Mar 19

Space and experience

Recently I’ve mused about how space plays into experience. This came about after listening to Dave Matthew’s CD, Big Whiskey in my bedroom then my car. It sounds different. Now I know that’s a concept even an elementary student would theorize might happen, duh…you snort, but just thinking about these little variables that play into experience inspire and thrill me. Imagine if we speak with someone in a bus as compared to a superstore. Imagine if the length of a poem’s line runs on for twenty words instead of two, and then you read it in a coffee shop as opposed to an outdoor fair. Imagine how incredible life is – that so much must come together in each moment. Space; heck, spacetime – the fun frontier. Here’s to being in the right place at the right time. Here’s to Samuel Coleridge who said, “Poetry: the best words in the best order.”

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Feb 10

Automatonphobia, Geeks and Nerds, and Sci-Ku

It began with Jeff Williams. Who is Jeff Williams? He’s a Springfield artist and musician from a popular local band NIL8. Fabulous performers, the kind that made you think, “these guys will make it far,” the group toured nationally, opening for famous bands including Smashing Pumpkins. Recently, Williams passed through my life because his work is on exhibit at Robert Morris Gallery in downtown Springfield. Williams kicked my geek meter up a notch on two fronts (or maybe it’s nerd meter). First, his art is titled Automatonphobia. Google that one! Love it, love it, love it! Second, after speaking with him about the show, he referred to himself as a nerd. This prompted an extensive search of the terms “nerd” and “geek.” What is that quote about no man in his own country? In postscript, in the ever turning synchronistic cogs of my life, I also at this time came upon a literary magazine that listed a page of Sci-Ku poetry. Having invented our own Low-Ku here in Springfield (Low-Ku — the poetry, not of nature, but of urban life and all its unpleasantness), it was delightful to find Sci-Ku. Love it, love it, love it. Not to mention the Fibonacci Sequence…plasmoids…white dwarfs…but that’s another post.

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Nov 21

Year of the raspberry

Rumor has it that the alternative English rock band The Lightning Seeds named themselves after a misheard lyric in the song Raspberry Beret by Prince: “Thunder drowns out what the lightning sees.” Inspiring poetic lyric and a wonderfully fun-poetic-mistake-for-a-band-name. This has been the year of the raspberry. My most successful crop this year was in fact a raspberry bush. The thing didn’t stop producing. I’d go to it in late morning and gather a meal, and find such peacefulness and joy in the act of gathering berries. It is a gentle, slow, and quiet process. The plant towered over me, and I felt lost in it sometimes. I marveled at the attention it took. To avoid thorns, I moved my hand slowly under and over and between the leaves and prickles. A light grasp was needed so as not to smash the fruit. Then, a gentle hand was still needed when I washed and inspected the raspberries for tiny black bugs or decay. The fiery bush has so inspired me that I penned a poem for the Springfield Watercolor Society’s first-place-ribbon painting in its fall exhibit. I titled my poem, The Hunt. Find it soon somewhere, or I’ll post it to this blog. In the meantime, check out this link to John Bradley at the NEA website and enjoy more raspberry mania. http://www.nea.gov/features/writers/writersCMS/writer.php?id=07_26

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Sep 24

Oh Where, Oh Where is Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant has a new two-disc CD out titled, ” Leave Your Sleep.” It consists of poems by famous poets or authors that Merchant has set to music, some that she once sang to her children. The CD comes with a small book containing 25 poems and a short bio written by Merchant on each poet. I should love this CD. There’s a book for heaven’s sake. But, I don’t. Merchant claims she is no poet, those she calls, ” our soft-spoken clairvoyants,” but her own lyrics are more clairvoyant, interesting, unique and beautiful than any in this collection. Shucks, I even think Merchant’s CD title is more creative than its poems. It surprises me because four of the poets are personal favorites: EE Cummings, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Christina Rossetti, and Robert Graves. Perhaps the ditties will grow on me. I’m ready to leave this opinion behind.

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May 27

Desperate for poetry

The world seems desperate for a new poetry. A fad new to me is Flarf poetry. Just yesterday it was brought to my attention by a fellow writer who read an article in The New Yorker about it. Flarf is similar to found poetry, but instead of using the page to find words, one uses Google. Just the word, flarf sounds too close to barf, and fluff, and fart for me to feel comfortable in relation to poetry. Oh, I love a good bodily function as much as the next guy, and I’ve done workshops using what I call clip-poetry, where we cut words from magazines and craft a poem by pasting them onto a page. These are legitimate ways to find inspiration and fun and to build poems. And I immensely adore Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, but didn’t someone say that all fun and games makes Jack a dull boy. When it comes to poetry, I don’t always want a cartoon, or the chipmunks singing, or improv, or a reality show. Sometimes I crave Andrea Bocelli or Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh brilliantly in the lead. You see, well written-on-the-page poetry can be complex and beautiful and crafted as fine wine is aged or a good movie built using great actors, an interesting layered story line, stunning costumes, dialogue, set, etc. Enough said. The world is desperate for easily accessible everything. Simple reality shows, U-Tube, and simple fun, loving sitcoms. We all want and need that at times. But we need the other stuff too. We need the basic written, well-crafted poem. In the same way we try to train our college students to be better thinkers and close, discerning readers, we need to be desperate to extend that lesson to everyone, at every age, even to ourselves and our kids. That’s the stuff that makes our brain bigger.

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Mar 25

Beets and poetry, continued

The other subject that was on my mind during my beet feast (and has continued to pop up over and over again in my thoughts like a hang nail) was a comment made by a friend about poetry. I’ve heard the statement before. It irritates me every time I hear it. It bothers me even more when the person is a fiction writer that lets the bomb fall, and it torpedoes me like a big piece of bird poop flung on target. “I don’t understand poetry.” Who would ever walk into an art gallery and say to a fellow artist whose work was on exhibit, “I don’t understand realism or sculpture!” Who walks into a concert given by another musician and says to him, “I don’t understand the blues or country!” I won’t go on and on about this. Read the introduction to The Maze 2008 if you want to hear me preach more about this pet peeve. Just remember, if you dislike poetry or a poem, be honest. Tell the poet, “I dislike poetry.” Or confess, “I don’t like this poem.” Those are statements poets may hate, but can understand and respect. If you’re a nice person you can substitute, “Ah, poetry’s not really my thing.”

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Jan 27

Beets and poetry

Two subjects linger in my mind on this Tim Burton-like day, where black trees with spindly branches seem to reach into the rain as if the drops might medicate their gloom. Beets and poetry. Yes, beets and poetry are on my mind. While the sun fails to shine outside my kitchen window for the umpteenth day in a row, lunch consists of beets, cottage cheese with mandarin oranges, and mushroom soup. Ah, you might say…there lies the rub, but no, the soup is Campbell’s soup. The last time I checked, Campbell’s was not in the pharmaceutical business. Beets play a role in the book, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. I enjoyed reading this book, but that was years ago. The book was better for me because beets were in it, not beets tasted better to me after reading the book. I don’t remember if this was in the book, but I thought the beet, a heart, a symbol of immortal love. Anyway…I love beets. Why? I do not know. They taste a little woodsy. Perhaps there’s an unconscious connection to the outdoors or trees or some other earthy thing I adore. Though I can’t place what it is about the color that is attractive to me, the color is deep and rich, and an unusual color for a vegetable. The texture may be the key. Cooked beats, like turnips, don’t fall apart as easily as potatoes, retaining their form, though they can get very soft. Yum. Beets taste good. Particularly pickled beets with hard-boiled eggs. I plant and harvest beets, boil them until the skins slid off easily, mix up a concoction of vinegar, water and sugar, boil some eggs, drain and peel the eggs, put everything together and refrigerate over night. Abracadabra. According to Wikipedia (a source I might add that you should use at your own risk), “the first known mention of the word abracadabra was in the 2nd century AD in a poem called De Medicina Praecepta by Serenus Sammonicus, physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla, who prescribed that the sufferer from the disease wear an amulet containing the word written in the form of a triangle. Abracadabra…beets and, I feel a little beeter, I mean better, and I haven’t even gotten to the poetry.

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Dec 02

Book overload

I have too many books. Occasionally I lose my sanity and sell some to the local used bookstore. I almost always regret it. A year or two ago I got rid of an attic-full of science fiction books. Biggest mistake of my life. Well, maybe not the biggest, but stupid all the same. I love books. I like the cover and spine colors, the different shapes and sizes of letters and words, the interesting publishing logos, the way they stand tight up against each other in my bookcases, or lean slightly upon one another. I like the texture of books bound in glossy paper, or knobby cloth or smooth, soft leather. I haven’t even commented on the smell, the sound, or the feel of them. I like that a thousand images and a thousand ideas sit inside them, not to mention a thousand characters, a thousand worlds. On the right wall they provide insulation. In the right space, decoration. In my life, just the right volume of intelligent noise.

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Nov 12

Turn Your Many Pages: Find Your Optimal Time of Productivity

Everyone has a season. It is possible after many years of writing poetry, to look back at the dates my poems were written and find a pattern of productivity based on season. Find yours. Find a way to optimize when the silence ends and it is your time to speak.

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Aug 28

Cummings: Poetic Genius Led by Freedeom of Creativity

Cummings is to poetry what Picasso is to art. Purposeful deviation equals freedom of creativity. Coupled with the self, it forms poetic schools, creates poetic genres, and molds our most prized poets. I hope Cummings never had to hear Creeley chatter, “Never write in generalities if a particular, a detail, a specificity would do.” Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town ranks as one of the best poems ever written. While Creeley would have responded that detail wasn’t appropriate in this instance, his statement like so many more like it today, steers would-be-better poets into conformity or mediocrity. I’m not talking about complete chaos when I speak about a poet utilizing freedom of creativity— for freedom of creativity is control of chaos. It is not poetic license either, for poetic license drives the artist as opposed to creative freedom that drives the art.

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