Week two of a new year, and still settling into a new routine. Putting every-little-thing into the google calendar, with the repeat option turned on.

I’ve been enjoying reading the posts on the poetry blog revival tour. I’ll be setting aside Thursday evenings to focus on taking part in the “conversation”.  From here–from this little desk in this little library (bibliotekette) in Norway’s little breadbasket. Perhaps it will be a way to celebrate solitude, but feel less lonely?

This week they are draining the silos. The sharp, sick-sweet smell of fermented hay cuts through the morning cold as we run past the farms. I miss the cows. We are running so early now, I miss the mornings’ convention of crows, too. I have to admit a self-congratulatory pride in beating the proverbial early bird to the trailhead. Having the chance to relish the quiet feels like a personal achievement. I hear E. breathing next to me. My own breath. And our footfalls, slightly out of sync – but pleasantly so. Like a deliberate  syncopation. It is too dark to see the lake, but I know it is there.

20180106_145518It is the inky-blackness beyond the dead rushes. Absent, and present.

I long to hear the lake sing again. It’s been nearly three years since it was frozen as far as one could see, twisting and thwanging in the dark like some goddess let loose in the dark to play her unique harp. Or to skate over the rings of ice, playing them like a warped LP.

I guess things don’t always come as cleanly as the seasons on the calendar. The goddesses keep their own schedules. Rhythms. Deliberately syncopated.


Sharing a bit of Steve Mueske‘s poem “Skating Lessons” from his book A Mnemontic for Desire. Ghost Road Press, 2006.

She is young, someone’s
mercy, bundled in the brittle cold.

She has come a long way across the ice, cutting
her own story in the intaglio

of curves and lines there. […]


Thanks for reading!

Poetry is the Unknown Guest in the House
 – according to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in Poetry as Insurgent Art

“Stash your sell-phone” 

20180101_121700569138754.jpgIn 2017 I used an app to delete all my contacts from my Facebook account, and decided to begin blogging again. I was concerned about what social media was doing to my reading comprehension, about what it was doing to my psyche.

I have read somewhere that we humans sort the world into discrete categories as best we can, so that we can make quick (and life-saving) decisions: a creature in the shadows whose breathing is audible, whose breath smells like copper is a Predator.

(It could be a deer, but better safe than sorry in the moment.)

It seems to me that this kind of quick judgement is the norm in a social media jungle. The immediacy. The rush. People (myself included) read a headline, write a quick opinion, and move on. It began to feel more like a cut-throat game of tag than a conversation.

Am I alone in feeling as though I’ve been continually on red alert? Watching, and defending myself against threats? Trolls. People whose politics differ from mine. The 10 things I am doing wrong in regard to my toaster oven – or my pentameter.

I was thinking about The Giver last night. And Brave New World. And wondering if anyone out there has written a dystopic novel in which the People in Power had managed to invent a kind of drug that entailed no manufacturing expenses, no distribution expenses, and one which the masses self-administered – eagerly – making people’s very minds bio-billboards for products (and non-products) for sale. One-click purchases for the dopamine junkies.

Possible titles? Likes. Or Attention Economy.

I feel as though I have fallen into a post-Absurdist rabbit hole of inclusion addiction.  The thought of being irrelevant and untethered in this international, intercultural, intergenerational buzz of avatars is terrifying.

“Great poets are the antennae of the race, with more than rabbit ears.” (L.F.)

What is it to be a poet in this world? International, intercultural, intergenerational. Virtual.

My social-media life was the opposite of poetry. Since 2016, I’ve experienced it as divisive. I am tired of labels.  Even the silly ones. What kind of pizza are you? Which French philosopher? I understand that categories are useful. Scientists find use in them. But poets shouldn’t. Poets are occupied with the truth. And the truth is always a platypus.

I crave the deep work. The work of sincere attention necessary for poetry. I want to close my eyes and rediscover my senses. I want to fight against the stenciled concepts I’ve adopted.

I was surprised, and pleased to see Donna Vorreyer’s tweet about a poetry blog revival last week.

“Poetry assuages our absolute loneliness in the lonely universe.” (L.F.)

I feel less alone in my longings, though still anxious. How can I participate in a poetry community in a healthy way?

Gertrude Stein said she wrote for strangers and herself. Last year I wrote open letters to specific people, as an attempt to ground myself in virtual relationships. This year, I will write open letters on the subject of poetry – to myself.  I will be working on my relationship with poetry.

“A poem is still a knock on the door of the unknown.” (L.F.) 

They say if a writer has a website or blog, we are obligated to consider that the reader is asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?”

If you have read this far, then I suppose you are the stranger to whom I’m writing: the unknown guest. I don’t know what’s in it for you. Maybe if a word here somehow opens a door to your own deep work, we are a poetry community in this immediate virtual space.

And maybe you will write back to this stranger, and show me a bit of your unknown?

Poetry is not a “product”, it is an elementary particle. […] The poet pieces the wild beast together. (L.F.)

Thank you for reading. 

(p.s. The poetry blog revival blogs can be reached via the links page.)

I’ve been ill again this week, which meant slowing down. I read a lot. I reread some, too. A quote from the YA novel Sophie’s World:

The only thing an astrologer can do is predict the past.

That is a call for magic if I ever heard one.

I have been thinking a lot again about the double slit experiment, and how nothing happens in the world until it has been observed. I have been thinking about where I put my attention. And what, by doing so, I help make happen in the world.

So I am off most social media now, which seems to me to be a place of ugliness, outrage and memes that are basically a processes of continual recontextualisation, in a quest to create the greatest possible divide between people.

A democracy can quickly develop into mob rule.

Also from Sophie’s World.

20171001_102955.jpg

Looking back, I was most creative when I was without a television, and before personal computers. Sometimes lonely. But most often, in a place of solitude. In a place where I thought deeply before I said anything – had an opportunity to say anything – and had time to think twice about it all.

When I had them, social interactions were more than an exchange of witty sound bites. Or an attempt to control what people thought of me.

I had more questions than presumptions then. Even sober, I was more intrigued by the world, than I was suspicious of its motives.

I’ve been thinking about Shakespeare’s “sound and fury”.  All our fretting. And what futile noise we make.

I want to observe more in the space between the noise: more of the trees in the wind, more of the birds (who are sheltering in the bushes on this rainy morning).

A soft autumn is settling, and I am going to help conjure it into being.

(or: Why I left Facebook)

1. A partisan-dream of a headline in my Facebook feed. Baited, I click over and there is no article – no information – just a few lines of “content” and links to the kind of ads that used to come as unaddressed junk mail pamplets in a 3-dimensional mailbox.

2. An article in my feed written by a twenty-something giving advice about making it big in the “art” world (my quotes). It includes the advice to be an amateur first, and dump everything your amateur attempts produce onto YouTube because eventually something will go viral. The author of the article uses the phrase “Quantity becomes Quality”, apparently without intentional irony.

3. Yet another article in my feed uses the phrase “attention economy”. It is the first time I have noticed this label. I never thought there would be anything more dehumanising than capitalism.

4. Therese May gives a speech while wearing a bracelet featuring a famous Leninist. First thought? Mail Trump a Che Guevara T-shirt for their next hand-holding photo op. Second thought? Self-congratulatory chuckle, and note-to-self to post this on Facebook.

5. I got another heads-up: Do not “friend” XXX on Facebook because they are a hacker. Last time, this warning was in English. This time in Norwegian. I think: What if this meme began when a 15 year-old girl in San Francisco tried to ostracise her rival in a clever way. And now, 5 poets in Boulder Colorado, a 75 year-old woman in Norway, and I are are among the thousands inadvertently helping?

6. A Dutch photographer with racy wedding picts says, “This isn’t 1900”. Another headline in the “news” (again, quotes are mine). First thought? Send this guy a link with some Ancient Roman ceramic motifs. And maybe some etchings from the Victorian era? Second thought? We have, literally in our hands, pedestrian access to historical information on a scale that no one could have dreamed of in 1900. And yet, we are still stuck in our adolescent view of having invented everything ourselves – from sex, to hand-wringing despair over the idiocy of the younger generation.

That’s it. Now, I am going to go read from an old-fashioned codex book, dog-ear the pages, and scribble marginalia as a futile act of necromancy.

Because, as I am sure you agree, everything was better before.

Sunday Thoughts: Aeon.co short film by Chris Landreth.

At the risk of courting the ire of my friends who feel strongly on the subject of monetary compensation for their art work (and I do not disagree, in general), I believe this is where we go wrong: believing we are entitled to economic compensation for “our” genius (I rather like the Ancient Greek take on what genius is). If we assume that our creativity is a means to a capitalist end, or a justification for the unique and privileged social status of “artist”, then perhaps we are forgetting that creating art is also a factor/condition of our human existence. Artists who resort to self-destruction out of spite in the face of what they feel is a lack of recognition do have my compassion, but not my respect.

What are we striving for? Why do we create, really? (After all, history is a fickle thing: ethically abhorrent men remembered as icons for things they never stood for; the truly compassionate, who gave joy to people around them, too often forgotten entirely in a generation.)

This film is beautiful. And sad. And frustrating. But, honestly, it makes me want to walk down to the park, write poems on paper, and fold them into tiny boats that will disintegrate in the shining lake. That kind of fragility might just be the right kind for me today. That kind of art.

This Choice is Who You Are has been my mantra these past years: a mantra for becoming the person I want to be. I believe that choosing to live with the attention that poetry demands is a good start.

In the podcasts, I look to other artists to learn from their experiences.

I ask poets how their work with poetry influences the choices they make in their daily lives, and how these, in turn, affect their sense of self and their relationships.

How are they using the experience of art to shape The Good Life for themselves?


AAEAAQAAAAAAAAmpAAAAJDUzMjMwNTY1LTE1N2MtNDQxNS1iMDk3LTU3YjZlZmUwNGZmZAMadeleine Beckman is a poet, fiction, and nonfiction writer. She is the recipient of awards and grants from, among other places, the Poetry Society of America, New York Foundation for the Arts, Heinrich Böll Cottage, Ireland; Fundación Valparaíso, Spain; and Zvona i Nari, Croatia.

Her poetry collections include Hyacinths from the Wreckage  (Serving House Books), No Roadmap, No Brakes (Redbird Chapbooks), and Dead Boyfriends (Linear Arts Books). Her work has been published in journals, anthologies, and online.

Madeleine is Contributing Editor for the Bellevue Literary Review and Agora: Literature and ArtsJournal (both NYU School of Medicine). She teaches Narrative and Reflective Writing at NYU School of Medicine in the Division of Medical Humanities.

For more information, see http://writedowntown.com.


Poets mentioned in the podcast include:
Carolyn Kizer
Seamus Heaney
May Swenson, “Painting the Gate

 


Original music and artwork by Karl R. Powell.

Please subscribe through Soundcloud,  iTunes or your podcast app. Consider liking the Facebook page, to help spread the word. And, lastly, if you want to suggest a writer I should interview, please Get In Touch.

This Choice is Who You Are has been my mantra these past years: a mantra for becoming the person I want to be. I believe that choosing to live with the attention that poetry demands is a good start.

In the podcasts, I look to other artists to learn from their experiences.

I ask poets how their work with poetry influences the choices they make in their daily lives, and how these, in turn, affect their sense of self and their relationships.

How are they using the experience of art to shape The Good Life for themselves?


JedThePoet

Jed Myers lives in Seattle, where he is a psychiatrist with a therapy practice and teaches at the University of Washington.

His poetry collections include Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), the chapbook The Nameless (Finishing Line Press), and the limited-edition handmade chapbook Between Dream and Flesh (forthcoming, Egress Studio Press). Among honors received are Southern Indiana Review’s Editors’ Award, the Literal Latte Poetry Award, New Southerner’s James Baker Hall Memorial Prize, Blue Lyra Review’s Longish Poem Award, and, in the UK, the McLellan Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, The Greensboro Review, Crab Orchard Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, The National Poetry Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Rise Up Review, DIAGRAM, Canary, Solstice, Magma, the anthology Two Countries: US Daughters & Sons of Immigrant Parents (Red Hen Press), and elsewhere. Jed has for many years played a part in the open-mic community in Seattle, now helping to maintain the consortium Seattle Easy Speak. He is Poetry Editor for the journal Bracken.


Poets mentioned in the podcast include:
Allen Ginsberg
Robert Creeley
Louise Glück


Original music and artwork by Karl R. Powell.

Please subscribe through Soundcloud,  iTunes or your podcast app. Consider liking the Facebook page, to help spread the word. And, lastly, if you want to suggest a writer I should interview, please Get In Touch.