Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mike Finley -- blunt buddha

As far as I know, Mike doesn't spend a lot of time under a banyan tree. But having spent some time with his video-poems, I end up in something like a Zen frame of soul. More about those poems later.

Mike is a professional writer. That means he actually gets paid real money for writing stuff. That blows my mind. Many people manage to publish stuff. Most never see a dime. Of course, getting paid for stuff doesn't always indicate the writing is good. And I'm sure there's a lot of good stuff that never gets published. But in general, it means a real, professional editor has passed an approving verdict. It means that Mike's writings have weathered a somewhat objective filter.

He's been writing a long time. He's learned a few things about prose and poetry. When he offers a critique on my stuff, I take it seriously and most times acquiesce in his judgement. But since he's not too fond of overcooked romantic waywardness, I don't usually tag him with my writings. It's not that I don't wish to be bluntly dealt with; rather, I just don't want to irritate or bore him with my highly non-Zen effusions. And by "Zen," I mean approaching things clearly, without obfuscation, without Tchaikovskian cadence, and free of addled emotionalism. But if you think you write clear and penetrating poetry, do tag him -- you'll get his honest, worthy, and blunt opinion.

Mike is realistic about poetry. He writes poems, but he knows that for humanity, in general, poetry is beside the point. For every person who adores poetry, ten-thousand others could not care less. And he knows that most poetry sucks big time. Very few people are gonna get rich publishing poems. You pretty much need to win a Nobel Prize. But he still writes poems. For himself and us few for whom poetry is an old vessel that sometimes holds exquisite drops of reality. Great music and great painting reach us in the deep places. Occasionally, a poem does, too.

When I made friends with Mike on Facebook over a year ago, I began reading some memoir pieces he posted. They are wonderful. Not only are they written with talent, they are well-crafted and disciplined. And funny as hell. For days, weeks, I read and chuckled. Sometimes snorted and guffawed. The humor is so wry and subtle that it creeps up on you, hence eliciting little explosions of mirth.

Mike has had a very tough year. His beloved daughter Daniele committed suicide. If you are already mutual friends with Mike, you know what happened and why. If not, please send him a friend request. On his page, you'll learn the details. You'll learn about how this tragedy came about and how its aftereffect has influenced Mike's spiritual journey. How it has led to his creating support groups and supporting others. How it has charged reminiscence with poignant beauty, and poems with an austere hope.

Now...I want to talk about Mike's video-poems. About why I call him a "buddha." I selected one of those video-poems to illustrate what I'm getting at:

Water Hills
Water Hills YouTube

The images and the music complementing Mike's words speaks for itself. And only brief mention needs to be made about his very good reading ability. It's the words., that's not right. These things are made as complexes -- images, music, voice, and words all working together. So how can I justify extracting only the words? I can't, really. But those words! They somehow manage to be as direct as ice, yet also as elusive as a koan. They make me feel a certain way. They banish time. Or allow me to fall into a different version of time -- Zen-time. I feel I'm riding a slow Ferris wheel and that my soul is curving around Mike's poem, around his words. Each line forms a spoke radiating from a dark or ambiguous hub of deep-breathed reality. Mike is a good poet: these lines -- these spokes -- could have been made too fragile with too many abstractions, but he strengthens them with images that are perfectly judged. This is a kind of beauty with weight and spiritual significance.

Mike Finley -- the blunt buddha of Minnesota. Sometimes, this buddha is argumentative...or maybe it's that he likes to slip around the curve of your thought. To always give you a fresh perspective on a topic. Or maybe there's a bit of curmudgeon in this northern swami. But back to writing -- once, he complimented me on the title of one of my prose ramblings. That kind of thing makes an impression.

Okay, the end, almost. One last thing, a repetition: Mike gets paid real money for writing. That is an astonishing accomplishment in life. He has my respect and appreciation. even more-last last thing. Mike Finley is a very warm-hearted blunt buddha.

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