Thursday, 24 December 2015


A friend of mine posted this in the comment section of an article on the new Star Wars film:

"I enjoyed it a lot, but I liked it better the first time I saw it, when it was called A New Hope."

Some people I've talked to love the parallels between the new film and Episode IV; others think it's a cheap way to make a film.

But which writer among us has NOT re-used a pre-existing plot to make a new story?

Shakespeare did it.

Milton did it.

How many versions of the Odyssey are there? I mean, come on.

I agree that there is a vast difference between stealing a story and claiming that you made it up from scratch and re-imagining a plot and making it your own. But Episode VII is definitely not guilty of plagiarism.

I'm in the camp that applauds J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt's self-aware use of pre-existing Star Wars themes and plot points to bring Star Wars to a new generation.

Let's consider a couple of similarities between IV and the original trilogy:

Father/ Son Problems - I love how the writing team re-imagined this conflict between generations in VII. Instead of Luke having to come to terms with his father's affinity with the dark side, losing a hand in the process, Han has to face his son, who has become corrupted. In one of the arguably best shot, and most theatrical, scenes of VII, Han and Kylo Ren meet: that hand on Kylo's face, that is drama at its best. So now we wonder, will this relationship still affect later plot points? Will Kylo Ren become more corrupted, or will he regret killing his father?

Hands - "Stop taking my hand!" Rey yells at Finn as they run through the scavenger market on Jakku. Peter Brinn has commented on this, saying it could be a tongue-in-cheek jab at George Lucas for all the hands that were cut off in the previous six films. Especially Episode III. Yikes. 

There should be a "No Hands Were Cut Off in this Film" stamp on Episode VII (well, unless you count C3P0's extant red arm). There are a couple of moments where a severed body part seems likely to happen, but J.J. and Co avoid this entirely. Hands instead are held out to others, and connection between people seems to be more of the theme behind hands in this film than loss.

The Droid That Is Carrying Something Important That the Bad Guys Want - BB8. How can you not love this quirky little ball of a robot? Obviously our R2D2-style comic relief/ loyal companion who bravely rolls through the desert and ends up with the film's young hero. BB8 approaches problems inventively and can think critically. He's a sentient robot with personality, and I love how this is just accepted. No philosophical quandary if robots have souls or not in this film. They're people too.

Is this plot point maybe a bit too close to the original film? Yes. Completely. But there's a great moment where BB8 finds R2D2, and it's clear from how BB8 looks up to R2, that the writers also are paying tribute to the original rebel robot.

And lastly:

Chewie Still Doesn't Get a Medal - Chewie is definitely the hero of this film. He's the one who weakens the big bad planet destroying weapon so that the rest of the team has a chance of blowing it up. He takes out like twenty stormtroopers, drawing fire so that Rey and Finn can escape (well, until Kylo Ren finds them). He single-handedly flies the Millennium Falcon (which, we see earlier in the film, is no walk in the park) to save Rey and injured Finn from the exploding planet weapon. And he still doesn't even get a medal. Not even a hug from Leia (thanks to Peter Brinn again for pointing that out). I'm excited though that he's going to be continuing his adventures with Rey, though really, why is he still second mate? He should be flying the Falcon. Anyway!

Are there parallels between Episode IV and Episode VII? Of course there are! That's the point! You've got a solid Star Wars storyline in A New Hope, so why not adapt it and riff of it for the new film? And, you have to admit: this is easily the best Star Wars film since Episode VI. Delightful new believable characters who can act. Breaking down the light/ dark binary between factions (Finn and Kylo Ren are both conflicted). Well-shot scenes in dynamic and interesting settings (unlike the boring scenes we had to sit through in Episodes I and II). Those classic wipe fades between scenes! As a writer myself, all these nuances, large and small, warm my heart.

So, there are my thoughts. What did you think of Episode VII?

Friday, 6 February 2015

Hardcover on the radio

An e-mail appeared in the midst of my crazy grad school day, and almost without thinking, excitement gripping me, I responded.

It was from the volunteer coordinator at CJAM 99.1 FM. Looking for people to host a program on creative writing and literature. Oh man! I thought. I've always had radio in the back of my mind. Someone once said I had a good radio voice, and ever since, I've thought, maybe, one day.

And that day has come! Peter is a wizard when it comes to radio production, so it only makes sense that we're working on our new program, Hardcover, together!

So far it's been new and fun and full of growth for me. We hosted our first interview, and are just waiting back to hear from the station.

If our demo's accepted, we'll be doing a weekly episode on CJAM, so if you're in the Windsor-Detroit area, or you want to tune in online, you should definitely check us out!

This also would mean that my blog will be taking a hiatus, as I'll be writing for the Hardcover blog page! About books and literature and similar things to what I've been writing about here!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Notes on H.D.

This semester, I'm GAing for Women's Modernist and Contemporary Poetry, which so far has been absolutely fascinating. Despite my long sojourn in the realm of literary studies (an undergrad in English, currently a grad student in the Creative Writing program) I have never taken a course focused on women's writing. This strikes me now as kind of odd: I myself am a woman with a desire to write fiction and poetry and engage in the world through words. There's a kind of stigma attached to women's studies, as if by taking such a class I would put myself in danger of becoming a radical feminist. Foolish, I know. Especially as Margaret Atwood, Madeline L'Engle, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickenson, Mieko Ouchi, and so many other women writers have so strongly influenced my life journey. They deserve to be celebrated and studied just as much as the male-heavy literary canon we tend to fixate on in the Western tradition.

This first week, we've been looking at H.D., also known as Hilda Doolittle, or H.D. Imagiste. The last name there was ascribed by Ezra Pound, who forwarded her poems to Poetry magazine in 1913, establishing H.D. as the foundational Imagist poet. Imagism was a short lived poetic movement which had three main "rules": that the "thing" described was to be dealt with directly in a clear and concise way, that no word was to be used unless it pertained directly to what the poem was describing, and that a dynamic musical rhythm was to be used instead of a metronomic pulse. Despite its limited time period as a movement, its effects on free verse (also known as vers libre at the time) have proven to be long lasting.

H.D. had a crazy life story. I won't write it all out, but you can read a more in-depth version on The Poetry Foundation's website. She was living as an expatriate in Europe when most of her work was published, and was highly active in the literary community, editing for magazines, writing poetry, novels, memoirs. Her interests included Classical Greek mythology and poetry, psychoanalysis, and the relationship between genders. H.D. became her preferred pen name, as it was androgynous and represented "pure spirit", without ascription of gender, background, or context. She became incensed when fellow poet Amy Lowell published a photo of her without permission. She had many lovers throughout her life, women and men, and her sexuality is often encoded in her poetry.

"Oread" is used most often to exemplify H.D.'s early style that became known as Imagism. The poem is one stanza and clearly presents a moment with a kind of natural force. The repetition of"whirl" and "pines" is evocative of a prayer or chant. The wildness of the scene is emphasized by the violent "whirl" and "hurl"; the poem settles at the end into tranquil pools of fir, a kind of fusion between the ocean and the forest. Susan Holbrook suggests that these two diametrically opposed forces of nature which often stand for male ("pointed pines") and female (the sea), morph into each other without dominance or submission. "Sea Rose", from her collection Sea Garden (1916), considers the beauty of a rose that has been through storms and seas. Her search is for a new kind of beauty, unconventional and wild, beauty formed through struggle and conflict.

your grasp is frail
on the edge of the sand-hill,
but you catch the light -
frost, a star edges with is fire."

~from "Sea Violet"