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Shannon Holman
Brooklyn, NY
"amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary"
Interests: shorthand, gardening, neuroscience, antique encyclopedia for children, Burmese baskets
Recent Activity
God's dice always have a lucky roll. ~Sophocles, Fragments l, 763 To round out the week, let's play some dice. Your assignment is to fold several paper cubes (here's a pdf template, and here's an online tool for generating printable word dice.) Write a word or phrase on each side of each die. I usually have six verbs on one die, six adverbs on another, and so on, so that by rolling several dice at a time I end up with a complete sentence. I don't reckon he used this technique, but one of my favorite poems, by the Hungarian poet Sándor Weöres, seems like a great model for what this kind of approach can yield: Dice Game to be lost then found again my whole life has been that way it was good to sit beside the sea to let the waves wash over me my whole life has been that way to be lost then found again to let the waves wash over me it was good to sit beside the sea to let the waves wash over me it was good to sit beside the sea to be lost then found again my whole life has been that way it was good to sit beside the sea to let the waves wash over me my whole life has been that way to be lost then found again -- Sándor Weöres translated by William Jay Smith Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Every time I go to Myanmar*, my first stop is the Yangon book market, which consists of several "shops"—blankets spread on the thronged sidewalk—piled with hundreds of volumes, many of which are tattered English primers dating from the days of colonial rule. In the same way that a conversation with a non-native English speaker can make the whole language seem fresh, even the simplest declarative sentences in these old books can feel full of significance and portent. Today's assignment is to write a mystery novel in the shape of a poem using as many of the following sentences and phrases as you like. *I say Myanmar and Yangon because that's what my Burmese friends there say. In the US Burma and Rangoon are the more well-known names for these places. Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Great artists steal. For today's assignment, let's continue to play with the notions of indeterminacy and appropriation as tools to combat the twin demons of The Anxiety of Influence and The Blank Page (which I find it oddly helpful to picture as masked wrestlers). Here's a grab bag of techniques you can try: Blind tranlation. David Lehman introduced me to this technique, and Language Hat has a good write-up with several examples. Basically the task is to "translate" a poem into English from a language you don't know, relying solely on your homophonic or visual associations instead of any dictionary or other reference. Translation telephone. In this digital variation, start with a poem in English, then run it through an online translator into another language, say French, then translate that translation into a third language, say German, then go from German to Spanish, then finally back into English. If you choose your original well (the Deep Image sorts are aces for this), you end up with something wholly different from the original, which you can then tweak to remove any lingering stink of plagiarism. Grand Master mashup. Here you get to quit pretending to be an Original Talent, and you also get to quit writing wan knockoffs of each of your heroes in turn. Instead, pretend you're the love child of the canon, equal parts Dickinson and Whitman, for instance, or the issue of Auden and Schuyler (just go with it). In this Mendelian exercise, you may find it easiest to try to take just one element of each poet's style and combine it with just one element of the other's: what do you get when you cross Whitman's long, rollicking line with H.D.'s neo-classical precision? Fair warning: I've never actually gotten a good poem out of this last one, but it's a fun way to grapple with your titans so that you can get out of your own way long enough to get some work done. Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Thanks to Stacey and the BAP blog for the chance to be this week's guest blogger. I thought I'd use this space and time to suggest some writing assignments and invite you to post your responses on your own blogs, letting us all know about it via trackback or in the comments — Shannon (no relation) Holman I'm just back from a week spent on the former campus of Black Mountain College, so today's assignment will feature some of those giant ghosts. See how many of these prompts you can respond to in a single piece: John Cage appeared on at least two game shows, appearing twice on I've Got a Secret and five times on the Italian show "Lascia o Raddoppia," where he won 5 million lire answering questions about mushrooms. On what game or reality show will you appear, revealing which secret or talent? Hilda Morley is one overlooked Black Mountain poet. You are another. Buckminster Fuller: "Everything you've learned in school as "obvious" becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There's not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines." Discuss. The dyslexic are your intended audience. " open eyes..." —Josef Albers Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2011 at The Best American Poetry