The Backstory of “The Laughing Heart” Post

It all start­ed with this animation/short film by Bradley Bell:
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In which he inter­pret­ed “The Laugh­ing Heart”, a poem writ­ten by Charles Bukows­ki, and spo­ken by Tom Waits. This should have been an easy cut-and-paste video/text post on my Tum­blr, where I usu­al­ly store quick-strike things of inter­est and inspi­ra­tional val­ue. But part of the being of what has been a prod­uct of a Poet­ry class back in my Undergrad/University days just couldn’t let it go and be done with. The tex­tu­al for­mat just didn’t have a resound­ing echo to me as it should.

A part of me just want­ed much more to come out of each line.1 “Much more,” but not too much; though I have always been intrigued with a lit­tle bit of con­crete poet­ry.2

Any­ways, the most com­mon ver­sion that I found was for­mat­ted like this:

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

I recit­ed it aloud more than a cou­ple of times. Then pro­gressed to for­mat­ting it like so:

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

be on the watch.

there are ways out.

there is a light somewhere.

it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.

be on the watch.

the gods will offer you chances.

know them.

take them.

you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.

and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

your life is your life.

know it while you have it.

you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

I then gave Life & Death their prop­er due dili­gence by cap­i­tal­iz­ing them (amongst the start­ing word of a defin­i­tive line). It’s the least we can do, as they are a part of us whether we like it or not.

Death is more uni­ver­sal than Life; every­one dies but not every­one lives.

Alan Sachs

Mean­while, I then found some more insight via this new Levi’s ad cam­paign called, “Lega­cy”.
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I felt that the nar­ra­tive rhythm in this piece was dif­fer­ent; just a bit more inspi­ra­tional to me per­son­al­ly than that of Tom Waits’.3 It just grabbed more of my soul per se.

Last but not least, I added it all up, mea­sured twice, and came up with this ver­sion:

Your Life is your Life.
Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

Be on the watch.
There are ways out.

There is a light somewhere.
It may not be much light but
  it beats the darkness.

Be on the watch.
The Gods will offer you chances.
Know them.
Take them.

You can’t beat Death but
  you can beat Death in Life, sometimes.
And the more often you learn to do it,
  the more light there will be.

Your Life is your Life.
Know it while you have it.

You are marvelous.
The Gods wait to delight
  in you.

You might notice oth­er small things in there but that sto­ry is for anoth­er time.4 Though I can tell you that I had mix emo­tions in empha­siz­ing “light” (as “Light”) and “dark­ness” (as “Dark­ness”) as those two are what peo­ple strug­gle with every­day as well. But I just felt that in this par­tic­u­lar evoca­tive lit­er­a­ture, the piece spoke more of Life and its coun­ter­part, Death.

But then again, that’s just me—“your Life is your Life.”

  1. What is a line in Poet­ry? []
  2. What is con­crete poet­ry? []
  3. Tom Waits reads Charles Bukows­ki. []
  4. Here is a hor­i­zon­tal lay­out of the revi­sions dis­cussed above. It might pro­vide you with a bet­ter point of view and/or dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion between revi­sions. []

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