Monday, June 28, 2010

Cave Canem in retrospect, and my 100th post

This post won't be sprawling, can't be.  A ton has happened, but I feel like trying to grocery-list it is like trying to explain in a blog post the music of family, food, or  soul.  I don't know.  Amazing.  But I don't know.

And I met so many amazing people who kept me on my toes in ways college never did.  But to list some is to slight more. But they know who they are, and so will you, soon.  In books, and in classrooms.

And how I remember the precise moment in school when I realized my vocabulary was a burden.  This was a place of brothers and sisters who knew that feeling.  The feeling of being different, of being other.  Of being a poet, against all odds.  There were workshops in the corners of parties, spirited (in every sense of the word) philosophical debates, and so much love.

I can't list everything that happened.  I am a poet.  As I always say, if I knew how to say something better than with a poem, I wouldn't write poetry.  So maybe this, a poem I wrote for, then read at, the Sunrise Poetry reading, which itself is very telling about CC.  The last day, it was suggested that we stay awake until the sun came out, and read poetry as night transitioned to day.


Most things are bigger than me
but not all have their affect.
Not in the ways we mean
by affection, ignoring the strange
tilt of the universe, exploding
stars in my heart
the first time someone
let me be black.

It was a drug,
a motion I never stopped moaning for.
Exploiting my difference—
fed my elephant pocket change
when looking in the mirror
should have been enough.

This is how earthquakes are made:
in the chest, a faultline your
cousin split, best friend, coworker,
and it demanded family.

Family came with its own chain
dangling from the neck.
The dirt of its original birth
trailed behind, as if to say "Yes,
I have been shackled, yes I've been slave
to my own humanity but I am human.
Which means I am more than my image
even when I cling to it, even when
with it, my stomach is full.  I am free,
and I am dangerous, and I've come back.
Not for your chain, because that
is yours, but to ensure that you
are dangerous too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cave Canem in 3 days, and I hurt my back

I'll be at Cave Canem in just three days, and just my luck; I've hurt my back.  I suppose it isn't entirely a surprise, since I hurt it every so often (years unloading trucks, and slouching, I guess) but damned if that doesn't piss me off.

It reminds me, in a labyrinthine sort of way, of how as a child I used to hope for injuries and sicknesses which would save me from school so I could play video games or read.  You wouldn't believe how much I loved the chicken pox.  A sign, right there from the start, that I was either going to grow up to be a writer, or a perpetually unemployed mooch.


Change of scene.  I don't think that I've mentioned it at all on this blog, but I write for We Who Are About to Die.  I'm loving it; there's a special kind of joy in laughing at a joke that nobody you know is going to appreciate because nobody else reads contemporary poetry.  I call it the Frasier Effect.

Anyway, I wrote a recent blog at WWAATD entitled Is Kipling Racist?  Check it out.

Oh, and a shout out to Elisa Gabbert, of The French-Exit,  for suggesting them when I Twitter-asked which blogs might be looking for contributors.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Touchdown Jesus has burned to the ground

When I was still working in a meat department (which, I swear, I'll affectionately be referring to as the good-ol-days before too long) I worked with someone who was new to the area. He had just moved to Northern Kentucky, and he pulled me aside at the end of the night like he had a secret to tell. He said, in a hushed voice "Keith... How do you deal with how religious it is out here?"

Honestly, sometimes I manage to forget what part of the country I'm seated in. You know. Until we build a Creation Museum. Or until Touch Down Jesus burns to the ground.

In honor (?) of the passing of the most ridiculous sculpture I have personally witnessed, I bring to you both the original poem I wrote about the statue last year, and now, its update:

Touchdown Jesus

If you make anything big enough,
use enough styrofoamplexiglass
or whatever other strange man-made
compound (words) you can find,
if you slam it down close enough
to a major highway, give it long enough
arms, make it just the right blend of
expensive and blatant, it will show
your devotion and spirit. Just ask
Touchdown Jesus, and slap him
4 high fives, one for each part
of the trinity. And one for me.


So Touchdown Jesus is aflame,
lightning licked his mighty hands
as he reached toward heaven.

A part of me wonders how long
it'll be before the pious
pay the way back up to the sky

and the other imagines the look
on God's face when he turned
His infinite eyes to Monroe, Ohio,

and saw His own son, 62 feet high,
reaching like a babe. Big, Christian
face (made in His own image), puppy dog

eyes, skin white as most devious sin.
It must've scared the bejeebus out of him.
Enough that lightning arced and broke the sky.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Digital Chapbooks - The intersection of teaching, technology, and art.

If you haven't heard of augmented reality, you will.  And soon.

Augmented reality is a technology which modifies your environment (usually through a video screen) in some way.  It's much harder to try to explain than to see in action, but it's being developed all over.  XBox's Project Natal, smart phone compatible Polar Rose, and even a virtual box simulator courtesy of the USPS all take advantage of this new, sometimes creepy technology (looking at you Polar Rose).

But as the above video suggests, this isn't all about technology.  It's about poetry.  Or it's half about poetry.

Between Page and Screen

Between Page and Screen is doing what humans love constantly to do, which is blur the lines between anything we possibly can. It's an experiment (or is it a work of art?) in technology and poetry, and their website has this to say:
This chapbook, written by Amaranth Borsuk and programmed by Brad Bouse, integrates the artist's book and e-poetry traditions to examine the conventions by which we know an object as a book. 
I think it's cool as hell to see, but artist statements are always a hair's breadth away from being an afterthought to justify spending hours making something.  So what's the real benefit of this project?

Exposing Poetry in New Ways

The first thing I thought of was the potential something like this has in the classroom.  It's showy, it's cheap (more on that later) and it has to do with poetry.  'Nuff said.

And a part of me truly believes this.  I would have freaked the F out in elementary school if someone had brought this into the classroom.  I'd have been excited that day, and potentially excited about the next day of school, because, let's face it, if the teacher does something that's actually fun, there's always the chance it will happen again.

But a part of me thinks this is in some ways, smoke and mirrors as it pertains to children and young adults.  Watch the video again.  What are the poems about.  Which was your favorite?

Yes, I'm being a little facetious; it's a video.  Am I expecting some freeze frames to allow me, for 5 or 6 minutes, to read each individual poem?  Of course not.  But at the same time, what is impressive, and novel,  and interesting about this is not (at first glance) the poetry.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome.  And I'd actually read the poetry if I had a chance to.

But would children?

Conclusion:  Who cares? It's cool.

On a certain level, teaching is about engagement.  Between Page and Screen is no better at this than any tool, on its own.  It's up to a teacher to tie it in with real lessons, or get the kids to read.

Essentially, this IS just smoke and mirrors, but it can be a cheap way to do something interesting, too.  The demo on the website (which was easy for me to set up with my web cam and a printer) only gives you one poem, but maybe this is enough to get some freeware software development out there.  Or maybe there already is.

As a poet, I'm not terribly excited about new mediums for poetry.  I'm in love with language first, and kind of lamely crushing on technology second.  Sound systems and holograms and lasers do nothing to change what I do, or what I love.  But it is sort of nice to see that as we move forward with technology, someone is constantly finding new ways to insert what is human about us back into what can often be a creepy (looking at you again, Polar Rose) foray into the unknown.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My top three favorite poetry blogs

I'm currently working on a topic requested via Twitter.  As I get that done, I think now's the perfect opportunity to share a few of my favorite blogs.  These people are either doing what I do better than I'm doing it, or they're doing more.

Without further ado:

I think, really, the best way to describe this blog is that it's something akin to walking in on a smart dinner party where poetry or any other topic might happen to come up.  It's smart, funny, but not always about poetry.

And I'm cool with that.  Because if you're smart or funny enough, you can make me interested even in the topics I can't join in on (today's topic?  A review of smells.  My nose has three receptors.  Good.  Bad.  And Food).

Plus, from the background of the blog to the manner of discussion itself, things are about as unpretentious as it gets.  This is a great risk of dinner parties where poetry might come up.

I love being around people who are always dreaming.  Dreaming is the wrong word.  Because for all the positive connotations it has, it also implies a sort of otherworldly, unachievable destination.  Vizionheiry isn't dreaming, she's setting things up, and planning.  And fostering community.

I actually think that her blog is in some ways ancillary to her Twitter account, because so much of the fun is happening there.  But Twitter is like riding in cars and waving at one another.  And a blog is a place to rest your feet, so here it is.

A blog purely of poetry, The Storialist finds a photo every day, and writes inspired by that photo.  I don't know exactly what it is about this idea which I love, but every time I read in on what's new, I can't decide if I'd rather read the poem first, and guess at the photo, or look at the photo and see what has been done with it.

One thing I'd like to add is that I write a poem every single day.  I've been doing it for over a year now, and yeah, sometimes it sucks and you don't want to write anything. But what makes this even more impressive a venture is that Hannah isn't hiding anything (or if she is, she's showing more than she's hiding).

And of course, this wouldn't be anything more but a good idea if the writing didn't back it up.

Does anyone out there have any blogs they check regularly because of how damn good they are?  Link me!  I apparently am underrepresented my own gender here, as well as the span of blogging platforms.