ENVISIONING THE FUTURE AS A DYSTOPIAN NOVEL

As a writer, I depend on my imagination (and books and discussions and movies and articles) to come up with ideas for plot, characters and descriptions. This leads to some interesting searches to support a concept. I’m currently working on a science fiction novel set 200 years in the future. You can guess what a challenge it is for someone who never enjoyed the sciences to sketch out a logical and plausible story.

Not now. We seem to be living in an actual dystopian novel. Certainly the stories we hear via social media and actual media make it seem so. All are talking in superlatives despite our true perspective of ants in an ant hill being stirred by a big stick. From the viewpoint of the ant, total chaos reigns! End of the world conditions are looming! Phrasing for estimates and projections exist only in extremes, such as “as many as (insert scary statistics),” or “skyrocketing estimates.”

This situation is great for me as a writer. In the early days of our lockdown, streets and businesses were deserted, as if an alien force had zipped all humans out of sight. Now when I jog, people jerk masks into place and cross the road to avoid me, illustrating what an outcaste might experience. The prevalence of masks helps me imagine strange, distorted space travelers behind them. Even government incompetence, infighting and brangling serve useful purposes because my novel has political and social themes.

The truth, however, is that we’re stunned by our circumstances. We’re so accustomed to American privilege, we can’t believe we have no control over COVID and that we, like every other living thing, can die. A woman I met recently, an immigrant from Asia, used the term “entitled,” thinking we’re so special that we deserve privileges or special treatment. Perhaps that’s the reason we all sling accusations in every direction, desperately trying to find someone or something to blame: the Chinese, non-maskers, old people, drug companies, scientists, elected officials. I wish we’d wise up and realize everyone’s in this situation together and life is just life.

BILINGUAL POET LAUNCHES WEBSITE WITH RESOURCES FOR ALL

(Guest blog by Dr. Ricardo J. Bogaert-Álvarez

I am an engineer and poet with thirty years of experience writing, publishing and teaching poetry. I’d like to introduce to you my bilingual website, . In my website you’ll find several sections: 1) poems, 2) haiku, 3) lessons, 4) publications, 5) blog and 6) about (a short biography). 

In the Poems section I show several of my typical poems. Their themes range from the romantic to the political, without forgetting the erotic. Each poem shows the English and Spanish versions. In the Haiku section you’ll find several haiku and senryu I have composed with additional notes about their origins and themes. In the near future I’ll also present articles about haiku and interesting haiku from other poets.

In the Lessons section, I am presenting articles about poetic themes and forms. For example, I’m showing now the way Spanish poets count the number of syllables in their lines for their formal poems. If you ever want to properly study formal Spanish poetry, this information nugget will be very useful to you. In the future I may introduce and discuss poetic works of other poets, especially Dominicans.

In the Publications section, you’ll find the introduction to one of my four poetry books. This month I’m showing the introduction to my romantic chapbook “Not Written in the Stars.” As a matter of fact, you can obtain a free electronic copy of this book by reading this section. In the Blog you can participate with your comments.

SLOAN’S LAKE GEESE(1)
Los Gansos del Lago (2) (Traducción)
1
Lake geese, not afraid
of cars nor snow nor people
such intrepid souls
2
Intrépidos gansos del lago
ni de carros, nieve o gente
tienen miedo

Doctor Ricardo J. Bogaert-Álvarez is a Dominican-American chemical engineer and poet. He was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic and grew up in a hacienda. After he obtained his B.S. at the PCUMM in Santiago and then obtained his chemical engineering masters and PhD at the University of Delaware. He has lived in the United States since 1981 and resides in Denver with his beloved wife Laura. He has published poems in the “El Sol” newspaper, “The New Press,” the Horizons” anthology and the “American Institute of Chemical Engineers” supplement among other publications.

He has published three poetry books: 1) “The Samurai Poet,” 2) “The Mask Behind My Face” (which is available in Amazon Kindle) and more recently “The Dance of the Phoenix.” In the latter book, each poem is in Spanish and English. He presented “The Dance of the Phoenix” in five cities of Colorado and in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2019. This was followed by a tour in Dominican Republic where he presented this book in four cities during the month of March, 2020.

He is the vice president of the Columbine Poets, a poetry club at the state level in Colorado. In poetry contests of this club, he has won a third prize (2019) and an honorable mention (2015) in the formal poetry category and an honorable mention in the category of prose poem (2019). Contact information: drbogaert@gmail.com. Website https://www.drbogaert.com/

STATION ELEVEN: ANOTHER VIEW OF A PANDEMIC AND OUR FUTURE?

Why do we, well, really me, love apocalyptic novels? Is it because they voice our fears about our so-called civilization? Or is it because we secretly wish our society and all the crazy people and things that happen would get their comeuppance?

In any case, here’s another in the series, but one that’s stunningly well written as well as an attention-grabber. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, published in 2014 and thrust into best-seller and best-book status, rings so true, every character—and there’s plenty of them, from an eight-year-old girl to a thumping good, evil, self-proclaimed prophet –could be your friends and neighbors.

Mandel’s fourth novel takes place primarily in the Great Lakes region after a fictional swine flu pandemic, known as the “Georgia Flu”, has devastated the world, killing most of the population. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015. Although critics praise the understated nature of Mandel’s writing, I think that’s a misnomer. She simply lays out the characters and plot in a realistic, matter-of-fact way, so the 300 survivors in one area who take refuge in an airport function exactly like you’d envision your friends and neighbors would.

There’s lots of action, fighting off bad guys, battling for sheer survival, but also much insightful psychological and thoughtful musings about nature and humans and the earth’s future. Mandel’s talent as a literary author is indisputable. She doesn’t consider herself a “scfi” writer, but “literary.” I hesitate to use that term because it seems to scare people. Believe me, readers will adore both the content and the style.

Perhaps I’m not panicky over our current COVID pandemic because it’s not nearly as extreme as the other dystopian novels I’ve read—Ashfall, A Journal of the Plague Year, Hunger Games, Ship Breaker, Divergent, Rule of Three. When I close the covers of a book, I return to the world in which every one I’m attached to still survives and the culture around me still has unbelievable riches and opportunities. Yet each of these volumes, and most especially Station Eleven, carries a warning not to get too comfortable. For unless we improve our ways, that world could become one I don’t want.

THE MEANING OF MEMORIES

I started thinking about my childhood recently, in a more focused and intentional way than I have previously. I wondered if my memories have had an impact on me or if they’re just a collection of miscellaneous impressions? Have they shaped what I’ve become?

After extensive study of about five minutes, I’ve decided what I’ve retained is a handful of rapid situations. They don’t seem to connect to one another or to my life’s evolution. Since my degree is in psychology, I’ve dipped my toe in the indefinable pool of dreams, the unconscious, the subconscious, and the way these intangibles may put their mark on us.

As a writer, my memories can become fodder for my creations. An incident playing cowboys gets inserted in a story. A friend’s way of tossing her head can identify a character. Perhaps if I pursue memories in an organized fashion, my work will benefit. Others assure me that once I begin plumbing my recollections, I’ll  remember more and more. But I mostly want to do it because it’s fun.

Take the thought of an immense wooden packing case. Appliances and large items like furniture used to be delivered in sturdy boxes of timber, not flimsy cardboard or Styrofoam. They also were secured with bendable wire. When one of these items showed up in my yard, it jump-started ideas. It probably was about four by four by four feet in dimension. At the time, maybe fifth grade, I was in love with horses. Not that my family had any, but after submerging myself in every horse book I could lay my hands on (think Black Beauty, the Black Stallion series, Misty of Chincoteague), I would have traded my soul for one. Since we lived in a middle-class suburb with too many little brothers and sisters, my chance of getting a horse to ride was zero.

Luckily my imagination was unfettered. The box became a stage coach; my siblings, passengers; and I was the driver. It seems now as if I spent the entire spring taking imaginary journeys, complete with hold-ups, runaway horses, and broken wheels. My mind galloped to other ideas. Once I threw a ragged discarded bedspread over it, the crate began to double as a cabin,. . .a school with my siblings as reluctant scholars when I lined them up in rows

To this day, if I see a box of similar dimensions, my heart speeds up and I immediately begin plotting what it could be used for. A temporary hiding place from thieves, a corral for pets or small children. This memory makes me happy, even if I don’t use it for anything productive. Research has shown that reminiscing has the capacity to reduce loneliness, boredom, stress and depression. It can also help considerably in dealing with traumatic experiences, 

If you wonder about the value of wasting time remembering, just ask someone with a friend or loved one who’s lost his reminisces through Alzheimer’s or dementia. Only a hollow shell of HIM remains. He’s able to eat, mumble, sleep; but his essence has vanished. So I’ll keep pulling out these miscellaneous snippets of memory to help me make sense of my past, present, future. They’re the building blocks of my spirit.