James Victore (by Like Knows Like)
Lots of love for this series, but this particular feature on James Victore resonates. Maybe it’s the story of the artist-educator. Maybe it’s the James Joyce quote: “In the particular lies the universal”, with which I can push the poets I work with for more specificity (always more specificity…)
Or maybe it’s the acknowledgement of the need to connect with what your real drivers are and create the work that NEEDS to be created. I’ve said it to a couple of people already, but I’ve hit that five year bar. I’ve come upon a natural life cycle— every five years, I work through my project list and remove the things that are no longer in line with my current purpose. The last cull happened in 2009, so I’m about due. Make the work that NEEDS to be made. Sounds like a good driver to me…
PAUL MULDOON: I believe so. Poetry is still too often perceived as being too difficult for the common man. That’s partly because we expect to be able to read poetry without being educated in it. We don’t have the same expectations of astrophysics, aeronautical engineering, algebra or even making a passable avgolemono.
THE: What advice would you give to your younger self?
PAUL MULDOON: Don’t give up the piano lessons.
THE: What are the best and worst things about your job?
PAUL MULDOON: I have several jobs but, in terms of the teaching, I consider it a privilege to work with students. I can’t bear teachers who complain about their jobs. More often than not, they’ve no idea how lucky they are. I know it’s a truism, but I definitely learn from my students. I sometimes teach translation, for example, and I have been introduced by my students to whole swathes of literature I simply wouldn’t have known about.
- MESS : Douglas Kearney : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation
Thomas Merton, from New Seeds of Contemplation
Dear Self: so yeah, today’s a birthday. You’re doing the smart thing, paying down on the sleep debt you’ve accrued for the past week or so (20 hours of shut-eye over six nights? Seriously?), reflecting on the time that’s passed since the last time you were here, thinking on how you might invest the next 365 days. Time to remember all the steps you take towards your better self. Today’s theme is rededication. But don’t spend all afternoon. The sun’s shining, and the skies are blue— invitation to get outside and soak it all in. Or, as Merton says, join the general dance.
“The challenge is to revise and rewrite long after the original excitement over the piece has faded,…”
If you’re holed up in your room, staring at your computer screen, resolutely building an Elvis of your own, I salute you. If you’ve ever gotten so sick of working on a particular project you couldn’t bear to even look at it for a week, or a month or a year, but one day you sighed, cracked your knuckles and hauled yourself off the sofa to start that fourth draft, I salute you.”
In the same paragraph, Updike also says “Had poetry paid as well as fiction, I would have written more of it.”
"I think poetry has really rather connived at its own irrelevance and that shouldn’t happen, because it’s the most delightful thing," said Paxman. "It seems to me very often that poets now seem to be talking to other poets and that is not talking to people as a whole."
His words come as official figures show a decline in poetry sales. Five years ago, in 2009, sales of poetry stood at £8.4m. By 2013, they had fallen to £7.8m, according to Nielsen BookScan.
Michael Symmons Roberts, a poet who has both won and judged the Forward prize, said that Paxman’s proclamation was “not without foundation in terms of the symptoms – it would be stupid for poets to say poetry is as dominant as the novel” – but he disagreed with Paxman’s diagnosis.
"Poetry doesn’t have the currency in our culture that novels and films have – people who would be embarrassed not to have read the latest Julian Barnes or Martin Amis are not the slightest bit embarrassed not to have read the latest John Burnside or Carol Ann Duffy. But I don’t believe it’s quite good enough to say this is a problem of poets and poetry – it’s far more complex," said Roberts.”
Paxman is also quoted as saying that poetry should “aim to engage with ordinary people much more”. Surely, the notion of whether poetry engages adequately with “ordinary people” depends on the poetry you’re actually considering? Maybe what’s required here is a spotlight on engaging, challenging work that engages with the kind of ordinary people Paxman is referring to? That such work exists is not the question, rather where it can be found, and how it is celebrated/valued, particularly in relation to other works. Which essentially reduces to the question: who determines what “poetry” is, or more accurately, who determines which (of the various different forms of) poetry receives accolades and prestige?
“The written word is weak. Many people prefer life to it. Life gets your blood going, and it smells…”
- Annie Dillard (via John Estes)
“Nature is full of branches because if you want to be close to a lot of space with minimal increase…”
Nature is full of branches because if you want to be close to a lot of space with minimal increase in your own volume, your best bet is a structure that forks and sub-forks. This is how birds make wings: they send out a bone with a little quick tissue and feather roots, and from them grow rachis, and from them grow barbs, and from them grow barbules, and from them grow barbicels, between which the gaps are so small that air doesn’t bother trying to get through, and the bird has made something the shape of an airfoil without having to fill it with heavy meat. Branching is also how plants fill out their space in the air to collect sunlight and CO2, and underground to find solid nutrients. The structures of your nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems are similarly manifold.
But the principle is deeper than life itself. It’s how rivers work: though we don’t ascribe intent, a river needs to approach every part of its basin in the sense that erosion will make it grow streams and rivulets until it does. It doesn’t even have to be water. Fluid dynamicists use the phrase viscous fingering to describe this kind of structure in their domain.
In fact, apparently in some sense it might be deeper than physics, because – assuming MLC is true – the Mandelbrot, a piece of abstract math, has some desire-less need to connect its infinite brood.”
This isn’t “poetry”. And yet it is. New definition: poetry = an indeterminable number of ways to pay attention to and fall in love with the world and all it’s truths, half-truths and lies.
BH: None. Should sounds like eating vegetables. I'm sorry— I sort of criticised your question there. But I don't like should. I'm guessing that your question has to do, in part, with poetry's diminished status in our culture. I certainly wish poetry still didn't seem so strange to people. Which is weird, given that, if people write, they're more likely to write poetry than anything else, in my experience. With that in mind, I think poetry is an every-day thing for many.
The winner of last night’s ZAP! Slam, São Paulo, as part of the FLUPP literary festival. In the third and final round, he performed a piece that consisted of two and a half minutes of silence, and a line that said something about how we are all mute in some way or another. I didn’t get a precise translation. Take note: there’s an art to holding your ground against expectation for two and a half minutes when every other piece before yours has put forward some kind of passionate exclamation. He approached the mic and backed away, toyed with us just enough so we didn’t question that it was all leading to something, and finally delivered. In conversation after the set, he called it a Kamikaze slam poem. For sure… but what a way to kill a slam, to subvert the form… #vscocam
Nicholas Bate consistently brings the good. If I had a fantasy faculty for a professional development programme for creatives, he’d be a first draft pick every time.
“I contribute in a variety of ways (if we must derive value from the idea of contributions): I have a…”
Dear poet: read the linked article immediately. Dear people who aren’t poets: please do the same. It certainly reminds me of a few too many conversations I’ve experienced. “So you’re a poet, eh?” they say with the kind of casual sneer reserved for someone who’s said they’ve just seen a unicorn…
Mr. Steidl, you scheduled this interview at 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning. Do you always work on weekends?
Yes on Saturdays and Sundays. Those are the only days in the week where I can work concentrated on concepts for books, I can do my drawings for book covers and book design. I don’t have to open my mouth, I am silent, I listen to the radio, classical music, and I do just what I want.
Do you ever take time off or is the printing process such a passion for you that you don’t need to?
I am of course not risking my health and my physical power just for printing jobs and without six and a half hours of sleep at night I am of no use the next day, but actually throughout the year I don’t need vacations or days off. I have the privilege that I spend the day doing whatever I want. That keeps you fresher. It is more a question of discipline and something that you have to learn. Since I have been working for 45 years, I have learned to be disciplined.
Hvísl - Whispers of Iceland (by schundoe)
An interactive Art Book; by Bertrand Lanthiez & Chloé Curé
This, where text = poetry. Ambient supporting audio and imagery alongside. Could be rendered as an app, but the tactility of the book, the idea of book as artefact that offers unfussy multimedia interactivity… yes.
“Often my subjects are the simplest things in the world: joy, family, the weather, houses, streets….”
- Zadie Smith— Storytelling Is A Magical, Ruthless Discipline (via TheLi.st
“English Literature A Level concentrates only on literature (the clue is in the title). The English…”
- Letter to The Sunday Times in support of A Level English Language and Literature via English & Media Centre
“so you have to live the poem with your whole mind and body. This is why performance poetry has had…”
- Why performance is the embodiment of poetry— Michael Rosen (via The Guardian)