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“A poem is something that happens. It is not words or characters on a page, and it is not a…”

“A poem is something that happens. It is not words or characters on a page, and it is not a performance by the artist: the artist makes the means or occasion for the poem to happen in the reader, an action spirited into being. This process from maker to work to recipient, a process so ancient it seems natural, is itself a human creation, like any other social form.”

- Robert Pinsky, via Paris Review
Oct 24

“For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into…”

“For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones — for it is the secret of proper timing. No rush. No dawdle. Just the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind. Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present.”

- Alan Watts in Does It Matter? Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality (via Literary Jukebox)
Oct 23

“If you’re a black person who has ever visited a place where there aren’t many other black people,…”

“If you’re a black person who has ever visited a place where there aren’t many other black people, then you will be familiar with The Nod. The Nod is just that: An almost imperceptible lowering of the head toward any other black person you might encounter on your travels through, say, Slovakia or Russia. Yet The Nod is also so much more than that: It’s a swift yet intimate statement of ethnic solidarity. The Nod is saying, “Wow, well, I really didn’t expect to see another one of us out here, but you seem to be doing your thing just fine. More power to you, and all the very best.””

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The Nod: A Subtle Lowering of the Head to Another Black Person in an Overwhelmingly White Place — Musa Okwonga

I know this nod.

And I find some of the comments here fascinating— those that seek to claim the “nod” as a universal gesture that doesn’t depend on race or culture, as if to challenge Musa’s authority on his own experience, or to somehow assert how good the commenter is in not seeing race or being affected by associated concerns and considerations.

Maybe this nod is not the nod you know. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.

Oct 22

“It’s possible to bend language to your will, to invest extraordinary amounts of effort and…”

It’s possible to bend language to your will, to invest extraordinary amounts of effort and care to make words do what you want them to do.

Our culture celebrates athletes that shape their bodies, and chieftains who build organizations. Lesser known, but more available, is the ability to work on our words until they succeed in transmitting our ideas and causing action.

Here’s the thing: you may not have the resources or the physique or the connections that people who do other sorts of work have. But you do have precisely the same keyboard as everyone else. It’s the most level playing field we’ve got.



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Seth Godin on doing the word.

To do it well, bookmark this evolving library of notable advice on writing from celebrated authors, then revisit Steven Pinker on the art and cognitive science of effective writing.

(via explore-blog)

Oct 22

forthenandevermore Tumblr says that my photoblog turned five…



forthenandevermore

Tumblr says that my photoblog turned five yesterday. Five years old. Wow. Does that make me a Tumblr OG?* To scroll back through five years of random capture is not only homage to the things I’ve seen in that time, but also the tools I’ve used to shoot over the years. Most of the early images were shot via Hipstamatic (aka what we did for Instagram before Instagram came on the scene) on an iPhone 3G. Then there’s a medium format phase, where I shot with with a Yashica 124G and a Bronica ETRS-i, before going back to an iPhone for a bit, and a Sony NEX 5N. Most of the recent captures come from VSCO cam, via my iPhone 5, but there’s a new camera in the family (the Sony A7) that I’m itching to get something more exciting that pictures of my living room floor and other lens tests with. There’s a memory card of recent shots that I need to make some time to flick through…

Of course, the accepted wisdom of the day is that the tools don’t really matter, it’s how you use them that counts. The above is one of my favourite images from FTAEM. Carnival, a few years back, a couple kissing in the middle of the crowd. And although there are those out there who’ll sigh for me fawning over kit, I got this picture with a Yashica 124G— it didn’t feel as solid in the hand as the Bronica, but it was capable of some gorgeous images.

*Speaking of Tumblr-OGism— turns out that Miscellany (the very same blog you’re reading right now) turned 7 earlier this month. Tumblr launched in February 2007. Miscellany started a mere 8 months after. I’ll hold my breath for a certificate of early adoption…

Oct 21

“I have had a troublesome relationship with time. The past I cannot trust because it could be tainted…”

“I have had a troublesome relationship with time. The past I cannot trust because it could be tainted by my memory. The future is hypothetical and is to be treated with caution. The present, what is the present but a constant test: in this muddled in-between one struggles to understand what about oneself has to be changed, what to be accepted, what to be preserved; unless the right actions are taken one seems never to pass the test to reach the after.”

- Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life— Yiyun Li (via This Is A Public Space)
Oct 20

(via Milky Way photo: The galactic center by Robert…



(via Milky Way photo: The galactic center by Robert Gendler.)

"The sheer scale of space is overwhelming. Oh, sure, we have words to make it more palatable, like “light-years”—as if a distance of 10 trillion kilometers is graspable by our puny simian brains.

"And that’s when I can’t do it any more. The numbers I understand, but the reality of them is too huge.

"When I was a kid—this is true—I used to look up at the sky and fear that some day we’d explore everything and run out of things to discover.

"I was completely wrong. We’ll never run out of sky. Just look at it."

Writing challenge: Focus on an issue, theme or natural phenomena that dwarfs you. Something so large that you lose any sense of individual self whenever you attempt to approach it. Explore it in the body of a piece of writing— more for the feel of it than the facts. How do you communicate and detail the sheer mass of what you’re faced by? The sense of mortal scale? And how, in the resolution of the piece, can you focus down to a single digestible detail?

Oct 14

explore-blog: Rebecca Solnit on the solitary intimacy of…



explore-blog:

Rebecca Solnit on the solitary intimacy of reading and writing – so beautiful.

Oct 14

Ah— on the road. This is specifically about driving, but I think…



Ah— on the road. This is specifically about driving, but I think it goes without saying that there’s something appealing about being in the road in the wider sense, travelling beyond the context of the everyday, connecting with parts of yourself that are quietened or subsumed by the demands of the life you settle into…

Oct 11

“There are still hurdles, still misconceptions and instances of dilution where a poet of colour…”

“There are still hurdles, still misconceptions and instances of dilution where a poet of colour perceives the need to culturally sanitise one’s self to be published. The challenge for young poets then is the exercise of balance and the further grounding and scrutiny of one’s poetics. Who exactly are you? Why do you write the way you write? What is it doing within the contemporary canon?”

- Poetic Movements: An Interview with Inua Ellams | Don’t Do It
Oct 10

“When you are very young, you think old people must feel inside as old as they appear on the outside….”

“When you are very young, you think old people must feel inside as old as they appear on the outside. But as you move towards agedness yourself, you realise that this is entirely wrong. People remain young on the inside, no matter how old they appear. The idea of ‘old’ people is therefore a misapprehension of our culture, which sees the split instant of a human lifetime as something elongated, divided into decades and years, persistently defined by a number. But there are no ‘old people’. Everyone is young. The only clue you have about this is your own journey as a subjective intelligence looking out. You wait for a change to descend, some radical shift of thinking which will fit with your balding head or wrinkling face. But it doesn’t come: you get giddier and more childish. I had this insight very strongly at Mount Melleray, when I realised that all these men, like myself, were teenagers, or maybe children, in their heads.”

- Inside Mount Melleray: ‘The world as you know it is passing away’. I don’t think this misperception is something that only the “very young” have: people of forty or more years tend to believe that somehow, as you age, your inner life comes to match your outward appearance. But as Waters, says, it’s not true. It’s not true at all. (via ayjay)
Oct 10

“Every keystroke you type is one stroke closer to your last. And because every keystroke counts the…”

“Every keystroke you type is one stroke closer to your last. And because every keystroke counts the same, why spend so many of those keystrokes answering emails that 1 person will read and then never look at again, when you could be using those same keystrokes to write an article that will help a thousand people? Or a blog comment that 10 people will read? Or a poem that 25 people will enjoy?”

- "Email is Where Keystrokes Go to Die." - James Clear
Oct 9

“The black poet who writes about his or her own daily experiences – some of them negative – faces…”

“The black poet who writes about his or her own daily experiences – some of them negative – faces this constant risk, of being nervously applauded but silently dismissed. This is part of the anxiety of being a black poet in Britain. Yeah yeah yeah – the black poet imagines the audience saying — we’ve heard this song and dance already. Boohoo! Grow up! Get over yourself! The anxiety is sometimes a quite useful one, for every poem has its world and its history of clichés that must be recognized, avoided, and then made new.”

- Kei Miller— The Anxieties of Being a Black Poet in Britain | Under the Saltire Flag
Oct 8

“The power of a classroom should never [be] that kids walk away thinking about how smart their…”

“The power of a classroom should never [be] that kids walk away thinking about how smart their teacher is… the power of a classroom is best when the students walk away with the confidence of knowing how smart and capable they — and all their classmates — are.”

- The Kids Are As Smart As You | Practical Theory
Oct 7

“It is being written in kitchens. It is being written in the limp light of cheap 40-watt bulbs, while…”

It is being written in kitchens. It is being written in the limp light of cheap 40-watt bulbs, while beside you, slouched in a chair or marooned on the couch your lover or your mother sleeps. There is the smell of liver and onions in the air. Waves of garlic descend upon the paper as you write. It is being written beside cat boxes or with old black-painted typewriters whose keys continually jam. It is being written while hamsters breed, where cockatoos work their beaks against the cage. It is morning in Alsace, Louisiana. Two poets arrive in an old black car which diesels after the motor is shut off. They step out off towards the lawn and there are greeted by a third, who is very excited, and wants to show them something. It is being written in tiny cabins up near the Arctic Circle where were it not for the ambivalent howling of the wind one could conceivably hear and be frightened by and take for one’s subject the ambivalent howling of the wolves. It is being written by men who no longer love their wives, who hate their fathers-in-law, by women who cheat on their husbands, by thousands of people old and young who feel molested by life, or cheated by the past, or crippled in the present. It is being written by young girls whose feet have ungainly long second toes, by young men with brains instead of muscles, and whose faces are moon scapes of acne, by young men whose parents cannot even read the labels off soup cans. People walk up and down the aisles of groceries and eye the soup cans. Housewives in put-up hair, in beige, shapeless and wrinkled raincoats shift in their choices between this kind of cracker or that bread, their eyes dull and glassy or ferocious with unacknowledged passion. A boy is stooping to line up bottles of fabric softener, self-conscious and hot around the collar. And he is a poet. Women stand pounding the check-out registers, from soup to nuts, free dog bones, mastocelli noodles, and all with migraines. And they are poets. The manager sits in his tiny booth and counts receipts, now and then staring out over the vast panorama which is this voiceless, heartless, mute and lonely humanity, robot-like as they, passing, push their wire carts. Someday, he will write the great poem of their souls.

It is everywhere this poetry. It is the sacred name of every place, it is the nut and bolt, the bleeder valve, the kite string of reality. It is the deep end of the pool, whose water shivers, whose bottom backs off into blue. It is the unsung, the unsaid, it is the uttered and the barely felt, the blue bird, the red. It is the ache at midnight, the slap in the face, the letter, neglected for so long, we were meaning to write to that which within us has waited, aching for so long.



- Greg Kuzma, from an introductory note in What Poetry Is All About. This isn’t even the introduction. This is from a note preceding the introduction and the subsequent updated introductions, one for each edition of the text, up until an introduction to the fifth edition, which is the one I found in a treasure trove of secondhand books in Philadelphia. It was near closing, clean on the other side of Philly from where I was staying, and I was travelling out of the city the following morning. And I’m so glad I made the effort to get there. Because I found this.
Oct 6

Photo



Oct 5

“We know what poetry is in our bones. Everyone does. For a writer it is a particular sense of the…”

“We know what poetry is in our bones. Everyone does. For a writer it is a particular sense of the world as it meets language. It is the way words strike each other and form something beyond themselves. It is not lyrical speech or a pretty way of saying something. It is language that is compelling in its own way however simple or difficult, or hot or cold, or direct or ironic it might be. It is the world and our experience of it in language. It is complexity coming to a shape, becoming a process that reads as meaning. It is all the terrible and beautiful things we fear, know, hope, and imagine assuming a comprehensible shape in words.”

- George Szirtes: Why Poetry?
Oct 4

“If I met me, but younger, we’d talk about the value of one thing. You have to choose one thing to do…”

“If I met me, but younger, we’d talk about the value of one thing. You have to choose one thing to do for yourself every day. No matter what practice you choose — how fulfilling or meaningful — it will sometimes overwhelm you. Choose something for yourself every day. Do it repeatedly and without fail. If you do something for yourself every day, no matter how many standoffs or negotiations or letdowns you face throughout the day, no one can take that away from you.”

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Stillness In Motion— Liz Danzico

Part of the narrative of late has been about returning to practice, rededicating to routine. I came back from South Africa and found myself facing a hefty mountain of work to drive through. And sometimes it feels thankless. Sometimes it’s harder to see the big picture— the “why”, when you’re in the mucky trenches. Before I came across Liz’s post, I was also thinking about the idea of small victories— ensuring that I celebrate at least one thing every day that stands as a victory or success, no matter how small. This resonates nicely.

Oct 1

“The idea is for the installation to quite literally paint the…



"The idea is for the installation to quite literally paint the mood of the city using social media feeds as an input. “The installation takes electronic signals and lets them manifest themselves in the physical world. Using sentiment analytics, the installation links tweets to corresponding coloured paints in real-time, feeding them out through the top of the sculpture, letting them flow into a procedurally generated three-dimensional painting”, says Lauritzsen on his website. Users tweet messages like “annoyed” or “feeling good” and these emotions correspond to different colours of paint which spills out of the pedestal."

(via Protein)

On-trend making-of/promo video featuring trip-dub electronica soundtrack? Check.

Knocks aside, I’m a sucker for this kind of “visualisation”. It’s a little like Jonathan Harris’ We Feel Fine, except the visualisation extrudes into the real, physical world. I think there’s more mileage in projects that blur the boundaries between the digital and the analog like this— playing across the space that divides the virtual and the real.

Tangent 1: I’m going to be a little more stringent in the way I blog about these kinds of tech experiments from here on out. I’ll be using the tag “digital humanities”, at least until I devise a more appropriate taxonomy.

Tangent: If the trip-dub soundtrack appeals, check out Willas Rod for more in the same vein.

Sep 27

“I like my memories as they are, like thousand year old insects preserved whole in amber. Old loves…”

“I like my memories as they are, like thousand year old insects preserved whole in amber. Old loves and grudges, the way things smelled that day out on the boat, or the strong metallic taste of fear in the mouth when we got caught stealing. Maybe it wasn’t that way at all. Maybe these memories are entirely wrong and I have created or been distorting them for decades. But most antique dealers will tell you never to clean up or polish old metal because the patina that has built up on the surface over the years greatly enhances the look of the piece. So too with many memories, I believe.”

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Old Loves and Grudges — Medium

Writing challenge: list a series of striking memories. Select one. Interrogate that memory, the memory itself, as if it were a loved but untrustworthy narrator. Beyond what it always offers (a narrative, the details, the moment that’s lodged in your recollection), what other gifts does that memory bear? What do you owe it? What has it allowed you to do or stopped you from doing?

Sep 26