all with flags
hanging from the windows, all packed so
close together, driving slowly. At the front,
a long black car, bigger than all the rest,
with lights flashing, the engine of the train.

"Is it some kind of parade?" I asked.
"It's a funeral procession. They are taking
the person in the front car to be buried.
Whenever you see the cars like this,
you should pull over to give them room,
show them respect, and pray a Hail Mary."

The sun comes out again.
The corn stalks in brilliant gold.
The sky is a bright, Kansas blue.

Twenty years later, on some,
long, winding, New England road,
the forest, a dense green around me.
The sky is grey. My window is covered
in little drops of rain, pushed away
by the wiper blades screech.

Ahead I see the cars, with flags and lights, flashing. 
(give them room) (show them respect) (pray)

I pull to the side of the road, but I'm alone. 
Cars race past me, splashing up rain water,
honking at me. I put on my hazard lights.
My hands are gripped tight to the wheel.

The left lane,
the slow-moving procession.
The right lane,
the speeding drivers.
The right shoulder,
me, parked.
Giving room.
Showing respect.
Praying.

The Pros and Cons of Moving Away from Home

Earlier this morning, a good friend of mine asked me about my thoughts on living away from home. For context, I have spent the past three years going to school approximately 1800 miles away from the town that I grew up in. I have gone home for summer and winter breaks, and the occasional Thanksgiving or Spring Break, but I am currently on the precipice of my first full summer away from home, with no plans to go home anytime in the immediate future. Additionally this is the time of year that a lot of people are preparing to move away from home for school in the fall, or for their next job, or maybe just because they need a change. As such, now seems like a good time to write up my thoughts on the subject. 

Before I begin however, I need to address the privileges that life has afforded to me, specifically as it relates to my being able to live far from home. I live in America, where the opportunity to live in a place that is significantly far away is aided simply by the geography of my country. My family is in the middle class, and as such, we had the necessary resources to be able to move myself and my belongings to a different part of the country. It also means that from time to time I have been able to fly back home to see family, so far just for breaks, but I have that ability in the event of an emergency.  I am also a white able-bodied male who is tall and rather large. As such, I feel a tremendous degree of ease driving by myself, flying by myself, and walking around city streets by myself, without the fear of abuse or harassment that these activities often causes others who are in less privileged positions.

Additionally, I came from the west to the east, and in the west, there is a much more resounding push for individualism and for people to go off and do their own things. By my senior year of high school, I was regularly driving and hour away by myself to go dancing or go to shows, and this was not met with any resistance or hesitance.  Furthermore, there were no expectations put in place by my family that made me feel pressured to stay near home for school or to go away. I had the choice presented to me and I made the choice, of my own volition, to go away.

I say all of this, because there is an important "For me..." that has to go in front of every statement that follows, that I may not always include. These thoughts on living away from home are based on my personal experience, and while some of this may resonate with many people, I do not want it to seem like I think that the only way of approaching school or work or life is to move away from home. That being said, for me, living away from home has been and continues to be the experience that I need to further my own personal growth, and, upon reflection, moving away from home was one of the most important choices that I ever made.

I think that my thoughts on the benefits of moving away are really best expressed in the analogy of eating healthy. At this point in my life, staying home would have been like eating nothing but junk food. Which is not to be dismissive of the many joys of junk food. There is so much variety and things that are incredibly tasty. Many of my favorite foods are junk food. But if I ate nothing but junk food, I would not be able to improve myself physically, or keep myself healthy. Living at home, I would be sustained, but I would not be living life to the fullest. Moving away has been a more balanced diet, with much more nutrient rich foods. As much as I love the junk food, and as much as I wish I could eat it every day, healthy foods make me a healthier person, and being healthier makes me happier. 

There are, of course, many cons. Homesickness and crippling nostalgia are real. There are meals where I struggle to find something to eat, because the only thing I want is my Mom's potato soup. There are times when I want only to be driving down the roads that have found a permanent place in my memory. There are nights when I realize that if I were home I would be getting coffee with my old friends rather than just lying in bed and looking out the window, dreaming. Depression and lonesomeness are also real. 

But, for me, (and this is probably the biggest for me) those cons have been outweighed by the many pros. First, while this has already been stated in the paragraphs above, I cannot begin to express how much living away from home has helped me grow as an individual. I've learned how to get myself around, to orient myself in a new space and find the resources that I need to keep myself afloat. I've learned how to cook for myself and how to buy my own groceries.  I've learned the value of the dollar and how to budget. (Though, my mother will point out that I'm still working on that last bit.) I am a much more grateful person because I live away from home. I am not trying to say that people who do live at home do not learn these things. But my experience living away from home has showed me this more than anything else. I have had to do a profound amount of struggling, and that struggling has made me into a better person, more confident about engaging the world and knowing that I can take care of myself. Without hesitation, I think of myself as an adult.

Secondly, moving away has forced me to engage with the new. There is plenty that has been written on the value of diverse life experience, so I will not go to far into it except to say this: There are things out there, which you cannot possibly begin to imagine; food that tastes unlike anything that you have ever tasted; places that look unlike any place you have ever visited; people who think unlike anyway that you have ever thought. Some of those tastes may taste bad, those sights look unappealing, or those thoughts be unthinkable, but it is far better to have tasted and been disgusted, than to never have tasted at all. If you want to experience the fullness that this earth and this life has to offer, you cannot do it from the comfort of your own home. (I would like to take it a step further and say that you even cannot experience it from the comfort of a hotel room, but that is a discussion for an entirely different essay.)

Third, I would point out that, though it is not true in all cases, in this instance, the existence of broccoli does in fact make the chocolate all the sweeter. The moments I do get to spend at home are treasured all the more. Though this comes at a cost, a con for some, surely. Being apart from the ones you love comes at a risk, though it is often not the first thing that you think of when you are faced with the choice of moving away. This is a burden and a thought which you will be saddled with, that you will have to think about from time to time.  However, I think that as people get older, the mortality of those who came before them becomes more of a prevalent thought. And while it is certainly sad, it allows us to reframe and to reevaluate the importance of the moments that we get and the moments that we have to share with our loved ones.  While I believe this happens to everyone at some point, I think it has happened for me a bit sooner than some of my peers, and I consider it a direct result of be being away.

Finally, moving away taught me to say goodbye, or rather, to be okay with change. It almost needn't be said that you end up leaving a lot behind. I remember coming to college and listening to people talk about their high school friends with such a sense of a present state of fact, and  I remember that this struck me as something that I just was not able to do. every sentence that I spoke about my friends came with a "back home" or some other modifier. Not that I would never speak to my high school friends again, but we had said goodbye, unsure of when we would get to see eachother again, and I had to be ok with that. And it was then that I became profoundly aware that, in being someone who would live so far from home, my life would be full of goodbyes and changes like this. Sometimes you just have to let things happen and hope for the best. 

But, for fear that this has gone on for too long, let me conclude with this. If you are in a situation wherein you have the great fortune and privilege of getting to make the choice that I got to make three years ago, just follow your heart with conviction and boldness. Whatever you want to do, whatever thought keeps looming in the back of your head as you drift to sleep at night, chase that thought, that dream, until it becomes a reality. All throughout high school, I could not stop dreaming of the east coast. I got a taste of Washington D.C. my first year of high school, and I knew I had to go back. So, when I was looking at colleges, I realized that life had given me an opportunity, to go to whatever part of the country I wanted to the most. I thought of all of the times I had dreamed of D.C., and New York, and Boston, and I knew what I had to do. I took that opportunity, made my choice, and moved away from home, and it has been the most important choice that I ever made.  

 

Thoughts for Republicans, Democrats, and Americans

I think that there are a lot of things that need to be said. We need to take some time to really consider all of the events that have led to the rise of Donald Trump, but now is not the time. Needless to say, it is inherently clear, at least to me, that Trump is the result of a lot of failure on the part of a lot of people. Democrats, Republicans: Americans have failed, and that of the short of it. The long of it will require much more time and research, but is equally important.

But there are a few things that I would like to say at present, to the Republicans first, and then the Democrats.

Republicans- Congratulations! These are exciting times! Your party is on its dying breaths and a Trump presidency is almost certainly the last blow! For some, it may not seem like this, but this has been a long time coming. Those of us who have some political foresight, (or, at least, pay attention to those that do) have slowly started wandering off from the party and looking at our options. To put it in simpler, and possibly more positive terms, you are free! 

If I were to wager a guess, I would say that, for the majority of you, there is something that has not felt quite right about the Republican party. Perhaps you have very socially progressive views, but you prefer a more conservative economic approach. Or perhaps you are socially very conservative, but you wouldn't mind a new approach to the economics.  Or perhaps you are a tried and true conservative, both socially and economically.  Whatever the case may be, you may have noticed that there has not really been a candidate that represents all of your values. 

So this is my entreatment. You no longer have to settle. You no longer have to simply vote the Republican candidate. Consider seriously and honestly what stances you want to hold, that are commensurate with your values. You are now free from the "them", and free to be you. Take this time to think very seriously about who you want to represent you, and avoid aligning with just any faction. You are a member of a democratic republic. You get to be picky about who gets your vote. If ever there were a time to embrace what intellectualism the western tradition has instilled in you, now is that time.

Democrats- Congratulations! These are exciting times! Your party is not quite there yet, but it has caught a rather bad cough. This divide between Clinton and Sanders is the beginning of the schism. The more information the government gets on us, the more information we get on them, and the "Clinton" style politician is finding it harder to cover up the scandal. But, as we've seen throughout the primary season, they've already thought of this. There is a system in place such that Clinton will win the nomination, no matter the support her opponents get. I think this is the beginning of the end for the Democratic party, which will soon find itself the way of the Republican Party. (Assuming Trump wins the race this term, I'm really hoping that the Democrats will put up Kanye in 2020. That will make for some excellent sensationalized headlines.) 

This being said I implore you with regards to two courses of action. First, let the party die. The things I said about the Republican party are on the way for the Democratic party, and we will find ourselves in a much better place if we just accept a poly-factional system. For those of you who would rather not be so frustrated when Kanye is nominated in 2020, I recommend the same advice as above. Consider seriously and honestly what stances you want to hold, that are commensurate with your values. 

Secondly, and more immediately, do not shrug off this insane corruption within your party. Be angry. Be upset. Demand primary  and voting reform. Continue to rally around the candidate who you think will be best for this country. If that candidate is not Hillary, to not cheer her on. Do not accept her as your default position if she is not the one you believe to be the best. This election could have the greatest support for third party and non-binary candidates that we have seen in quite some time.

Americans- These are all just my speculations. Or worse, they are a potential future that we have to make the right choices to obtain. But I will conclude with this. What we do know is that these parties do not have our interests in mind. They have become corrupt, and fight for a world that benefits them, not us. Hillary is not for America. We have to be for America. Ironically, if I am right, Trump will have been paramount in making America great. But now he has done his part. We need to take back that slogan, and make it our mission. We need to make America great.

Now is not the time for blind following. Now is the time for intellectualism, and responsible political self-reflection. We need them, and we need them now. We must continually promote them, amongst our friends and amongst any who will listen. Now is the time when each American citizen, when called upon, should be able to speak his political beliefs with conviction and fervor, with more nuance and detail than simply "I am a Republican, I am a Democrat."

If we make these right choices, we will be moving into an era in American history, where the vote of the individual will have more power than it has ever had before. If we can do this, we can successfully safeguard against the effects of a two faction system. Do not throw away the power and privilege that being an American citizen with the right to vote affords you. Take that power, take that privilege, and use your vote the way that you want to use your vote. 

This is an America that I would be very excited to live in and very proud to call my home.


“Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.”

-Federalist 10, James Madison

Postmodern Surrealism:
A Categorical Defense of Things

"I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak."

- André Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924

Surrealism has a rich history, both in art and in film, of bringing the things which we experience in our dreams into the real world. Usually, this act is done for some sort of philosophical implications or even simply to obtain the surrealist aesthetic. For examples of good surrealist film, look to the brainwashing sequence of The Manchurian Candidate (1962), or the more recent Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe (2007).

But what if one was not trying to obtain this "resolution of two seemingly contradictory states"? What if the purpose was neither to philosophical nor aesthetic in nature?  What if the only purpose was to capture the experience of dreaming on film? I contest that the end result would look something like Barry J. Gillis and Andrew Jordan's 1989, direct-to-VHS, postmodern surrealist masterpiece Things

What Things accomplishes is a perfect capturing of the experience of a nightmare. Allow me to point to some anecdotal experience. Dreams often are held together by some continuity, but being slightly disjointed in nature. In our dreams, it is fine to jump ahead to a different narrative or focus on unimportant things. Occasionally objects like running water or needing a beer or the fake fish on the wall take precedence in our dreams. 

Sometimes in dreams, a moment is repeated three or for times for no apparent reason, like a skipping record. Likewise, as Don Drake attempts to get out of the bathroom, we see the same sequence of him opening and closing the door three times. Perspectives are changed with no care for continuity or composition. At times, dialog from a dream goes missing, as we try to mouth words, but sounds fail to come out. Occasionally, the mundane tasks, like plugging in a drill, become our greatest obstacles. 

Furthermore, our dreams often contain touches of our own reality. Is it so hard to believe that Things is not simply the nightmare of a man who has tried many times with his wife to have kids, but has failed, and in dreams turns to the science fiction nightmare that he hopes will not be their only hope?

In a similar way, dreams often draw upon pop culture reference, changing them in subtle ways. For example, the tape recorder in the beginning of the film reflects the tape recorder scene in Evil Dead. Or, it is possible that the dreamer might take the monster from Alien, with its unique teeth and its stomach based parturition, and change it from a giant alien into small menacing little... well... things.

Furthermore, this way of understanding Things perfectly explains the role of Amber Lynn in the film. This is the mind trying to go from the nightmare dream to the sex dream, inhabited once again by figures from reality. But of course, when the mind is consumed by the nightmare, it cannot focus on the sex dream for too long, and the moments are brief, even, at times, cut off, so that Amber Lynn cannot finish her lines of dialog.

But beyond this, it is important to note that Things is not a horror film, and is not meant to scare us, in the exact same way that our nightmares do not really terrify us beyond the moments that they consume our mind. Our nightmares are terrifying precisely because we have no connection with reality, but fell ourselves entrapped within our own minds. 

Of course, when we watch Things, we have a perfect sense of reality, because the reality surrounds us. When we experience a nightmare, we have no part of our mind left to logically discern what is going on. But when we have a nightmare placed on the screen before, and our minds are free to comment and critique on the nature of what we are seeing, suddenly, it is not quite as scary. We are called not to be terrified of our nightmares, but to laugh at them. 

It is when we are awoken from the nightmare, when dreams and reality come crashing together for the first time, that we are the most scared. And likewise, it is not the experience of watching Things that really terrifies us, but the moment at the end, when we realize what we have just watched, and that we must now venture on into our lives, into reality, with that burden.

Does Things demonstrate filmmaking competence on the part of the auteurs? Perhaps not. But then, most of us do not dream in perfect HD quality with professional grade sound mixing and lighting, shot by masters of cinematography. (Well, most of us.) But an artist lacking the culturally established definition of "competence" in their field is certainly not something which we hold against them, especially not in the modern age. We know that Pollock cannot paint the Mona Lisa, but we are unwilling to call him anything but an artist. 

It is among artists like Pollock and Truffaut, and even the original surrealists like Dali, that I hold Barry J. Gillis and Andrew Jordan. For what the surrealists and modernists did with the work that came before them, so to have the postmodernists, and in this case, the postmodern surrealists, done with the work of the surrealists and modernists.  Where surrealists try to blend together reality and dreams into one piece of art, Barry J. Gillis and Andrew Jordan understand that they only need to supply the dream, or rather the nightmare. The viewer can provide the reality themselves, and, in their own way, resolve the seemingly contradictory states. 


Thank you for reading this short thought on the film Things. Just to be absolutely clear: I am not recommending that you go out and buy Things. I am not even recommending that you find a way of watching Things. If you like bad movies, and are into that sort of thing, read some other materials or watch the Red Letter Media review of the film first. You have been warned.

Notes:

André Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924. (If you are interested more in Surrealism and the history of Surrealism, this is a must read.)

Purchase the Book from Amazon

Or Read About the Surrealist Manifesto's on Wikipedia

Things on iMDB

Things on Amazon

The Return of a Friend

Ah, how lovely for you to come again,
how refreshing, my old perennial friend,
you who comes to visit me once each year,

as soon as both the skies and roads are clear,
Though I know each time you come we must cry,
through mem’ry bring new life to all who die.
How long it's been since last you came around,
with sweetest song of birds, beauty renowned.
And oft in cold my thoughts drift back to you,
long morning walks, the smell of cool, fresh dew.
But now their songs no longer haunt my dreams,
but bid me wake as warming sunlight gleams
into my window through which I am se’ing
the smile of you, my long o’erdue friend, Spring.

In Defense of the Paraklausithyron

Paraklausithyron: It is kind of an ugly word. It's a bit long and awkward, especially for a poet like me. Of course, etymologically, it holds within itself three Greek roots, namely παρα (read para), meaning besides, κλαίω (read klayoh), meaning lament, and θύρα (read thura), meaning door. Any two of these words put together make a lovely combination that just rolls off the tongue. A παρακλαίω, a “lament besides”, or perhaps a word for empathy; a παραθύρα, perhaps the side door that is used to draw as little attention as possible; or a κλαίωθύρα, a weeping door, whatever that is. Despite the word's awkwardness, I claim that the photograph in question, created by joeyspadoni, is a paraklausithyron, and that I am in the right composing the poem on this photograph that I have. However, the defense of this claim is not as simple. The paraklausithyron is a motif with a long and complex history behind it, with many overlapping and evolving metaphors and meanings. To that end, this is essay will serve as my defense of that claim; my defense of the paraklausithyron.   

(If you have not read the poem yet, I would recommend giving it a read before you read this essay, but the choice is yours.)


The Paraklausithryon Motif and Its Historical Evolution

Of course, before we can claim what is and what is not a paraklausithyron, we need to first understand where it came from, and how it has changed throughout the centuries. The traditional, and blindly accepted (read Wikipedia) definition of a paraklausithyron is the "lament besides the door" but I am afraid that this really fails to capture exactly what it is. It is also sometimes referred to as the exclusus amator. The paraklausithryon is wrapped in metaphor, and has had a long and evolving history as a literary genre. In its origins, in Ancient Greece, the metaphor is most often about a woman who is denying access to the man, and in that regard, the closed door becomes a sign of the barrier she is putting between her and the pursuer.

Frank Olin Copley, in his essay On the Origin of Certain Features of the Paraclausithyron,  provides a pretty robust explanation of this early iteration of the narrative. "The ancient paraklausithyron, lament of the shut-out lover, is based invariably on a stock dramatic scene: the lover, intoxicated, and wearing a garland, comes to the door of his beloved, which he finds shut against him. To the girl within, or sometimes to the door itself, he sings his song, begging for pity, pleading for admission, sometimes cursing the girl for her obstinacy and himself for his folly. It does him no good; the door remains closed. He flings down his garland or hangs it on the doorway, and then himself lies down on the doorstep to await the coming dawn." Often times the paraklausithyron is preceded by the κῶμος, (read kohmahs) or the revels of young people, often a drinking party, during which the lover finds himself in the intoxicated state. It is also often succeeded by a dawn song, a poem that takes place the morning after and marks the passing of the night.

Thisbe by Edwin Long (1885)

Thisbe by Edwin Long (1885)

This is where the genre began, but the motif has seen numerous mutations, as the idea of the "shut out" lover is passed from poet to poet, from lover to lover. As time continued on, the exclusion moved from the doing of one of the lovers, to that of some external force, pitting the star crossed lovers against the world. In Roman literature we find the famous story of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which the two lovers are banned from seeing each other by their parents, as a result of familial feuding.  In this version of the motif, the door is replaced with a wall, in which their is a hole, or a chink. Through this hole, the two lovers are able to communicate, and it is in this space that they get a few brief moments to express their love. Of course, if you are not familiar with Pyramus and Thisbe, you are probably thinking that this story sounds very similar to a certain play that you had to read around the 10th grade... 

Yes, Act II Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is an example of a paraklausithyron. (A particularly good one, as it is both preceded by a drinking party in II.1 and followed by a dawn song in III.5) But Romeo and Juliet is only one instance of the bards use of the literary motif. Look also upon Two Gentlemen of Verona (IV.2) and Much Ado About Nothing (II.3 and V.2) as a few among many other examples. One of my personal favorite instances of the motif is Cyrano and Christian at the balcony of Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, during which Cyrano is feeding Christian the lines he needs to woo Roxane, and essentially, schooling him on the ways of a paraklausithyron.  

To this day, the motif continues to evolve. There is an article that claims that Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven is a form of elegiac paraklausithyron, focusing on lines referring to torches, guards and doors. The Bob Dylan’s Temporary Like Achilles and Jimi Hendrix’s Castles Made of Sand both feature a lot of the characteristics of the motif. While this is a specific defense of my poem and Joey’s photograph, I would be remiss not to defend the motif and the genre as a whole. Despite having such ancient origins, and a long history, and despite the evolving ideas surrounding love and courtship, this narrative is one that is just as pertinent and relevant to the modern discourse. There is something incredibly human and timeless about spurned love or forbidden desires and the poetic expression of such feelings, that permeates all of western culture. I am sure someone out there could catalog the various instances of paraklausithyron in modern culture, but that would be quite the undertaking. Of course, as far as I am aware, the most recent iteration of this motif is in a photograph by joeyspadoni, and in the poem I wrote about that photograph, or so I claim.


The Poem

Perhaps now you are either a little more familiar with the primary ideas of the paraklausithyron, or refreshed on the main concepts if this is not your first encounter. Assuming that you have already read the poem and seen the photograph, you are more than likely a little confused. There is no door in the photograph, or a wall with a chink in it, or a balcony or orchard or garden. There are lovers, but they do not seem shut out at all. No one appears to be lamenting or crying or waiting for their lover to let them in. 

Within the poem, I have broken up the word into its three roots, and written a separate section of the poem for each. For the παρα I wanted to focus on the lovers and the nearness that they convey in a crowd full of very isolated figures. This section is written with a focus on the first person to show the similar thoughts of the lovers, and their oneness in their love. In the second stanza and the beginning of the third, parentheses are used to allow the two lovers to each have their own voices, but they are still always near to each other. I am not sure that too much can be read into it, but I was almost certainly thinking about e.e. cummings’ since feeling is first. The other use of parentheses in this poem is to define what παρα means, and draw the reader closer towards the meaning of the word as it applies to these lovers and as it is understood by them. There are lots of different ways that two people can be near to each other, and I think the various definitions of παρα shed light on these differences.   

The second section, the κλαίω, is a little bit more structured. The iambic pentameter and twelve lines leaves this section a rhyme structure away from traditional sonnet form. This section, in contrast with focus on first person in the first section, is written in the third person. Of course, in the poem, the κλαίῶν, the weeping thing, is not a person but instead the fountain. In this way, I sought to flip around the paraklausithyron, and talk about the lament of the one who is being asked to give, not of the one asking for something. I think there is often a one sided in nature in the narrative of a lover lamenting over the other not reciprocating the advances, and I wanted to explore, from my limited experience, the other side of that narrative. 

The fountain is a thing to which people come and ask for things, but the fountain cannot do anything about these wishes. The fountain has no agency in the world that people exist in, and the things that they want often have nothing to do with the fountain itself. If the wisher asks for a beautiful fountain to look at, or water too cool his face, or a place to sit and dip the feet in, then the fountain might be able to provide. Much else and the wish is something more cosmic, having very little to do with the fountain itself. So too with the person who comes to their lover wanting things that have very little to do with the other person, but that they think can be gained by engaging in the relationship with them. There is also a subtle commentary on a type of wish that I hear about a lot, and that I often times make myself . That is the wish that should not really be a wish. Often times we find ourselves wishing for things that we actually have the power to obtain ourselves. Of course, it is far easier to toss a coin in a fountain and leave it up to the gods rather than to actually affect the change we want to see in the world. 

I could write much more on this section of the poem, but I think I will leave it with just one final note, specifically about the gendering of the fountain. Obviously the fountain does not have a gender, and obviously the thoughts and philosophies expressed above are not limited to any gender. But I chose to make the fountain feminine to increase the focus on the fact that this is a comment on the other side of the narrative of the ancient paraklausithyron, in which, it is often the woman who has shut her door. This also allowed me to link together the concepts of the thing upon which we wish, or ask for things, and the concept of beauty in a much more poignant way, particularly in that last line. People think that the fountain is beautiful, and while it is nice to have people think that you are beautiful, it is not helpful when you feel broken, because they ask for things that you cannot give. Perhaps even I am reading to far into my own poem, but then I suppose thats a privilege that the author gets. Regardless, this conflation of the beautiful with the thing that can grant your wishes is precisely what leads us to another literary motif, the manic pixie dream girl. (But that is a subject for an entirely different essay.)

Finally, the third section, on the θύρα, the door. This section is more structured that the first and less structured that the second. Continuing in the pattern, this section is in written in the second person, as we find out at the end, from the perspective of the photographer as a sort of prayer to the sun. This may be the furthest of many stretches in the poem, but the sun framed between the two buildings reminded me of light through a key hole, and thus the association with the θύρα. Of course, the suns light is the door through which this story is being told in a certain sense. Photography is visual medium, and relies on some form of light for its composition. In a sort of prevenient sense, none of the figures in this photograph, the lovers, nor the crowds, nor the fountains would be there if it were not for the sun. To that end, the sun really is the door of my paraklausithyron. Though there may be a door, or a balcony, or a wall between the lovers, it is often through the medium of the θύρα, in this case the sunlight of a beautiful day, that the lovers are brought closer together, and their love of each other is renewed. In this way, the sun really is a sort of metaphorical door for our lives, if nothing else, at least in a Heideggerian sense.  

It was also really important for me to include the photographer in the poem, who in this case was the esteemed joeyspadoni. Quite simply, I am drawing upon a literary genre, and in all art, but especially literature, and especially in the paraklausithyron, the writer, or in this case, photographer, is one of the most important pieces. To write is an incredibly personal thing, that draws on the writers own experiences, and his ability to understand the narratives that connect with every individual, on a personal level. It is this connection, between the artist, their art, and the viewer, that I think is lost in a lot of contemporary photography because of photographies prevalence in the modern age. Everyone has a camera in their pockets, and so to some degree, everyone is a photographer. But not everyone is an artist. In this photograph, and in the photography of joeyspadoni, we are are not just witnessing the interactions of a photographer with the medium of photography. We are witnessing the interaction of an artist with the medium of humanity, and with the narratives that hold true in all of our hearts. 

Thus I broke up the poem and broke up the word to focus on the individual pieces of the word rather than the word as a whole. When I first went to write the poem, I was overwhelmed by the photograph, with so many focal points, and so much that I wanted to encapsulate. Breaking up the poem seemed like the only logical solution. But of course, there is a further reason behind the structure. The keen reader will have already made the connection of the sequence of events in the paraklausithyron and the structure of the poem. The first section is the connection of the lovers, and its free form nature can be reflective of the κῶμος. The second section is the lament, the most paraklausithyronic part of the entire poem. Finally, the last section is a poem to the sun, or a dawn song, written about the moment just after the paraklausithyron, the moment the photograph is taken. 


The Photograph

The connection with the paraklausithyron goes beyond these specific divisions and choices, and ties into the deeper philosophy that I drew from the photograph as a whole. From the moment I saw the photograph, it was connected in my mind to the word paraklausithyron, despite its distinct lack of many of the features. There is something rebellious about Ovid's paraklausithryon, or the Romeo and Juliet scene, which stems from this theme of forbidden love. So, in a culture where public displays of affection are often frowned upon, and in a world that asks us to be reserved and modest, their is something to the public kiss that so perfectly encapsulates that same rebellious spirit. 

In addition, the stories often deal in some way with fate, and with a love that is meant to be. I do not know the individuals in the photograph, nor do I know the state of their relationship. But in this moment, in this kiss, I see a couple who believe that they are meant to be. Maybe not meant to be forever, maybe not meant to be married, or even meant to be in any kind of relationship. But certainly a couple who believe that in this moment, they are meant to be close, and meant to be kissing, and meant to be expressing the love between them. 

Going a step further, if we strip down the sundry details of the paraklausithyron, or at least Ovid's version of the motif, we are left with two lovers who long to be together, and have found a brief moment of privacy at the door. That idea is precisely what I see in the photograph. Of course, its a more convoluted meaning of privacy, and perhaps a more modern one. No one of the hundreds of people in this photograph is looking directly at them. Even we are not looking directly at them. We only barely get a glimpse of the side of her face, eclipsed by his. Within the composition of the photograph, every line moves us to the focal point of the sun, down the road. The lovers are isolated, and in that sense, have found the moment of privacy that lovers long for. Within this photograph is contained the tale of two lovers, forbidden, destined, and longing for isolation.


So there you have it. There is no door, no balcony, no orchard, no θύρα, no weeping, no exclusion, no lament, no sorrow, no κλαίω, no torches, no guards, no garlands, and only a few instances of nearness. And yet, I will confidently call this photograph, and the poem I have written about it, a paraklausithyron. Feel free to disagree with the semantics, but this is my defense.   

Paraklausithyron by joeyspadoni

Paraklausithyron by joeyspadoni


Works Referenced

Canter, H. V. "The Paraclausithyron as a Literary Theme" The American Journal of Philology Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 355-368. (1920) Stable JSTOR URL.

Copely, Frank Olin. "The Origin of Certain Features of the Paraclausithyron" in Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 73, pp. 96-107. (1942)
Stable JSTOR URL.

Henderson, W. J. "The Paraklausithyron Motif in Horace's Odes" in Acta Classica, Vol. 16, p. 51 (1973). Found Here on Saturday March 26, 2016. 

Maligec, Christopher F. S. "'The Raven' as an Elegiac Paraclausithyron" in Poe Studies
Vol. 42, No. 1. (2009) Found on Muse on Saturday March 26, 2016.

Further Reading

The Metamorphoses, Books I-VII by Ovid 

The Story of Pyramus and Thisbe- Book IV Lines 55-166

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare 

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Image Credits

"Thisbe: "An envious wall the Babylonian maid from Pyramus, her gentle lover, stayed. etc." - Ovid" by     Edwin Longsden Long, engraved by Gustave Nicolas Bertinot. (1885) Found Here on Saturday March 26, 2016.

"Paraklausithyron" by joeyspadoni. (2015) You can find the photo here. joeyspadoni's website is here.