"...cyclic, obsessive riddles..."
Hair down the middle
Unbound all around
Riding the riddle
Tuned in and turned on
He got it let go
Got lost and is found
In flattering pants
And ironic books
In some old Who's Whos
And iconic looks
Everything just so
Nothing left to chance
And (just so you know)
Nothing left to lose:
Steven Curtis Lance
How This Happened
When I was younger I had the hunger
To be somebody anybody
But I did not know who or what to do
Then gradually it came to me
I was the only body I could be
So if not what at least I knew who
And there was always this poetry
I wrote for my friends when I was younger
Then I set it to music you see
So I was a composer chorally
Musically I became somebody
But when I went mad then I went free
The church I worked for left me in the lurch
Disappointing me ultimately
Left alone I found love on my own
Through trying times my mad nursery rhymes
Are how I do what like nobody
Else now somehow as who knows what to do
I was born on New Year's Eve in Santa Ana, California, USA, where I find myself again, in a freak thunder and lightning storm they said must be for me, the last day of the year 1954, to a hitman for the Mafia and the prettiest girl he ever saw. I was raised pretty much by the Iron Grandmother, my sweet young mother's mother, who was determined for me to be a minister and not a Mafioso. She did her best, until she was ninety-six and finally died, having held on for as long as she could, worried sick about me for good reason, though I ended up being an artist in various media, mainly choral music composition and poetry. I wrote and published a hundred and thirty choral motets and partsongs before I really went crazy in earnest when the Iron Grandmother died, and ended up at my beginning really, writing my mad nursery rhymes.
Along the way I got a Bachelor's Degree in Choral Music, and a California Community College Instructor Credential, "Valid for Life," it says--they don't give these anymore--but I've never used it. Though I've taught a lot; music to gifted children, and also adults trying to get their GEDs, wonderful tough guys just out of prison and sweet young single mothers, and I was good at it and really cared, and they appreciated it. I've been a church choir director, guest conducted in university situations where they performed my music, that sort of thing. I was a fussy-fussy reviewer of new choral publications for "The Choral Journal," which published an obituary when they thought I had succeeded once at suicide. I have been a dual, Author/Composer member of ASCAP since 1980; I called them relatively recently and asked them if I still exist, and they said yes oh very much so, and that I was in good standing; I updated my address, but that was several addresses ago.
I've published a dozen or so big fat books--well, some are not so fat, like "The Little Book of Lance," which is; that one has a nice cover painting by my son Stevie--that are available on Amazon and all the booksites, if you're curious about my younger life; I haven't done a book in a long time now, since I was in the lockdown psych ward. But every day I rise to the occasion of working on my (work in progress...), polishing it until it shines, until it is just so. If you're curious about my music, it's just like my poetry. I like a poem you can jump rope to.
I'm almost a homeless person, but not quite; "I get by with a little help from my friends." I have three children: Maria, who is thirty-one and lives in Edinburgh; Stevie, who is twenty-nine and lives in San Francisco but sometimes in Paris; and Teddy, who is twenty-four and lives in Chicago but sometimes in Seoul. I hang out with a couple of big tough dogs here in this crazy place where I live, getting by with a little help from friends both human and non-human, though never inhuman; Marisol and Bowser are some of my best friends, and I'm arf-arf-arfully glad to know them.
This thing of mine, this what I call empathic communication of making and sharing my poetry and giving it all away for free to the world all over everywhere, has become the meaning of my life now somehow, and how I get by. It's like the music used to be for me, a different medium but the same thing. I lost my piano, all my music paper, and my pencils; I painted but I lost my paintings too. Now it's just this poetry and me. And you; thanks for that.
The poetry really all started, so you noticed, when I was in eighth grade on a Saturday afternoon in 1968; that's when it manifested that I was a poet, and this was how it was going to be. I went to the used book sale at the Orange Public Library, in Orange, my hometown, where I learned most of what little I know, and had to borrow a shopping cart to get my haul across the two parking lots back to Studio Lance, the home of the Iron Grandmother where I grew up, loved, and lost.
Along with the books I lugged all over until I lost everything, I got a recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on 78s, and I could see why they called them albums; it was I think nine discs, with only bits on each side. Oh, but the bit of the slow movement I heard that afternoon as I lay on my back on my bed there knowing I had my books and wondering now who I was; I found myself writing a poem about the sun coming up.
I wadded up the paper and threw it in my Presidential waste basket that stopped with Lyndon Johnson, but the Iron Grandmother found it there, and had them read it at her church the next morning, where everybody loved it, and loved me too, all of a sudden; it was very strange, but I liked it. So I wrote more poems then, and when I liked a pretty girl I'd write her a poem, or a book of them, as I did for a girl named Penelope, who had what they called "olive skin" back then, like my mother.
My father, the hitman, was a poet too; I guess poetry was his day job. His father too, Grandfather Lance, who lived to be one-hundred-and-two out under the stars among the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona, who said I was very Lancean indeed. I guess I am. I wondered if poetry was enough though, so I thought I'd learn how to set it to music and write songs, partsongs actually, for choirs to sing, also choral motets; I did this and got degrees, and composed and published lots and lots of choral octavos with all the best publishers; it was nice.
But along the way I got encephalitis when I was nineteen, and went into a coma and died, but I came back to life this way, more of a poet than ever, and there was something else too: my word thing. Now, with the dura mater of my brain burned away by high fever and the rest thoroughly shaken, but stirred too as it turns out, the poetry came out crazy: my favorite review ever was when this one guy spoke of me as "this... this... nursery-rhyming MADman!" That's existential nursery rhymes, actually, and yes sir.
I struggled with being a misfit and tried to kill myself several times, never dying, being comically immortal; I really tried, with auto accidents, that sort of thing. But, here I am. I was ultimately diagnosed Bipolar II (Rapid Cycling) Paranoid Schizophrenic Psychotic, and was kept in the lockdown psych ward for my own protection. Since I lost Studio Lance I have lived in a series of perhaps increasingly absurd situations, but I kept on writing my poetry. It's my thing, what I do, and I do it for you, with love.
That my poetry means anything to you means everything to me. Thank you, all and each, with all my heart.
Orange, CA USA
"Aristotle says that in order to live alone, a man must be either an animal or a god. The third alternative is lacking: a man must be both - a philosopher." - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) German Philosopher, Poet
+Steven Curtis Lance, a brilliant poet and talented composer, is a reclusive figure and lives alone.
"Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone." - Paul Johannes Tillich (1886-1965) American Theologian, Philosopher
His first poem was published at age fifteen, and he has published countless things countless times since then.
His desire to set poetic words to music led him to study long and hard and he was honored with the title "master motet composer."
He has written and published more than one hundred and thirty intricately-woven a cappella choral motets - intense, linear counterpoint.
The success of this led him on to doing the same with all the major classical print music publishers in the United States.
His first music publication was when he was twenty-four, and at that time he was invited to join the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers as a dual member, composer and author; he has been a member more than twenty-five years.
Along the way he has completed degrees, has teaching credentials, won various awards, honors, prizes, alumni achievement awards, city and state proclamations, certificates of this and that.
But he just likes to write poems.
"Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." - Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English Essayist, Novelist, Journalist, Poet
+ + +
*~ Foreword to The Red Book of Lance ~*
by Steven's physician, Robert D. Budman, M.D.:
There is a place in heaven for many yet no spot is assured. Many seats in the majesty of the heavens are surely for the artisans of the world. Humble, wholesome souls for the most part, and Steven Curtis Lance would assuredly be counted amongst those. In the writings of Stevie his honesty and emotions come across clearly and vividly. The prose is an enigmatic slice of life that is uniquely his. The prolific writing habits that Stevie possesses make many a writer, myself included, jealous of his tenacity for attacking each morsel of life’s daily grind. Sometimes making fun or a mockery of the little things or at other times taking a challenging stand against the most critical and important issues facing us today. This is the poetic style he embodies for the rest of us to enjoy.
As Stevie’s doctor I engage him in a manner differently than any of his other relationships. That perspective allows me to see him from many perspectives from healthcare professional all the way quite frankly to a personal friend. Over the span of several years in that regard I saw his transition from Christian songwriter to poet and the dynamics involved in that change. Not only has there been a growth and learning phase to his abilities to put pen to paper, but Stevie’s life and writing is a fantastic journey of love and emotion.
This is now his seventh book and perhaps his deepest and most mature work. At each phase of his writing career his personal state of being comes across in every word. This book is no different with a certain brooding and darker more forceful stance on life yet continuously instilled with his hometown old Orange slant. Stevie rarely leaves us questioning what he is feeling or where he is going, but he does make us question our personal relationships and dealings with others. Of course there is often a push for us to be politically and socially responsible, too, whether by way of rantings and ravings or a push to be heard and accountable.
I think Stevie’s writing will take another turn soon as he takes us elsewhere in the land of feelings and prose. There is no harm in that. And, for the enjoyment we each derive from that, and the clear good nature and good will of Stevie’s contribution to our wonderful world that spot in heaven is reserved. Not too soon of course so that we might read these little snippets of life and love and Grandma and whomever else man or beast or machine happens to be captured by the flowing inks and pencils of one fine man: Mr. Steven Curtis Lance.
A Working Theory of Poetics Expressed in Quotations of the Wise
"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind." - Henry James (1843-1916) American Author
"When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place where we have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something malevolent and bottomless." - Willa Sibert Cather (1873-1947) American Novelist
"Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." - Marianne Williamson (1952~) American Author, Lecturer
"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing." - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American Poet, Essayist
"If you want to be happy, be." - Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) [Count Lev Tolstoi] Russian Novelist, Moral Philosopher, Mystic
"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina nor softened the fibre of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) 32nd U.S. President (1933-45)
"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered." - Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English Essayist, Novelist, Journalist, Poet
"I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn." - John Wesley (1703-1791) English Preacher, Founder of Methodism
"Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow." - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832) German Poet, Dramatist, Novelist
"Crimes of which a people is ashamed constitute its real history. The same is true of man." - Jean Genet (1910-1986) French Playwright, Novelist
"Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean." - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832) German Poet, Dramatist, Novelist
"Whereas it has long been known and declared that the poor have no right to the property of the rich, I wish it also to be known and declared that the rich have no right to the property of the poor." - John Ruskin (1819-1900) English Writer, Art Critic
"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." - John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) 35th U.S. President (1961-63)
"Some of us might find happiness if we would quit struggling so desperately for it." - William Feather (1889-1981) American Publisher, Author
"The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy." - Steven Weinberg (1933~) American Nuclear Physicist
"Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." - Jessamyn West (1902-1984) American Author
"There is no reality, but the one contained within." - Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) German-born Swiss Novelist, Poet
"The power of Thought, the magic of the Mind!" - Lord Byron (1788-1824) [George Gordon] English Poet
"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." - Katherine Hepburn (1907~) American Actor, Writer
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961) American Writer
"Begin somewhere. You cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do." - Liz Smith (1923~) American Entertainment Journalist
"I'm not a teacher, but an awakener." - Robert Frost (1875-1963) American Poet
"If we discovered that we had only five minutes left to say all that we wanted to say, every telephone booth would be occupied by people calling other people to stammer that they loved them." - Christopher Darlington Morley (1890-1957) American Author, Journalist
"Love conquers everything [Amor vincit omnia]: let us, too, yield to love." - Virgil (70-19BC) [Publius Virgilius Maro Vergil] Roman Epic Poet
"True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen. [Maxims]" - Francois De La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French Classical Writer, Moralist
"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." - Sir Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Bengali Poet, Novelist, Composer
"Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire." - Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) Argentinean Author
"Time goes, you say? Ah, no! Alas, Time stays, we go." - Austin Dobson (1840-1921) English Author
"For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American Poet
"Wisdom begins in wonder." - Socrates (469-399BC) Greek Philosopher of Athens
"Nothing that is God's is obtainable by money." - Tertullian (160-240) Roman Christian Author, Polemicist
"Of course, it all depends upon what we are praying for. If we are whimpering, and sniveling, and begging to be spared the discipline of life that is sent to knock some smatterings of manhood into us, the answer to that prayer may never come at all. Thank God! - If you are not bleating to get off, but asking to be given grace and strength to see this through with honour, 'the very day' you pray that prayer, the answer always comes." - A. J. Gossip (1873-1954) Scottish Theologian, Preacher
"The World is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-born American Physicist
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American Poet, Essayist
"Critics are those who have failed in literature and art." - Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English Statesman, Author, Prime Minister (1868, 1874-80)
"A bad review is even less important than whether it is raining in Patagonia." - Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) British Novelist, Philosopher
"You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it." - Neil Richard Gaiman (1960~) British Author
"There is certainly no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting." - John Kenneth Galbraith (1908~) Canadian-American Economist, Diplomat, Author
"The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business." - John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American Author
"In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary, 'patriotism' is defined as the last resort of the scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first." - Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913) American Author, Editor, Journalist
"As the archer whittles and makes straight his arrows, so the master directs his straying thoughts." - Buddha (568-488BC) Indian Mystic, Philosopher, Founder of Buddhism
"All grand thoughts come from the heart." - Marquis De Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French Soldier, Moralist
"Make me immortal with a kiss." - Christopher Marlowe (1565-1593) English Dramatist, Poet
"Remember tonight, for it is the beginning of always." - Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian Epic Poet, Philosopher
Selected Poems of Steven Curtis Lance
These are Steven's poetry pages at BrainMeta.com, where he has been Poet in Residence for over a decade.
+Steven Curtis Lance on Facebook
Become Steven's Facebook friend and be a part of a mindful community.
The Secret Place
This is Steven's personal poetry board at BrainMeta.com, where he is Poet in Residence. He likes to call this place "my treehouse." Come visit him here, and while you're on the site, check out his main poetry posting board as well. He would be honored if you would join the forum and post your poetry here.
The Books of +Steven Curtis Lance
Browse the books here.