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Julie E. Bloemeke
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Monday’s blog began with my connection to the confluence of synchronicity as a means to the muse and poetry. Throughout the week I have tried to open further conversation in regards to how technology is creating its own kismet through form and reach. Today, I am hoping to both bring the conversation back to the visceral roots of Monday and send our dialogue into a new trajectory, to offer another place of intersection among technology, the sensory, the social and the "random" coincidence. On Tuesday I explored poems that incorporate technology as an arc. Today, I offer this question: do you remember your first encounter with digital terminology or reference in a poem? This may not be something that immediately comes to mind, but perhaps my experience here will further illuminate why I raise the question. The first time I remembered seeing technology used as an integral force in creative writing was not in poetry. It was in a Johnathan Ames short fiction piece called “A Young Girl,” published in the premiere issue of Swink (2004). In the story, the protagonist/writer, Leon David, receives an e-mail from Hallie a fan/grad student. E-mail quickly progresses to instant message which escalates to a face-to-face meeting and sexual encounter. From anonymity to physical and sexual presence (and still a type of anonymity) in the space of three pages. I remember being struck by the story mainly for its use of creating an intersection through technology. Had Ames written the story before the advent of digital immediacy, its way of resonating on a variety of levels simply would not have been the same, or arguably, possible. The unexpected e-mail—David even says “these correspondences keep me alive,”---the exchange of words over the screen before the voice, before in person, before sex, all contribute to the pace and tension of the story. Something about it felt utterly irrevocable and fresh. Fast forward to the present where digital reference and creative writing are not just components but are encouraging a very specific, and perhaps totally new, conversation. Earlier this week I referred to OCHO’s issue #24, an issue dedicated to poets who Twitter.* And, while I cited one piece from the journal, I think it is important to note that a majority of the poems also offer a conversation around tech language, poetry, form and the digital world: Two examples: In “Village, Batanta Island,” Scott Edward Anderson creates a world where children interact because they can see themselves in a digital camera. Samuel Peralta, in “Sonnets B4 the Blaze,” plays in the language of technology, using end rhymes like “dot-com,” and “eBay.” Both are works that could not exist without knowledge of and experience in a digital world. But what happens when we go one step further? When we center entire journal issues, chapbooks or anthologies around technology or a component of it? Iron Horse Literary Review is a notable instance: Issue 12:4 is a compelling array of poems and prose that orbit around planet Facebook. It... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Today an interview with Reb Livingston, who began the Bibilomancy Oracle Project in May 2012. Be sure to consult the Oracle throughout the interview for your own personal prophecy. Just click the orb to the left or on the link at the end of the interview. I am continually fascinated by this idea of kismet, technology and unexpected ways of experiencing poetry. Can you discuss your impetus behind the Bibliomancy Oracle project? How did you decide which poems to include? R: Bibliomancy is the use of books in divination. The concept is that literature contains “truths” and speak to matters of great importance. People have been using books for divination for hundreds of years. Ask a question, pick a book at random, open it to a random page, place your finger down, again, at random—and there’s your answer. According to Wikipedia, the term Bibliomancy was first recorded in 1753. The term Stichomancy, divination by lines of verse in books taken at hazard, was first recorded in 1693. Bibliomancy is definitely old technology. I’m still selecting prophecies to include. Every week I add new prophecies and intend on doing so for some time to come. When selecting a line or several (I never include an entire poem), I try to anticipate it being an answer to the endless number of questions posed to an Oracle. It’s all about interpretation. I try to avoid obvious horrific prophecies, like “you will die in a fiery crash” – but something seemingly mild might not be so mild depending on the question and questioner’s perception. There are some very positive responses, some less positive and some seemingly ambiguous. Sometimes a question is answered with another question. Probably because the questioner is asking the wrong question. I’ve always been interested in Tarot and dream interpretations and have used other online oracles for years. None of the online oracles I came across satisfied what I was looking for. Some gave shallow answers, others were rambling and disorganized. I wanted to make an online bibliomancy oracle because probably 75% of poems that I read are online. I noticed that Tumblr had a “random” feature, so that made it easy to create the oracle. I spent a month creating a few hundred prophecy posts and then made a page with big teal button linked to the “random” URL. That’s how it works. Tumblr randomly selects the questioner’s prophecy from the database of poem fragments I added. Today there’s almost 1000 prophecies and it’s becoming increasingly eerily jarring in its responses. I’d say accurate, but I’ll leave that up to everyone else to decide. Please share one—or more—of your favorite stories of kismet regarding the Bibliomancy Oracle project. R: My favorite bibliomancy example is this from Wikipedia: “English poet Robert Browning used this method to ask about the fate of his enchantment to Elizabeth Barret (later known as Elizabeth Barret Browning). He was at first disappointed to choose the book "Cerutti’s Italian Grammar", but on randomly opening it his eyes... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Today an interview with Twitter poet Margaret Ingraham--@InPoetweet--who began the InPoetweet project in February, 2012. Can you give us a brief synopsis of the InPoetweet project? Absolutely. I am committed to composing and posting one poetweet each day for a year. Once I have completed poetweet number 366 – because I began the project in a leap year and feel duty bound to producing that additional tweet--- I will have come to the end of this first phase of my project. I say first phase, because I have found the project so positive, so brimming with possibilities, so conducive to exploration and experimentation, so exhilarating, that I do not know whether I will be able to bring it to its ultimate conclusion at the end of the year. As of this writing I have completed and posted 230 poetweets, so I am past the midpoint. In February when I began I was not certain if I would be able to sustain the project beyond the first month. But each day my allegiance grows and my belief in the importance of the project increases. Do you think the experience of consistency in tweeting is a crucial element to understanding the range/repetition/reoccurring images that appear in your tweet poems? Does this allow us to see them both as individual poems and as an overall collection of poems that work together? The short answer to your question is yes. Taken together, the poetweets provide a mother lode in terms of examining the connection between art and artist, life circumstances and subject matter and mode of expression, experience and point of view, etc. In tweets, as in longer poems, I return again and again to the same words, cadences, themes, images, turns of phrase. These are unique signatures, or fingerprints…I hope each new setting--which is what each and every poetweet is--enhances, enlarges or narrows, and nuances that which appears with frequency. I believe that every poetweet stands alone as a viable individual poem. Certainly the quality of writing varies from tweet to tweet. But the same can be said of my other work as well, as is true for every poet. When I take time to read the entire corpus of my daily poetweets, I do perceive a wholeness (what you term a collection) emerging. Frankly, I would like to see this body of work as a print collection some day, and I spend a good deal of time contemplating how it would be best organized and arrayed. My process is to focus primarily on that one day’s tweet and not on what has come before (and certainly not what will follow – because I don’t know that until the next day comes). There have been a couple of occasions when I have worked to produce a short related sequence, but that is the exception. Can you share some of your thought process behind beginning the project? How did you initially perceive Twitter as a viable means for form poetry? Do you think it... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Laura, isn't it something? And now it is talisman, reference point, the tangible to say, yes, I was compelled even then. I am fascinated by how the idea of poetry morphs: viscerally, spiritually, even in nostalgia, which, it seems, I am often tempted to resist. PS Mine is deep blue, most likely an office cast off, and incredibly, is stamped with "Policies and Procedures."
I think that impulse to resist must be part of the process. But, what happens on the letting go? A certain fear, a surrender, and then, an acceptance, a peace, a call unlike before. Indeed, follow the vein, whenever and however you can. Hopefully always. What a magic that night. I remember even the energy in the air was different; the conversation its own kismet. I am ever grateful. Thank you for your observations, your words here! Julie E. Bloemeke
Yesterday I wrote about the confluence of kismet in poetry, exploring how interviews, letters, poems, poets and seemingly random turns of events are able to stop us, resonate, to say, yes, here, this. But in my discussion so far, I have not mentioned how so much of this is in flux. How are those unexpected moments being enhanced or irrevocably altered due to our increased involvement with technology and the digital world? There are countless observations about the losses we have experienced and are experiencing in our digital conversion. In talking about compiling Lucille Clifton’s Collected Poems, for example, Kevin Young discusses how Clifton’s journals, thick, heavy, weighed with ubiquitous notes and scraps of paper became thinner and thinner as Clifton relied more on the computer.* Undoubtedly there is much to consider here. E-mails do not have the same feel and temperament as letters; they are often lost, deleted or simply not saved, vanished in the ether. Gone will be entire swaths of understanding about the creative/writing process, about the influences between writers, specifics in terms of times and dates, etc. Granted, I am only scratching the surface here; the impacts of loss are only beginning to be understood. But, despite this, consider the potential for technology. How is this leviathan of social media inspiring new work, setting up alternate ways of understanding, reading, experiencing art, that have not previously been part of our experience? As an illustration: consider your first reading of The Waste Land. Now consider if your first exposure to that poem had been on an iPad, through The Waste Land app for iTunes, complete with links to Eliot’s handwritten notes, comments left by Pound, audio recordings, and links to explain references and allusions in the poem. How would this have caused you to experience the poem differently? How can we even begin to ponder the contrast? But let’s back up a bit. What happens, is happening, when poetry begins to use or relies on references to technology? Entire poems (and often a series of poems or perhaps a full collection) can hinge on technological language, structure, reference, or suggestion. How does the mention of, say, an iPhone or an iPad alter or enhance our experience of the poem itself? Take Terese Svoboda’s poem, “Neighborhood Watch” from the September 10, 2012 New Yorker.** The poem ends: …You hobble off, your check withering for kisses. Take the iPad with its easy interface. Our face, you say, staring at its black. Boot it up.” First, just the mention of technology (iPad) requires our exposure to and awareness of the device. Then we have technological language. Svoboda encourages us to question the way we use our terminology and the layers of meaning that this particular language provides. Though the word “interface” has been around for well over a century, it is one we now associate with the digital world. And, as it includes the word face, so the body becomes aligned with the digital. Too, we wonder about components of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Once, in conversation over a drink or two, a fellow poet asked when I began writing. The words were out of my mouth before I had a chance to catch them. “Before I was born,” I had said. I was perplexed by the speed and intensity of my response, and even more so by the seeming contradiction. What had I meant by this? Why had I responded in that way? I have turned over those questions in my mind for years, have, in fact, been quite haunted by them. If I were to tell you that my unexpected response had something to do with coincidence would that seem like a lie? If I were to tell you that it had to do with something deeply visceral yet apparently random would that make any sense at all? Let me begin before poetry, with how I experienced this feeling in my body even before I could write words to paper. I would try to tell you that it felt something like this: an emphatic yes! that was somehow connected to a spiritual knowing, a heady energy cocktail of mental and physical, an intersection of kismet—of the seemingly random being not at all random—as an absolute type of truth. It was a force that lit me up, sustained me, beyond what we walk through in the every day. Eavan Boland--in her "Letter To a Young Woman Poet"—might have called it an eroticism of personal history or past, but to me it was more of a merging of notes, all to one vibration: at first through symbol and then later into language. Connecting this feeling to words—and more specifically to the creating of story--I began to realize it was the beginnings of poetry before I could articulate what poetry was. My earliest poem drafts began around age 10. And even though I called what I was writing poetry—it did have a loose verse form—I did not align what I was doing with “poetry” at all. The poems that I encountered in elementary school—I vaguely recall snippets of Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein—seemed to be from an entirely different planet than what I was putting to paper. What I knew: I wrote because—and as I later learned Rilke would say—I had to. I felt called, compelled, unable to not write. And, when I look back at what I was up to, even that young, I find I was doing something that would be a tangible reminder of this confluence that I am trying to describe even now. By the time I was in my early teens, I had filled a three-ringed notebook—I remember, it was the largest I could find at the time—with poems written in longhand. Not 20 or 30, but 100 or more. Meticulously organized. Most of them are signed and dated with a final note: “inspired” to indicate when I had first drafted the poem, and/or “revised” for when I considered the poem complete. Eerily enough—especially given my discussion here--some of the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Oct 14, 2012