Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

New Shit!

Posted: January 4, 2016 in Ink's Poetry, Misc

A while back, my keyboard became a source of anxiety. There was simply too much possibility, and indecision choked my ability to output. The coward I was decided to turn my writing efforts towards the safety of the analytical. And while that was fun for a while, I realized over time that I became bored with writing simply to write — something that became clear as I increasingly failed to lend anything substantive to an existing and growing discourse. Even a column initially undertaken for fun turned into something that felt, at least from the grip of my own pen, dry and manufactured — uninspired. In other words, I became comfortable, bored, and, even worse, irrelevant.

My venture into pop media analysis, specifically dealing with Japanese cartoons, at least deepened my appreciation for poetry on some level. While consuming mass quantities of brightly colored animated series and movies, I noticed many instances of the honor given to poets and poems. Upon further investigation into name drops and quoted lines, I traced poetic evolution in Japan, discovered new favorite poets and poems, and became enamored of various poetic forms. I even toured a two-hour presentation on the importance of instances of poetry in Japanese animation (anime) to nothing but applause. (Plans are in motion to make a blog of “Poetry in Anime: the Power of Words in a Visual Medium,” as I believe the presentation has value for introductions and reference as well as generating general interest in poetry and animation.) But all of that effort was ultimately homesickness in the guise of big doe eyes gushing elephant-sized tears.

I honestly don’t know if I have anything original to say anymore (or anything unoriginal to say originally). I know I certainly regret, or at least disagree in part with, (how I’ve said) some of the things I’ve published previously. To that end, I announce the forthcoming Delinkuencies: Legacies, Corruptions, and Future Shame — a collection of revisions and new poems. I’ve also retooled my website, Inksblot.com (v4.0), with a cleaner look as well as a freelance editing services section. While on writing hiatus, I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy working with others to make their words the best they can be. Doing so calls to me almost as much as creating original works does.

So stay tuned. Newness is coming, but progress is a minute hand under constant watch.

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Haiku: an Animated Critique

Posted: November 14, 2012 in Misc
Tags: ,

The clip below comes from a stand-alone, day-in-the-life story of Sokka – a living, breathing, wise-cracking comic relief device within the animated world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. What it accomplishes so masterfully is a very tongue-in-cheek commentary on how contemporary American audiences appreciate haiku. The premise: Sokka, a member of the Water Tribe, finds himself in an Earth Kingdom town, where he accidentally disrupts a reading of haiku by several girls and their teacher. Watch (total running time for both videos is ~2 minutes):

How this is amazing:
After Sokka inadvertently issues a 17-syllable apology for his intrusion, note the girls’ giggles and applause. At its most vicious, this is academia passive aggressively humoring the clown, but given the young girls’ seemingly earnest reactions, it seems more appropriate to say that they represent contemporary culture lowering the bar for poetic excellence by living in the yuks of the moment – relishing the respite from tradition and all its oppressive rules. Sokka’s utterance is not intended to be a poem and, indeed, disregards all haiku rules (save the syllable count).

Obviously displeased with her pupils’ delighted reactions concerning Sokka’s coincidental phrasing, the teacher stands and counters with a blunt 17-syllable phrase that outlines the syllable requirements of haiku in 12 syllables and finishes with a blatant, 5-syllable insult that also serves to recognize Sokka’s accidental but proper senryu. She sinks down to his level by using plain language, expressing academia’s contempt for those who break form for no reason but accept laurels for what are accidental achievements. Not quite comprehending the rebuke (or encouraged/challenged by it), Sokka, a little more confident, counters with a prideful, 17-syllable introduction and refutation, this time purposefully ending on the seventeenth syllable to show his prowess. More giggling ensues; contemporary culture LOVES the challenge to history. Unfazed by the impression Sokka is making on her students, the teacher strikes back with all the power haiku is capable of pushing with:

chittering monkey
in the spring he climbs tree tops
and thinks himself tall

Here, the teacher attacks Sokka with the perfect haiku: the juxtaposition of two nature-based images, a seasonal word (kigo), a “cutting word” (or kireji, a word the indicated the emphasis of the poem), and yes…a 17-syllable format. While staring directly at Sokka, the teacher’s oral delivery of “Monkey,” not so coincidentally emphasized by “chittering,” is the kireji that identifies Sokka and his behavior regarding his performance (chittering like a monkey, meaning unimportant babble – insult #1). The rest of the poem describes Sokka’s pride in creating false haiku (thinking himself tall despite only having climbed a tree – insult #2).

In the next volley of 17-syllable plain language phrases, an un-disparaged Sokka ignorantly taunts the teacher’s formality by calling haiku easy, while the teacher, still trying to edify while warding off this disturbance, hints at the need for a seasonal word as well as the dedication of time which goes into the craft. Sokka fires back with a bit of crass inference that raises the teacher’s ire and makes her issue an all-out poetic threat:

there’s nuts and there’s fruit
in fall the clinging plum drops
always to be squashed

Again, an epic haiku: all show, no tell, and an emphatic foot stomp which results in a squashed plum (why and how she keeps plums up her sleeve…I really don’t want to know). As if to raise the ante in this epic battle, Sokka retaliates by bringing in his boomerang as both punchline and prop to his playful poem. It’s very important to notice that the word “slang” is invoked and used to express contempt for the teacher’s carefully crafted language by equating it to popular language that has yet to prove its stance against time. The teacher backs down, but not from show of force (Sokka’s raised boomerang). She’s had it playing with this fool and knows he, like all brash fools, will be his own undoing. After all, she has faith in what she’s taught her pupils and how they’ve learned (as evidenced by the first poem read in this story), and Sokka has not taken the time needed to master the poetry that will win their minds. Of course, the teacher is proven right; proud Sokka’s victory poem turns out one syllable too long, and the deviation from the form, unsupported by any other poetic elements, results in a cricket-backed silence and a hard boot out the door.

But think back to the beginning; Sokka is shown to be an appreciator of poetry. He’s melting over the windowsill. His disruption is not intentional. His continued disruption, however, is. Sokka’s ham-it-up nature gets the best of him, and the dreaded argument then rears its ugly head: is the laughter Sokka reaps from bastardizing the elements of haiku any less valuable than the emotions garnered from haiku that follow all the rules? Is reaching “the people” any less important than creating a poem that only epitomizes itself? How is expression worth anything if its essence is beyond most listeners’/readers’/viewers’ sense of patience? Is it still the same mode of expression if the rules are ignored? Concerning the latter, given the culture from which haiku comes and the history of the form, in which the same 5-7-5 structure has changed its name depending on how it has been used, I’d say the answer is no.

If all the requirements are not obliged, haiku is not haiku. It is very technically something else, which is why I fully support nomenclature deviations such as beer-ku (haiku format poems about beer), mean-ku (insult-based poems in haiku format), etc., which infer an aberration while hinting at/honoring the form from whence it was derived. Still, exceptions make the rule; even in classic Japanese literature you find haiku that crack if not break some borders. The difference? They are exceptions. So while it’s fun to ham it up and fool around with a poetic form most malleable, to expect a sustained welcome from the establishment when under-studied or lazy in practice is to test the patience and invoke the wrath of those who’ve toiled so in the name of love for the form which allowed you to get your quick laugh.

By Candlelight

Posted: November 4, 2012 in Misc

(pic via)

One of the lucky, I was only without power about 4 days due to Hurricane “Super Storm” Sandy. Since I work from home and there was not much else to be done in the dark, I took advantage of the absence of electric buzz to catch up on some reading. All of the following come with my enthusiastic recommendation:

Exit, Civilian” and “The Next Country” by Idra Novey
Boneshepherds” by Patrick Rosal
Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly
Poetry’s June, September, and October issues
“Drops of God,” Volume 4 and New World by Tadashi Agi
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Massacre Arc, Volume 1 by Ryukishi07
Or Something Like That” by Bud Smith

Reading the Higurashi manga and rereading a good chunk of “Frankenstein” by candlelight on Halloween was by far the best experience of the storm, or at least the most mood-appropriate. Idra Novey has quick become one of my favorite contemporary poets, and Patrick Rosal (whom I discovered at the Brooklyn Book Festival along with Ms. Novey) is definitely in the running as well. “Boneshepherds,” which I took for a collection that would have a few choice pieces but ultimately disappoint, had me fighting back sympathetic tears on more than one occasion and marveling at the author’s diversity of techniques and talent with the word most of the rest of the time. Of the issues of Poetry I finally caught up on, June, with its selection of W. S. Di Piero’s work, was the most enjoyable. And if you’ve yet to check out Bud Smith’s short story collection, “Or Something Like That,” do yourself the favor and stop procrastinating. The best thing about reading his stories is that he never takes the reader where they’ve been taught to expect to go, all the while with a humorous, Bukowski-influenced, realist wit.

You know the idiom. The running gag is that it’s the most literary table leg leveler ever, the muck on the towel after drying the dog from its romp through a muddy yard during a summer storm, the piece of toilet paper scraped from the sole of a shoe before leaving the bathroom to avoid being embarrassed while returning to the table at the center of the restaurant, the…well, you get the idea. Truth is, however, that this underground literary magazine is an (sub)urban legend and a gateway through which many up and coming authors can get their first taste of seeing their name and toil on inked-up paper that didn’t come from any printer of theirs.

Printed at the publisher’s own expense and distributed gratis anywhere within the wake of its editors’ travels, the idiom became a New Jersey literary staple for those seeking accessible, affective poetry from fresh voices. Its infamy was born out of controversy stemming back to one fateful day on Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus, wherefrom it was banned for perpetuity on the basis of being “pornography” (though an incident involving a paper mâché volcano might have also been involved). While this attempt at name sullying was an affirmation for a few, that same act proved to be an aphrodisiac for the many.

Under the magazine’s mantra of forgoing pretence “to focus on the simplicity and entertainment of the written word,” the idiom‘s editors have spent years building a readership base that has its bulk in the tri-state area but can be found all across the USA and even internationally. Now that the groundwork’s been laid and so many years of toil have netted continued interest and increasingly impressive submissions from amateur and professional writers alike, the idiom is coming up from the underground* and getting into the market-at-large. May god help us all and have mercy on our souls.

I once had an economics professor who proposed that it is impossible to get people to pay for that which they’ve already been getting for free. But the idiom‘s already proved that theory wrong with not one but two anthologies! And it’s not like one can’t see the struggle between love of sharing and desire to legitimize the rag; just look at the blog page that announces the paid subscriptions while also offering a link to a free PDF download and Flash-based, in-browser version! It is not clear whether or not the magazine will only be available in trade for greenbacks from here on in, if free vs. pay will be on a case-by-case basis, or if subscriptions are the only option to be priced, but I truly believe this could work. The editors have worked hard to establish the literary rag, most recently appearing (officially) at the Brooklyn Book Festival, and are working even harder now to make it, if not reputable, a pornographic literary force with which to be reckoned.

(Cover to Idiom Vol. 8 Issue 1, by Nicole Greenwood)

*Title and phrase taken from a song of the same name by Firewater

When I first wrote about the Kindle Fire, I didn’t adequately imagine just how much I would come to love it. App availability and Flash compatibility aside, it is a magnificent device.  When was the last time you heard me say “magnificent?” To prove this point, I submit for your approval the FREE subscription of the Kenyon Review that is available to all Kindle owners. Sure, the content is “limited,” but look what limited includes:

Elegy owed
—Bob Hicok—

In other languages
you are beautiful – mort, muerto – I wish
I spoke moon, I wish the bottom of the ocean
were sitting in that chair playing cards
and noticing how famous you are
on my cell phone – pictures of your eyes
guarding your nose and the fire
you set by walking, picture of dawn
getting up early to enthrall your skin – what I hate
about stars is they’re not candles
that make a joke of cake, that you blow on
and they die and come back, and you,
you’re not those candles either, how often I realize
I’m not breathing, to be like you
or just afraid to move at all, a lung
or finger, is it time already
for inventory, a mountain, I have three
of those, a bag of hair,  box of ashes, if you
were a cigarette I’d be cancer, if you
were a leaf, you were a leaf, every leaf, as far
as this tree can say.

This was from the Summer 2012 issue, which offers up a lot of other great pieces of poetry and prose as well. Also, the free subscription lets you flip through the journal in 2 modes: Page View and Text View. While the offering of both may seem a tad silly, the combination provides the look of a real journal with the functionality (search, highlight, look-up) of an eReader. Keeping abreast of the latest issue of said subscription is as effortless as going to your physical mailbox; a download starts automatically once connected to Wi-Fi when each new issue is available.

Honestly, I wish more literary journals would have such a tremendously well-designed eSubscription…even if not for free. Heck, after this last issue, I might just subscribe to get all the content. At $0.99/month, what the heck is the reason not to?

(The reproduction of the above poem is done so merely to illustrate the quality of poems offered via a free subscription. It is not meant to infringe upon copyrights of the Kenyon Review or Bob Hicok, whose book, “Elegy owed,” comes out in 2013 according to a couple sources and is fully recommended by this blog for purchase upon release.)