Anticipating: Fringe – The Series Finale

I remember randomly tuning into an episode of Fringe about three years ago in the middle of their second season and thinking, “What’s with this X-Files rip off and why the hell is Dawson’s Creek in it?”  It didn’t help that this particular episode involved quite the bit of time travel, paradoxical looping and, to add to the random, Peter Weller of Robocop fame.  It became a bit much and I tuned out as fast as I tuned in.

Flash forward a couple of months to the series finale of Lost, another JJ Abrams series that I got completely immersed in, and was also chomping at the bit to see how this modern mythology would end.  Looking back now, my evaluation of Lost was affected by how much I loved the series and ended up giving the writers and creators way too much leeway with their finale. Looking back, I am disappointed in how they one of TV’s most original mythos and gave it not just a pedestrian ending but also a US ending where everything is fine in the end.  Ugh!  Lost should have been the epitome of tragedy, an island where all souls, no matter how noble or twisted, have already squandered their chance at redemption.

Yeah, I’m still bitter about it.

But now Fringe, the series that took over for Lost has a real chance to be more than an X-Files clone or another Abrams series, it can really be a hallmark for a lost art in US TV writing, a true American tragedy.

Spoilers ahead:

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Most Intellectuals Will Only Half Listen

Originally uploaded by tutam

[In response to Claudia Rankine’s open call to move “toward a discussion about the creative imagination, creative writing and race.”]

First off, I want to applaud Ms Rankine and her thoughtful course of action with dealing with the racism in po-biz. She identified a problem, went to the source, engaged in conversation, wrote a response, and then presented herself in an open public forum. All these actions are well worthy of praise especially when one considers the fact that many authors are more than happy to just rest on their laurels and harp about these kinds of issues behind closed doors or, even worse, their private web feeds.

I’m even more thankful of Ms Rankine’s follow-up by posting her presentation (again, in an open and public forum) and then opening up a new forum for writers to share their own individual thoughts on racism in creative writing circles. Please link over to and click on AWP for the presentation or OPEN LETTER for her call to responses.

But, as Nas reminds us, some intellectuals only half listen and would prefer to rehash the territory Ms Rankine already traversed by referring over and over again to one racist poem.

So here is what I don’t understand: Why do poets-of-color insist on reinforcing the Ivory Tower (the literal and figurative one) by constantly paying deference to it? And if they think they aren’t doing that, then I respectfully disagree. To put it plainly and name the harm: I would rather not teach/share/discuss Tony Hoagland’s “The Change” and instead focus on the wide body of work from so many other poets who successfully and respectfully discuss racism in their poetry.

Here are some poems I would rather refer to:
• “Skinhead” by Patricia Smith
• “Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races” by Lorna Dee Cervantes
• “Talk” by Terrance Hayes
• “So Mexicans are Taking Jobs from Americans” by Jimmy Santiago Baca
• “Niggerlips/Negro Bembón” by Martín Espada
• “About the White Boys who Drove By a Second Time to Throw a Bucket of Water on Me” by Patrick Rosal
• “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton
• “The crowd at the ball game” by William Carlos Williams

This is an incredibly incomplete list but a good start for anyone who wants to start talking about how hard and complex issues can be dealt with craft and tact in poetry. I’m open to more suggestions but will shy away from reading any poems that are presented with disclaimers such as “This poem does a lousy job of dealing with racism,” or “Here is an example of a white privileged dude talkin bout his white privilege but trying to dress it up as a poem.”

And why will I shy away from it?

#1) Because if I want to read what Anglo-Centrics thinks about the issue of racism as seen through their personal prism, I can go to the thin Poetry shelves of (insert name of national book selling chain) on my own and pick up that book on my own.

#2) I don’t need to eat a shit sandwich to know it doesn’t taste good. Point, as vulgar as it is, made.

#3) Every time you read your friends/students/colleagues a “change” poem that isn’t really about change, not only does a cat die but, more importantly, a much better poem goes unread. See list above.

Reaction: LOST, The Series Finale

Originally uploaded by Jackman Chiu

I was expecting the very worst end possible for Lost: another round of unanswered questions, new characters to muddle the story arc, tons of techno babble, and at least one farfetched dues ex machina. Yeah, my expectations were set to a record low and I was ready to walk away from the television in total disgust. Instead, Lost ends with a clean finish to the story arc, characters fulfilling their destinies, and a ton of spiritual techno babble that left me satisfied. At least for now.

I include the last qualifier because I remember the finale of Battlestar Galactica leaving me wanting more. Yes, the story was done and we finally reached our promised destination but some of the mystery still lingering with the question of divine intervention (aka Angels in Space). Lost, on the other hand, made a clear separation between what the real world and the imagined universe. A separation and explanation that has me cool for now but I wonder how I’ll feel about it in a few months.

The other reason I’m cool with the ending is that I predicted at least two key parts of the finale. Status = Pleased with myself.
(Spoilers be here)
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Anticipating: LOST, The Series Finale

I’m coming to accept the fact that the Lost finale will disappoint me. Not because the writing, characterizations, or acting has been bad, I actually think this season is as strong as any of the previous seasons. Ok, the first season kicked major ass and hooked me on the Island mythos with the quickness. So, yeah, that was the best season but novelization like teenage romance is all about fast, addictive starts; rocky, drama filled middles; and awkward, sloppy endings. That’s why Lost is bound to fall short on its promise, and that’s why I will be super-glued to the television on Sunday to see exactly how far it will fall from my grace.

I mention novelization because teledramas like the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Sopranos, and Battlestar Galactica have really given novels a run for their money as the modern myth makers. I have no doubt in my mind that future generations will speak of the work of Ronald D. Moore and J.J. Abrams in the same breath as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. In fact, I’d bet they’d be more associated with these great authors then they will be filmmakers or even other television producers since characters like Quark, Big Pussy and Gaius Baltar have some serious sci-fi cred going on.

The other reason I say novelization is to make sure I don’t trample on the iconic “Great American Novel” which none of these shows are since (and here is where I don my I ♥ Haters shirt) putting together a TV novelization is harder than putting together a novel.
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Harriet Caught the Vapors

Originally uploaded by Pro-Zak

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sharing poetry in different forums to help reach different audiences and how so many poems sound so similar because they are written for only one room. For me, one of those rooms include poetry blogs especially since they give a poet not only the opportunity to share their work but also give valuable insight into process, revision and recitation. Even though poetry blogs are still relatively young in comparison to the advent of the Information Age in general and incredibly new when compared to the Gutenberg Revolution, they’ve offered some great information about how poets think. They also offer a lot of crap about folks who seem to want to blog about everything except how they actually put a poem together.

One of the best places to see this mix of the dope and the whack in poetic action was the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Blog. I say was because as of today What’s New at Harriet is that it has gone from being a crossroad of dialogue to a dead end alley of news links making it no more better and probably less efficient than setting up a Google alert for: poetry, poetics, poems.
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