Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why words are important

I suppose what I hate most about modern, anti-reader, anti-language, anti-word poetry is its inherently destructive nature. While most of its paragons are allegedly anti-big-brother types and allegedly pro-freedom, their hatred of language set the foundation for the newspeak we have come to know and love -- from the most PC unoffensive talk to the most vile "collateral damage," these destroyers of language have forgotten -- as did Oppenheimer -- that their actions are not personal, that their beaten butterfly wings do carry resonance around the world.

Or, as I saw in a post today:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will get me to brutalize my fellow man for the benefit of my rulers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

This has nothing to do with poetry

At least, not that I know of.

Also, I am aware that hand-wringing about the folks who post on internet forums is specious at best.

So in case you didn't know already, I am a nerd.

Part of my nerdiness involves reading webcomics, like this one.

Now, for those of you who aren't nerds, black dragons, like the ones being shown in a sort of wholesale, Godfather-esque slaughter, are evil.

Not evil like Mr. Burns in the Simpsons but evil like Hitler and Stalin. Greedy and vicious and ready to eat your babies for no good reason. Kind of like polio or MRSA.

What I don't understand is that there are a good number of folks posting on the site's forum about how evil it was to kill all those poor widdle dragons.


If the world were covered in deinonychi bent on eating us because we're slow and fleshy, why would we cry if they were killed? Especially if they were ten times as large, could fly, and spit acid on us. . .

I suppose this all comes down to anthropomorphism writ large. Maybe it does have something to do with poetry. People grow up with Mother Goose rhymes and think that everything that can raise its eyebrows is somehow human and should be afforded human rights.

Which is just silly.

I guess that makes me anthropocentric. But of course I'm anthropocentric. Why would evolution/God/FSM make us anything but anthropocentric (I guess we could be theocentric but that's a whole nuther post. . .)?

In fact, if you're a person -- and you aren't anthropocentric, I would encourage you to go live in the forest (or whatever wild you can find) with the clothes you can make for yourself (without killing anything else -- you can always collect and make your own wool) and eat the best you can without disturbing any other creature.

If you aren't willing to do this, then please admit you're anthropocentric too -- and stop whining about dead dragons.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama and Harry Potter: the Haiku

Harry Potter and
Obama's Presidency:
good ways to sell books.

Rewriting Dickinson is a Dickensian Dialogue

That is, poor and shabby.

Over in the Anti-Verse, Silliman is talking about these poets using Emo-ly's poems as "empty vessels" for this purpose or that.

In a nutshell, folks are (getting published by!) taking Emily Dickinson's poems & structures and either erasing parts of them or replacing them syllable for syllable with other crap.

First, the erasing thing was done in Radi Os. It was avant-garde and vaguely interesting then. Now it is just derivative and stupid.

B, using Emily's verse as a received form is using received forms. Don't knock New Formalists for being from the "school of quietude" and then think it's all bitchin because some Joe K. with an MFA fills the sound of Emily with empty-headed Hollywood baubles.

What the hell is up with all of this rewriting anyway?

Shouldn't we be MAKING IT NEW for versesake? I mean, should we not be creating new work?

What is the point of gilding the lily? Do these people think they have something to add to Emily's oeuvre?

Moreover, do they expect ANYONE to read their crap when the same person could just crack open the internet's full offering of Emily's reworked lyrics to "The Yellow Rose of Texas?"

Why do Silliman's poets hate readers?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A St. Patrick's Day Poem

I thought, like a lot of you, that the "troubles" would finally be over. As we've seen lately, I don't think so. Anyway, here's a poem from college for St. Patrick's Day:

St. Patrick’s Day

We’re comin through the clover fields
beneath God’s purple sky.
We’re marchin through the city streets,
the Cathlicks soon will die.

In Erin past, a pretty lass
could turn a young gent’s eye.
But now that’s done, and only guns
can make a young boy die.

Now stompin’ down on Danny Boy,
we’re kicking out his knees.
We praise our maker and our land,
we fight to bring all peace.

In Erin past, a pretty lass
could turn a young gent’s eye.
But now that’s done, and only guns
can make a young boy die.

In orange and green, a war machine,
we fight the bloody war.
We kill our foes, especially those
who ask what is this for?

In Erin past, a pretty lass
could turn a young gent’s eye.
But now that’s done, and only guns
can make a young boy die.

Our Emerald Isle is burned and choked
by bombings and by hate.
We fight to enter heaven first
and turn back at the gate.

In Erin past, a pretty lass
could turn a young gent’s eye.
But now that’s done, and only guns
can make a young boy die.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Disconnected weirdos

From The Poetry Foundation:

Sometimes I wonder how it would go if I had to chose between writing and reading. It’s one of those desert island questions. More than travel, more than interpersonal relations, more than food, sex, sleep, these are the two loves of my life. They are what connect me to myself, and connect my self to the world.


Really, sir? I mean, we all like that lovely quip -- when I have a bit of money, I spend it on books. . .

But books more important than people? (We'll ignore for a moment the food, sex, sleep problem)

More important than people?

If these are the words ex cathedra from our last lonely house of Poetry, how can we be expected to reach IRL humans?

I would dare venture that the above statement is not applicable to most reading Americans (remember, that's 1/3 of the population).

Perhaps this is why poetry is such a dead husk. We've got the mouths of the trade aping the idea that words are more important, nay, more vibrant, than actual people. Maybe this is why the annual, real readership for poetry is about half a million Americans (at best). If 1 in 600 folks feel this way, then I guess that's their thing

but Jesus, aren't people more than that?

I like words. That's pretty evident in my choice of trade. But I like people more.

Words are the way we communicate -- the way we mediate. Words are the glue that holds people together. It's like appreciating nails and not a house held together by them. Special glue can make a great musical instrument (thanks, Strad') but you play the violin, not the boiled horse.

The valuation of words over humanity must be the reason I hate so much of our national poetic output -- I'm glad, then, that The Poetry Foundation tipped its hand here. It's nice to know they really are just crazy.

So we can reach 1 in 600 people with words gratia words. Maybe, if we wrote words for people, we could increase that number. We know that 1 in 3 folks like to read (mostly prose). Maybe 1 in 30 could like to read poetry? Maybe more?

All I know is we'll never know until we stop believing that words are more important than people -- that is, stop believing that the poem is more important than the reader -- a carpenter's duty may be to the chair -- but the chair has to support someone. Today's poetry collapses under the weight of humanity.

Don't write for words' sake.
Write for humanity.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Movin on up b/w a Conundrum


I got three review copies in the mail today from a press.

So, I mean, that's friggin awesome, right? I am movin' on up to the East Side and all that. Woo! I'm the next Silliman (but I write "real poems"!)! Wooo!!

But. . .

The books suck. There's one book of prose "poems" and then two books of lineated prose. Nothing to recommend them other than nice covers.

I don't even want to provide links because, well, the books don't really deserve it -- and I wouldn't want you to buy them thinking they were full of poetry.

Conversely, I don't want to savage them in a review -- because 1) none of these books are by famous poets who need to be told "hey man, your work is crap" and 2) I'd really like more review copies -- I even will be glad to do reviews for books I like (or at least link to books that are not bad).

So send your reviews!
And let me know in the comments section if you think I'm off my nut.