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Friday, August 30, 2013

Zany English on Japanese T-shirts

Welcome to
Raccoon City
Home of

I'm too shy to take pictures of random strangers' T-shirts, so I just jot down the nonsense passing as English emblazoned there, including line breaks.

I keep meaning to make a list but I jot the slogans down on random slips of paper and lose them before I ever get a chance to compile them.

So here's my pledge to enter T-shirt proclamations into this blog post within hours of seeing them, before I forget or lose my note to myself.

If you've seen some crazy Japanese T-shirts, feel free to add them in the comment section. Here's another I've seen recently:

Dwarf Bravery
Some of my favorites are those that approximate logical syntax, before veering off into the absurd, such as this one:
Me too, I'm going in search of a great perhaps. Will report back.


Reporting back. Still haven't found the great perhaps, but did see this shirt while in pursuit:

Heaven knows
that you have
tired your best
Which is true, oh so true.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moby-Dick Big Read

Two summers ago I blogged about my book shame, having not read Moby-Dick. Having publicly exposed my shame, I was sufficiently motivated to go ahead and read it, and I finished it later that summer. Yay!

Then I discovered Matt Kish's Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, which I blogged about and which I continue to adore.

Now I've discovered Moby-Dick Big Read, a collaborative project of readers and artists (including Tilda Swinton, Will Self, China Mieville, Tony Kushner, Joyelle McSweeney, & Mary Oliver) each reading one chapter of Melville's masterful tome aloud. A project of artist Angela Cockayne and writer Philip Hoare, this reading project grew out of Peninsula Arts Whale Festival of 2011.

You can download each chapter in iTunes for free, to let the listening begin. I already have and will be enjoying Moby-Dick once again this autumn.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Greer on Working Against Cleverness

“I know that I have an instinct towards math and cleverness in structure that I work against, and so I try to make something … I make this whole structure which takes up a cork wall of index cards, and then I feel that is the architecture of the book, and what you do with architecture is that you cover it completely . . . And why I am driven to make something this complicated I don’t know. It’s just a pleasure for me always in all kinds of reading and fiction to know that there is some kind of clock ticking in the background. It could be rhetorical device, the way that language goes in the book. That there’s a pattern to it, because it’s nice to feel when you close the book that there’s a pattern to life.”

I'm Baaaaack!

I've been traveling, and during my travels, I hardly checked in with my email and social media accounts. I also didn't listen to any podcasts. The last just happened as I was with family I hadn't seen for three years and wanted to be as present with them as possible; the former was by design. It was a vacation from modern life, and it was refreshing. But now I'm back.

I also picked up some contributor's copies of journals my work has appeared in, and which I had had sent to relatives' stateside addresses in order to spare the non-profit journals the overseas postage required to reach me at my home.  Seeing the journals in print makes the publication experience seem more real, and I'd like to thank the editors of the Barrow Street and Ninth Letter Arts and Literary Review for supporting my work in the recent past.

I've also been working on the August Poetry Postcard Fest, and have discovered something I had not known before: you can do warm-up poems before working on longer poem projects, and this helps loosen up the imagination. From past years of participation in the APPF, I have learned that one or two images is really the most you can effectively get on a postcard, so instead of getting into the complex extended metaphors that are typical of my writing, I have tried to focus in on a few lines capturing a single image for each postcard. Although the poems are short, it does take me hours to write them. I prop the postcard up where I will see its image all day, and before beginning my regular routine I study it for a few minutes. Then I go on about my day, passing the postcard numerous times, being reminded of it, thinking about the image on and off during the day until the right lines begin to form in my mind. At that point I sit down and write the poem.

What I've found is that after doing that, I can pull out other non-APPF poems that I have been working on for weeks and I can continue work on them, having been primed for writing and freed up in my imagination by the work on the postcard poem. Though the postcard poem has nothing to do with the poems of my regular life, somehow they act as a warm-up for me, and I am finding writing easier this way. Perhaps I've just dealt with my natural resistance to writing in the earlier exercise--I'm not sure what the mechanism at work here is, but anyway, it's been helpful. I think I will keep writing small images in response to something visual (with the single image as the end goal)  as part of my writing practice in the future. Who knew you could do mind stretches like that before getting into the real work?--not so unintuitive, I realize now, but it's a new idea for me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One-Way Collaboration

I've been thinking a lot about collaboration recently, first inspired by Black Tongue Review, an online journal of collaboration between poets and visual artists. Happily an artist friend recently invited me to collaborate with her in just this manner, so we are just getting started in that endeavor, and I'm really excited about it.

Collaboration is something I've been interested in trying, but haven't had anyone to ask (or haven't really had enough nerve to ask, to be more honest), so I was delighted to be invited by someone else.  In the meantime, I've noticed that for the person who wants to try collaboration but has some reason to hesitate, there are opportunities for one-sided collaborations, which can serve as training grounds, confidence boosters, and ways to see if collaboration would be something you would be interested in, without the risk of disappointing a partner, or being disappointed by a partner, or being unhappy with loss of total control over the creative process. Ideas for one-sided collaborations include responding to someone else's work, as in ekphrastic poetry, or working with someone else's prompt. These one-way collaborations don't have the give-and-take and interaction of the true collaboration, but as an experiment, they can be a good way to see if working with another artist might be something you are truly interested in.

Here are a few opportunities for one-way collaboration:

1) Submit to Black Tongue Review. You submit an already completed poem and they find an artist to respond to it. I'm not sure if the artist will contact you for any real collaboration or discussion, but if not, just noting your response to someone else's visual interpretation of your poem might tell you if you would be keen to do a two-way collaboration with someone else.

2) 3Elements Review is now accepting submissions for their inaugural issue. All submissions must include three elements. This issue's three elements are: "processions, tandem bicycle, ache". Try writing something for this review, thereby sort of collaborating with the editors and more distantly with any other writer whose work will be featured in the issue. Accepting someone else's constraint is a tiny non-invasive collaboration, a good baby step for someone venturing into this arena. (Thanks to CRWOPPS-B for the heads-up on this new journal.)

3) Although it's too late to join this year, another one-and-a-half-sided collaboration is the August Poetry Postcard Fest (I should have told you about this earlier, but almost didn't get in myself, as another blogger's last minute reminder is what got me in just under the wire of the deadline this year). In this project, you send a postcard with an original poem responding to the postcard image to 31 people (one a day for the month of August) and receive such postcards from 31 people. That's how it goes to being one-and-a-half-sided, by also receiving postcards and poems which may influence the ones you send out after that. In the past, this project has emphasized trying to respond to poems you receive in the next ones sent out; I didn't see anything about that in the guidelines this year, but it can be an inevitable result for certain kinds of writers, and if you are interested in dipping your toe into the collaboration pool, you could constrain yourself to having to respond to a received postcard in the next one you send out, thereby invoking a less-than-two-sided collaboration.

It's too late to do this project this year, but you could organize and exchange of postcards with a poet friend or friends on your own, or you could simply write consciously in response to others' work as a tiny foray into the area of collaboration

4) Erasure is another one-way collaboration idea, working with someone else's text and erasing it into your own. Any kind of work beginning with someone else's text and/or art can be thought of as one-way collaboration, a groundbreaking way to progress towards more traditional collaboration.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Make A Space!

"I don’t understand why people don’t have a space in their life where they don’t do what they normally do." – painter Eric Fischl in conversation with actor Alec Baldwin (from WNYC's Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin).

Wisdom that even lineates naturally:

I don't understand
why people don't have
a space in their life
where they don't do
what they normally do.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Million-Line Poem

Tupelo Press is open-sourcing a million-line poem, assembled from couplets written by people all over the world. If you want to contribute, here are the guidelines (copied from the Tupelo Press website):

"Each day we post two lines from which contributing poets draw their inspiration. All entries are assembled by an editor (keeping the integrity of the couplets) and posted to the Million-Line Poem for viewing the next day with the contributor’s name and city.

You can participate in the creation of this art form as it grows organically, day-by-day. The nature of the poem — what it’s about, its ideas, its subjects, its overall aesthetic — will develop over time.  Your contribution will be part of that process and synergy.

There is no limit to the number of contributions each poet can make, except we ask that only two lines per poet per day be submitted. All poets will be credited for their contributions.

To contribute, send an email to that includes: (a) your name, email, city and state, and (b) the two lines. A poet who wishes to make additional contributions on additional days must repeat this process.

The Million Line Poem is open to all writers, anywhere in the world, regardless of prior experience, and regardless of nationality, provided that all lines must be submitted in English."

Very similar to the Japanese renga form! I wish I'd known about this before the semester ended. It would've made a good assignment.