Do not adjust your computer monitors…
…mI spelin is indead badd.
First off, an apology to any of your carbon based life forms that I’ve interacted with in say, the last two or more weeks, if I’ve seemed kind of distant, out of it, quiet, or non-stimulating in conversation or interaction. I’ve been experimenting, with mixed success to take a little more control of my sleep cycle and combat some of the worst of my insomnia…and the ensuing battle has left me, at times, a bit zombified.
MONDAY fairly rocked. I was down in Springfield, at UIS, for the awards ceremony for the Outstanding Graduate Thesis (of which, my book, Souls Unsure won). It was a pretty big to-do. I thought there would be more involved and more awards…but the other departments passed out the certificates quickly and then they got to me and Nancy Perkins gave a whole speech about me and my book and then I got to get up, say a few words, and read the Prologue to the audience.
I was glad I was able to do this…I like dramatic readings more than giving speeches and they all seemed pretty rapt with my words. Lots of compliments from friends and strangers and college big wigs. I could tell my Dad was pretty blown away by it all.
Now to get the book published, get rich, and get my creditors off my back…
But the literary fun doesn’t end there, oh no my lovelings:
This coming Monday (the 29th) I’ll be at the Red Lion Pub as a featured reader for a Twilight Tales. I’ll likely read a bit from Souls Unsure as well other bits of fiction. So come one come all…apparently I’m pretty good at live readings, and it’ll serve me well to come in with a strong showing and a large audience. The fun starts at 7:30.
…I finished Secret Project X, a short story Christmas gift to Torrie, and she seems pretty thrilled with it…
…I still want to bang out a treatment and proposal for a comic book idea I have…
…I need to get my website up and running…
…American Idol is evil…
…most shows that don’t involve a writer are…
…that last statement might have a slight bias…
…I want to date a woman with blue skin and glowing eyes…
…I really wish I had a hard copy of the speech Nancy gave about me, as it made me sound very important and smart. However…I did go a bit like her original proposal, of me, to the committee:
To: Provost Harry Berman and Members of the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Outstanding Thesis Selection Committee
From: Nancy Genevieve Perkins, Associate Professor of English, Representing the English Program
Date: 1 October 2006
Re: English Program Nominates Joshua Alan Doetsch’s Master’s Creative Writing Closure Project Souls Unsure: A Dark Epic in Prose and Poetry for UIS’ Outstanding Thesis
Joshua Alan Doetsch’s Creative Writing Closure Project combines epic poetry with brief interludes of stand-alone fiction. The poetry intertwines classical literary allusions with Native American, Caribbean, Latin American, African, and Creole-American literatures as well as contemporary street slang, music, movies, and other pop culture. The plot traces the universal theme of good verses evil through the sinewy streets of New Orleans to the shadowy regions of Sheol, and the temporal setting pre-dates time itself interwoven with the moment of now.
The epic poem began in Dr. Marcellus Leonard’s Long Poem course with a twenty-page tale spun from the wondering conscience of what happened back then: back in the dawn of time in the Judeo–Christian history of the War in Heaven, which resulted in good and evil, good angels and bad angels. Were all angels such? Or did some get caught between such warring forces, and if so, what happened to them? Where are they now? Dante wrote in The Inferno, III 30-37, “This is the sorrowful state of souls unsure./ Whose lives earned neither honor nor bad fame” (Book II, Coda 91).
One of the three primary characters/voices of this epic tale, which is written in the form of a drama script, is one of these not fallen, not soaring, angels. Josh named him Syth. Syth is allusional, of course, to Seth, the third child of Adam, of Eve, of promise, of curse. The Biblical Seth neither soared nor plummeted; he was neither the Promise of Abel nor the Curse of Cain; he simply was, and is, the between of all that is and of all that could be. He is the best and worst of the modern Everyone. Josh’s Syth is true to the prototype of Seth; he is neither good nor evil; neither black nor white but ashen and usually seen in shadow forms; he has a broken crystal voice which he uses only in whispers and sparingly because his voice reminds him of the best of what could have been, a voice in The Celestial Choir; he has broken wings, which allow him to move from world to world but without grace. And Josh gives him a broken spirit—bound to his broken body with barbed wire, it longs to rest, to be quiet, to join the unfeeling of uninvolvement. The opening Interlude, however, tells of the screams of a pure child, and those screams transverse this modern world to the nether world, beyond knowledge of time and space, and touch this broken spirit, and Syth intervenes in her misery, stopping the unnatural predatoring by her own father. This action, this pure action, evokes the tortured souls in the nether regions of nightmares and Danté’s Hell to blister the readers’ minds and to taunt these minds with memory’s silent screams, and punish Syth for daring to feel.
Outstanding Thesis Doetsch 2
Syth’s odyssey to find the child follows “the trail of broken doll parts”; he is chasing “the silent scream,” seeking Hope, “a youngling shade” (186) who may have had her spirit crushed by a life where prayers were not answered and evil allowed to continue for too long. This hero/antihero gives all that he can, all that he has left, to save the spirit of the child whose body he saved.
Syth’s journeys, his quests, are chronicled by Crow, the winged Trickster, to the voodoo Street Priestess, Mama Nancy. Crow admits he is not to be trusted, and all readers of Native American literature know that his words can slide and twist the truth. The voodoo priestess cannot travel to the nether worlds; she is bound to time and place, but she can, and does, evoke the spirits of power in the other worlds, Papa Ghede, Saint Gerard, Saint Patrick, the Virgin Mother, among many others. But to know of Syth, to learn of his identity and of his journey, she must barter with Crow to be her eyes in places and in times she cannot go. The irony of her bartering is that all Crow will accept to do her bidding are her eyes; he responds to her question of “why would wily Crow want the eyes/ of this poor, poor woman?” (24) with “Isn’t it obvious/Miss Too-Clever-For-Her-Own-Good?/ I don’t know/ what it is to have life in my belly,/ to pay bills,/ to grow old,/ one day at a time./ And you are loved and you are feared,/ and I want to see from your side of the divide” (25).
This unlikely trilogy of darkness, what Josh calls “Three archetype tarot cards of the soul” (xvi) illuminates the modern world while diving into the realm of the unspeakable. These are like all of the dark corners that modern people avoid and constrain in the unspeakable; the tale’s words, images, and deeds focus the readers’ attentions, tap into emotions, and shine the light of language in the darkest of corners. The Interludes paint this modern world in vignettes, emotions carried by all lost souls, and in the daily lives of those no one brags about doing activities best left unspoken. Yet, the readers recognize shards of the self in these characters, and so laugh and so cry.
One of these Interludes, “Teddy Bear Rex” (332), tells of Oedipus, the Teddy-Bear most beloved of Hope’s childhood in her Kingdom of Dolls. All of the subjects had been turned to face the wall, so they could not see a “very bad thing” (333) when she was a very young child. Then, as a grown-up with knowledge, Hope “came upon Oedipus . . . eyes leaking poison” (333). “ ‘You shouldn’t have peeked,’ she sobbed, ‘Your eyes are too clever’. She took the king of dolls off his throne and ripped out those beautiful brass button eyes. . . . [he] was exiled . . . banished to the dark closet. Blackness and silence and memories of what was lost—they were so good, his button eyes. Perhaps it was all for the best. Blanketed in darkness, the king of dolls never saw what became of his kingdom, what befell his subjects. Without the evidence of sight, Oedipus went on dreaming he was real, in that grey place” (333). This tiny vignette speaks the truth so clearly, so painfully, that when Josh submitted it as a short story for publication, it was accepted, and it has already been nominated for an Il Council Award and for a Pushcart Award.
The blending of story with journey is a powerful conveyance to the readers’ collective understanding. Just as Josh’s blending of poetry, drama, and fiction scaffolds powerful truths, his epic tale for a modern audience paints the Paradise Lost by Milton in modern hues of Innocence Lost. So which force will win in the timeless chasm between good and evil, love and
Outstanding Thesis Doetsch 3
hate? Can both be understood? Is a victory for one force ever the final victory? Or is it, as the street priestess says that voodoo “is not about magic, but healing—healing through relationships.
. . Sometimes, we can raise ourselves up, to rescue another, when we don’t have the strength to save ourselves” (359-360).
Joshua Alan Doetsch’s Master’s Creative Writing Closure Project Souls Unsure is nominated by the English Program for this Award because Josh set out to write an epic for the modern world, using a cauldron of literary allusions to enlighten and to entertain, and he succeeded.