From novel to poem

The intangible architecture of fear is what keeps us back in life, according to Chapter 4, page 68. It keeps us in our comfort zones, which are, in reality, the most dangerous places to be. Taking no risks is, in reality, the greatest risk in life. But every time we do what we fear, we regain the power that fear has taken away from us, and our strength lies on the other side of our fears. We become more free every time we move into the discomfort of development and change. We regain more strength as we walk through our fears. In this way, we grow both fearless and powerful, and thus are able to live the lives of our dreams.

I pulled the notebook from my jacket pocket and tucked the parchment inside. Then I put the pouch back around my neck and headed for the metro.

It was not quite six-thirty. My whole catacomb ordeal had taken less than an hour. In the afternoon I had received a message from Julian, saying there would be a plane ticket waiting for me at the terminal the next morning. I had the whole evening before me. I decided that I would return to the hotel and clean up a bit. Ten I would head for Place du Trocadero, across the river from the Eiffel Tower. I would have dinner in a restaurant there, and then watch the lights of the tower before I headed for bed.

Target Text:

The water of the river runs to the finish line,

Its strength is utmost, looking forward like there is no tomorrow

My feet leaps for another second

But do not jump on it, I can stand here forever

This was not taught in the second grade

I look at me and I was still there

Maybe I can still see tomorrow, with its rains and sunshine

Without the tough of the water, or the strength of it

Destroying me

For many have lived without jumping,

They died looking at the water,

Living each day, smiling, and mere forgetting

I shall go back home now, and eat dinner.

The manner of changing the literary form from a simple fiction to poetry faces us with a big challenge of knowing the process or the system from where the change was brought about. The factors which have affected it are worth tackling in this essay. The main concern now will be the significance and effect of this change to its meaning, in the realm of communicating ideas. The main sources was Robin Sharma’s “The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.” Each chapter presents a direct realization that the character takes in as he is presented with life’s different experiences. But whether or not it has reduced or enhanced the meaning of the source text, it is for us to find out how it arrived in the new literary form.

The Secret Letters’ protagonist, Jonathan Landry is a troubled man living a busy life while trying to catch his dream of getting a good position in the company he works for. The very first scenes of the novel present a man with marriage problem, and one who is confused on his priorities. He values his son Adam as well as his wife. But the pull of dream and work can hardly push him to take advantage of what he currently has, his family. His life started to change when he was asked by his mother to meet his cousin Julian, a formerly high-powered courtroom lawyer who decided to vanish in the Himalayas and became a monk. After a long conversation with his cousin, he is forced to temporarily leave his job and travel the world to collect the letters from different individuals. Along the way, Jonathan learns the different values that he should have long had as life and living. He gets to realize the importance of facing his fears and the “moment.” He remembers his wife, his son and his mother on the trip and every time he sees other people and their families. Each destination offers a “lesson” for him to ponder on. The letter is the “learning” he gets and the real matter that he has to collect on his way back home. In the end, he is able to gather all these letters. However, the most important thing that he collects back, is his life.

In here, the nature of the adaptation as we speak, depends more on the present milieu or status of the emotion of the reader prior to the conversion to another text. Going back to the source, which, obviously is a spoon-feeding process for the reader, it presents us the things that we should face “fear.” The reader first gets the impression of being part of “fear” as supposedly something belonging to the “normal kind of things” or at least, that which every person naturally possesses. Once the level of belonging to word is already present, then what is taught to the reader is the direct act of being dissociated with it by way of facing it. In the article of Walter J. Ong entitled “Writing Is a Technology That Restructures Thought,” it mentions Plato to be one of the major critics of the written masterpieces. It notes what Plato said about the reality that the mind can conceive inside it to remain as it is in the mind. If that is true, then that is perhaps the feeling of fear present and is described in the source of this text. For it is impossible in the first place to write about fear if not for the word “fear” itself. In the same article of Ong, it also adds another commentary from Plato to be “unresponsive.” This can be seen in the manner that the word can only bring connection to the reader if one has felt it before or perhaps recurring now. Each person responds differently and more often than not, it relates to his life’s circumstances at present and even his past. This is perhaps the reason why at first glance, it is very difficult to be part of the flow of meaning of the original text prior to the changing of it to the other form, which is the poem.

In here, the sources of the text which is fiction, tries to describe fear. In the new form, it is an imagery where the river with its violent current controls the movement of the voice. The poem has to suggest and provide a vivid picture of the original source’s controlling factor over the persona in the different form. Thus, there is a pair of feet wanting to move ahead but cannot do so because his existence is threatened with the thought of the unknown. It is the “jumping into” that mirrors what happens in the “fear” described in the original text.

In the process of trying to mirror the emotion as well as the effect of such emotion, there is a need for me to do what was described in “Odysseus’ Scar” by Erich Aurebach’s Mimises: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. It mentions of copious direct discourses that men and things stand out in a realm where everything is visible; and not less clear. Part of the articles describes Homer not omitting to tell the readers that it is with his right hand that Odysseus takes the old woman by the throat to keep her from speaking and at the same time that he draws her closer to him with his left. This is the so-called mirroring or perhaps can be called as factor that the second form wishes to adopt during the process of conversion. Perhaps the cliché’ “words can’t express what you mean to me” no longer applies as the written text can clearly describe whether through vivid imagery or simultaneous description the running emotion of the original source. Plato’s critic of the written word did not and is not applied in the making of the second form for this matter.

In the process of the making of the text in the second form, there is also an application of the two kinds of voices as described and defined in the article of Peter Elbow entitled “What do We Mean When We Talk About Voice in the Text.” The two distinct voices are that of the dramatic voice and the recognizable or distinctive voice. The dramatic voice is very strong in the original text not only because during it is italicized but because it speaks the voice of an all-knowing character trying to teach a lesson. While reading the original text, one cannot help but imagine that there is some kind of a pastor or priest trying to pass a message and explain things in a very thorough manner, at least like a parent to a child or like a teacher to a student. There is the voice of authority where the reader can imagine even the real sound playing in the background. That is the challenge in making it appear in the poem. The writer then has to reflect this dramatic voice but closely choosing the image of the river and the supposed person standing still beside the river, trying to decide whether he will jump or not. In the second text, it is the “moment” which describes the dramatic voice, the pause in every stanza is the silent voice, telling the persona to decide to jump, lest he will not know what it is really to live and washed away by the river of experience.

Going into the distinctive voice, it can be noticed that the original text is divided in two. The first one is the italicized portion or the one that shows what each letter gathered by Jonathan contains. It is the “hard lesson” learned in the story, the one which seems to have music in the background when one reads it. However, the voice becomes different when the text has to go on with the story or the chronology of events. It now has the distinctive voice, a narrator-like, which is very different and separate from the voice that once can hear from the “letter” itself. This is reflected in the last line of the last stanza of the poem. The voice of authority suddenly turns to the distinctive voice, trying to separate itself indifferently from the former. This is more of the “coming back to reality” part of the fiction and the poem. It simply says that there is a need to go back to the present state. Putting aside the question of creativity in the process of transforming from one form of literature to another, what is important to say is that regardless of the different voices applied in the text, there is always a need to come back and try to dissociate from the emotions elicited on the other part of the text. The voices here play a great part in indirectly leading the reader to move to another part.

One last thing that is very much important during the process of changing the text is metaphor. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors to Live By, show exactly how this one works in different kinds of texts. They define it as a word war where structure plays an important role in winning. In the first text, the structure is a bit easy to see, that is narrator first followed by the “letters.” The narrator tours the reader into the life of Jonathan Landy by giving the present situation. The narrator also gives the reader the status of his emotions with the help of memories and abrupt reactions to the story’s momentary stimuli. How then is this transferred to the new text? This is done by also separating it by “moments.” The image of a person standing beside the river, trying to decide whether to jump or not and weighing the pros and the cons of jumping is the first moment. The second moment is done when suddenly, there is the image of the “the need to go back home and have dinner.” While the first one is a reality, still there is much “thinking” happening to the persona. The manner of thinking is not transformed into reality as it is more of a mind working, anticipating, trying to imagine. Nothing really happens. The real reality now happens when he decides to just go back home and eat dinner and forgets about the “jumping” part. Whether or not he will face his fears is no longer significant. What is significant is that he hears the voice, listens to it, think about and then, departs from it. This structure is the metaphor both for the first and secondary text which Lakoff and Johnson defines. This is the so-called natural flow of things that may happen in literary pieces.

To summarize, the changing of the text from one form to another is a long process of analysing and adapting. With the different factors at hand, such as the voice, the metaphors, the supposed-realities and the like, it is not impossible that the second form may lose a bit from the original text. However, regardless of what is lost and or what is gained, perhaps what is more important along the way is the process of understanding the text in the context of meaning in its original milieu. Mirroring the original text more than a hundred percent will not make it the best of the literary forms. It only tells us how efficient was the process of communicating the meaning to the writer and how efficient was the meaning communicated to the secondary text. Again, it is the process that really counts.

Bibliography:

Robin Sharma, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Harper Collins, (1997).

Walter Ong, Writing is a technology that Restructures Thought, Clarendon Press, (1986) p.27

Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, Princeton & Oxford University Press (1953, 2003)

Peter Elbow, What do We Mean When We Talk About Voice in Texts?, Illinois (1994) p.2

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. Chicago University Press, (1980), p.5

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