Saturday, November 29, 2014

Yay for Seren-deepity-Doo-Dah!

When I got up at 4:30 this morning for no better reason than that I must have had enough wild dreams for one night, I had no idea that the day would be ushering in big rewards. Not those chintzy few bucks kind of rewards that bank credit card companies try to goad you into accepting just because they can. No, I'm talking, well let me tell you.

First, thanks to Al Filreis for e-mailing a link to a bunch of really wonderful poems which are great examples of the kind of poetry that has been written during the past decade. Poems that demand and are going to receive appropriately dainty scoops of my time. Second, I get another link. This, to a site that has recordings of a poet that I had never heard of before. Recordings from 1935, but clear as crystal, more than words--revelations--beamed in broadcast across time and space forward from their timeless capsule--with a voice that raised gooseflesh on my arms and the hairs on, well in certain places where images dare not go. James Weldon Johnson. You can look him up. There were more-mails to follow, like crumbs, to the chambers that hit both home and heart. Better than the spent dreams of Black Friday's slumber was the becoming light of dawn.

I delivered Hajnalka at high noon to the stoves of Evergreen House and shopped quickly for carrots as my turkey goulash waited for their splash. Onions check parsnips check celery check turkey neck check garlic check parsley check sea salt check peppercorns check bay leaves check barley check CARROTS SPLASH! Come on Baby, Light My Fire! Okay sez I, I'll run my bath while this cauldron brews some fine Saturday afternoon chowdown.

I go downstairs and grab a dozen magazines, my kindle, phones, and a book that has caught my eye, "I Shudder At Your Touch: 22 Tales of Sex and Horror", edited by Michele Slung. YES! Dyn-O-Mite! This is gonna be so hot it'll be cool. I add some Johnson's Baby Shampoo to the running water. Bubble bath's a-comin' baby! Now, I know you've been waiting for the Serendipitous stuff to here goes.

There was a bookmark placed in the book at the start of a story entitled, "Consanguinity". Mind you, I haven't seen or touched this book in about 20 years. I have no idea how it got next to that random batch of magazines that I had grabbed and tossed onto the bathroom floor before settling myself into the scalding hot bathwater. The editor of the book warns that this story written "by Ronald Duncan, a poet, playwright, librettist, translator, disciple of Gandhi," would require several readings before one would truly digest the unfolded events, but there could be no guarantee that any number of readings would disclose what has transpired. Looks like I'm hooked into it and so I am.

As I do when reading any prose piece, genre, drama, fiction, essay, biography, memoir--whatever--I look for that part of the whole that stands out. That part that socks me in my brain and says, "Take me home with you. You don't want to leave me here to die in obscurity." Oblivion is a hurtful place, I know, so take it I do, as Yoda would be the first to advise and consent.

I come across this passage that seems out of place, given the title and subtitle of this book:

"Historians maintain that wars are caused by economics. They are wrong. Economics is their excuse; the reason for war is that it destroys that which we all want destroyed: the status quo, with which we identify our own inhibitions. War alone releases our personal relationships. It is not a necessary evil but a necessary pleasure. If we were honest, we would admit that all the slaughter, cruelty, and suffering that war entails remain for us merely a matter of regrettable statistics. What means something to us is that war provides us with that sense of insecurity which is life, when peace has seemed as respectable and as dull as death. It is true that a drunken orgy might provide a similar release, but it is quite difficult to remain completely drunk for several years and impossible to indulge in the briefest fling without some curious sense of remorse. In war, we can release ourselves without guilt; indeed, our excuses become duties and any behavior is condoned under the blanket of the great sacrifice which we curse publicly but enjoy privately. National disasters can be borne with comfortable fortitude: it is personal sorrow, not grief for another but a lack in our own life, which is so unbearable. It is a burden we would put down though a million men fall with it."


True or not, there is something about the passage above which begs to be explored. Close read. Translated into a language that we have taught ourselves to understand, or conversely, translated into a language that we ought to learn in order to hear what the words are really saying...which brings me to Serendipity Numero Dos.

After I finish the story, which is a ghost story it turns out--A ghost story that takes place in a village near Edinburgh, Scotland--a village which is being bombarded by the Luftwaffe during World War II, I place the book gently on the floor making a note to myself to read this story again, and maybe again. I then pick up the first magazine from the pile of magazines on the floor. I take a sip of my still-hot-honeyed tea from its container. I open up the magazine, Poets & Writers Sept./Oct. 2013, it turns out, to a random page. Page 29 ("Sometimes desire found its own desperation," today's the 29th, no screech, man.):

I read, "The Art of Reading Rosmarie Waldrop: Language in Motion", by Susannah Lawrence. I recognize the name, Rosmarie Waldrop, because I had just met her several weeks ago as she did a reading on a ModPo video that I caught. First, I remembered that I liked her European accent (though my wife's is meatier) (for a Hungarian vegetarian.)) Then I remembered that I liked that she was a publisher of new poets. Then I also remembered that I thought that she had a lot of spunk, and a lot of energy given her long life of hard work. Only finally did I remember that I liked hearing her recite her poetry so much that I looked for more of it, and found some, in an anthology of postmodern poetry that I had placed nearby my "I'm-so-ready-to-read-right-now-reclining chair."

So, then I start reading this article about Rosmarie living in a village that was under bombardment by the allied airforce during World War II. And I'm thinking, hmmm, there is more to this than mere coincidence. This is more on the level of an intervention, whether divine, or diabolical, does it really matter when it comes to the supernatural?

So, I'm reading Lawrence's close reading of the Waldrop poem, "In Early November" and a certain feeling of something seriously better left tattered and fragmented than pieced together starts to flow through me from toes to eyes. Two totally unrelated and different styles and pieces of writing have risen up phoenix-like from the ashes of war-torn Europe and had been birthed by a hell of a lot more than mere happenstance. Something, if it blows the top of your head off from blasts of shocking epiphanic proportion from sources that only moments before had lain dormant, dark, inert, waiting in absentia carrying a wagonload of desperation while waiting to cross the threshold to this plane where received trepidation would breathe life into it and speak, "And it was good."

So, what was your day like?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The ModPo MOOC

For the past 10 weeks I have been engaged with a world-wide community of people who shared an interest with me, surely a myriad of interests, but specifically that of learning more than we had already known, or thought we had known, about American Modern and Contemporary poetry.

There were as many different reasons for us becoming engaged; at least as many reasons, I'd venture, as the number of people ethereally in communion, and probably for more reasons than the wisest of us could fathom. The conception/innovation that brought this happening to fruition was the MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course. In this particular case, a Coursera MOOC called, endearingly: ModPo.

One can browse/search for terms such as Coursera, MOOC, and ModPo, and quickly learn the nuts and bolts, nitty-gritty of these technological wonders that are changing the methods of society's new approaches to educating its thirsty members, but therein one would find only a small part of the unfolding story.

For, therein would be missing the truest knowledge of the possible value of a MOOC such as ModPo; its value to an individual, a community of individuals, a society of individuals, a culture of individuals, and finally, its value to a planet of individuals who share a simple, single purpose: to fulfill the urgent need to share with each other. An ancient and, out of necessity, a desire, an impulse, a full-blown resurgent instinct for survival.

Sharing is what the ModPo MOOC does best. Sharing not only knowledge, but compassion, wisdom, empathy, illumination, friendship, love, understanding, frankness, reverie, longing, soul, peace, and solace. Life itself, in all its chaotic splendor that ties the wide Universe that binds us.

It is literally a space where the Living and the Dead, the Young and the Old, the Learning and the Learned commingle and shall and will connect, because all share their never-ending journey on This--

One infinite line upon which everything that exists, and everything that does not exist, can be separated from each other only by a matter of degrees.

This is not Metaphysics, folks. This is the one Reality that I know to be true.

Friday, November 7, 2014

ISBN 0-684-83533-9 / "A Piece of Work"

I9 Virgil

0 It was early November and Columbia's leaves were just about gone.
6 For here was an official poem
8 He turned to Homer, Educated Romans, Professor Taylor
4 Dido welcomes the lordly
8 His words remained with her to haunt her
3 Collapsing time and
5 Enthralled by him, the image
3 ("Can our love
3 Came home to
9 I had walked around campus shivering in a tweed

This experimental process uses a selected book's ISBN Number, and a system of alphanumeric code-keys to glean titles and lines to produce new poems from an existing work.

Chapters 9, 19, 2, and 14 only are used as these correspond to the letters: I-S-B-N. The use of chapter titles is optional. Because 0 cannot be represented as a letter in English, the entire first sentence of a chapter is transcribed verbatim and becomes the first line of a stanza. Subsequent lines are selected and shortened equal to the word length of their corresponding digit in the selected book's ISBN number. Thus, the line whose initial letter corresponds to the numerical position of that letter in the English alphabet and is first to appear in its corresponding chapter becomes the second line of the stanza.  In the example above note that the number eight appears twice in the ISBN number and the number three thrice, in these cases the 1st, 2nd, and when necessary 3rd appearance, and so forth, of these letters at the start of a sentence, or following a colon, or semi-colon in its given chapter are used. Hyphens cannot be represented, and are treated as null characters to be totally ignored. If the selected book should have insufficient chapters (less than 19) the experimenter would have the option of:

a) selecting another book and using its ISBN number

b) devising another system, or

c) taking a brisk walk whilst meditating on the efficacy of the experiment.

The processor concedes that the accumulated verbiage garnered by following the preceding steps is to be regarded as a poem, if for no other reason than that a poem has yet to be defined satisfactorily by all notable authorities, living or dead. The processor, therefore, invites interested parties to examine the resulting poems with the object of disclosing any in- or external artistic merit, if any, by noting its:

a) revealed and/or hidden, or absent beauty, not limited to: its sound, shape, imagery, effect, creative process or other determinant, or

b) revealed and/or hidden meaning, if any, not limited to: purpose, value, intent, or unintent, malcontent, discontent, or modus existencia et operandi, or

c) other possible determinants for explication, evaluation, or poetic license revocation.

An interpretive reading follows:

By using late autumn as the time period, "It was early November and Columbia's leaves were just about gone," one can logically assume that a reputable urban Ivy League University is the setting for the poem. Further, that the school is in the Northeast Quadrant of the United States many years and many miles from the poem's center of interest: Western Civilization.

The line that proclaims, "For here was an official poem," implies that a poem that was produced in a place far removed from the current venue, which is somehow unofficial, superficial, or in someotherwise unworthy, is about to be examined.

With "He turned to Homer, Educated Romans, Professor Taylor," the line resorts to a pronounced and callous disregard for cultural diversity and a formulative strategy possibly meant to ostracize students of modernity and their protective Mythological structures which have been craftily preserved and safeguarded by institutions and authorities for purposes that invite closer inspection.

It must be noted that although "Dido welcomes the lordly," she soon appears to regret her decision and attempts to withdraw, by "Collapsing time and" apparently fails in the attempt because she has become "Enthralled by him, the image" of which has her questioning what could possibly transpire:

Somewhat anticlimactically asking, ("Can our love", and answering, "Came home to" an unresolved, wide open denouement.

The process server closed by stating that "I had walked around campus shivering in a tweed"--and then stopped short, at the exact moment that the Lights were Lit on Broadway.

[tk-S19 Montaigne tk-B2 Sappho tk-N14 Hobbes and Locke]

A Piece of Work was Processed by REKlektikos on 11/3/2014 Updated on 11/7/2014