Saturday, February 26, 2011

Terrific brief talk from Claudia Mauro about how poems and stories change consciousness, change the world, and the need for independent publishers. Check it out!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Robot Wins Jeopardy, But Can It Write Poetry?

Saw this over at Huffington Post:

Watson's impressive debut on Jeopardy this past week got me wondering if there has ever been a serious attempt to program an artificial intelligence to write good poetry. I don't mean just throwing together a proper meter and rhyme scheme -- that seems easy enough. I'm talking about an attempt to create a machine that "understands" how to manipulate language to convey freshness, wisdom and emotional depth.


So . . . "freshness, wisdom, and emotional depth" are the hallmarks of poetry? I'd say that is pretty close. In this day and age I might also add humor, irony, and the ability to dwell in uncertainties -- to hold multiple senses and meanings in the same line without blowing a circuit (do computers have circuits?).


I wonder if the writer of this article has ever seen the numerous sonnet and villanelle generators that exist online?


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poetry: The Movie

This looks like an interesting movie. I have heard that it might be coming to Seattle after doing well on the film festival circuit? I hope so!

The importance of seeing, seeing the world deeply, is at the heart of this quietly devastating, humanistic work from the South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong. Throughout the story, the teacher, a bespectacled man with an easy manner, will guide the students as each struggles to write a single poem, searching memories and emotions for inspiration.

There has been quite a kerfluffle going on about Lady Gaga's new song "Born This Way," and resemblances to Madonna's "Express Yourself." Honestly, I think it is a very superficial resemblance. I didn't care for the song the first listen, but I have to say it is really growing on me! It is now officially stuck in my head. I think it's going to be a hit.

Regarding the "Express Yourself" resemblance, I love what this vlogger has done, mashing up the two songs into one (and veering off into "Jump" at the end--nice). Check it out. He can sing (and is cute to boot)!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The "Real" Welfare Queens?

Fascinating article from Seattle's The Stranger. It looks like the real "welfare queens" in WA state are the "Republican" counties! The very ones who tend to vote to cut programs and lower taxes and demand "smaller government" are actually out of proportion in their use of tax dollars per-capita. Can anyone explain this to me? Or is it just another example of right-wing hypocrisy? I wonder if this kind of out-of-balance spending is true nation-wide as well (do "red states" out spend their share of federal taxes?).

Full article here:

Welfare State
Washington's Republican counties depend on Western Washington's money. How can they survive the state budget cuts they demand?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I thought this was a thoughtful post from Sandra Beasley about the Langston Hughes "Bus-Boy Poet" cardboard cut-out theft during AWP. check it out here When Busboys Become Poets (& When Poets Walk Off with Busboys).


And here is an interesting report about the Tony Hoagland-Claudia Rankine controversy at AWP. From Sara Jaffe's blog.


Back in town now, and having fun reading about people's AWP experiences. Is it really coming to Seattle in 2014? I'd better start thinking of a panel proposals now! Hmmm. Here are some off the top of my head (and with no coffee yet).

Decaf or regular-- Starbucks, Coffee & Poetry.
Smells Like Rainy Days--The Poetry of Jimi Hendrix and Curt Cobain.
Seattle's Asian Pacific Legacy-- Mt Rainier-Mt Fuji Poems
Microsoft Works Jumbo Shrimp-- Poetic Oxymorons


PS: a review of the Hoagland poem "The Change" that appeared in a Poetry Daily Prose Feature by Dorothy Barresi about the Prairie Schooner issue in which it appeared:

In "The Change," also from What Narcissism Means to Me, Tony Hoagland locates a particularly uneasy moment of cultural displacement:

... remember the tennis match we watched that year?
Right before our eyes

some tough little European blonde
pitted against that big black girl from Alabama,
cornrowed hair and Zulu bangles on her arms,
some outrageous name like Vondella Aphrodite

While his friend cheers for "Aphrodite," a stand-in for Venus Williams at the beginning of her career, the speaker sheepishly (or bravely, depending on your view of self-censoring political correctness) admits to rooting for the white girl in this "contest between / the old world and the new,"

because she was one of my kind, my tribe,
with her pale eyes and thin lips

and because the black girl was so big
and so black
         so unintimidated,

hitting the ball like she was driving the Emancipation Proclamation
down Abraham Lincoln's throat,
like she wasn't asking anyone's permission.

Hoagland knows this is treacherous ground, and he intentionally makes the reader discomforted. Is nostalgia tinged with racism in this case? Is there, at the very least, a kind of complicity with the old narratives of race and class? The black tennis player is not the underdog at Roland Garros Stadium; she's the conquering star who "wore down her opponent / then kicked her ass good / then thumped her once more for good measure / and stood up on the red clay court / holding her racket over her head like a guitar." (In baby boom poetry, rock star status is still the highest conferred.) Like most of Hoagland's slightly benighted speakers, this one is likeable. He's smart. He names the truth. And he's politely honest about his desire to align himself with the past. It's what he knows, what he's comfortable with, though the white girl's "pale eyes" and "thin lips" suggest he also knows theirs is a wan, waning "tribe." Hoagland's speakers, like those constructed by many male baby boom poets (Dean Young, Andrew Hudgins, James Harms, Mark Cox, Charles Harper Webb, to name just a few), hardly swagger. They are sensitive, articulate, self-deprecating antiheroes apologetic for their self-absorption. (Note Hoagland's splendid book title joke). There is a trace of the '50s political comedian in this construction: Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Shelly Berman, and Mort Sahl are all Jewish comedians who waged similar assaults on the middle class status quo from the margins of neurotic but superior intellectualism. Ultimately, the paradigm shift in Tony Hoagland's "The Change" is staged to awaken the speaker's larger understanding, not of race or class, which he suggests he never had a real stake in anyway ("I don't watch all that much Masterpiece Theatre, / but I could feel the end of an era there / in front of those bleachers full of people / in their Sunday tennis-watching clothes"), but of time's ruthless power. In a sense, the speaker nullifies political correctness by announcing his dawning realization that displacement from cultural center to periphery is a sadness universally experienced. It transcends race. Anyone who watched Roger Federrer weep after losing the Australian Open this year to the younger and lately unstoppable Raphael Nadal—both white European males—might be inclined to agree. This mid-life observation forms Hoagland's final, widening gesture:

and in fact, everything had already changed—
Poof, remember? It was the twentieth century almost gone,
we were there,

and when we went to put it back where it belonged,
it was past us
and we were changed.

How does one say goodbye to the twentieth century without dwelling in twentieth-century nostalgia? —that is the challenge facing baby boom poets today. In Martin Amis's The Second Plane, September 11: Terror and Boredom, the author makes a strong case for a reading of the new American zeitgeist as radically unlike any in its history: "It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty: that was the defining moment." Until that moment, Amis notes, America thought she was simply seeing "the worst aviation disaster in history." "Now," instead, "she had a sense of the fantastic vehemence ranged against her."


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Love this poem from today's Poem a Day. It gives new meaning to the idea that poets are all liars, embellishers, story-tellers, myth-makers.

On The Origins Of Things
by Troy Jollimore

Everyone knows that the moon started out
as a renegade fragment of the sun, a solar
flare that fled that hellish furnace
and congealed into a flat frozen pond suspended
between the planets. But did you know
that anger began as music, played
too often and too loudly by drunken performers
at weddings and garden parties? Or that turtles
evolved from knuckles, ice from tears, and darkness
from misunderstanding? As for the dominant
thesis regarding the origin of love, I
abstain from comment, nor will I allow
myself to address the idea that dance
began as a kiss, that happiness was
an accidental import from Spain, that the ancient
game of jump-the-fire gave rise
to politics. But I will confess
that I began as an astronomer—a liking
for bright flashes, vast distances, unreachable things,
a hand stretched always toward the furthest limit—
and that my longing for you has not taken me
very far from that original desire
to inscribe a comet's orbit around the walls
of our city, to gently stroke the surface of the stars.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Russian Ballet group is in town tonight, and will be performing Romeo and Juliet at the new Teatro Vallarta (completed since Dean and I were here last). We have tickets for the 7pm show -- fun fun!

Here is a pic of Dean standing in front of the new teatro. It is right across the street from the supermarket. (They don't really do zoning so well in Mexico. A hovel can be next to a resort next to a gas station next to a school).


K-Rico at Mercados has been our favorite little coffee/pastry place. They also have a gourmet deli, a fresh produce store, and a wine shop. Just a block or so from Molina de Auga.


We took a trek up Gringo Gulch to see Casa Kimberly (the two houses connected by a pink bridge, that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once shared). It's still in horrible condition and in need of repair. But the walk up the steep stairs was fun.


One of the things Dean and I have been enjoying here at Punta Negra is our daily walk along the beach. We usually go in the afternoon, when the bay is in full sun and the tide is out. It's an amazing stretch of beach, about three-quarters of a mile long, and fairly undeveloped. The sand is a blondish-white, with the texture of soft cement where it is wet, and coarse flour where it is dry. There are very few rocks, except the large breakwaters every 300 yards or so. And in the distance to the south is the beautiful coast lithic formations of Los Arcos.

Most days the beach is practically deserted, it is as if we have it to ourselves. Which is amazing. But on the weekends the locals all come out (beaches are public access in Mexico) with tables and blankets and umbrellas and food, and play soccer or volleyball or wade in the surf. It's really fun to see. And they are all very friendly. Some of the boys (and girls) go surfing, some of the men are fishing -- I asked what for and one of them said camarones (shrimp). Very rarely someone is hawking a trinket or a basket or something.

It's become one of our daily rituals here, to walk the beach. And it is endlessly fascinating to see what the night has washed up on shore. One day we found an ugly spiky spotted fish straight out of a Japanese horror flick. Another day we found a pink snake with blue diamonds on its back. And yesterday, Dean found a blue butterfly.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Dirty Bitches Show

Dean and I went to the Dirty Bitches last night. What a fun show! It takes place on the top floor of the Blue Chairs Hotel/Resort in Amapas. It is amazing to sit up high above the ocean, with sea air wafting in, listening to a high powered drag performance. It was mostly in English, so we understood the jokes pretty well. And the "singing" (they all did lip sync) was great. My favorites were Cher doing "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" and "Believe," and Lady Gaga doing a set of three songs in row, accompanied by a group of dancers-- "Alejandro," "Bad Romance," "Telephone" -- for the latter of which she was joined by Beyonce (pronounced "Bay-JOHN-Say" by the EmCee). Our waiter was very sweet and attentive. We snacked on some yummy chicken strips and fries and had a couple cosmos. I only wish the venue had been No Smoking. yech.

Here is a link to a you tube video of the show (looks like from last year? -- the costumes for Lady Gaga were much better this year). Check out the show if you are down in PV!
Highly recommended.