Sunday, December 07, 2008

Poetry Mood, Movies, and Violet Raines

How much does your already established mood influence your enjoyment of poetry, fiction, and movies? A couple of days ago I started reading Virgin of the Apocalypse, a poetry collection by Corrine De Winter. I tend to read only a few poems a day from such collections, and I started this one on Thursday. At first I couldn’t get into the pieces. Of course there was beautiful language, interesting word use, and strongly imagistic writing, everything that Corrine De Winter is known for, but I wasn’t feeling much emotional power from the pieces.

Then on Saturday morning I picked up the same collection and read “It Was in a Time of War.” Suddenly the meaning clicked. It sang. I turned the page, read “The Ballad of Marie Virgo.” Again, bam, the resonance overtook me. I flipped back to poems I’d read the day before and found in them now the meaning and emotional power I’d previously missed.

What happened? I had given a test on Thursday, and even when I was doing other things part of my mind was focused on grading I had to do. My mood was blocking any chance the poems had to engage my emotions. Once I got the hardest grading done, my mood lightened and suddenly the poems could freely enter my consciousness.

Obviously, the emotional power dwelt in the poetry, but my mood was blocking the full experience. On the other hand, three movies I’ve seen lately failed to engage my emotions, even though I wanted to watch them. We watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Strangers, and Mongol, none of which I cared for. The new Indiana Jones wasn’t as horrible as some have claimed, but I never felt caught up in the story and the ending felt sort of silly to me. The Strangers was supposed to be a horror film. It wasn’t. I didn’t like the movie’s main characters, and the “threat” was very weak. The good guys were a full grown adult male and adult female, facing off with a young male teen and two teenage women. The good guys had a shotgun while the bad teens had an axe and knives. Why didn’t the adult couple just clobber the teens in ten minutes and go out for breakfast? As for Mongol, it had beautiful scenery, and most fight scenes were pretty cool, but overall it just didn’t work as a story. Whenever young Temudjin (Genghis Khan) got into serious trouble the filmmakers cut away, leaving us to assume the miraculous. And though people were threatening to kill him throughout the movie, and he was captured numerous times, his enemies always managed to let him escape. Once he just ran off, because no one had bothered to tie his feet or tie him to a pole, and no one was watching him. Another time they put the great warrior in a yoke but didn’t tie him to a pole and left one guy to guard him. Were we supposed to be surprised when he escaped? There were many other silly parts to this movie.

Finally, though, I started reading Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening by Danette Haworth, about noon on Saturday and finished it within a few hours. What a wonderful book! It didn’t matter what mood I was in, the book put me in the right mood to really enjoy it. “Violet Raines” is what I’d call a “Tweener” book. It’s not quite a young adult novel, but not quite a children’s book either. I’m a long way from the 12-year-olds that populate this book, but I really found myself involved in their stories and dramas. I thought the story was a very honest portrayal of both the strengths and weaknesses of young folks who are struggling with burgeoning maturity. Well done, Danette. Thanks for an enjoyable afternoon.

50 comments:

Chris Bowers said...

My moods have everything to do with my enjoyment though I've never been able to put that idea into words. Thank you for doing so.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm with you on the moods. There are certain times I simply cannot read what I want to because I know my current mood will damper the experience.

And I concur on the kudos for Danette.

Lisa said...

Mood definitely dictates my reading and movie watching experience. If I have too much swimming in my head, I won't even pick up a book I know will require very active reading and participation on my part. I'll go for something lighter. I used to have a real penchant for heavy, dark films about familial tragedy, addiction and abuse and I find I rarely choose to watch many of those anymore because they weigh too heavily on me. On the other hand, now and then I can really enjoy a light comedy, but I have to be in the right mood. If I am, I get a big kick out of it, but if I'm not, it will bore me. The one upside to a teetering TBR stack is that I can always find exactly the right book to start to match my mood.

Travis said...

I know my moods have an effect on my ability to read or watch for enjoyment. Usually my mood stops me from even trying to read or watch something, especially if it's something I want to enjoy or have been anticipating.

As to the Indiana Jones movie, we watched it last night. It was rather silly, although we did enjoy it. The first in the series remains the best for me.

Scott said...

Charles, I have found that my mood definately affects my enjoyment or full understanding of both films and the written word. Sometimes something will pull me out of a bad mood, but most of the time my mood affects my intake of such things. The exception is that no matter how bad a mood I'm in, listening to Manowar always makes me feel good, at least for a while.

laughingwolf said...

mood inhibitors, anyone? :O lol

Mary Witzl said...

I've never really thought about my moods affecting my reading enjoyment, but you may have something there. I tend to read books more than once and I have certainly noticed that my mood at the time influences my opinion of the book.

And I've got to read Danette's book!

Erik Donald France said...

Absolutely right on about mood. This is a really important point, and goes a long way as a response to people who read something on high school or college and couldn't get into it, to enocurage a reread after life experiences have piled on high.

Right on, man, even from day to day, as you show.

Erik Donald France said...

typo -- encourage ;->

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris, thanks for dropping by. Glad to be of assistance.

Travis Erwin, I can't always predict what my moods will tell me either about what to read.

Lisa, I know I can't read poetry if I'm at all distracted. I really have to have time to meditate.

Travis, yes, Raiders of the Lost Ark was just a wonderful film.

Scott, that's true, good heavy music can change my mood for the better almost every time.

Laughingwolf, I've been known to use beer myself.

Mary Witzl, I bet you'd enjoy Danette's book.

Erik, I read it as "encourage" the first time. And yes, I found that I didn't like Hemingway or STeinbeck in high school, but developed a real fondness for both later on.

SQT said...

I've mentioned this before on my blog too. My mood absolutely has to be in-sync with my entertainment or I will immediately tune out.

I thought Indiana Jones was a disappointment too. The ending totally killed the whole film for me. I should put up a post about continuity and Indiana Jones-- and the lack thereof in the last movie.

Lana Gramlich said...

I worry more about mood in my creative process, perhaps because non-fiction is non-fiction regardless of how I feel.
I'm on the verge of giving up on movies, though. Indy made me want to cry. <:(

FANCY said...

Maybe you are right I have to respond to your comment...*LOL*...after I have read this I think My mood is a little teasing ...in a friendly kinky way giggle

Barbara Martin said...

Charles, I agree with you on mood before reading. If I happen to be tired, I know I won't be able to concentrate the way I should in a new unread book, so then I go to a comfortable book, one I have read before where it doesn't matter if I fall asleep in the chair.

Leon Basin said...

Hello fellow writer!

Rick said...

Wonderful topic, Charles. Oddly enough, sometimes I read to alter my moods. Or I watch Iron Man again.

Cloudia said...

When we are NOT in the mood, a slice of heaven wouldn't satisfy - yet, some books, movies, or other works can reliably lift us up. Mysterious, we humans . . . Aloha, Charles!

RHFay said...

If I'm in a dreadful mood, most things seem dreadful to me.

Then again, I'm just a moody poet at heart.

Shauna Roberts said...

My mood usually affects what I choose to read.

Watching TV without doing anything else seems a waste of time to me, so I usually pay bills, open mail, sew on buttons, make schedules, etc. when the TV's on. I've found that doing the other activity dulls the appeal of the movie or TV show.

jennifer said...

I hadn't thought about it but I think you have a really good point. Mood does make one more or less open to poetry. My best poetry mood is melancholia for some reason.

You mentioned your mother on the post about Mark - is she better I hope? Praying that all is well for her now..

the walking man said...

Agree; the writer establishes a mood but the reader has to be in the area of it to connect.

Chris Eldin said...

I also loved Danette's book!!! Great review!

I have such a hard time with poetry. I wish I had read it as a young adult so it would be easier. I enjoy certain styles (mostly blogging buddies) but I don't have any poetry books. I go online to get an occasional poetry fix, but you're right about the mood having to be there.

Greg Schwartz said...

my mood definitely affects how i read poetry too. i've been reading Langston Hughes, and if i'm not in the right frame of mind, i just can't enjoy it, but other times the poems actually stand up and speak to me.

David Cranmer said...

Without a doubt, mood impacts reading. I couldn't agree more... I expected a lot more from the 4th Jones movie. I did enjoy seeing Karen Allen again but that was about it.

Danette Haworth said...

Charles,

Thank you for your wonderful comments on Violet Raines!

I've found mood to affect me very much, not only in my ability to engage with a book/movie, but sometimes I won't start a book/movie because I am not ready for the feelings I anticipate the book/movie leaving me with.

BTW, no one ever remembers to tie my feet, so I always escape.

L.A. Mitchell said...

My mood is almost always swayed by a movie. The full-on sensory experience is powerful, even if the movie is not so good---like Australia--but I digress. If I'm stressed out, I have a hard time getting into any book unless I'm already committed to the characters and story.

laughingwolf said...

mmmmmmmmmmmm beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer! ;)

writtenwyrdd said...

My mood affects my response to such a degree! I can't read something I love in the wrong mood or it will be boring, stilted, just 'off' somehow.

Poetry is particularly susceptible to that false measure, Charles.

BernardL said...

It's always best to see an Indiana Jones movie expecting the impossible. :)

ivan said...

Well, it's got to be tight, and it's got to scan. And it has to be a kind of symbol.

Should affect you no matter what your mood. You'll spot the quality, no matter how busy at the moment; the quality of the poem will intrigue you. You know you'll read it again at a quieter time.

Generally speaking, the poet shouldn't write too long. :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Mood influences my enjoyment of book, movies, etc. Good point.

Aine said...

That is the beauty and the curse of art. There must be a connection between artist and reader/viewer for the art to express itself. The right art at the wrong time is meaningless.

Why do I feel like this is another version of "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?"

Heff said...

Doesn't Violet Raines do, um..."Films" ? Perhaps I'm wrong...

Vesper said...

I completely agree with you on the moods. I choose what I read, what I listen, what I watch according to my mood.

Charles Gramlich said...

SQT, and they didn’t need to do that kind of ending. Just suggesting the interdimensional nature would have been enough.

Lana, I hardly ever find movies compelling either. Maybe I’ll try Dark Knight. Iron Man wasn’t too bad.

Fancy, I got a good laugh.

Barbara Martin, I do the comfort reading too, often with older SF or fantasy that is good space opera.

Leon, hello. Thanks for dropping by.

Rick, Some very powerful writing can alter my mood. Music is the surest way to do it, though.

Cloudia, Reading Robert E. Howard often affects my mood. Some of it is classically conditioned, I’m sure, do to our long associations of certain kind of reading material with certain moods.

RHFay, Good horror or heroic fantasy can fit right into a miserable mood for me.

Shauna, I almost never watch TV without multi-tasking too. Grading sometimes, or often reading, or paying bills or typing up blog posts. Those I can do easily while watching TV.

Jennifer, I’m that way with poetry too. I write and read it most when I’m melancholia. My mother is feeling quite a bit better and is some physical therapy to build up her strength. Thanks much for asking.

Mark, I tend to work really hard to establish a mood in my fiction, especially my short fiction, for just that reason, trying to put the reader in the right frame of mind to connect.

Chris Eldin, yes it was very good. I didn’t like poetry as a kid, but that was before I discovered Edgar allen Poe and Dylan Thomas. Then I began to love it. And I read quite a bit of it.

Greg Schwartz, Hughes is like that for me too. But in the right mood it really sings. Dylan Thomas can actually alter my mood because his stuff is so powerful.

David Cranmer, I thought the fourth movie had some promise but it was all surface stuff it seemed. I just couldn’t get excited about it.

Danette, I really enjoyed it. You did a great job. I’d think tying the feet would be like rule 2, after tying hands, of holding a captive.

L. A. Mitchell, Movies can sometimes do that to me, but I’m a really hard sell on movies. Iron man did it a bit for me. I started out disliking the character but came to like him and enjoyed the movie overall.

Laughingwolf, here’s to you.

Writtenwyrdd, I find particularly that If I’m feeling under time pressure it’s hard for anything to cut through to me.

Bernardl, I agree. All of them had impossible elements, but this one had aliens, which just seemed…wrong to me.

Ivan, Tight and scan. Two good words to describe all writing definitely. But especially poetry.

Pattinase, thankee.

Aine, good point about the “Tree in the forest.” I think you’re right. That’s why I’m sometimes hesitant to criticize stuff I really didn’t enjoy. I wonder if it was the writer, or me and my mood.

Heff, well, I’m not really a connoisseur of those types of movies. Who knows.

Vesper, I do that too, although it’s interesting that sometimes I make the wrong choice and end up picking something that doesn’t fit. Like those three movies I mentioned.

Steve Malley said...

A strong mood can overpower my media experience. A strong story can overpower my mood.

What interests me most is what happens right out at the edge, where story and enjoyment can tip either way...

Merisi said...

Mood can play a part in the enjoyment of a book, especially if it is a book with poems yet to be discovered. I do like to go back and seek out a well-read collection of poems or re-read a passage of a novel, to find peace and contentment when my mood would not be particularly favorable to read something new.

In the ideal case, though, no matter the mood, when the right book falls open, you fall in. These are the great moments in a reader's life.

Books are such a gift.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, yes, the best stories and poems reach out and force my mood to conform to its mood.

Merisi, I like that, when the right book falls open, you fall in. Well said.

Sarah Hina said...

This is a great point. I find myself very choosy about which music to listen to, or which movie to watch, dependent on my mood. Otherwise, I enter into it grudgingly and with my mind already somewhat closed. I'm glad you gave those poems another chance, though. I'll have to look De Winter up.

And yay, Danette!! :)

Ello said...

Charles, I am in a crazy weird mood too. I'm not sure where my mood is going to take me lately. I've been a bit down. But I'm glad you enjoyed Danette's book! It is lovely isn't it!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sarah Hina, makes me think I should go back and give a lot of poetry a reread.

Ello, I'm so caught in work mode at the moment it's hard to loosen it up to enjoy some reading.

X. Dell said...

Hmm. I usually read a novel, or watch a movie, to take me out of my present frame of mind, and put me somewhere else. I've never thought about how my mood might affect what I read, but that seems reasonable.

Charles Gramlich said...

X-Dell, the main effect for me is on poetry, which is such a delicate genre. But it does effect regular fiction as well,

cs harris said...

Yes, I've had that experience, of not getting into a book and then trying it again in a different mood and enjoying it. Never had it with poetry, though. I tend not to read poetry unless I'm already receptive to moodiness and images.

Josephine Damian said...

Professor Gramlich! I'm in an especially good mood today since my grad school advisor approved my thesis today!

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, I get a fair amount of poetry sent to me because of groups I'm in so I almost always have a chapbook or two handy.

Josephine Damian, Great news! That calls for some celebration. Congrats.

eric1313 said...

Same deal, some days I'm in no mood to write or read in an engaging manner. And I also read a only a handful of poems a day; the better to let them sink in, and to spread out the joy of reading a great author.

Mongol was not as good a story as the actual history was, I must say as well. I enjoyed the History Channel's documentaries about the Mongols much more than that silly movie.

etain_lavena said...

Emotion is a very strong trigger for loads of stuff we do. How we preceive things and how it was meant to preceived.

Hope your ok Charles.
Have a great day.
E:)

Charles Gramlich said...

Eric1313, yes, I agree. The real history is damn intersting.

Etain, wow, there's a blast from the past. Haven't heard from you in a long time. I'm doing well. I hope you are fine.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles:

This is exactly why I read poems sent to Lilliput at least 3 times, with the appropriate amount of time (usually at least a week) in between.

Sometimes it feels like dialing in a radio in the old analog days ... it fades in, out, and than, snap, there it is.

Only, you are dialing in yourself ...

Don