art, poetry, podcasts and porn

Well, first of all, I’ve been meaning to link to this video of an interview with my brother john since it was posted (last saturday?) over at the walker’s teen website/blog. His site has been getting a lot of traffic this week as a result, although it looks like a lot of it is coming from this post about it rather than the walker.

While I was trolling the wooster collective looking for the link to, I found the art of one Zak Smith, who created this incredible painting called 100 Girls and 100 Octopuses back in 2005. (Note, that link is NSFW, though it is totally awesome, and you should click on it anyway. Further note that Zak Smith also goes by the monkier Zak Sabbath.)

This month’s poem-a-day hasn’t been going as prolifically as I’d planned, although I’ve definitely been writing (and reading) more poetry this last month than has been usual the last couple of years. I’ve been really having to force it out when inspiration just isn’t forthcoming. Yesterday, for example, I just riffed on my mindblurbs page (you’ll have to search for the date “4.22.8”, since mindblurbs don’t have permalinks) on each of the major topics in this fascinating youtube video I found of a talk by Marissa Mayer. She’s apparently a google high-mucky-muck of some sort.

Finally, yesterday also marks my first foray into the land of podcasting. Jason, Mike, Florence and I sat around for about an hour to create the first podcast. If you do end up listening to it, I’d love to hear any feedback you might have about any aspect of this dubious operation.

Poetry month… day two

Who knows if this will last, but I’ve decided to try and read and write at least a poem a day this month. This has given me an excuse to finally dig into The Making of a Poem, which I have had sitting on the bottom of a stack of books on my nightside stand. I plowed through the first poem in bleary-eyed sleepiness, mistakenly attributing it to Mark Strand before realizing it was actually by just the beginning of his essay “On Becoming a Poet”, and was actually by Archibald MacLeish. Anyway, I have a feeling this book will help me find some great poetry quotes for my collection. Like this one, from the end of Strand’s essay:

A poem is a place where the conditions of beyondness and withinness are made palpable, where to imagine is to feel what it is like to be. It allows us to have the life we are denied because we are too busy living. Even more paradoxically, a poem permits us to live in ourselves as if we were just out of reach of ourselves.

random thoughts on poetry, writing, and the internet

Wrote that last poem a couple of days ago on the bus… I wish I could say I was thinking about my own death at the time, but honestly it was totally random what came out of me at the time. I did follow it up in my notebook with “Read this at my funeral. Ha!”. Aside from “Where did this come from?” my thoughts after writing it were all things like “Am I going to think this is any good in a couple of days? (Answer: yes, but predictably not as good.) …and “This must be the first poem I’ve written start to finish in months.” That last feels weird because while I haven’t been writing, life has been racing past full-bore. (Full-bore is an interesting phrase to use here, since it, life, hasn’t been “a bore” at all in this time of fast-pacededness.)

Married life, and life in general lately, has been a whirlwind of pleasant chaos.

Anyway, this chaos hasn’t left me time to write. Or rather, I haven’t pushed life aside enough lately to make time for writing. But now, conversely, I’ve been thinking about writing more… which has led, in turn, (finally) to more writing.

Parts of the impetus for this post was the inspired discussion over at Is blogging per se a dying art? (via semifat sediment). I found myself wondering whether it’s useful to talk about “ages of the internet”, which is semantically (in my head anyway) identical to “trends of the internet as a function of time”… which then led me to ask myself whether a single lifetime can have “ages”, which, when my brain then translated to “trends of my life as a function of time”, I found the answer was clearly yes. I hope that makes sense, because I’m rapidly running out of time to elaborate.

One more aside… which I already twittered earlier, but since the tweet was aimed at an individual (not-quite-coincidentally Josh who runs Semifat Sediment) it didn’t show up here. (Better to post the exchange anyway:)

“joshleejosh: Finding more and more obscure crash conditions in my AI scripts. It’s like malfunctioning turtles all the way down.

me: @joshleejosh: What’s underneath the bottom malfunctioning turtle? …is it WINDOWS?! (Interesting to imagine the universe as an OS.)”

So yeah… I find it immensely (intensely) amusing compare the universe to computer systems (and of course vice versa). Rudy Rucker does this superbly, and (in yet another cosmic coincidence) I picked up his latest novel, Postsingular, from the library this morning. I’m still not done reading Day Watch, but I’ll probably put that one on hold until I finish Postsingular, which I’ve already started and has already sucked me in.

chosing a poem

Here’s how I’m doing this, chosing.
Flipping pages at random
until I find one that resonates.

But what book?
Whose pages, lines, words?
Neruda? Oliver? Paz?

As I scoop the cat litter,
I think of them all at once
then each in turn.
They are like friends from different parts of my life–
faceless, I know them.

We need cat food and the cats will go without until tomorrow.

Oliver wins.
I open New and Selected Poems,
beginning at the beginning.
(So much for random.)
One poem in, I’m enchanted.

Second poem,
I think about going back to the first,
but the third… is more… I think… me.

When Death Comes
On page ten–cross reference the index–
This poem is four years old
or less!

But it is imageless, or nearly so,
and the emotion is not the same on second read.

So I continue,
nevermind “an iceburg between the shoulder blades”,
I continue.

So much nature in Oliver. So many poems later,
I return to the beginning of the book.

Rain still patters on my rooftop even though
I normally don’t go for multi-page poems.
It starts on page three with
lightning, “When it hit the tree, her body/opened forever.”

And then prisoners escape, and her father stands
next to the grave of his brother.
His stanza is powerful, then
the teacher’s birthday, then
the fifth stanza, two lines,
“I have heard this music before,/saith the body.”

The body. Saith.
So non-colloquial. So uncharacteristic.
I cringe, remember,
how I had first thought this her early work,
on first read.
But less than four years old!
Well past her pulitzer.

Maybe she knows a thing or two.

And the poem ends on page seven
after drowning in images and images and images
after I remember thinking
the snake is a cleche in poetry.
The conclusion:
“He begins to bleed through/like satin.”
It floors me.
And I’m spent.

national poetry month

April is National Poetry Month, I discovered, looking at the poetry shelves this weekend at my local used bookstores with my friend tiki (whose birthday it was, incidentally, yesterday). I am going to attempt to write mini-reviews of a poem a day for the remainder of the month to celebrate.

For the first poem, I’ve chosen Chicago, by kent foreman.

I found this poem in the only book of poetry I purchased when I discovered it was national poetry month at the bookstores this weekend, The Spoken Word Revolution, an anthology of spoken word that also includes a CD. Unfortunately, Chicago is not one of the poems read on the CD, but it was the first to really strike me in the book. How could I not like a poem that begins with the lines, “Because I am a patriot, I love this bitch,/You dig?/This sprawling, bawdy breathtaking witch/This pig,”?

Spoken word poetry is both worse and sometimes better because of its colloquial nature–the language that even read “sounds” spoken. This poem does that particularly well, keeping up a sporadic irregular rhyme in the middle of a conversational tone. I admire the lack of indent structure, the visual flow of the poem as it meanders down the page, sometimes sharply returning to the left margin, sometimes flowing gracefuly back and forth. Some of my other favorite lines: “I know her for a great American Janus/’Cause, once, I was a ghetto urchin/Playing in her anus” and “My God, in spring,/Chicago balls the populace.”

Perhaps the only disappointing part of the poem for me is the ending, and I don’t mean in a cleched “sad it’s over” kind of way. The idea, interjected in the last few lines, is that the narrator loves chicago, but he’s leaving. Before that, the poem was basicaly an Ode, and I think I liked it better when I thought it was. I probably would have preferred the author leave off the last three lines, and end with the lines just before… calling back to that great opening, with “This is The Truth!/I love this faithless bitch/That robbed me of my youth”.

All in all, this was a great poem.

As a side note, if I keep this up, which I hope to, I will only be reviewing what I think are great poems. You dig?

marty brand poems

Dr Bombay sent me a link to his friend Charlie’s blog, where Charlie talks a bunch about poetry, and in this particular entry, about whether we can talk about poets as brand names.

Charlie’s final point is that brands are stagnating for the artist. Brands must stay the same to be recognizable, this is true, but it seems to me that an artist can still change while their brand stays (basically) the same. Think of U2. Their brand (public image) has definitely changed over the years, but very slowly, and not nearly as often as their music (for better or worse). There are examples of successful brand revolutions too. Think of Christina Aguilera, who went from being branded a twelve year old to being branded a super-slut virtually over night. Changing your image isn’t impossible, just very difficult.

Having worked in a large marketing company for a few years, I heard the term “brand” thrown around all the time… but it was never used to refer to what the actual product was… it was always used to refer to the public image of said product.

I would argue that all artists are branded whether they know it or not. Whether they go through the process of branding themselves is the real question. To market yourself as an artist, you have to have an image. All branding does is try to keep some semblance of control over that image.

This is true of poets too, although many of them (us) choose to eschew the process entirely, and either allow our publishers to make all the marketing (branding) decisions, or attempt to allow our words to speak for itself. Sure, some of the biggest name poets probably have some kind of brand, but I’ll bet none of them have logos. (I just spent far too long looking for this quiz that I saw online a few months back where you had to match up popular artists and sports stars with their respective logos. It was really a cool quiz, if you remember where it’s at, send me the link, please.)

The phenomenon of Charlie’s blog for me is not that it’s largely about poetry and writing (which I love,) but that it’s so amazingly thoughtful and insightful. Then linking from his blog to Victoria Chen’s, it was like finding a wormhole into this other world where people actually care about poetry the majority of the time.

Strangely enough, however, that world is probably as repulsive to me as it is attractive. I think if poetry were more popular than it is, I would be more hesitant to write it. Plus, there is something so sticky about academic studies of poetry. Some part of me just thinks poems are.

I get upset when people talk about this movement or that movement in poetry. The whole idea of having a movement in poetry for me requires an artistic revolution where you write a manifesto and all your friends get together and think about similar ideas. It seems to me that calling yourself this type of poet or that type of poet is such a big fad. Isn’t that era over already? Nobody actually writes manifestos anymore, but they all talk about different types of poetry as if every poem fit neatly into one or two categories and that was it.

I’d much rather hear discussion about a poem itself than about the category it may or may not fit into.

Man, now I’m just whining.