Friday, September 21, 2012

The Week Shall Inherit the Verse



Stuart Ross has a great poetry blog with a great rotten title. He has featured a bunch of great poets and excellent poems. I'm delighted to say that this week has inherited one of my verses. You can find it here.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everything Seems. China


In bed, China is a baby kitten. India purrs expectantly. America twists on its back, shows me its belly. They’re jealous. Here China. Here’s milk. Let me scratch you. Let me love you, poor frail thing. Come under my long moustache, China, for it protects those over which its thin shadow falls. My rock n’ roll hydroelectric brain, my bird’s nest calligraphic heart. Each boundary between cell wall and cell wall, the delicate tracing of ink. My nostalgia for the future. China, there you were on my doorstep. Your thin cry and scrabbling paws. The moon large. I hold you in my arms, whisper to your expanding economy, your ecological disaster, your hairball government, your hope. China, the world is large. We comfort each other.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dance of the Nucleotides: a musical setting of a Christian Bök text.



Recently, I was invited to create a musical realization of a short text of Christian Bök's, part of his ongoing Xenotext Experiment for a performance at the Olga Korper Gallery for Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel's
Petits Genres exhibition.

Here is a detail of the sculpture derived from Christian's text.


In creating this piece, I sought to explore the difference between the time taken by a syllable of spoken text, the space taken by a letter or word in visual space, and musical (rhythmic) space. In Christian's visual text, a caesura (space) zig zags like a 2-dimensional helix through the text. His recorded performance (it is his voice in the recording) varies the observance of that space and the performance of the lineation in general. 


In the first section of my realization, I cut Christian's performance line by line (there are two words per line) in order to find a more exact rhythmic/time analogue to his visual setting. The repeating piano chords in the first section occur in the caesura between the two words of each line.


In the second and third sections, I did not alter Christian's performance, but allowed his oral realization to bend the sonic spacetime as gravity causes spacetime to be bent around things with mass. I placed the musical material accordingly within this stretched spacetime field.

I should say that unlike Christian's brilliant Xenotext Experiment, I didn't address the issue of viruses and DNA. At least not beyond not washing my hands for the performance. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Poetry substitution, permutation, music, Beethoven, history, memory, and trees.


I've been working with permutations and word substitutions in texts. I've done this in music composition for years. For example, erasing the tonic (key note) and/or the dominant and then substituting another note. Or leaving the space. (I guess that's a substitution of space -- rhythmic space. Here's an example (accompanying my then Grade 7 daughter's visual poetry video animation) where I took a late Beethoven piano sonata and deleted important notes in the harmony (eg. the tonic.) Then I set the whole thing in non-standard tuning (a kind of substitution.) The result destabilized both the rhythm and the harmony.



Below are two poems which do a similar thing. The second I freely wrote, playing with ideas of permutation. The first substitutes "trees" for "history" -- which, I guess, is the opposite of what history has done in 'real life' outside the poem.

1.

sweet to speak
memory and trees
when we have words

sweet to speak
memory and trees
when we have no words

we speaks memory and trees
memory and trees
is sweet when have we

we a memory and trees
of words
we memory we trees

memory and trees
words we
sweet when we have

we have no words
sweet to speak
memory and trees



2.

sweet to speak
memory and history
when we have words

sweet to speak
memory and history
when we have no words

we speaks memory and history
memory and history
is sweet when have we

we a memory a history
of words
we memory we history

memory and history
words we
sweet when we have

we have no words
memory and history
sweet to speak

Sunday, September 16, 2012





Interesting to try 'mash-ups' based on visual poetry: teaches me a lot about the source and its energy, something about its language and structure. I'm thinking of this as a kind of literary criticism, a kind of close reading by recontextualization. The images above a mash-up two pieces of derek beaulieu's fantastic lettraset visual work with pieces of mine.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On Kindness and Compassion: Dr. Norman Barwin

My father, mother, their children, daughters and son-in-law, and their grandchildren.


Dr. Bernard Norman Barwin. Ottawa Fertility Specialist. My father. He has been the subject of outrageous claims and innuendo stemming from a civil suit that was widely reported in the national media. I'm reposting this because I'm outraged that the media has picked up this whole mess again.

I'd like to make clear that absolutely none of the allegations have ever been proven. Indeed, none of the evidence has ever been presented at any hearing, proceeding, or official meeting. It has never been subjected to any examination or evidential consideration. It appears only in a statement of claim.

When asked by my daughter for a school report who I mosted admired, I considered a variety of people such as Gandhi, Mandela, but chose my father. Why did I choose him, even though it might seem cloying to decide on one's own father?

Kindness and compassion.

My father is simply the most kind and compassionate person that I know. He is this way with his patients -- his speciality has been women's health and infertility -- and he is this way with his many friends and with our family.

How we are and how we act as invidividuals makes each of our worlds. He makes his world to be one of kindness, understanding, and compassion.

There are a vast number of people both in his professional and personal life that he has helped, supported, cooked for, made comfortable, looked after, looked out for, done a thousand little extra things for, performed a myriad of little kindnesses for, and empowered with his generosity of spirit and understanding.

No one is without complexity -- these many complexities make us human, complexity is what being human is -- however, when I look at the kind of generous, moral, ethical, and humane world that my father has created, I am inspired. The world may not be perfect, but it can be infused with kindness and compassion.

He has always deeply believed in understanding and valuing who people are, who they want to be, and what lives they have a right to live. He has also demonstrated a rigorous and exacting approach to science, medicine, research, and ethics in his professional life.

He has demonstrated extraordinary moral courage in standing up for his patients' rights and for advocating what is right, sometimes quietly in his actions and his medical practice, sometimes publically. These actions are also a form of kindness and compassion.

I don't know what else is in the media or on the internet about my father, Dr. Norman Barwin, but I know the values that he lives by, and what he values. These will not change, no matter what is said or claimed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AFTER WYATT: for W.B. Keckler



AFTER THOMAS WYATT
for W.B. Keckler


the body is a fool
like clouds in a mall where

someone drops a lucky penny
soon there will be no pennies

luck will migrate
Anger, Wrath, Waste, and Noise

are my children now
in school

what made me
monster of elsewhere

just as thousands
crowd the parking lot

trying to lego shadows
into something to love

something sad
like nature



*

I've been reading Sanskrit of the Body by W.B. Keckler. There is really some remarkable writing in this book. The line, "Without language, there are too many senses," took my breath away. Good thing. I was taking too many breaths. I mean, let's leave some air for the fish, eh? My one quibble with the book? My body is Coptic.

So, here's a little (draft* of a) poem based on Wyatt's "Description of a Gun." Though all poems are drafts. Breezes through the cracks, breathing, life drafts, checkers on the ether.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Carrying Big Boy



I had a dream about the ‘botched restoration’ of the above Spanish fresco. I found the ‘new’ image created by the older woman, actually strangely touching — an expression of self-aware introspective melancholy yet with some slight mischievousness. My dream was quite straightforward and I translated it into this text.
Theologically I found the image really interesting. It made me think about things like personal revelation unmediated by institution, the representation of one’s personal god, those Danishes with the face of Jesus or mother Teresa on it, translation, speaking in tongues, the Vulgate (writing in the language of the people), folk art, and Duchamp (Mona Lisa), Picasso (repainting Velasquez), and work like Tom Philips’ Humament.


Carrying Big Boy


I had to carry big boy.
We were in the forest.
He could go no further.
What time was it?

Autumn.
His hair was tangled
leaves
deer coloured.

He could go no further.
He was bigger than me.
The sun was lager
slanting through trees.

We walked through beams.
He collapsed.
I had to carry him.
“Hold my shoulders,” I said.

“Can’t,” he said.
I had to lift him.
I carried him.
I could hardly walk.

I had to.
It would be soon be night.
It was autumn.
His mouth was birds.

_____________________________

After the 19th-century Spanish "botched restoration" fresco restored in the village of Borja in northeast Spain 

The Sky above Chairs





THE SKY ABOVE CHAIRS



The chair nuzzles against trees. It remains still, invisible to its predators. Looking is a contract between hunter and hunted. Also, hiding. Look at a chair. It looks back, waiting for what’s next. The desk chair. The chair of another. The chair at rest.



A forest of chairs, a silent choir, the inverse of trees yet becoming trees. Moist pools of thought or sense. Inside the chair, a red city, a briefcase, an underground of blood.



Once, a house where chairs were everything. In bed. The garage, the rec room. Small childhood chairs. In the attic. In the breakfast nook. Old man chair. New baby chair. The carpets were chairs. We ate chair. Remember when we were young? When did they come to our home, the forest the size of humans, not chairs? 



Once, in early spring, the chairs were in our yard. We spoke in whispers, as if before a house of cards. The chairs seemed telepathic, each thought shared between the group of chairs. They waited as one, then leapt the fence in a single thought, a flock of birds, their wings silent and invisible. 



In the ravine, leaves unfurl, branches complete their plans. Clouds hunt the moon as the moon hides then disappears. We know the chairs are moving, but see only dust motes illuminated in a beaming slash of forest light, the scuttle of leaves on the forest floor, a scurry like the word ‘chair’ whispered from nearby. Chairs, we say. Goodbye.