Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Can code really be poetry?

For poets who code, coders who write poetry, poetry reader who code and coders who read poetry... and whoever looks to push the envelopes of language and genre. Why? Because bloggers, do not live by announcement and PSA blogging alone. As inveterate content curators, we want to ~ are compelled ~ to share the interesting items we encounter in our cyberspace forays.

code11 520x245 Can code really be poetry?

I first saw the notion that “code is poetry” on the footer of the official WordPress.org site. From there on out the idea has sat percolating in the back of my head.

Certainly a programming language is, in some ways, like every other language…right? It has its own set of rules (syntax) and meaning (semantics). Like code, not everything written in English is beautiful, but when a programmer or a poet crafts something amazing, it’s easy to see how both start from surprisingly similar tools.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Call for poster poems: February

Saved to drafts and almost forgotten. With just two days left in February, it's now or never. A call for February poems in March would not make much sense. A call on the last day observes only the letter and that just barely. If time is still too short to compose, then read and enjoy the February poems served up as examples. Poster Poems is a good feature: I'll try to remember it... and earlier in the month.... Now to check Broadsided while there is still some February left...

Is the mood of February more winter or spring, death or rebirth? We look to poets from Thomas Kinsella, Boris Pasternak and Margaret Atwood for their thoughts
And so we find ourselves in February, at one time the last month of the Roman calendar and a time of ritual purification by washing. In Ireland, by way of contrast, it is officially the first month of spring, and the first day of the month was Imbolc, a Celtic fire festival. While the designation of early February as springtime often strikes us as lunacy, this mild year the first buds are appearing on the trees outside the window here already.

Spenser, in the prologue to his Shepheardes Calender poem for February, explicitly draws on the Roman tradition and the poem evokes the idea of the old age of the year to underpin its call for youths to respect their elders. The poem takes the form of a dialogue between the aged shepherd Thenot and Cuddie, a herdsman's boy. The youth is, at the beginning, contemptuous of the old, but the shepherd reminds him that distain for age is distain for God, the oldest being of all.
I wonder if Irish poet Thomas Kinsella had Spenser in mind when he wrote Mirror in February, a meditation on being: "Not young, and not renewable, but man." Writing in rural Ireland, Kinsella opens his poem with images that relate more to the springlike qualities of the month, a time of ploughing and sowing, but quickly moves through the notion of growth as "crumbling" to the image of his own changed face in the mirror. It's a powerful piece from a still under-rated master.
Margaret Atwood reminds us that there are other climates than the Mediterranean and temperate Irish ones, and her distinctly Canadian February is quite distinctly deepest winter. Having toyed with sinking into perpetual seasonal despair, the poem ends with a cry for the return of spring; even when it's 30 below, the will to live drives on.

Read the rest of Poster poems: February, more about and examples of February poems. Then try your hand at one of your own to post here or on The Guardian site.

And so we begin the second phase of our Poster Poems Calendar with a call for poems about February. The unseasonable cold snap that we in Ireland have escaped may leave you feeling old, or you may be sniffing the first traces of spring in the air. You might even want to document some specific February event that means something to you. Whatever your inspiration, please share your February poems here.
guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Thought of the Nile, poem

This time it is just a river in Egypt, but oh what a river, and a rift too. One of my places along the way.


A Thought of the Nile by Leigh Hunt

It flows through old hushed Egypt and its sands,
Like some grave mighty thought threading a dream,
And times and things, as in that vision, seem
Keeping along it their eternal stands,—
Caves, pillars, pyramids, the shepherd bands
That roamed through the young world, the glory extreme
Of high Sesostris, and that southern beam,
The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands.

Then comes a mightier silence, stern and strong,
'Twixt villages, and think how we shall take
Our own calm journey on for human sake.

Related Poems

Friday, February 24, 2012

Literary time travel: where would you go?

Reposted with all possible respect from Guardian Books because I can't decide where break and redirect to the link. In my defense, I urge one and all to visit the article to share where you would go, read others' choices, bookmark, subscribe an regularly visit The Guardian's Books and Poetry sections. Literary time travel is as much about places (my particular interest) and periods as it is about authors. I should reblog this yet again to places along the way, revisit literature of place and my own visited places in literature. In the meantime, Lisa Allerdice writes,

With a trip to Paris in the 20s the subject of Woody Allen's Oscar contender, we've been wondering which bookish era we'd most like to revisit

Midnight in Paris
Dream holiday: Tom Hiddleston as F Scott Fitzgerald and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris

Amid all the noise for The Artist, which looks set to clean up at the Oscars as it did at the Baftas, we on the Guardian books desk are gunning for another cinematic nostalgia-fest harking back to the same period. In the running for Best Picture, but with the bookies only giving it a 100/1 chance of winning, Midnight in Paris has been hailed as a return to form for Woody Allen, and described as a "perfect soufflé" by the Observer film critic Philip French. It might not have a performing dog, but it does have Papa Hemingway in a vest roaring "who wants a fight?" Like The Artist it is a warning against the dangers of romanticising the past as a Golden Age, but in direct contrast, it is all about words – writing and reading and talking.

For those who haven't seen it yet (it's just out on DVD, so watch it this Oscar weekend), this deliciously Allenesque confection of time-travel fantasy and rom-com stars the winsome Owen Wilson as Gil (in the Allen alter-ego role), as a dissatisfied American screenwriter and novelist-manqué on holiday in Paris with his spoilt fiancée Inéz and her neo-con parents. Returning alone and tipsy to his hotel one evening, he is surprised (not quite as much as you'd expect – you need to go with this one) when an antique car rolls up and whisks him to a party where he bumps into his heroes Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald. At the stroke of midnight each night he is transported back to the bohemian Paris of the 1920s: in the course of which, he tries to dissuade poor Zelda Fitzgerald from suicide, has his manuscript critiqued by Gertrude Stein (a scarily convincing Kathy Bates – forget the Carla Bruni cameo) and falls for Picasso's latest squeeze Adriana (a mesmerising Marion Cotillard). (Past or present, our hero is not at a loss for gorgeous young women – this is an Allen film, after all). While Gil is understandably thrilled to find himself in the middle of this glittering salon, the lovely Adriana hankers for La Belle Epoque, and, before you can say "soufflé", they are in the Moulin Rouge with Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas and Gauguin, who in turn see the Renaissance as the true Golden Age. You get the point.

While our colleagues on the film desk were busy ranking Midnight in Paris in Allen's oeuvre, or, ahem, comparing it to that silent Swedish masterpiece by well-known director Victor Sjostrom, back on books it got us thinking about where and when we would most like to go – that old fantasy (in this case literary) dinner party game. Drinking and brawling in London taverns with Jonson and Marlowe? On the road with the Beats? Nineteenth-century Russia? Chilly. Tea in New York with Henry James and Edith Wharton (he used to try and fix her up with men he found attractive, apparently)? Coffee with Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins? Exhausting. Lunch at the Algonquin with Dorothy Parker and co? Scary. A mountain ramble with a couple of Romantic poets? Shooting the breeze with Beckett and Joyce? Down the pub with Larkin and Amis? I know I'm roving all over the place, but that's the idea.

Only the Bloomsbury set, perhaps, compares with the 1920s Parisian Lost Generation – but Michael Cunningham rather got there first with The Hours (also made into a film, of course) and it wasn't nearly as jolly. I'd love to pop in on Jane Austen, but her house in Chawton is not far from my mum's (the museum was a regular Sunday outing) and it seems a pity to go back in time and end up just down the road. It would be fun to spend a day in the airing cupboard with the Mitfords, but I'd never get the in-jokes or understand Boudledidge, their private language. Not to mention the dodgy politics. And I wouldn't mind being the one to settle those niggling Shakespeare authorship and biography questions once and for all. But who would ever believe you?

So, if an old-fashioned car, or horse and carriage, or rickety old cart, were to pull up near you at the witching hour – which writers would you be most excited to meet at the other end?

Literary time travel: where would you go?

Saturday, February 18, 2012


#NMpoetry, Sun Feb18m, 4pm, featuring Jessica Helen Lopez & Jasmine Cuffee). h/t to Billy Brown (in his words, "wild and wonderful"), Hakim Bellamy (COME GIT SUM POETRY! #Akademics) & ABQSlams

THE WORD IS A WOMAN (Sunday, 4pm Featuring Jessica Helen Lopez & Jasmine Cuffee)

4-5:15 Sunday, February 19, Hyatt Regency, Downtown ABQ Enchantment F

Hakim writes, "Jessica Helen Lopez and Jasmine Sena Cuffee are dos poetas whose compelling craft and fiercely dynamic performances speak to a higher truth, embracing a modern feminist perspective that captures the homegrown and grassroots power of slam poetry. Both Lopez and Cuffee tangle with socially-engaging themes such as gender equality, sex-positivity, cultural and geographical identity as well as chicanisma, familia and mixed heritage."

Chair: Hakim Bellamy, University of New Mexico

Jasmine Sena Cuffee
Jessica Helen Lopez

Western States Communications Association Annual Conference
Convention Program 


Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Poem:: Ka 'Ba by Imamu Amiri Baraka

 + brief guides to the Harlem Renaissance & jazz poetry

Baraka at Malcolm X Festival, Oakland CA  

Ka 'Ba by Imamu Amiri Baraka 

A closed window looks down
on a dirty courtyard, and black people
call across or scream or walk across
defying physics in the stream of their will

Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone's
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk the air

We are beautiful people
with african imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants

with african eyes, and noses, and arms,
though we sprawl in grey chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.

We have been captured,
brothers. And we labor
to make our getaway, into
the ancient image, into a new

correspondence with ourselves
and our black family. We read magic
now we need the spells, to rise up
return, destroy, and create. What will be

the sacred words?

Monday, February 13, 2012

♥ Valentine's Day app: remixing poetry

Just the thing for Valentine’s Day. Remix Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese using charNG, a text-generator that uses Markov chaining to make new texts from old. Below are two samples. Our poet (unlike the original) seems to have run out of inspiration during the second…

1. Silver answer



rang, — "Not

Death," I




The sweet years, of

all those




light once



had sung


the silver answer rang,





But, thereby!


love alone.

umber of chars: 300

N-gram length: 7

Type of chaining: markov

40% chance of inserting a newline after a word

40% chance of inserting 5 ± 5 initial spaces

2. And breadth



after sorrow after sorrow



love thee?

Let me an


shown me with

a passion

put to use

In my old



thou didst bid me bring

thee to the depth and



breadth and



breadth and


and breadth

and breadth and breadth




Number of chars: 300

N-gram length: 7

Type of chaining: markov

40% chance of inserting a newline after a word

40% chance of inserting 5 ± 5 initial spaces
To make your own love poems, copy the raw material below into the Corpus window at the top left of the charNG window. Set the controls and let the Internet pour its heart out, just for you!

I thought once how Theocritus had sung

Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,

Who each one in a gracious hand appears

To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:

And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,

I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,

The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,

Those of my own life, who by turns had flung

A shadow across me. Straightaway I was 'ware,

So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move

Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;

And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,

"Guess now who holds thee?" — "Death," I said, But, there,

The silver answer rang, — "Not Death, but Love."

Indeed this very love which is my boast,

And which, when rising up from breast to brow,

Doth crown me with a ruby large enow

To draw men's eyes and prove the inner cost,—

This love even, all my worth, to the uttermost,

I should not love withal, unless that thou

Hadst set me an example, shown me how,

When first thine earnest eyes with mine were crossed,

And love called love. And thus, I cannot speak

Of love even, as a good thing of my own:

Thy soul hath snatched up mine all faint and weak,

And placed it by thee on a golden throne,—

And that I love (O soul, we must be meek!)

Is by thee only, whom I love alone.

And wilt thou have me fashion into speech

The love I bear thee, finding words enough,

And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,

Between our faces, to cast light on each?—

I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach

My hand to hold my spirit so far off

From myself—me—that I should bring thee proof

In words, of love hid in me out of reach.

Nay, let the silence of my womanhood

Commend my woman-love to thy belief,—

Seeing that I stand unwon, however wooed,

And rend the garment of my life, in brief,

By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude,

Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief

If thou must love me, let it be for nought

Except for love's sake only. Do not say

'I love her for her smile—her look—her way

Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought

That falls in well with mine, and certes brought

A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'—

For these things in themselves, Beloved, may

Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,

May be unwrought so. Neither love me for

Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,—

A creature might forget to weep, who bore

Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!

But love me for love's sake, that evermore

Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

A heavy heart, Belovèd, have I borne

From year to year until I saw thy face,

And sorrow after sorrow took the place

Of all those natural joys as lightly worn

As the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turn

By a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apace

Were changed to long despairs, till God's own grace

Could scarcely lift above the world forlorn

My heavy heart. Then thou didst bid me bring

And let it drop adown thy calmly great

Deep being! Fast it sinketh, as a thing

Which its own nature doth precipitate,

Which thine doth close above it, mediating

Betwixt the stars and the unaccomplished fate.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, —- I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Phillis Wheatley: 1753-1784

Today a 3 Quarks Daily posting via Progressive Eruptions (making this iteration a third generation clone, but at least up front about it and introducing you to not one but two online publications you may want read more of. Curating + content recycling + blogging. Phillis Wheatley: 1753 - 1784:

PhyllisWheatleyPhyllis Wheatley was America's first African-American poet. A bronze sculpture, by Meredith Bergmann, celebrating Ms. Wheatley is on the mall on Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Mass. Wheatley, a slave in colonial Boston, was our first published African-American poet. Her pose is derived from the only extant image of her. She represents youth and Imagination.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

I read this poem as supremely sarcastic in the poet's intent. "Twas mercy brought me from my "Pagan land..." Really? Mercy took her away from her "Pagan" land? And taught her "benighted soul?" Benighted by the white masters? The most heartbreaking lines are the last 3: "Their colour is a diabolic die."/Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,/May be refine'd, and join th' angelic train."

More here. (Note: In honor of African American History Month, we will be linking to at least one related post throughout February. The 2012 theme is Black Women in American Culture and History).

Editor's note: don't forget to support local observations and programs. Follow Hakim Be for announcements. PS Hakim and others, please post reading / viewing / listening recommendations

Friday, February 3, 2012

Newsletter: Poetry International Web

PIW 1 January 2012, #poetry_int
1 January 2012 

Happy New Year! We are delighted to kick off 2012 with excellent, thought-provoking poetry from Burma and Australia. Editors ko ko thett and James Byrne have chosen a selection of poems by six contemporary Burmese poets: Aung Cheimt, Ma Ei, Maung Cha Nwe, Maung Pyiyt Min, Maung Yu Py and Zeyar Lynn. Learn more about the history and development of Burmese poetry in ko ko thett's article "From panegyrics to the end of poetry." These poets are featured alongside 18 poems by bilingual Vietnamese-Australian poet Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng. There is also an interview with Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng and two short essays about his work.

For the editorial, articles, poems and translations of the current issue.

Later this month, PIW will be publishing new poems written by
Joke van Leeuwen for the Dutch and Flanders Poetry Day celebrations on 26 January.

Poem of the Week

Clip of the Month
THE FATHER ~ Armando

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