Saturday, February 8, 2014

She


curves

out of the covers

dark matters untangled

from the blossoms

convexing her

vertebrae

amid peach

fuzzz

lost in my own

well in orbit

degrading spacefaller

plotting planets to prove

this is (w)here

I lie

she curves

the illusion of dawn

as though new

she curves

all the bed to her

toward the distance

a solitude a

parallax we

share

Monday, July 22, 2013

Baseball (Annotated)

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/kinsebo01.shtml

Maybe I wanna talk about class inequality
or mapping the surface of Mercury.
Old Man Poem, here, he can give a flying so and such
about teeth lining the inner cheeks of koalas,
or the 500-percent rise of student loan debt.
He won't turn down Scully,
but he might pause mid-Arnold Palmer
if you tell him telegraph operators once unplugged
their batteries and chatted
for an evening without power
save that from an aurora borealis
so grand Jose Marti saw it.
But my poem tongues a lemon seed
and remembers M.V.Puig,
how a 12th-inning right field substitution
could electrify a stadium.
He gets bored when I try rhyme,
says he prefers Lord Huron to my slanted drone.
Fine, Poem! That’s just fucking fine!
How will I ever cause the change I desire?
How to garner support for universal healthcare
or a living wage, more funding for public schools,
for me the arts, for NASA?
My poem can’t believe I spent four lines complaining,
says he has plenty of time, but less space,
and I better get back to baseball,
how a Chattanooga Lookout once struck out
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig,
how she made all the papers,
even though it may have been a stunt.
(Not that baseball minds a myth;
he’s told my poem as much
from the Doubleday dugout.)
Facts matter
as much as a lemon seed
in the mouth of a poem
crushed to ashy white.
Ha! I cast Kanye power to help it sprout:
roots reach from my poem’s fundament
through the gray weather porch
and guvment soil
while a trunk busts
from mouth through overhang
branches rip off shingles,
leaves trifurcate the new shade
over my dessicated poem
and we’re both showered
in samaras he’d call helicopters.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Does Math Exist? Does Art? (Never Finished)


So you can watch the video above if you like, but I’ll try and paraphrase what I took from it so you don’t HAVE to watch if you wanna understand what I’m talking about.

Basically, the discussion is, “Does Math really exist or is it a purely human construction?” Since every science is the study of some actual, existing and measurable “thing,” (e.g. biology is life, physics is forces, etc.) where does that leave math? Do we discover math or are we inventing it when a mathematician publishes a paper about some new formula?

Maybe you should just watch the damn video. Subscribe to the channel, ‘cuz they are awesome and enriching.

Does Art Exist?

OK, so here’s where I come in. For artists of any discipline, are you inventing/creating your art, or discovering it? At first you may want to say, “Of course we create art! I’m an original!”

Well, for starters, Michaelangelo famously said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to uncover it.”

I’m certainly not certain of this type of belief, mind you. Michaelangelo was speaking based on a belief in the divine that influenced all his interpretations of the world. Since I don’t have a deified version of the world, the idea that all creation must naturally come from The Creator doesn’t hold mustard.

It does wrap things up nicely, though, to think that all art is a type of Frankenstein’s monster collage of influences and mimicry, rather than the man dreamt into existence by another man from Borges’ “The Circular Ruins.”

He doesn't know it yet, but he can walk through fire.

Poets in workshops often speak of the work in terms of there being an objective or absolute poem within them; the true skill of poetry is then communicating it to the tangible world properly.

“I wanted to go in one direction, but the poem took me in another.”

Sometimes the poem is even portrayed as an antagonistic force.

Apart from the artistic creative process, think about a really complex poetic form like a sestina. Fulfilling all the demands of this form, which you can find detailed here, causes a final product that seems unalterable, a house of cards. One of the most famous contemporary examples of this is Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sestina.”

Just to give you a further idea of this, here’s a graphical representation of the algorithm of how the end words of each line in a sestina fit together.


Music has all sorts of mathematical attributes, and while I am hardly capable of speaking to all of them, let’s take one example. The chromatic scale divides an instrument like a piano into a perfect set of equally-spaced notes. You can even express it visually like this:


Now, this is not true on every instrument, but that is due, in my understanding, to the specific range of octaves any given instrument is capable of playing, not because the chromatic scale is imperfect. (Let me know if I’m wrong about this, please.)

Is math discovering this scale that exists whether or not math knows about it, or are we creating the numbers and measurements to match reality?

Prepare to Embiggen

This kind of argument seems to be veering into a grander discussion: Artistic creation/expression requires humanity, discovery does not.

It’s not too far off from whether we are victims of fate or not. Do we make decisions or are we simply a random occurrence caused by other random occurrences (the kind of fate possible in the absence of a greater power)?

OK, using “random” kind of makes you think that it couldn't possibly be fate if it’s unpredictable.

There’s that bit in Futurama where they’re at the horse track and they have a quantum finish instead of a photo finish. Since the professor loses based on the final result, the joke is his protest that, “You changed the results by observing them!” It’s a comment on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

This is also what Schrodinger’s Cat speaks to: Before we observe the cat, is it both alive AND dead? No, the example is simply a joke on the idea of probabilities. The cat is EITHER alive or dead, but we can’t say for sure unless we observe it, thereby forcing only one result into existence.



How does this involve fate? OK, let’s get real small and talk about some quantum electrodynamics: A photon will always go through either this hole or that hole, but we only know exactly where it’s gone when we look. However, it won’t always do the same thing. One time you check and it’s gone through Hole A and maybe the next 20 times it’s gone through Hole B. You can’t reliably predict the movement, only the probability of that movement.

You have to calculate probabilities. In this way, there are always predictable probabilities, which is where fate comes in. We aren’t trapped in a box made by God, more like we have an invisible electric fence. We can do anything in the front yard of probabilities, but we never stray into the street. Isn’t that a type of fate? I feel like any kind of restraint on my future is a type of fate.

Whether or not we are able to calculate events to this degree is perhaps only a matter of time and the progression of math “uncovering” the perfect way. I don’t know, maybe the future will create a nice Hegel-style “synthesis” of the two opposing viewpoints.



Back to basics for me, am I discovering a poem when I write one? Am I inventing it? Of course, everything I’ve ever read, heard, experienced and so on influences what I write and how I write it. Even the language I write in creates certain probabilities (pentameter lends itself particularly well to the English language, sexameter to French).

Am I just stretching probabilities out so much that they contain everything? Is that just the delusion I need to carry on?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Princess Who Saved Herself, Iron Man 3, and My Struggle Not to Be an Asshole (as often)


Confession: I have a default feminist-enraging mental point of view. I think most people do. I mean that in many ways, the reason why feminists can come across as so annoying (more than vegans sometimes!) is because, at least for me, I know they are totally right, but it seems like being told to change behavior without a compromise. It's a one-sided switch, isn't it?

I mean, if I have to suddenly stop and think about all the bullshit sexism in video games (don't even get me STARTED on anime), I generally let slide, I should at least get a cookie, right? No? Well, it's tough to admit you're wrong, it's harder to admit you are not only culpable, but part of the problem. Especially when your remarks are paved with good intentions.

Anime ain't the only one.

The backlash, for example, to the Damsel in Distress video posted by FeministFrequency, is certainly in part to a lot of people being told something they don't want to hear. Not to say that the video isn't open for debate, and there are plenty of thoughtful responses and critiques out there.

There are, however, plenty of people on Xbox Live and in the comments ready to call her a *cockstomping, dyke chick whom doesn't even play games (the last bit is actually the worst criticism for any woman in the video game industry, or the worst thing a gamer can think to say about a woman talking about games. It basically means that nothing she can say will be taken seriously, discrediting her opinion entirely.) If you have a bit of time, I think this is a very important video.


With that in mind, it's a gradual process. Changing one's behavior is especially difficult when you had thought you were socially and morally acceptable to begin with. Id est, it's not like I was taking drugs that made me imagine rescuing a helpless damsel and fucking her only whilst I'm on top or from behind, none of this "side-to-side as equals" Lilith-loving mess. That being said, any position is a good position if both parties enjoy it, **right? Being empowered means being able to choose.

Also, especially with gamers, anime enthusiasts, and comic book fans (groups that often overlap), the group, especially those around my age, grew up being geeks, misunderstood and often barred from the most popular circles growing up. We GOT it more than those jerks what called us fags for fucking LOVING some Spider-Man.

He can maintain his shit talking while he takes out ALL the X-Men.  

To be told you were part of an oppressive majority all along is a bit trying on the ol' self-image. I wonder if it's harder to admit being wrong about something when you yourself feel unjustly wronged already. Is that a crazy opinion? Anyway, it speaks to me, but doesn't entirely apply across the board.

But I digress. The point is, it's difficult to stop habits, especially when they are ones with which you may have been nurtured. And especially, when you are suddenly ostracized (it can feel like) for something you might not have even known was insensitive. We are used to a little give-and-take, a bit of negotiation, rather than being ignorant.

I'd say, the problem may be more that folks like me are trying to solve individual instances rather than reworking their perspective/mental default reference point. Enabling yourself to view your actions and those of others in a manner you might not have even thought to try previously. I hope I'm getting better.


For example, I'm mad that the only way women in Iron Man 3 (SPOILERS) are useful is through deceit or superpowers. Because, unlike the theme of the movie (and Tony Stark/Jon Favreau's character), women aren't capable of heroism alone, they aren't "more than a suit of armor."

The one lady that tries her hand at usefulness and redemption without superpowers is immediately shot. Then Tony escapes on his own. Another woman is helpful, but only because she was fooled for years and accidentally helps Tony uncover the cover-up. In this movie, Pepper Potts is easily fooled, often manipulated by men, and only capable of defending herself and others when she has the Iron Man armor or accidental superpowers (that Tony immediately devotes his energy to "curing.") END SPOILERS

Admittedly, I still really enjoyed the movie. I was happy to see most of Tony's entrepreneurial, Libertarian bullshit toned down. It's kind of mindless fun. But that's the problem: when you see a movie like this, you turn your brain off to the reinforcing of socially oppressing viewpoints. They slip in so that when you don't actively think about what you are doing "means," it can be easy to carry on an antiquated tradition.

In many ways worse than movies, the amount of sexist mess still thrown around the gaming world is appalling, perhaps because the criticism of it is often not out there, or the innately racist double-standard of "well it's from Japan, what can you expect" argument is given. (Pardon my run-on)

It (Gradually) Gets Better

But there are strides being made. Perhaps as a response to FeministFrequency, though not really since it actually came out first, a song is out there entitled  "The Princess Who Saved Herself." While this isn't a video game, since making the fantastic closing song for Portal, anything Jonathon Coulton does is related in my mind. You may not appreciate that link until you actually play Portal, in which case, play Portal! Anyway, I'm ready for this video to be a game. They should use the illustrations from the first graders as the direction for the art design.

 

Anyway, it's not like I'm perfect, I've achieved balance, or you should buy my self-help cassette tape series, I'm just saying. Oh, and there are other promising stories out there. Like the guy who re-coded Donkey Kong to make his daughter the hero not the damsel.

And with that this post is over, but not finished. (Literally AND figuratively!)

*Does empowerment also mean reclaiming the hateful language of the past? I'm just saying that our sensitivity may be coming at the cost of a rich lexicon of blue language that will take a long time to rebuild. Seriously, there was a study of all the insults old people in the country can remember, and they are some of the most xenophobic, racist, original terms you've ever heard. But that's another post.

**I'm using a lot of tag questions to show that my current opinions are still evolving. Stagnation and complacence are as dangerous as nostalgia.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30 - The Perfect Poetic Experience


What is the ideal experience for a reader of poetry?

I pose this question to myself a fair bit. It seems to me that I would most often prefer to be sitting under a mulberry tree on a calm spring day in the English countryside. Of course, that's hardly something that you an do very often (I don't even know what a mulberry tree looks like, I just know that it's under one that Keats wrote Ode to a Nightingale, which everyone should read).

There isn't any kind of ideal setting really. Who's to say I wouldn't be more enriched by a poem if I read it instead on a bus, in a bar, or waiting in line at Ralph's? For the record, I most often read on public transit. All the distractions have a way of helping me focus (bars are good too, because booze).

So, if I can't dictate the experience of a poem, I can at least exert control over its delivery. All I've done this month has been in text, but there's really no reason why I can't include audio or video. Plenty of it exists. In fact, today is the finals for the National Recitation Contest of Poetry Out Loud.



Poetry Out Loud is designed to help further students' poetry comprehension through memorization and performance (something a lot of poets need to do more of, including me). Can you imagine if this had been a club at your high school? Well, it sounds badass to me.

Of course, the live performance of poetry has its own drawbacks. If the language is difficult, a speedy delivery doesn't allow you to re-read a line for better understanding. Conversely, if you have a program and are reading along, you aren't watching the visual aspect of the performance.

There are a lot of audio recordings of poetry. Some are pretty amazing. Alec Guinness, for example, has an album on Spotify in which he is reading different poems.

You can do a voice-over to a video with some poetry. That's got the potential for some really great moments far beyond your standard, "Look at a painting while I read Wordsworth" bits.

(Actually, that video is pretty good. If the Romantics seem cheesy now, it's only because of how much their style has influenced and been aped, kind of like some Mel Brooks and Francois Truffaut films.)

I suppose the difference is primarily context. When a person is listening, their eyes can wander, they can wander. If you're watching a video, reading, or viewing a performance, you pretty much have to stay put. Your framing of the poem is controlled to an extent. Of course, particularly with text, you can choose where to read it. Video as well if you're using a smartphone or laptop.

So to return to the initial question, what would be the ideal experience? I suppose a lot of writers would say it is up to the reader. The audience has final say and that is what makes each experience unique. Is there a wrong way to experience a poem? What if I were reading Holocaust poetry in my undies while eating a tub of ice cream and listening to a Cubs game?

I've never been very comfortable with the idea that the poet has to just write stuff down and fling it out in the world. This leads me to wonder how I might control the audience experience.

Which brings this post to a close. If you're wondering about what my answer to this question really is, I'll let you know once my next project is finished. In the meantime, I'm going to try and continue doing a couple posts each week on poetry and such. Hopefully, this is only the beginning.



"Caminante, no hay camino
Se hace camino al andar.

-Antonio Machado

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26 - Song Lyrics Suck

Why Song Lyrics Suck

But not really, I'm just sick of reading memes saying that people write/wrote better lyrics now than before, or comparing one artist to another. This isn't because it's an apples to oranges comparison, but also because they way a single image is forced to convey this is by simply writing out two sets of lyrics from two different songs; e.g.,


Whatever your thoughts are on these two songs, it is unfair to present them as such. They are taken out of their musical context. In a lot of cases, I feel people are impressed by song lyrics that can stand alone. Also, I'm currently listening to Run the World, and the image itself is only listing the chorus. There are many more words in that song. Also, it's incredibly well produced, which, in terms of pop music (yeah, it's a generalization), seems to me where the real skill/artistry lies.

The Real Point

If I were in a poetry workshop and someone slid a sheet of paper with the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody to me (assuming the song did not previously exist in this sad, sad hypothetical reality), I'd read through it and think it was somewhat interesting. Then I'd likely complain about the line breaks being too predictable and I'd hate how confessional it is. Unless you're Robert Lowell, that shit's for a diary, yo.

I think a good musical example would be "Around the World" by Daft Punk. I like that song, but actually reading the lyrics by themselves would be sort of missing the point, certainly the experience, of that song.

Also, on the page, song lyrics don't always have an obvious, or even intrinsic, rhythm, making for an odd read.

Anyway, it's like Roger Ebert said, "A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it."

That applies to pretty much all art, with some exceptions. I think that's why I feel a small affront when people want to present lyrics as poetry; it's like wanting me to taste apple pie without the crust. It's kind of a mess.

But I still NEED it.

The same can apply to poetry set to music. Whoa. Full Disclosure: When searching on Spotify for poetry set to music. The album Poe Goes Jazz would be a good example...if it weren't from Deutschland. Hearing Poe in German with smooth jazz interludes makes for a weird morning. However, it works as an example: in this format, the music is secondary, more ambient, creating a frame for the words, rather than at an equal footing with creepy-ass Germoe Poe.

Oh die Glocken, Glocken, Glocken!

Generalizations, Generalizations Everywhere!

In music, the melody often trumps what's actually being said. (OMG, what an offensive thing to say!) Anyway, as far as I know, most music starts with the rhythm, hook, riff, etc., and goes from there. In many cases, the entire composition is completed, with vocals, before any words are written down. There are plenty of demo tracks out there with vocals recorded as simply gibberish set to the melody. (One sec, I can't take the German anymore.)

...I'm also a Client

OK, back to George Jones. Now then, I wonder if my performance project last year fell victim to this. I wanted to combine media in a way in which no one piece would work alone. It was a good first try, and I'm not being a perfectionist about it (Eric Byers=badass). It did not achieve what I wanted as fully as I had hoped, though. Here is where I would add a link to a recording of the performance. Sadly, and somewhat awesomely, no such recording exists. It exists only in the brains of those in attendance.

What a Crappy Ending

If you are still reading, here is where I admit that I have no conclusion, just observation. Also, this bit of thinking in writing is a substitute for an actual poem today. I guess if I want to draw a one-liner from all this, it'd be that it's really hard to create something that functions optimally across art forms. And everything kind of irritates me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25 - Against Whatever It Is That's Encroaching

This image is here for one reason: it was one of the top results for "sitting at home."
Not much time today, I have to go to Venice. Here's a poem by Charles Simic. The link on his name is to a very good bio of him, so I'll just say that he's won the Pulitzer and was poet laureate in 2007. He is currently a co-editor for The Paris Review. This poem is from The Voice at 3:00 AM, a finalist for the National Book Award. If you're not busy tonight, it may give you a nice way to spend your evening as well.



Against Whatever It Is That's Encroaching

Best of all is to be idle,
And especially on a Thursday,
And to sip wine while studying the light:
The way it ages, yellows, turns ashen
And then hesitates forever
On the threshold of the night
That could be bringing the first frost.

It's good to have a woman around just then,
And two is even better.
Let them whisper to each other
And I you with a smirk.
Let them roll up their sleeves and unbutton their shirts a bit
As this fine old twilight deserves,

And the small schoolboy
Who has come home to a room almost dark
And now watches wide-eyed
The grown-ups raise their glasses to him,
The giddy-headed, red-haired woman
With eyes tightly shut,
As if she were about to cry or sing.