Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week 12: Overheard and last post (for a while)!

Well, here we are. This was our last poetry assignment for the semester. We had a creative project due the last week of class (which was this week), but I made a chapbook and I don't know how to scan it. So until that day comes, here lie my last poetry written for English 111, spring 2011, senior year at Penn! :(

§Attention: Write down everything you hear for one hour: it is important to do this for the full time period.

§Write a poem consisting entirely of overheard conversation. (See Kenneith Goldsmith's Soliloquy.)

 I went to Metropolitan Bakery, an upscale, swanky little place. I would love to know what other cafes people went to because there seems to be different associations we have with the ambiance and clientele of each cafe. I didn't particularly like this exercise, but then again I'm not really good at all at copying things down that people said in a hurry. That's why a lot of the sentences are so short. I took just a few liberties with wording for the poems.

Here's the list of things I heard:

Bizarre ringtone that increases and decreases in tone
Dull hum that sounds like white noise in an airplane
“Hey, how are you?”
“The idea that I could, like, sell it to my friends…”
“That’s a nice location.”
Beep, beep, beep, the door opening
Grinding beans, maybe from a coffee or espresso machine
Clink of forks and knives against plate
“Can I get a peanut butter and jelly to go and a, uh”
“Here you go”
Plate sliding on table
Laughter from a man
Heels dragging on hard wood floors
“Got to catch some oxygen, right?”
“Have a nice day.”
“Yep, you, too. Take care.”
Opening cash register and clink of coins as they are counted out.
Dishes and mugs being gathered together
“Thank you”
“Thank you”
“Have a nice day, guys”
“Yeah….oh, okay…yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh. So how was dinner last night? I know. Oh, that’s right. And everyone was already cooking.”
Laughter from a woman
“But it was really pretty fantastic”
“Wonderful, wonderful, yeah.”
Paper cup put on the surface of a counter
Very loud truck driving by outside
Drawing water from a straw through a cup of an iced beverage
Shuffling feet
Chair pulls out
The sound of a piece of limp bacon dropping from one’s mouth onto the plate.
Sound of espresso machine grinding beans, or maybe a blender?
Slam of refrigerator door
“What’s the rest of your day look like?”
“I’ve been here since 6:15”
“Where are you from?”
“I’m just chit chatting here. You can always tell when they’re parents.”
“Yeah, you can spot them a mile away.”
A cash register slams shut
Someone banging something
“So what happened in the middle of the night?”
“A mouse.”
Men’s shoes walking across hardwood floor.
“Do you want a bag for this?”
Shaking out a paper bag.
Something that sounds like a small jackhammer
Full plastic bag drops on bench
Girl ruffles through plastic bag.
Stirring things into a cup of iced coffee
“Shut up.”
“What kind of cheese?”
High pitched swirl and drill of espresso machine
“Thanks, sir”
“Thank you very much”
Women’s laughter
“Not funny, not funny.”
“This is like the least appetizing word I’ve ever heard.”
“And I take the piece of fish, and I doctor it up. But it’s definitely an acquired taste. It’s not an everyday food.”
“Nobody really knows how good they have it.”
Rustling through paper
“I didn’t know that. That’s so crazy.”
“For here or to go?”
Two women laughing about something
Papers put into a backpack
“I never think about it”
Suddenly music turns on. It’s a singer I don’t know.
“I know I got to find some kind of peace of mind”
“What becomes of the broken hearted? Tell me! Tell me!”
Banjo? Playing jazz chords.
Bob Dylan, “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hair”

The Poems based on this:

1. HystericsA man laughing
"So what happens in the middle of the night?"
"Something that sounds like a small jackhammer."
A man laughing
"I didn't know that.
      that's so...
"I never think about it."
Dull hum.
bizarre bizarre
"Do you want...this?"
"Yeah, got to catch some oxygen, right?"
"What becomes of the broken hearted?"
"It's definitely an acquired taste. I doctor it up. That idea I could sell to my friends!"
"Shut up. Not funny. Not funny."
A man laughing, a woman laughing, two women laughing
      about something...
Like white noise in an airplane."

2. GratitudeThank you very much.
Thanks, sir. Thank you, thank you.
Nobody knows how good they have it.
They have:
      good music, good coffee, good espresso, cash, good parents, good days, good bacon, coins, oxygen, heels, hard wood floors, a nice location, an airplane
And laughter.
Wonderful, wonderful.
They never think about it.
What becomes of the broken?
Tell me, tell me.
Suddenly I don't know
"Here you go. Have a nice day."

Week 11

The poems I did for week 11: "Digital and Visual Poetry" were the first things I posted here before I started going in sequential order. So find the link for the labels week 11 on the right, and it should bring you to them.

Week 10: Found Poems, Google Poems

Okay, so for week 10 we were working with found poems. We followed this:

§ Google poem, based on M. Silem Mohammad's Deer Head Nation : use Google search results as the source material for a poem: erase as much as you like, but don't add anything. Many variations possible.
I decided to go with Walt Whitman as my subject.

Look at that sick beard!!!

I want to do one on some other poets, too, to make a kind of series, but I ran out of time. Alas, for another day. It sounded ridiculous to read out all the "by"s in class because they were clearly meant to be looked over when you read them, and only in passing. I hope you'll get that they are supposed to be homonyms for "bi"

"Selections of Walt Whitman"

Rich with historical and cultural value, these works are published unaltered from the original…

He was part of the transition between—
The bridge between—
The founder of this group,
The “Good Gray Poet”—
Free, humble, modest—
Kissed him, Oscar Wilde.

            by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by

almost without restrictions
            he wrote
                        “I hear America singing”
            For schoolchildren

He was, is,
did not

almost without restrictions
            he wrote
                        in free verse
                                    “The kiss of Oscar Wilde is still on my lips.”

            by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by        by

Step back in time.

……………………………………… ………………………………… …………………………..

This is for the use of anywhere at no cost and almost no restrictions

Week 9: Short Poems

Hi All,

Well, this is pretty straightforward. This week we worked on short poems...which are exactly what they sound like.

Hay(na) Ku

The form is very straight forward and is related to the haiku. In a nutshell, it is

Two Three
Four Five Six

I loved this form. As you'll see from my poems, it allowed for telling a story or strongly developing the situation with just two really "free" words at the end if you've put a refrain into it. I chose using absolute terms like "always" and "nothing" because they allowed for zero indecision and instead total confidence in what the speaker is saying. There's just no room for wishy-whashiness. Everything is absolute. The third one is probably my favorite one even though it is very imperfect. It gets at, or at least tries to, something I've spent a lot of time thinking about lately, what music is for us, and how it relates to life itself. I'm not an atheist, I'm not an agnostic, I'm not really any one religion, but I've been pondering our closeness to spirituality and what it is and where it is. To that end, poetry seems to me to be carving expression out of truth. And actually when we went over these in class people noted how they seemed kind of like religious chants, which I didn't realize until we read them out loud.

Is better
Than hearing doves

Is better
Than waking cold

Is better
Than morning dew

Is better
Than seeing beauty

Is better
Than feeling content

You tell
Me, go on

You tell
Me, don’t wait

You tell
Me, look beyond

You tell
Me, leave now

You tell
Me, leave me

Could I
Leave you now.

I know,
Is the truth

I know,
Is my transcendence

I know,
Is the sublime

I know,
Is what God meant.

I know,
Is an echo

I know,
Is our life

I know,
Is everything, everything.


Haikus are always a fun form. I used to write them in class in high school when I was bored. What I love about them is how much they can capture in such limited space. I also love that they're based in rhythm!


Daddy, you told me
That you’ll always be with me
Your face, in the mirror.


I found him floating
Bloated and grey, fins spread out,
With his eyes still open.


What are these last thoughts
That trouble me so, saying,
Do not be afraid?

Week 8: Jabberwocky and Alliteration

Hello all,

This week was super fun and also one of the more challenging constraints.

§Write a poem made up entirely of neologisms or nonsense words or fragments of words.  (Cf.: Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky", Khlebnikov's zaum, Schwitters's "Ur Sonata," P. Inman's, Ocker, Platin  and Uneven Devlelpment  and David Melnick's Pcoet: all via Eclipse). Use Neil Hennessy's JABBER: The Jabberwocky Engine to generate lexicon. Also see The International Dictionary of Neologisms.
I chose to do this and an alliteration poem.

I've always loved nonsense verse. There's a great museum nearby here, the Brandywine River Museum, that regularly features children's literature illustrators and writers, like Edward Gorey, and I've been to a couple of their exhibits (it's an awesome museum! If you get the chance, go!). So writing a jabberwocky-esque poem in this tradition was so much fun. I hadn't had the opportunity to do one myself until now. I think that we were supposed to do only nonsense words, but I started out with a made up word "verrog" and realized that pretty much any word from any language that you aren't familiar with can sound like nonsense. I felt this way when I started learning German after studying French for six years! Everything sounded the same. So after reading/hearing "verrog," if you didn't know it, anything after could be seen as "jabberwocky." I also used a lot of "forgotten" (i.e. obsolete) English words/expressions, having been enamored with archaic English a few years ago when my dad bought me the "Forgotten English" word-a-day calendar.

Anyway, here it is! There's a glossary/dictionary at the end. As I say there, the only words that are defined are actual words. If a word isn't in there it's made up.


My verrog,
Anechka, she scurryfunges
Before Mr. Stie arrives for dinner
And we sit down together to plan the menu.
Chaddy figogine, beas, alligpipe, and Nudeln fresh caught from der Norden
Off the coast of das Nordirland in the sandy, salty Nordsee.
We do this to impress Mr. Stie
After all he is my boss.
And I am up for a big florn, soon.
Hark, and thus comes Mr. Stie!

At dinner we eat together,
And Mr. Stie tells us stories of days of yore
When my Eldfather stole my Eldmutter from him.
They were once in love.
He lowled my father, too, a remembrance of how he lost her to another.
And on he goes, and on and on
And I think he is starting to lowl me now. 
Is there lingering jealously?  Does he hate that I am her child, albeit the burdalane?
But at that moment
Flew out the doves from the uzzle-pie,
And we laughed together, the mead was good,
The night was young.

And on his way out the door, drunk as a skunk, he turned to me.
“You slaughtered the geit well today, my boy.
Give my compliments to your verrog.
She makes most extraordinary glwedd!
And because you have made me such a merry fellow
I want you to know
That I have made up my mind,
You are the fellow for the starf.
I will see you at 6 am sharp!”
So I went back to my verrog and hugged her so,
“My dear, we can now afford to have a child.
So let’s bring one into a urber like this.
Onwards to bed!”

Glossary: Words that aren’t defined here are nonsense words from the Jabber nonsense word generator)

Anechka: Russian girl’s name which means “grace”
Wedfellow: spouse, of either gender (Forgotten English).
Scurryfunge: a hasty tidying of the house between the time you see a neighbor and the time she knocks on the door (1882) (Forgotten English)
Nudeln: “Noodles,” German
Nordland: “the North,” German
Nordirland: “North Ireland,” German
Nordsee: “North Sea,” German
Eldfather and Eldmother: Grandfather and Grandmother.  Forgotten English (though I changed “mother” to “mutter,” which is the German word for “mother”)
Burdalane: the last child surviving in a family, Forgotten English
Uzzle-Pie: “was a spectacle rather than a dish. From a 1549 recipe we learn how to bake 'pyes so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up'. The crust is filled with temporary contents such as dried beans, to weigh down the bottom and support the top; then emptied and replaced by blackbirds. When the top is removed the birds began singing… and there we have the story of 'Sing a Song of Sixpence'.” (Forgotten English)
Geit: the Old Norse word for “goat.”
Gwledd: Welsh word for “feast” 
Starf: Icelandic word for “job”

 Okay, next up: alliteration poem!

§ Alliteration (assonance):  Write a poem in which all the words in each line begin with the same letter.
 I was really involved in my high school newspaper, which was vastly, vastly different from most student newspapers in that you could write length articles about pigeons and Spring Heeled Jack and have a "bird of the month" column. Anyway, we really encouraged alliteration for our titles, so oftentimes we would make up really silly ones. In fact, on the application to be an editor we had a section where you are given a picture and asked to come up with a title for it, and the application always had ("alliteration encouraged!") next to it. Ah, the days. This definitely brought me back to a much more laid back time.

-Alliteration (assonance) Poem-

My mother makes me miserable,
Always annoying and attacking,
Her hopeless and helpless,
Daughter. Doubting her doting,
I infer irritation,
Heated hatred.
Distant and defiant,
I went where weed was
To buy a bit to breathe.
Inhaling this indulgence,
I forgot for a flash
I must make amends.
So I said, "Sorry,
And now no one knows
We were ever at war.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 7: Twitter Poem, "You"


So I guess I never did any of the actual exercises for this week other than the spring break assignment:

in process: collaborative "Twitter" poemSpecial assignment over this break. Each seminar member will open a Twitter account using their first name or first and last name followed by "111". This will be a closed Twitter group just for class. All the messages will be part of a collaborative poem. Each participant will produce and post a version of this poem before March 13.

Twitter Poem: “You”

I am listening to the night.
I am still trying to find you.
I hear the music.
I hear you.
I am listening to you.
You always sound the same.
You always smell the same.
You lick the back of my neck.
You can have me.
I can’t control how much I want you.
Your limbs drape over mine at night.
And I don’t even need a blanket to stay warm.
When looking at you from below, it’s hard to believe you are real.
You can have me.
Inefficiency of language…
Too much…
You hit me with…bricks…with…anger…with…wild, play.

Extinguished light.

What’s the price of a good night?
Virgin devastation?
I have a theory:
Scattered snow on the side of the road.
I thought that I had done some of the exercises, but I suppose not. Huh. Well here's the Twitter poem I did. For this I resumed with taking the raw feed material and cherry picking what I wanted to use. I'm going to hunt around and find the feed if I can. This is something I see as along the same lines as the DP as trying to find what was going on between the lines.

Week 6: Without Rules, (K)not!, or Is Free Writing Free?

Okay, so this was kind of bland.

§ Autopilot: Trying as hard as you can not to think or consider what you are writing, write as much as you can as fast you can without any editing or concern for syntax, grammar, narrative, or logic. Try to keep this going for as long as possible: one hour, two hours, three hours: don't look back don't look up.
There were many other exercises to try for this week, but it was a really busy week and I couldn't get to all of them. My autopilot was very bland. It was interesting to see how everyone else's was different in class. Some people's autopilots were more fragmented than mine, and most were longer than mine. Hmm. Well, there's no secret here. I take medicine which has side effects like making me sleepy or drowsy to calm down over-excitement. I wonder what this would have looked like had I not taken my medicine on time. I hope I'll never know.

The circumstances that I wrote this were: I was working solo at the cafe on Oscar night. Most people were at the Oscar viewing party in the other building of the dorm, so I was following it on blogs. I had seen the first hour or two, so I had a general idea of who was wearing what and what happened. We had a Oscars competition where you put your picks on the ballot. I won first prize! It was very exciting as I got to order three DVDs of my choosing (I chose Out of Africa, The Dark Knight, and The Fighter).

And the autopilot:

Are the Oscars as much a waste of time as I complain they are? I don’t know. I guess I was thinking earlier when I was coming back from the grocery store about Helen Mirren and how much the Oscars at the very least highlight some of the leaders of the acting field/Hollywood. I liked her dress. Someone commented on my facebook status where I said that my favorite gowns so far were ScarJo, Hailee Steinfeld, and Helen Mirren (I forgot Mila Kunis) that she hoped that she would age just as well as Helen Mirren and I guess I do too. Having white hair like that must be really awesome, silver. I don’t know what color mine will turn when I’m older because I started out platinum blonde but I’ve dyed it since then and now it’s some ugly color, so when your hair turnds grey or white does it do that from its original color or from the color it is right now? My german teacher has grey hair but hers is brown also and maybe she had some highlights. I don’t know how old she is. She seems quite young.

I’m following the results the winners on a New York Times live blog since I’m at work now and don’t have time to don’t have the energy to or really the desire to work on my German composition right now, but that sucks because sooner or later I’m going to have to do it when I get back to my room and that won’t be till midnight and even though its 11:33 now midnight seems a little late to be working on things but I guess I don’t have a choice because I have to get up early to morrow 6L30 and get to the café to take care of the pastries and usually all I want to do after that is go back to bed when I get back to my room at 7:30 ish so if I don’t do the essay now then I’ll have to not sleep tomorrow but I really need to because I have class from 1-5 and 6:00-7:30 and the esasy is due at one. Hm. I think it’s interesting whether or not we write out numbers “one” vs 1. I guess when I think about the number one/1 I think about it in the spelled out sense. It would be weird of me to just use the number key though I know some people do it that way but I don’t know why, shorthand or something? Who knows.

By the way I couldn’t get the link to work for the poet wie were supposed to read  the link that Preofeser Bernstein sent out, I couldn’t find the poems on her website but I did well I did but

My dad just texted me apparently King’s Speech won for Best Picture. I figured it would it was a good movie not my favorite out of the 10 I liked The Fighter best but there was no way it was going to win still I’m happy that Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won though I would have been happy if Hailee Steinfeld won for True Grit. But it wasn’t going to happen. Oh well, maybe she’ll be nominated again some day. I can certainly see someone with her talent making it with other good movies I just hope she doesn’t turn out to be like Lindsay Lohan but I don’t think she will. Her film showed maturity and she held her own against the other actors and I even think was better then them then Jeff Bridges who I couldn’t even understand at all with his accent so she did a good job in that I can’t imagine her turning into a ho after getting a start with a Coen Brothers movie like True Grit.

I have nothing more to say.

Week 5: Ekphrasis (translating the verbal into visual)

Constraint for week 5:

We will meet at the Ross Art Gallery in the Fisher Fine Art library (220 South 34th St., between Walnut and Spruce). Visit the gallery the week before Feb. 21 and write poems in response to or to accompany or exist in conjuntion with the work on view at the gallery [NOTE from SSD: This has changed since the time we went. When we went the gallery had work in an exhibit called "Post-Mao Dreaming: Contemporary Chinese Art"]The show presents contemporary art from China. Be sure to bring a hard copy of what you write so you can perform it. You are free to approach this assignment as you like, but let me make this initial suggestion: Write down everything you see in the work, a complete description. This can be in prose. When we meet at the Ross gallery, you will each present your work; this will be a performance situation, where you will find a spot in the gallery to read from; and we will talk about reading in the space and performance in general. It is also possible to involve others from the seminar in the performance. It is also possible to write something for the space rather than a specific work.
Extensions:  Write a poem to accompany an image A good source of on-line images is the
PennSlide library and ArtStor (via library e-resources). Write a poem to be read in a place.

The gallery is very, very tiny. It's essentially just one long room. There couldn't have been more than thirty works in there, tops, and there's hardly any furniture. So, I looked around. I loooooove chickens, so I picked a painting with two hens by Cheng Shifa and sat right down.

I had looked at the text that accompanies the painting, text which I have to recover from the notebook I scribbled it in, so that's soon to come!

Here is my commentary from the time:

"This was great fun to write. I was naturally attracted to the chicken painting because I love chickens. But I never know what to say when I "talk about art" because I think it's so subjective, and I never have the words to communicate what I mean. So I wanted to approach this from a different angle, and I found my inspiration from one line in the info card: "In Shanghai, in May 1980, Cheng Shifa painted this charming image of two chickens amidst flowering shrubs as a gift for Joan Lebold Cohen." This got me thinking about the story behind the painting. Why chickens? Why chickens amidst flowering shrubs? What does that mean, if anything? Why make it a "gift" for this Joan Lebold Cohen woman? Who was she to Cheng Shifa? Why did she donate (or sell) this, what was once a gift, to the Smith College Museum of Art (I think she must have donated most of the collection because I saw her name everywhere on the other paintings)? How would Cheng Shifa feel about this if he knew the chickens painting was given away?
Taking this idea and running with it actually made me engage with the painting more than I probably would have done if I had tried and failed to describe it or find artistic meaning in it. I found that in creating a back story it made me look at it in a different light, thinking less about the best way to express myself and instead take a step back (literally)."
And so the poetry was born. I banged it out in ten or fifteen minutes. It just all came together. Little did I know that the gallery was actually supplied by Joan Lebold Cohen, who had traveled around in post-Mao China and collected art from the artists in the art schools there. In fact, when you first step into the Gallery on the right, there was a 40 minute long video about her and about her collection and her commentary on it. I found this out the next day. Aso note that I took some artistic liberties. The two chickens are hens, not a hen and a rooster. So I'm calling on you for a suspension of disbelief.

My poem:

"Gift for Joan Lebold Cohen, 1980"

I am writing to tell you
That you are dead.
But that chicken picture you did,
That black and colored ink,
On paper,
On cream silk brocade,
That was a gift for Joan,
Is now public.

Ms. Joan Lebold Cohen,
Nee Joan Lebold,
Smith College class of 1954,
Has betrayed you.
Has exposed you.
Given it away.
She took "Two Chickens" out of her attic
And sold it to pay for rent
When she was down on luck.
And with that
Now  you have your picture,
Painted out of frustration
Of your illicit, erotic affair,
Painted to remind her of you,
You the grey cock,
And she in her dominatrix black hen coat,
Is now for all the world to see.
Maybe she never understood
That the scene was based on that morning when you got up at dawn together to watch the sun rise.
A simultaneous crow
A cockle doodle do
Sexual, climactic, bittersweet
(though of course you aren't chickens)

I'm sorry, Mr. Shifa.
If you take solace in one thing
Let it be that right now
And probably forever
Someone will stand by it and say,
"This speaks to me."
When we performed it in class, we first did our own presentation and then took suggestions from classmates on how to do it a different way. The bench in the gallery was right in front of the picture naturally, and we were given fold out chairs for the occasion. My first performance had everyone come up and read the info card on the wall to the right of the painting and then go back and set in line with the bench. Next, at the suggestion of someone, got two people to be the characters in the story, and I had them say the lines to each other while I narrated. The poem went over well which made me happy because it went over well with me, too. :)

On another note, tomorrow (Monday, April 25th) is our last class. We are each putting together a chapbook or something and performing something in front of the class. It is already 4:07 PM on Sunday, and I have not started either! Yikes! I have an idea for my chapbook, though. I'm going to do a couple different poems based on illustration. I will try to alternate between writing poems to accompany art I come across, making art of my own to accompany poems, and making my own poems with my own illustrations. I know it's ambitious, but let's hope the pay off is good!

Week 4: Cut-Up

Hello All,

This was the second experiment that I did for week 4. This seemed like a much deeper kind of constrained chance, if that makes any sense. First, it required more creativity from me, as in the acrostic I had to pick out a sentence from the page with the first letter corresponding with no real reason to make it fit together. Here I had to be more selective. This is where I really started to notice how found poetry works together. There is frequently an undertone to a collection of texts, almost like something--a message, a theme...--is running throughout it. Exploring this has brought me closer to spirituality, actually, because it makes me see clearly what I've always thought is true--we're all connected to something, something that is hidden unless you actively seek to find it. That's Sarah Davis' version of the spirtuality she believes in. I haven't looked it up to see if it goes along with any religion(s).


Here is this constraint:

§ General cut-ups:  Write a poem composed entirely of phrases lifted from other sources.  Use one source for a poem and then many; try different types of sources: literary, historical, magazines, advertisements, manuals, dictionaries, instructions, travelogues, etc.  See cut-up engines listed just above

I took phrases from the pages of the Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn's student newspaper. This doesn't exactly speak to me, but it was an experience, and a fairly easy exercise to repeat. I expect that I will return and make more of these.


Next came the heartbreaker.
“Feeling randy? Are you married? Is this your wife?”
The Chinese government has said yes.
The announcement signaled the end of anti-government protests that lasted 18 days.
What a difference a week can make.
This, however, was neither an ordinary marriage nor an ordinary wedding.
School of Medicine professor Kyong-Mi Chang opened the event by explaining Hepatitis B and urging students to get the vaccine.
The event featured performing arts groups and various workshops on aspects of Chinese culture.
Both participants and guests found the benefit event to be not only educational, but rewarding as well.
Though audience members had various reasons for attending the event, most agreed it was a success.
Allen added that President Barack Obama’s administration handled the situation perfectly—contrary to recent criticism by Republicans such as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty

Week 4: Acrostic Chance

Week 4 and I'm now fully immersed in "experimental" writing. These exercises were more constrained than usual, or at least it felt like that when I was getting the end result, but I wonder if that's just because of the mediums I chose.

§ Acrostic chance:  Pick a book at random and use title as acrostic key phrase.  For each letter of key phrase go to page number in book that corresponds (a=1, z=26) and copy as first line of poem from the first word that begins with that letter to end of line or sentence.  Continue through all key letters, leaving stanza breaks to mark each new key word.  Variations include using author's name as code for reading through her or his work, using your own or friend's name, picking different kinds of books for this process, devising alternative acrostic procedures.Or use the web Mac Low diastic engine.
My commentary at the time:

"These exercises were very fun, especially the acrostic chance. It just seemed to work out really well, and I was happy with it. I was skeptical that it would work out at all because I doubted such a heavy theory book (Film Theory and Criticism) would have anything remotely poetic (whatever that is) in it. However, this section of the book is about "film language," so most of the sentences/topics relate in some way to expression and visual interpretation and the feelings that are brought up. For the first exercise I was determined to get different sentences out of each sentence on the dictionary page, so it lacked coherency. I decided to work against that and put in a few sentences as a refrain ("It is its basic method") to ground it a bit."

One of the things I have been working at these days is fooling around with refrains. I like how they work at their best, and throughout the rest of the semester's work you will see this come back.

Here we go:

Book=Film Theory and Criticism
(6, 9, 12, 13-->FILM
20, 8, 5, 15, 18, 25-->THEORY
1,14, 4-->AND
3, 15, 9, 20, 9, 3, 9, 19-->CRITICISM

“The traces of the narrator’s action may seem to be effaced by the system as the suture theorists suggest but, in Browne’s opinion, such an effort can only be the result of a more general rhetoric.” (6=F)
“Its object is the showing of the development of the scene in relief, as it were, by guiding the attention of the spectator now to one, now to the other separate element.” (9=I)
“Leit-motif (reiteration of theme). Often it is interesting for the scenarit especially to emphasize the basic theme of the scenario.” (12=L)
“It is a weird and wonderful feeling to write a booklet about something that does not in fact exist.” (13=M)
“That corresponds to Pudovkin’s view.” (20=T)
“His action is recorded separately.” (8=H)
“Essential to Dayan’s system, which relates to classical narrative cinema as verbal langue does to literature, is ideologically charged.” (5=E)
[could not find anything with “O” or anything close to it.” (15=0)
“[this] representation of an object in the actual (absolute) proportions proper to it is, of course, merely a tribute to orthodox formal logic, a subordination to the inviolable order of things.” (18=R)
[two pictures with no corresponding letters] (25=Y)
“And, more generally, by what procedures does film generate meaning?” (1=A)
“Nevertheless the principle of montage may be considered to be an element of Japanese representational culture.”(14=N)
“Harman, however, criticizes the basic concept of the code, which Metz and Wollen share.” (4=D)
“Cinema is a two-dimensional art that creates the illusion of a third dimension through its “walk around” capability.” (3=C)
[long list of phrases that start with “a” or “t.” Nothing related to “r.” (15=R)
“It is its basic method.” (9=I)
“That corresponds to Pudovkin’s view.”
(20=T)“It is its basic method.” (9=I)
“Cinema lacks the double articulation characteristic of natural language.”
(3=C)“It is its basic method.” (9=I)“So it is in this instance.” (19=S)
[Nothing close to “m” anywhere] (13=M)

Week 3: Homophonic Translation: Goethe's "Gefunden"


This is the last semester I am taking of my four year odyssey of four courses of German: Elementary I and II and Intermediate I and II. As I come down to the last week of German class, I consider whether or not I've come to understand it at all. In English 111 we take a yellow or white notebad and pass it along, writing things as we please, a kind of silent gossip line. Once I wrote, "Why is it that when I come out of German class I always think in German but when I'm in German class I only think in English?" German has been particularly tough for me. It's not like it's an ultra hard language to learn, but it isn't a walk in the park, either. I decided to take it because I wanted to learn Yiddish, but I had no background in any of the major languages that feed into it, so I took German. I turned my back on six years of French through the AP level because the day the test was given in orientation I went with my orientation team to an ice cream parlor. Sometimes I regret it, sometimes I don't.

In any case, that is off point. Here is this week's constraint:

§ Homophonic translation: Take a poem in a foreign language that you can pronounce but not necessarily understand and translate the sound of the poem into English (i.e., French "blanc" to blank or "toute" to toot).
I took (Johann Wolfgang Von) Goethe's "Gefunden" and homophonic translated it.

My comments from the time:

"I found this particularly challenging. I wonder if that is because so many words in English sound like German words, even if they have completely different meanings. For example, sein (to be) sounds like sign; mein Sinn (my intention) sounds exactly like "my sin."" I'm not very happy with it because it veers towards incoherency, and I'd rather have something make some kind of sense than read words that are just strung together by chance.

Here's what it look likes. Note that I had a ton of trouble getting this to format right on Blogspot. Very silly, very curious as I've put posts like this up a lot.
Gefunden (Found)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translation: Hyde Flippo (translation in red)

Ich ging im Walde (I was walking in the woods)

 Und nichts zu suchen, (And seeking nothing,)
 Das war mein Sinn. (That was my intention).
Im Schatten sah ich (In the shade I saw)
Ein Blümchen stehn, (A little flower standing) 
Wie Sterne leuchtend (Like stars glittering)
Wie Äuglein schön. (Like beautiful little eyes).    
Ich wollt es brechen, (I wanted to pick it) 
Da sagt' es fein: (When it said delicately)  
Soll ich zum Welken, (Should I just to wilt)
Gebrochen sein? ( Be picked?)
Ich grubs mit allen (I dug it out with all)
Den Würzeln aus, (Its little roots).
Zum Garten trug ichs (To the garden I carried it)
Am hübschen Haus. (By the lovely house)
Und pflanzt es wieder (And replanted it)
Am stillen Ort; (In this quiet spot;)
Nun zweigt es immer (Now it keeps branching out)
Und blüht so fort. (And blossoms ever forth).
So für mich hin, (Just on a whim of mine,)

(with my translation in purple)

Ich ging im Walde (Eeking involved)
So für mich hin, (So furry meek hen)
Und nichts zu suchen, (Eunuchs zoo sulking)
Das war mein Sinn. (Mine sin)    
Im Schatten sah ich (Him shut saw eek)
Ein Blümchen stehn, (My blooming stain)
Wie Sterne leuchtend (V (very). stern leek tend)
Wie Äuglein schön. (V. ugly shown)
Ich wollt es brechen, (Eek volts breaking)
Da sagt' es fein: (Sacks fine)
Soll ich zum Welken, (So eek zoom Vell king)
Gebrochen sein? (Broken sign?)
Ich grubs mit allen (Eek grubs mitt Alan)
Den Würzeln aus, (Ten warts, ouch!) 
Zum Garten trug ichs (Zoom garden truck eeks)
Am hübschen Haus. (Ham hoops ten house)
Und pflanzt es wieder (Under plants leader)
Am stillen Ort; (Still wart)
Nun zweigt es immer (None spy shimmer)
Und blüht so fort. (And blossoms ever forth).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homolinguistic Translation: Walt Whitman, "World Below the Brine"

Hello, hello.

This is from week 2. The constraint being:

§ Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else's or your own) and translate/rewrite/revise it by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or "free" translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or do several versions of the "same" poem. Or: translate the poem into another, or several other, literary styles.

So, essentially what you're doing here is coming up with a different way to say the same thing. Here's my commentary at the time:

"Before I say anything else I should say that yesterday I went to the Camden's (very awesome) Adventure Aquarium. I love fish, oceans, swimming, and so on, so I was definitely inspired when I was writing this. I found the exercise a lot of fun to do. It was interesting to see how you could totally change a poem's words and yet preserve the meaning. I think I like my version better, but only because it's more descriptive and specific. Perhaps that speaks to a dichotomy that distinguishes between different types of writing: minimalist or heavily descriptive. Of course the two aren't mutually exclusive, nor is there no middle ground, but I find it's something that's come up when I'm trying to get at what makes things "better." There are times for minimalism, like when you want to leave the image up to the reader and supply the emotions instead, or if you want to give the reader as vivid a picture as you've created yourself so that they can "see" what you're talking about.  (Jan 30th, 2011)"

Well, I had no idea that Walt Whitman was so associated with Camden. I swear that is not why I picked the poem. I was completely clueless. The "Walt Whitman Bridge" to Philly went over my head. So of course we talked a lot about that in class. Was it an odd coincidence? Certainly. You don't have to, but I have to believe in spirituality and forces that set up fate. I picked it out from the Academy of American Poets' online site, which is extremely wonderful if you just want to spend some time browsing around. One of the best things is that they have all kinds of categories you can pick to find poems associated with the theme. Because I was fish inspired, I chose this one from Poems-Nature-Animals-Fish. For simple viewing, I colored every other line in my own poem a shade of blue.

Here it is:

World Below the Brine  

by Walt Whitman

The world below the brine;  
Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and leaves,  
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds—
      the thick tangle, the openings, and the pink turf,  
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold—
      the play of light through the water,  
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks—coral, gluten, grass, rushes—
      and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there, suspended, or slowly crawling
      close to the bottom,  
The sperm-whale at the surface, blowing air and spray, or disporting
      with his flukes,  
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard,
      and the sting-ray;  
Passions there—wars, pursuits, tribes—sight in those ocean-depths—
      breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do;  
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings
      like us, who walk this sphere;
The change onward from ours, to that of beings who walk other spheres.

There beneath the Waves
By Sarah Davis

A hustling, bustling city there beneath the waves;
Assorted Plantae at the lowest depths—Tall stems and their blooms—
                The heavy snag, the holes for air, and the salmon colored peat, Various shades, pastels: yellow and blue, orange, magenta, and lilac—                The light from above scatters, rays break the murky green, Ignorant bathers over by the jagged stones—seaweed, iodine, dead man’s fingers—                And the naïveté of those unsuspecting swimmers, Lazy lives feeding over there, dangling, or creeping ever so quietly                So, so, so close to the sandy ground, The leviathan surfacing, water like a geyser issuing from his head, or gesturing                With his leeching mollusks clinging to his body, The pewter colored eyes of the tiger shark, the manatee, the sea horse, the   seal,                 And the jelly fish; Such strong emotions there—battles, hunts, schools—a spectacle in those deep-sea waters—                Inhaling and exhaling that stifling oxygen, as nearly everyone does;The opposite to all that we can see up here, and to the barely noticeable zephyr that fuels creatures                Like us, who wade out into their land;
The metamorphosis that’s out of our hands, since it belongs to these mortals who walk other worlds.

Jellyfish at the Camden Aquarium

Shark Tank at the Camden Aquarium

Substitution 3: William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming"

From the first week:

§ Substitution (3): Find and replace. Systematically replace one word in a source text with another word or string of words.  Perform this operation serially with the same source text, increasing the number of words in the replace string.

For this I used William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming," a poem that is without a doubt one of the best poems ever written. Wow, now that I just wrote that I see how it instantly devalues the poem. Regardless, it is one that I must memorize sometime soon because it's a poem that stays within you, and I would never want to be anywhere without it. Take one line and see how profound it is: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." BAM. It knocks the wind out of you. So many times that has been with me.

I took lyrics from Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" to put in the second substitution poem. I think it pairs well because Dylan's infamous song is a perfect testament to the time that he was writing it, but at the same time is a timeless portrait of a terrifying sea change. Here, as with many of the other poems I put up here, I chopped up the phrases some and picked some to go with anothers even if they weren't together originally.

As far as the question for week 1, is this my own poem? Maybe. I would consider it a response to the original. But is it Dylan or me? I feel like I own it because it was my idea to pair these two together, and I think it makes enormous sense to consider a poem where I cut up some of the lyrics and matched ones I like my own. But there's something not right about that. I don't feel completely satisfied saying that. I have this kind of cranky lit critic in the back of my head, I guess remnants of my former stuffy self, saying that this is a disgrace to Yeats and how dare I and get off the grass! this is decorative only and don't you have somewhere to be....etc. Part of this semester has been about coming to terms with all three of us: the traditionalist critic, Charles/English 111, and Me. It would appear that there are so many "vs."s going on during this semester. But that's what this has been about...a personal journey through experiencing poetry as much as doing it.

Enough talk, more poetry (are they mutually exclusive?)


William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)   
    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


(with my new words in bold pink)
    Blowin’ and blowin’ in the widening wind
    The dove cannot hear the falconer;
    Years fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the sky,
    The blood-dimmed cry is loosed, and everywhere
    The white dove of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all answers, while the worst
    Are forever of passionate intensity.
    Surely some pretending is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at sea.
    The Second Coming! How many people cry forever     When a vast wind out of many seas     Troubles my ears: a cry of banned doves;
    A mountain with lion wind and the cry of a man,
    A sky blank and pitiless as the times,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind blowin’, Yes’n the dove call answers.
    The darkness takes again but now I see
    Too many centuries of free sleep,
    Free pretending. A nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough times, the hour come round at last,
    Wind calls Bethlehem, can you hear?

Substitution 2: Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"

Hi All,

Following up from the last post, here's the second constraint for our stubstitution poems:

§ Substitution (2): "7 up or down."  Take a poem or other, possibly well-known, text and substitute another word for every noun, adjective, adverb, and verb; determine the substitute word by looking up the index word in the dictionary and going 7 up or down, or one more, until you get a syntactically suitable replacement. 

This was especially hard to do and very time consuming, almost exhausting. First, who uses a paper dictionary anymore? After getting next to no where using I think the online OED at one point--I had to go find one in the library of my dorm. Second, you wind up getting an awful lot of non-words and less variety with the words as some repeat (how many times can you/should you substitute something for "and"?). Do I keep it somewhat coherent? I often had to go higher than 7 up or down. I decided to just not take away "the" and "and" such to give it a root in the original. I guess that is what I found the most fascinating with these substitution poems. In class Charles asked me if this "felt like my own poem" or not. It absolutely did here, but is it? In one sense the words are kind of pre-destined to be what they are here. So what did I do other than do some rote work that Randall Jarrell could have done (but then again, would the dictionary he would use in 1945 have the same words?). It was fixed from the start, I suppose. Yet I do think this is my poem. I "found" it.
And here's what I did with Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner", an absolutely fantastic poem.


From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner 

From my moth-orchid’s sleep disorder I fell apart into the state bank,
And I, Hunchback of Notre Dame, in its Bel Paese till my Wet Blanket Freewill®.
Siwalik hills, miles-long from Eamon d. valera, loosefooted from its dread-nought of lieutenantship,
I woke to blab-bed (Robert Joseph) Flaherty and the nightscope fighterbomber.
When issued, I died, for they’ll was-sail me out of the turret-heads with a hosecock.  

Substitution 1: Po Chu i: "The Dragon of the Black Pool"

Hello All,

This is the first in a series of three substitution based constraints we worked on for the first week of class. Here is the first constraing:

§Substitution (1): "Mad libs."  Take a poem (or other source text) and put blanks in place of three or four words in each line, noting the part of speech under each blank.  Fill in the blanks being sure not to recall the original context. 

And what I did was to take "The Dragon of the Black Pool" by Po Chu i and cross out the words that just seemed to ground the poem in Po Chu i's message. I then took these crossed out words and substituted my own, making a completely different story. I recommend that you read the original text of "The Dragon of the Black Pool" (it's linked a couple sentences back) and then look at the crossed out version (as it's kind of hard to see what the crossed-out words actually are) and then look at my own version where the new words are in bold/sky blue.

Po Chu I
(translated by Arthur Waley)
Deep the waters of the Black Pool, colored like ink;
They say a Holy Dragon lives there, whom men have never seen.
Beside the Pool they have built a shrine; the authorities
have established a ritual;
A dragon by itself remains a dragon, but men can make it a god.
Prosperity and disaster, rain and drought, plagues and pestilences
By the village people were all regarded as the Sacred Dragon’s doing.
They all made offerings of sucking-pig and poured libations of wine;
The morning prayers and evening gifts depended on a “medium’s” advice.
When the dragon comes, ah!
The wind stirs and sighs
Paper money thrown, ah!
Silk umbrellas waved.
When the dragon goes, ah!
The wind also—still.
Incense-fire dies, ah !
The cups and vessels are cold.
Meats lie stacked on the rocks of the Pool’s shore;
Wine flows on the grass in front of the shrine.
I do not know, of all those offerings, how much the Dragon eats;
But the mice of the woods and the foxes of the hills are continually drunk and sated.
Why are the foxes so lucky?
What have the sucking-pigs done,
Thayear  by year they should be killed, merely to glut the foxes?
That the foxes are robbing the Sacred Dragon and eating His sucking-pig,
Beneath the nine-fold depths of His pool, does He know or not?

THE DRAGON OF THE BLACK POOL (Substitution 1: Mad Libs)

Deep the heart of the Fish Pool, colored like caviar; They say a royal Dragon creeps there, whom I have never seen.
Under the Pool they have stopped a fight; the authorities
have arrested a criminal;
A koi by itself remains a koi, but fish can make it a god.
Purity and disaster, fires and flames, plagues and blood
By the moonlight’s glow were all dead, as the Sacred Dragon’s bail.
They all made offerings of sucking-leeches and regarded libations of kale;
The morning papers and evening reports depended on a “medium’s” analysis.
When the reporters interview, ah!
The air smells and stinksThe talking heads profane, ah!
Doom-laden umbrellas waved.
When the truth goes, ah!
The blogs also—legitimate.
Fact-checking dies, ah !
The witnesses and victims are cold.
Wind blows quietly on the edge of the Pool’s shore;
We repent on the stairs in front of the shrine.
I do not believe, of all those assholes, how much the Dragon succeeds;
But the citizens from the woods and the foxes of the night are continually drunk and sated.
How are the foxes so violent?
How sadly the sucking-pigs give up,
That houses by him they should be supporting, merely to subdue the foxes?
That the foxes are paying the Sacred Dragon and killing his helping pig,
Beneath the surface depths of His pool, does He care or not?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 11: More Visual Digital Poetry, Danse Macabre + Halloween Poem

This is more of the same work from the experiment promt:
§Try a "digital" poem, or poem in programmable media, or indeed one using links or HTML as a fundamental dimension
I was pretty stuck as to what to do with this this time around. I couldn't really find another poem that someone else wrote that was immediately striking to me. So I went back to some things I have written before and came across a little poem I did a while back around Halloween. It was written for my friend, Ben, who understands all things grim. I love Camille Saint-Saens' Dance Macabre suite, so I decided to incorporate that into this. Honestly, I am not entirely happy with the way this worked out. I wanted to work on it a bit more to reconfigure the text so it is actually part of the image, not separate from it. But I need more time to fool around with that. I just got a brand new laptop, and it involves the latest version of Windows that I am still getting used to. Anyway, here's the poem. Same deal as with the cowboy poem below.

(from Wikipedia) This image is the Dance of Death in the German printed edition, folio CCLXI recto from Hartman Schedel's Chronicle of the World (Nuremberg, 1493) thought to be created by Michael Wolgemut (b. 1434, Nürnberg, d. 1519, Nürnberg). There was also a Latin printed edition of the same year. It seems not to be by Hans Holbein the Younger, as often stated. He was not alive at the time of its publication in 1493.

Grim Tidings, What Ho!
Symphony Composed for My Dear Friend Ben in Anticipation of All Hallows Eve
I: Music Most Macabre
Rotting corpse giggling, laughing beneath the full moon.
It spins, dancing to wretched fantastic grim tunes.
Such as those of a skeleton choosing the key
A ribcage with heart strings still intact, plucked with glee.
It sings lines and such rhymes which cause mortals to swoon.

A black adder sounds lower bass pitches o’er way
By headstones molded over, dead flowers decay.
The tick tock of the clock the bell tower chimes twelve
Ancient hour of mischief, souls helpless do delve
Into magic most evil, most horrid they say.

Soon the soldier of doom and much merciless pain
Will strike down these sounds sinister, witness the rain
Washing over and over commanded by he
That cares not if you rot for all eternity.
Slowly singing halts. Thunder booms o’er the refrain.

‘Tis the end of this song, decrescendo my dear
For this storm will wreck all of our practice, I fear.
Deathharmonic struck down by a tempest and flood.
And our maestro dear Satan will cry tears of blood
Till he hears we’ll be here Hallows Eve every year.

Week 11: Visual Digital Poetry Part 1: Cowboy Poetry

      For this week's seminar we are exploring digital poetry. Using the prompt:

      §Try a "digital" poem, or poem in programmable media, or indeed one using links or HTML as a fundamental dimension

      I decided to try this out. One of my favorite movies is one that I saw just this past semester, Dances with Wolves (1990, Kevin Costner). And one of my other favorite films of all time, and one I consider to be the best film of the 2000-2010 era (Oughts, whatever you want to call them) is There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson). I knew I wanted to connect the two together in some way. I combined the awesome font from There Will Be Blood (found at and a credit to Mr Fisk Fonts) and the recommended YouTube video that plays the theme of Dances with Wolves, and a wonderful landscape picture to accompany a classic "Cowboy Poetry" poem, The Spell of the Yukon Gold," by Arthur Chapman. Unfortunately, I got the font to work on my computer, but when I checked from a different computer that didn't have the font installed it didn't show up. So I'm going to e-mail it to the class attached as a PDF. (If you aren't in English 111 and still want to read it, let me know and I'll e-mail it).
      Cowboy Poetry is a subgenre of poetry, and apparently it has a long history that I didn't know much about until my mom mentioned it (kudos to Mom!). It's interesting as hell. I think compiling all of these components made the poem more moving. You were given sensual stimuli on so many fronts--a visual, a text, a font that conjurs up associations with a certain genre and time period, and a song from one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever. I'm pretty happy with it, and I hope you are, too!

The Spell of the Yukon Gold
By Arthur Chapman

Out among the big things-   The mountains and the plains-
An hour ain't important,
Nor are the hour's gains;
The feller in the city
Is hurried night and day,
But out among the big things
He learns the calmer way.

Out among the big things-
   The skies that never end-

to lose a day ain't nothin'
    The days are here to spend;
So why not give 'em freely,
Enjoyin' as we go?
I somehow can't stop thinkin'
the good Lord means life so.

Out among the big things-
the heights that gleam afar-
A feller gets to wonder
What means each distant star;
He may not get the answer,
But somehow every night
He feels, among the big things,
   That everything's all right.

For more about Cowboy Poetry, see this useful site: The Classic Cowboy Bush Poetry of the Range Writers