Now here's an interesting (paper on a) study.
Here is the actual study.
The important information (for us writers) is this:
"When thinking about a positive past event, people should be happier when they describe it using the imperfective aspect (which brings them mentally closer to it) than when using the perfective aspect. When thinking about a negative past event, people should be sadder when they describe it using the imperfective aspect (which brings them mentally nearer to it) than when using the perfective aspect."
That is--if you want to make someone feel a past emotion (or event) more keenly, use the imperfect (he was dying). If you want that to be more distant, use the perfect (he died).
Not that we don't "know" this intuitively--but we don't always create what we intuit and it's important to know from a neurological standpoint why we should make certain decisions as a writer.
Also, think about what Meursault would have been like had he said "mother was dying yesterday" instead of "mother died today." Whole different ballgame, I think.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Now here's an interesting (paper on a) study.
I just read a review on a book of poetry by a mentally ill writer. I won't link it or reference it beyond the following quote:
"The arithmetic of language is unsolvable."
I sigh because this statement is nonsense. First of all, if we're going to apply the term arithmetic to language then we're going to get into linguistics which, though non-trivial, is certainly solvable.
But that's not really the point. The point is that the essay waxes philosophic about mental illness and writers and seems wholly ignorant of any current research regarding neuroscience. People with schizophrenia frequently create arresting art. Etc. etc.
If you want to know about the mind as it relates to art, I recommend starting not with philosophers, but with Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary (note: that goes to a .pdf).
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The Rigid Body
Ashland Poetry Press, $15.95
Apogee Press, $15.95
Here are two books that are radically different.
Spera's work, which I have praised before, is a lovely balance between tightness and expansiveness. Like each poem really wants to have these huge Whitmanesque lines but Spera's sensibilities rein everything in.
Unlike Standing Wave, however, Spera seems a bit freer in The Rigid Body, loosening up, namechecking works, borrowing, and generally having as good a time as he can have. Now, if you guess from his Randian Hero author photo (or is it Jobsean Hero?) or the general tenor of the poems, you might not think it's that much fun. Indeed, my one complaint is that Spera is a bit serious. But who isn't these days?
Anyway, it's a good book. My personal favorites are perhaps his two most clearly allusive poems, "The Hive" and "The Forsaken Cry." "The Hive" recalls Plath, both "Blackberrying" and The Bee Poems:
Something must've died, I figured, judging
by the orgy of fat black flies
that smudged the air. But no, they weren't flies,
but bees. . .
And "The Forsaken City" is a riff on Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts with a dash of Dante and modern torture thrown in:
About torture, they were all wrong,
the old masters, how little they understood
its tactics and procedures. . .
Get it, read it, love it.
Now, on to a book I ought not to like if you follow what I tend to say about poetry, Laura Walker's Follow-Haswed. It's an erasure book, like Ronald Johnson's Radi Os. I mention Johnson because I've not seen a better example of the style of erasure than his reduction of Paradise Lost.
Erasure is a trick, sure. But it can result in some nice literary moments. Follow-Haswed has many of these. The concept of the book is that Walker took entries from the OED between "follow" and "haswed" and erased erased erased until she came up with something rather poetic.
"go" has stuck with me:
[bees] are reddy to flye
that when they
they make a great humming
from their word
from their word
I lost him
Walker does a good job of finding the Eliot/Cummings element within the OED. As it's made up mostly of quotes supporting the usage of the words, I don't see that this is terribly surprising but, as I say, it can be nice. Indeed, I thought I would just hate the book but it rises above the cuteness of found poetry techniques to make some art.
And isn't that what good form is? One doesn't like a sonnet because it rhymes or a villanelle because it repeats lines. Nor should one like a poem because it is an anagram of Shakespeare's sonnets or something gleaned from computer printouts. One should like a poem because it's good poetry. Walker does that--and that's something to be praised.
It's insane that these poems, the correct ending of Ariel, aren't easy to find online. Here you go. NB: with the exception of the final line of "Arrival," each stanza should be five lines. Apologies to Sylvia for formatting difficulties with her longer lines.
Sylvia Plath's Bee Sequence:
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Perhaps you are familiar with the youtube sensation songs "It's so Cold in the D" or "Friday."
Like, I ain't linkin' to them. You know them anyway.
It's so Cold has over 6 million views.
Friday over 40 million.
The highest poetry video I can find? Something from Def Jam with about 2 million views.
I like poetry and all but when we can make a poetry video that gets more traction than a video ironically watched by hipsters and loved by the masses well, then we might be able to look A. Petri in the face.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Here I responded to a list of ten substandard examples of great American poetry.
I was then called out by my friends at the Cambridge Writer's Workshop to produce my own list. I ought to be wholly arrogant and just say my book, With Rough Gods, but I assume you folks are getting tired of that. Besides, there's better work than mine that was published in 2012.
So let me give my own ten reasons poetry's not dead in America, with explanations.
#10: Poetry jams/slams/open mikes.
Yes, you're going to hear a pile of offal verse at one of these. But that "pile" is the very reason poetry isn't dead in America. It may be a bit soured by our off-base educational system and the industrialization/academicization of poetry but it's alive and kicking in the trenches which is where it counts most. In a similar vein:
#9: Poetry journal slush piles.
Lit magazines get somewhere between 10-1000 times more submissions than they can publish, let alone want to publish. If we assume (from my own experience as an editor and making up numbers anyway) that 75% is crap, 20% is okay, 3% is good but doesn't work and 2% fits the publication, we can again see that folks are writing and writing and writing. Now, are they reading? Well--let's look at the best of what they have to read and then ask some questions about why they're not reading it.
#8: Broetry by Brian McGackin.
No, it's not Tennyson. But who cares? Broetry is the most fun you'll have reading poetry as an adult. It's like Shel Silverstein's Uncle Shelby books but a bit less mature and secure. Whatevs bro. Read it and have a good time. Laugh out loud when you read a poem. When's the last time you did that?
#7: Sixty Sonnets by Ernest Hilbert.
Sixty Sonnets is to Broetry as The Story of O is to Fifty Shades of Grey. They're both about the same sort of characters but Hilbert is being literary whereas McGackin is simply enjoying himself. What does this mean, exactly? It means that Sixty Sonnets, while not having as broad an appeal--and perhaps getting a chortle and not a guffaw--is more rewarding for folks that stick with it and has more lines that stick in general.
#6: Annie Finch.
Instead of including one of Annie's books, I'm just including Annie. If I had to narrow things down to books, I'd go with her two latest: Among the Goddesses and A Poet's Craft. I haven't reviewed APC yet but if you want to learn about poetry and don't need an MFA (I would like to need my MFA: anyone got a spare low res job?) you'd do better with your money to buy A Poet's Craft and go to conferences. Anyway, Among the Goddesses is a book you can give to a wide swath of people who are interested in literature and get them to realize that narrative has a place in poetry. Wonderfully good stuff and we are indebted to the good Dr. Finch and her work in and with American poetry.
#5: Ludlow by David Mason.
Narrative poetry is the best selling poetry in America. That's because narrative poetry includes books like Ellen Hopkins' Crank. Now, Crank is not good poetry but Ludlow is. And, at least last I heard, Ludlow does very well for Red Hen Press (more on them later) and Mr. Mason (unless it's Dr.--let me know, y'all). But the book is good for poetry. It's a good story. It's good verse. It's a great read.
#4: Red Hen and Cooper Dillon Presses and CPRW and E-Verse Radio (and those like them).
Red Hen Press is undoubtedly the best small press for poetry in the US. Their books are of consistently high quality and, even better, books of poetry you want to read.
Cooper Dillon Press is my favorite micropress and one of the best. Each book they put out (3ish a year) is fantastic AND Adam Deutsch's outlook on editing and publishing is refreshing.
CPRW is "the best damn poetry review online." Excusing natural bias, I implore you to take a look at Garrick Davis's wonderful production of reviews, analysis, and excellent thinking on poetry in America--you'll see it's alive and well.
E-Verse Radio is an eclectic collection of music, poetry, stories, and lists. One gets the idea that it's what a modern literary magazine ought to be. I hope that more journals like it take root.
There are literally hundreds of small and micropresses and wonderfully quirky literary American journals out there. The problem is not one of existence but of distribution and advertising. I think this is in part because as intellectuals we overvalue our own knowledge and not the advice of ad/PR people who are, of course, inherently evil. But maybe that's just me projecting.
#3: Writer's Workshops, Conferences, and MFA programs.
Look, I know that these are just as much a part of the problem as they are part of the solution. But you can't discount the power of the "po-biz." Do I think that these outlets and conduits could be better arranged to serve poetry and the people and not poets and pocketbooks? Absolutely. But there are programs out there that, at least as far as I can tell, do this. Even a corporo-advertising behemoth like AWP is full of greatness if you're willing to separate the wheat from the chaff.
#2: Harlot by Jill Alexander Essbaum.
I debated just saying "Jill Alexander Essbaum" but I really, really want you folks to read Harlot. Maybe with a huge phallus and naked lady on the cover it's not for everyone. But really it is. I don't think there's an adult who has breathed who can't identify with the words between its sheets.
#1: Olives by A.E. Stallings.
This book is so good it hurts. If I were Bill Gates rich, my foundation would buy copies of this for all of you. I would call Amazon and say "hey, tell me how much it would be to send a copy of Olives to everyone who has ever bought anything from you guys" and then gladly pay it. While Olives isn't perfect as a book of poetry--it requires the reader to have a familiarity with poetry and so, like Harlot, isn't perhaps the first book of poetry one should read--it is as close as a book has gotten in decades. When I read Olives, I felt precisely like Peter Buck as he wrote regarding song "Crazy" by Pylon:
"I remember hearing their version on the radio the day that Chronic Town came out and suddenly being depressed by how much better it was than our record."
Read Olives. Read everything on this list. Go to every event. Participate in poetry. You'll see it's alive and well--and by these very actions its readership and influence will grow and bloggers won't feel the need to declaim its death.
Well, folks--we got funded.
While that's not enough to add a professional photographer or fly in a special guest, it ought to be enough to throw a heck of a party.
Start your Kickstarters, people. Get literature done.
Friday, January 25, 2013
So everyone's getting in on the Petri act (indeed, I was a day late).
The folks at Flavorwire have weighed in as well.
The problem is, as near as I can tell, most, if not all of those books suck.
Now granted, I don't have a copy of any of them in front of me--but what I can glean from Amazon and Google is that they're filled with the everyday sort of poetry one finds so forgettable--the kind of verse Petri was (rightly, though impolitely) complaining about.
Indeed, the first book is praised for "stalks the borderlands of English and Spanish, fabulist and realist, here and there, with a backpack filled with shifting identifications — Chicano, gay, abnormal — that spill out into the sand" which tells me that the writer for Flavorwire is apparently more interested in people and labels than poetry.
Now, I'll say that I at least found the Powell and Dennigan books interesting enough that I'm leaving their names here so I can remember to look up the works more in depth--but really, all that claptrap is forgettable goo.
Now, maybe it appeals to poets--but Petri's entire point is that poetry is irrelevant outside of the world of poetry.
Praising books that answer to that call is not helping anyone.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
From teh Popez:
"The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young," Benedict said in his message. "Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there."
Yes, that's right.
Poetry should--poetry MUST--sound good. Even if it's never read aloud.
Why, you ask?
Well, just read this nice sciency article on how we read "silently."
It's not terribly new information (though this study may be a more definitive presentation than previous speculations) but it's terribly important to remember:
When we read we speak internally. Poetry is inherently an aural art form. We cannot forget this.
One good thing about the Coronation of Obama I (when did this become such a thing? Bush II?) is that, owing to the inclusion of an inaugural poet, folks are talking about poetry, even if to decry its usefulness.
In that vein, I'm sure you've already read the engineered-to-get-all-ten-million-US-poets-to-generate-ad-revenue hit piece on poetry by one Alexandra Petri.
Ms Petri's first relevant piece of information:
"There are about six people who buy new poetry, but they are not feeling very well. I bumped very lightly into one of them while walking down the sidewalk, and for a while I was terrified that I would have to write to eleven MFA programs explaining why everyone was going to have to apply for grants that year. The last time I stumbled upon a poetry reading, the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit. One of the poems, if memory serves, consisted of a list of names of Supreme Court justices. I am not saying that it was a bad poem. It was a good poem, within the constraints of what poetry means now. But I think what we mean by poetry is a limp and fangless thing.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
There's some Plath buzz going on this month. No real reason why--it's not like the 50th anniversary of her suicide is rapidly approaching or anything. . .
Anyway, the Guardian interviewed Olwyn Hughes, Plath's literary executor and she apparently couldn't help defending her brother, Ted:
Is manslaughter man's laughter?
It depends on what your definition of is is.
If the love fits you mustn't quit.
Is the above a poem, why or why not?
Fundamentally, what does poetry do? Not, by the way, what do we want poetry to do. But what does poetry do?
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
So James Franco is the biggest thing to hit poetry since Jewel and Tupac.
I am torn now as I was torn then--I really want these famous people to be good poets.
Really I do. I remember being disappointed picking up (actually just seeing the title of) A Night Without Armor and just being wholly underwhelmed by The Rose that Grew from Concrete.
So when Actor-turned-Poet James Franco started popping up all over the blogo-twitter-facebook-sphere I was trepidatiously intrigued.
And then Eyewear (linked above) published his poem. I'm not convinced their lineation is correct, so I'll take out the extra spaces. Feel free to send corrections:
Friday, January 11, 2013
Dunbar's number, folks. We have schools that are 10-20x this number.
I've a lot of friends who really hate the idea of James Franco The Poet. I don't think they necessarily hate Mr. Franco himself--but they're Francophobes when it comes to poetry.
David Shook interviews and micro-reviews Franco here. I think there are three important things we discover.
1: Franco is not a terrible poet. Shook quotes him:
With a tiny brain
That is me.
While this quote is hardly enough to inspire full criticism, I do love "my bus is muscular." That's proof of at least the potential of a good ear.
2: Franco has some valuable thoughts on poetry's place among the other literary arts:
"Poetry is not more universal than film. Film is the universal language. So is music. But poetry is too bound up in particular written languages to be universal. And because it often uses language in more intricate and complex ways than prose it is harder to translate. It is a great conveyer of emotion, but lyric emotion, meaning emotion bound up with imagery and written language. Film and performance can convey emotion much more directly than poetry, but poetry can reveal more complex emotions than performance. It can put the reader inside a character’s head in ways that film can not."
3: The publication of his book in 2014 will be interesting.
I, for one, hope that James Franco uses his name recognition to help poetry in general and not just his own name recognition. His reading list of poets was a bit scant and I've got several suggestions for him. Are you interested, James Franco? Let me know.
I put up a link yesterday to my Kickstarter: Film The Best Reading and After-Party Ever!
But I thought maybe you don't know what Kickstarter is.
It's a site that facilitates "crowdfunding" or "crowdsourcing" of projects. You donate to a project of your choosing and get rewarded for that donation. In my project's case, you're helping me to make a film and documentary of what promises to be an amazing reading in Boston. The rewards go from a .pdf of poetry to editorial help by amazing poets to a huge collection of signed works.
Please help us out!
The readers are:
G.M. Palmer (me)
Thanks for your support!
Thursday, January 10, 2013
I rather enjoyed Duotrope's search and sortability function.
Not enough to pay for it, though.
This is not the model we want to promote, folks.
I can't help but think that part of their problem comes from folks using ad-blocking software. Folks: advertising pays for a lot of the internet. Don't block revenue streams unless you like paywalls.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Are you stymied because you’re spending too much time trying to defend and extend your old poetry in the face of game changing trends?
In reading a Forbes Article on the indisputable fact that Jeff Bezos is a rockstar, the end caught my attention:
"Don’t ask customers what they want, instead give them what they need. Customers may be on a trend, but they will frame their requests in the old paradigm. By creating new trend-promoting products and solutions you can capture the customer and avoid head-to-head competition with the “old guard” titans selling the increasingly outdated solutions. Don’t build better brick-and-mortar, make brick-and-mortar obsolete.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Here's an article about interesting study on how our emotional perception of auditory and visual stimuli are similar.
I've not read the actual study (PNAS paywall) but I'm intrigued--I also wonder how reading literature (which is audiovisual) and reading poetry and--even more--reading comics would play into this (if at all).
There's a lot to be learned about how cognition works with what we read (and experience, etc.).
Thursday, January 3, 2013
I've posted a lot regarding narrative poetry.
I've been interested for a long time in folk tales and fairy stories.
Which leaves two questions:
1) is anyone interested in reading narrative folk/fairy poems
2) is anyone interested in publishing them?
I'm half determined to publish them only with illustrations but lack the skill to do that myself, even though the webcomic economic model seems to work for a strong pack of writers.
I would love to read some commentary on this.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
There's an interesting article over at Penny Arcade today.
The relevant part is at the end:
I think one can argue that the current civilization of Western-based American-hegemonic society is headed towards some sort of reset.
It may be catastrophic or it may not be.
But what does art--and of course for this blog, poetry--have to do with such widespread events?
I mean on the one hand we don't have a lot of great literature from the late 5th century A.D (or the 18th century for that matter--especially when one is discussing creative literature).
But we have a great deal of great literature from the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D.
Both were times of mass upheaval and disruption with regards to the way a civilization was put together.
At the birth of the Roman Empire, however, there wasn't a wholesale collapse of civilization, simply a "changing of the guard." At the very least this means there were better record keeping and distribution abilities--hence our having such literature extant. But it's not as if 470 A.D. were wholly without literature. The writings of the Christian Patriarchs from the period are fairly extensive--but it doesn't have the same creative verve.
There's some discussion of this (especially with regards to, say, the literature of the English Civil War) in McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary, a book I still need dearly to review--but which you should read immediately--but I don't think it quite grasps all of the sociological reasons for the creation of art (as it was outside the scope of the book anyway)
Can we as poets somehow shape events or are we merely recorders? Can we make the transition safer? Can we stop it altogether? Has art at all shaped the law-abiding nature that both provides for our fashion of civilization and plants the seeds for its destruction or was that done by breeding and capital punishment? For sure The Aeneid impacted Roman society, but does research exist regarding that impact?
What does what we write have to do with the world? What should it have to do with the world?
I think we ought to answer (or at least try to answer) these questions if we want poetry to again see the light of relevance.