Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Structure of the Hero's Journey as Related to Sonata Form

Today we had a great meeting of the Meridian Chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild. Playwright Elliott Street (who has over 50 film and television credits) presented a very interesting workshop on "The Hero's Journey," using Christopher Vogler's, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structures for Storytellers and Screenwriters as reference. The Narrative Archetypes are the Hero (protagonist), Herald, Mentor, Threshold Guardian, Shapeshifter (turn-coat), Shadow (antagonist), Ally, (friends of hero), Enemy (friends of the shadow) and Trickster (one who gets you out of difficult situations). Vogler lists12 steps that occur in three acts in which the hero completes his journey. It all begins with the Hero happy in his ordinary world. The Herald gives him some bad news, which he probably ignores at first. Eventually the news or problem is so bad he has to respond. Now he needs a Mentor for help, and gathers Allies at some point, maybe now or in the "special world" he has to go to to confront the Shadow. The Mentor may give him something to help him on his journey--the talisman. Now he has to find a way to get past the Threshold guard, perhaps with help from a Trickster ally. Once in the special world he may face many enemies before he actually does battle with the Shadow. One of his allies may be a Shapeshifter who deceives him. Just when all hope is gone, he will need to use the talisman to save himself. After he has conquered the Shadow he changes in some way. He must come home with things resolved, set right. There may be some more surprises; he could find out that the Shadow is not who he thought he was, etc...

Elliot gave several stories, movies and real life examples of all these. It seems so clear explained this way; I was already comparing all the archetypes to TV shows I'd recently watched!

After the workshop, I read my poem "Concerto" (Heavy Hands Ink Vol. 6) and realized how similar sonata/concerto form are to Vogler's three acts as described by Mr. Street.

I. The Exposition: Exposing the themes. (a) Theme in the Tonic and (b) Contrasting Theme in a different key usually Dominant. (a. theme--the Hero in his usual, comfortable world, b. theme--his friend, family or community, etc... is in trouble). There may be a repeat (the first call to action may be ignored). There is a Bridge to the Development (the Threshold Guardian.)

II. Development: The themes are expanded upon, can wander in several keys and tonalities (the hero goes to the special or strange new world, faces conflict, does battle, then victoriously resolves the problem). There may be a fake Recap before it actually comes (you may have a Shapeshifter-one who switches loyalties). A circle of fifths, or some sort of harmonic progression will take you back to the Recap. (the talisman?)

III. The Recapitulation: The themes return, are changed somehow, but b theme is in the Tonic  (The hero returns home with his reward or accomplishment, his friend, family or community safe with him and lives happily ever after, or at least finds resolution.) Coda (may be a surprise side story, such finding out that the Shadow was a hero turned bad, or a relative, etc...)

You could take the analogy as far as you like; even claim the allies are the harmony to the melody, etc... In a concerto, of course, you would have the solo part and then the orchestra (allies) joining in. But the general idea seems the same--they both tell a story!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flash Poetry Mob

I recently came across this post Poetry Out of Nowhere: National Poetry Month Flash Mob on Kate Messner's blog. One stanza of  Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells" is in our 5th grade music books (I teach elementary music), and I always read the entire poem to the class. I love the rhythm of it, as well as Poe, of course. This reminds me of "choral" reading. Here is the poem:

The Bells

by Edgar Allan Poe


Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now- now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!


Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances,
 and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells. 

I am thankful to my 4th-6th grade teachers that MADE us recite poems in front of the entire class! I was terribly shy and nearly passed out every time I had to do it. I always hoped to be last so I could recite only to the teacher during recess. But I am glad that we had to memorize them. That's what I miss with free verse. It's so much easier to remember poetry when it has rhythm and rhyme. Think about how much easier it is to remember song lyrics. That's because you use a different part of your brain when music is involved. Brain scans actually show the brain lighting up all over when you play an instrument, sing a song, or just listen to music. I digress, but do YOU know any poems "by heart" that are free verse?

This is a very good way to get students to memorize poetry while promoting poetry to the public! Win-win! I really want to use this idea at a festival, in the mall, or maybe even in the school cafeteria! I would suggest, however, that you inform security that this is going to happen. We wouldn't want to cause panic! 

What are some poems that you think would work well for flash poetry mob? 

What are some poems you were required to memorize in school? I remember (6th grade, maybe) we had to learn the last stanza of Thanatopsis!

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams. 

About Me

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Wynne Huddleston is a poet, musician and teacher. Her first book of poetry, From the Depths of Red Bluff, ISBN: 978-0-9840483-2-8, published by the Mississippi Poetry Society, Inc., is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Ms. Huddleston is the Mississippi Poetry Society 2014 Poet of the Year. Her poetry has been published in numerous publications including the Birmingham Arts Journal, Camroc Press Review, Stymie Magazine, Danse Macabre, Orange Room Review, New Fairy Tales Anthology, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and Four and Twenty. Her poem, Same Stars, Different Houses received a Pushcart Nomination from Deep South Magazine. Awards include the 2013 MPS Award, and Winner of the Grandmother Earth National Contest 2010 for Environmental Poetry. Ms. Huddleston was born in Lone Star, Texas, but has lived in Mississippi most of her life. She has been an elementary music teacher for 25 years, and has 2 grown sons, and 2 grandchildren.