Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Without Definition

"Without definitions, poetry is impossible."

When theory discussions are relevant to the presentation of poetry, you'll find them on Theory Tuesdays at Literary Magnet.

Enjoy and discuss!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Just what is poetry, anyway?

So after someone telling me that Homer and Tennyson didn't write poetry I'm wondering what it is I do then?

Not that I'm Homer and Tennyson-class--but you get the idea. Poetry has become something either indefinable or unimportant or both.

Perhaps that's why this blog (and the magazine it came from) is called "Strong Verse" not "Strong Poetry." I'm interested in the craft of writing verse, not slapping a silly "it's automatically art" label on some words.

More to it though, what's the delivery system of poetry?

Back when poetry was first created in those good old prehistorical times folks didn't read nor write--so they had to listen to a poet chant. Maybe they did it around a fire, maybe in what would become an amphitheater.

At any rate is was the voice that mattered. Folks could only see large gestures--so there could and likely would have been some motion--but an emphasis on that was what drove us to drama (the first split from poetry?).

Then along came the historical world. Folks could read--well, some of them--but performance was still king (at least if your audience was more than the king who could read anyway). But poets, who now could rely on the exobrain of paper for memorization, could devote more time to versecraft. Hence the rigor of national poetic forms.

Then came printing and the rise of literacy.

Here you have the ability of verse to reach the person interested in poetry before the poet. This creates a few problems, notably the difficulty of transmitting inflection and performance. The Beatles could create "concerts" with their Pepper-and-on albums but that's because they could record. Printed words don't carry the same weight.

Which speaking of, the rise of printing mirrored the rise of musical notation which could carry the same weight as performance. Unfortunately no such easy guide was given to the written word. Readers had to rely on a knowledge of rhyme and meter to eke out how a poem should be read (unless they were lucky enough to catch the poet--and how often did that happen? Legit question, btw).

Also now the music of poetry had to compete with the standardized (and far more performed) music of music. And drama and and and.

Then came sound recording and broadcast capabilities. While wax recordings of Tennyson exist, what is clear in them is that there's no notion of performance. He intones and warbles "Haalf a leeeague, haalf a leeague" in a rhythm familiar to many who attend contemporary poetry readings. Even the reportedly gorgeous and vivacious Edna St. Vincent Millay reads her poetry as if she's at a funeral.

Why do we think people want to listen to this?

Who has effectively recorded poetry (without music)? Garrison Keillor?

Is it really that hard or is it simply unlearned?

At any rate it hardly matters because TV (and more importantly internet distribution of video).

But where are the poets of TV? Of film?

Why did we stop in the 19th century and leave well enough alone? Did all of the folks who would have been our greatest poets just become song- and screenwriters?

Aural storytelling is powerful. Visual storytelling is powerful. Why not have some animated or even live-action recreations of poems?

We must rethink our delivery methods. Print is wonderful and powerful but we can't leave performance poetry to the performance poets and visual poetry to the avant garde.

What do you want to see as a poem?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Poetry off the Page


What does the world of writing look like when you can pick up your poem and pass it around?

Developments like this will rend the veil between purely visual and purely linguistic art (it's difficult at this point to call such theoretical work "aural" though one would assume the proper areas of the brain will still be activated).

Who will be the first visual poet to make art from this?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Amorak Huey's "Dungeon Master's Guide. . ." in The Collagist

So I love learning about new publications and new poets.

Saw this lovely poem in The Collagist (thanks, Sun Dog Lit!) and I had to share:

The lunchroom is an unguarded wilderness
of potential humiliation. So is conversation.
This is when every girl is out of your league,
when you realize such leagues even exist.

You know, I was that boy. Were you?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Met only in words: Sylvia Plath, 50 years later

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Here is a brief article on Sylvia Plath's final days.

I put that here, at the beginning, because it's not the drama of suicide that is important in Plath's death. Suicide is indeed terrible. Please ask someone for help. No one wants you to die.

What we lost, however, was our finest modern practitioner of the sound of the English language. Had she not killed herself, Plath would still be with us, alive and likely kicking at the ripe old age of 80.

What we have instead is a controversial collection of Plath's last work, butchered by her estranged husband, Ted Hughes, and "restored" by her daughter, Frieda. While I prefer vastly the thematic arc of her original intent (moving from "Morning Song" to The Bee Cycle, specifically ending with "Wintering": from "love" to "spring"), the "manic woman" that Plath became in the American consciousness was, essentially, cemented by Hughes. 

This results in an awful lot of eye rolling when I name Plath as a great poet. People know her, if at all, as a violent, lost soul, the author of "Daddy" or "Lady Lazarus." 

At Literary Magnet, my new literary magazine, I've said a bit more about the way I learned to love Sylvia Plath.

What I'd like to say here, though, is that as poets and lovers of poetry, remember the words Plath placed together. Study them. Live within those sounds--the only place she remains.

As people, simply love each other and don't, in the words of Jillian Becker, "endure long remorse" for something that could have been done.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Orange Bottle by Joshua Mehigan


Joshua Mehigan's "The Orange Bottle" is just fantastic.

It's got everything I've been calling for since I started this blog. It's narrative, long enough to satisfy, and plays with sound in some wonderful ways:

For instance, listen to the way Mehigan changes sound in this stanza near the poem's end:

In the car away from that place,
the family had a pleasant chat.
He seemed fine again, and humble,
though his speech was oddly flat.

The c's, ch's, t's and f's throughout--except the c's being replaced with h's in the third line--which reinforce the humility (which Mehigan's poem posits as restricted humanity, at least for our subject) and the t's being entirely absent--that is, the only hard sound in that third line is the "g" of again, which is hardly cacophonic while all the other "oddly flat" lines have far more displeasing sounds.

Utterly delightful craftsmanship, I must say.

Keep it up, Poetry, and I just might renew my subscription, even if all you give me is rejection (and the occasional commentary on my reviews. . .).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My electronic newspaper

Now that the morning newspaper tradition is obsolete, what do you do to fill that void?

Here's my newspaper replacement routine:

Read the funny papers: Sluggy, QC, Penny-Arcade/The Trenches, OOTS, Erfworld, pfsc, xkcd, etc.

Update Literary Magnet. (You can participate by reading!)

Check my twitter since I follow a lot of folks who talk about literary news.

Check reddit, especially r/literature, r/cogsci, and r/redditdayof (I'm not going to link anyone to reddit if I can help it--that's your own black hole of information to discover).

Check the drudge report. I know it's a flaming pile of inflammatory screed BUT it's really a collection of news feeds and spares most commentary apart from headlines. If there's a neutral site that does this, I'd love to know about it.

Read the new posts on E-Verse Radio and CPRW.

See if Kirby has said anything fun at Lutheran Surrealism.

There are a few other sites I visit, but I go to these places nearly every day. Since Google handles most (if not all) the ad revenue on the sites that use it (note: no ads ever on Literary Magnet), it seems not that newspapers have died but simply Google has become the world's largest distributed (or dis-mastheaded) newspaper.

What do you read daily?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And Literary Magnet is born

Back in 2006, I was awarded a grant for the furtherance of poetry.

I have tried several times to get a little literary mag off the ground.

Finally, I have come upon the way and thing I want to publish.

I would like to introduce you to Literary Magnet.

Each day you will be treated to a new poem, illustrated poem (you know, like a webcomic), review, or other literary work.

I hope it becomes part of your newspaper replacement daily routine. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Memorizing poetry

Why undergo the laborious process of memorizing a poem these days, when—tap, tap, tap—you have it at your fingertips? Has this become another outmoded practice? When I was a Boy Scout, in the sixties, I spent some hours trying to learn Morse code and even, on a couple of overly sunny, headachey afternoons, trying to communicate by flag semaphore. Some things were meant to disappear. (And many of my students wish that assignments to memorize poems would follow them.)

The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. Robson puts the point succinctly: “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”

A 250th post whine.

Clearly, I don't get Poetry.

A Don Share tweet led me to this poem which gave me apoplexy:

"The Gargantuan Muffin Beauty Contest."

Love is in the air, it’s in the whisper of the trees.

This is not America, this is the cover version:
sun, sex, sin, divine intervention, death and destruction,
welcome to The Sodom and Gomorrah Show.
All those white muffins trying to be black muffins!
Give us our daily muffin, save us from temptation.
Jimmy Buffett was singing, Why don’t we get drunk
and screw? In Times Square the most beautiful muffins
in the world were hanging on a thousand screens.
Where are my singing Tibetan balls? Am I dead?

I hope you recognize all the clever references and the oh-so-unsubtle allegorical use of "muffin."

In the immortal words of Liz Lemon, "what the what!?"

Please tell me what I'm missing. Because I see the work *I* write and the work of other folks I like and think "yeah, that's pretty good stuff." And some of it, truly, does appear in poetry.

And then I see this and ask "WHY GOD WHY?" Maybe I'm missing something.

Maybe it's just sour grapes. Poetry rejected these two poems, for instance. 

But if you've got some insight, I'd love to hear it. Maybe I'm not old enough or British enough, or something. Maybe my poetry sucks and I don't know good poetry from a muffin.

Literary cage match: Literary Fiction vs Children's Fiction

Which 20th Century books are more important to the West?

1900s: Heart of Darkness (1902) versus The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
1910s: Ethan Frome (1911) versus Peter and Wendy (1911)
1920s: Ulysses (1922) versus Winnie-the-Pooh (1926)
1930s: Of Mice and Men (1937) versus Mary Poppins (1934)
1940s: The Stranger (1942) versus The Little Prince (1943)
1950s: The Old Man and the Sea (1951) versus The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955)
1960s: Catch-22 (1961) versus A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
1970s: Gravity's Rainbow (1973) versus The Princess Bride (1973)
1980s: Beloved (1987) versus Redwall (1984)
1990s: Infinite Jest (1996) versus Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Let's talk about death, baby!

So like, people, like really like to talk about poetry being dead.

This bro is all "DAG YO, SLAMS KILL POETRY"

When what he probably really means is that a lot of performance poetry is bad.

Well, duh. A lot of poetry is bad.

A response here addresses some points, but skips over its most important one:

"poets should learn their trade."

We should ALL be excellent writers AND readers.

Look to the March 7th reading, everyone. You'll see some living poetry for sure.

Graphic Novel; how about Graphic Epic?


What would you all think of a "graphic epic"?

That is, an illustrated verse narrative?

Do you read graphic novels?


That sort of thing?

What if the words sounded as good as the story read?

What if it also were presented in not only a static format but also like a "motion book" a la Reading Rainbow?

If you're reading this, I'd love some commentary. Don't just think it, type it!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hourly Comic Day 2:10-3:10

Hourly Comic day 1:10-2:10

I got home and had to change the font. Sorry!

Hourly Comic Day 12:10-1:10

Hourly Comic Day 11:10-12:10

Hourly Comic Day: 10:10-11:10

Hourly Comic Day 9:10-10:10

My favorite so far:

Hourly Comic Day 8:10-9:10 am

Hourly Comic Day: 7:10-8:10

Hourly Comic Day: 6:10-7:10 am

hourly comic day!

It's hourly comic day.

In honor of my second favorite literary form, I'm going to participate in hourly comic day.

Each comic will be a haiku, with each line illustrated by google images.

Enjoy the bad work!