Blog Post

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A general blog post.

Language entropy

According to a study by the University of Manchester in England, the amount of information in word order is a universal trait in languages, regardless of origin. This could point to a universal factor in how people process language cognitively. So what does this mean for writing and translation? How about the way language is used in poetry and fiction across cultures? Check out the article in Wired.

Library evolution

So even though the apocalypse did not occur as predicted yesterday, if libraries continue to close around the country, life as we know it will never be the same, according to Charles Simic in the New York Review of Books. His point: that even though the Internet makes research easier, it doesn't exactly create lifelong readers. And it's true; there's something comforting about the fact of a library, even if its purpose is slowly changing. But I'm hopeful that even as libraries evolve to accommodate the latests trends in technology, they will never actually go extinct.

Juxtaposition #1

A poem I love and a photograph I took, presented together, with no further explanation:













John Berryman 

Dream Song 14 
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no
Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag. 

5 Female Writers You May Have Overlooked During the Past 700 Years (+ 1 to Grow On!)

Meanwhile, over at The Literarian, Sarah M. Gilbert lists  five great books that you probably missed. Whats makes Gilbert's list particularly notable is not necessarily that all the authors are largely unknown, nor that they are all women, but that their work dates back to the 14th Century. One notable omission we'd append to this list is the indispensable Tale of Genji, an 11th Century work attributed to Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, which many believe to be the first novel ever written. The next time a bout of bickering crops up over whether women writers are well-represented or if their work is as worthy as their male counterparts, this list might prove useful. Women have been writing novels for a millenium now, afterall, and their words are quite literally indispensable. 



The death of the audience?

Check out Alexa Ortega's musings at HTML Giant on the best way to share poetry, and literature in general, with a public that might not necessarily be inclined to attend literary readings. Is poetry actually dead to the mainstream, Ortega wonders. And is it? I think she brings up a good point: maybe writers think so because they often write and read for a handful of critics and then don't necessarily reach beyond that. But in a city like Chicago, poetry hardly seems dead. It seems like every week a new reading series begins and a new literary journal releases its first issue. And with the Internet, "local" and a "larger audience" don't necessarily have to be as different as Ortega describes them. Yes, the Internet lends itself a certain sense of large-scale longing to "make it big." But if local artists can more easily share their work with others, then more power to them. I don't think it detracts from the intimacy of a reading or performance—if anything it can only help generate interest. Because that's what art and writing is all about, really: a way to share something meaningful.

Who loves indie presses?

The Utne Reader released the nominee's for their 22nd annual Independent Press Awards. It's a great, thorough list of magazines seperated into general excellence, best writing, arts, political, social/cultural, and more. It was a great reminder that I wanted to subscribe to Gastronomica!

Just What Would the Dolphins Have to Say About All of This, Mister?

Scientists feel they may be onto a form of technology that would allow people to talk with dolphins. Given the recent push to declare dolphins as "non-human persons" and the sheer joy that images like this one can elicit in the human imagination, there is but one question that simply must be answered were this technology to prove successful: "Is anyone in the history of the world cooler than Bowie?"


ACM favorite Mike Puican is interviewed at Dzanc

Mike Puican, whose "Poem With Many Endings" is featured in ACM50.1, is interviewed by Dzanc Books here. It's an interesting short interview, mostly about the composition and writing techniques used by Puican in a poem called "As Though Someone Else Has Praised This Night and These Are Her Words" that recently appeard in the March issue of The Collagist. Perhaps the most compelling part is when Puican discusses the influece of Muriel Dockendorff Navarrete on his poem and the literally breath-taking power of her committment to poetry as a vital form of expression in the face of torture and ultimate death:



She was arrested as General Pinochet began eliminating anyone who was thought to be in opposition to his rule. Thousands of students were rounded up, taken to a soccer stadium and murdered. Muriel was one of those tortured and eventually killed. But while in prison, she still wrote poetry. She wrote it on the back of cigarette papers.

What compels a person undergoing torture, who knows she is going to be killed, to write poetry? What does her commitment to writing say to a poet who writes in more comfortable and privileged circumstances? These are the questions I wanted my poem to ask.


And these are powerful questions. In a time when turture and murder in the name of politics are far too common, there is a growing need for political poetry and for poets to address questions of the relevance of art in the face of torture.  Hopefully more writers will tackle these difficult themes and take on some of the issues that American writers mostly sidestep or disregard entirely.

Feeling Rejected?

Over at PANK Magazine, Alana Noel Voth writes an open letter to Donny Thane on what it means to receive a rejection slip from a magazine, a modeling agency, a school or a teacher. (Hint: revenge isn't a recommended coping mechanism.)

Why aren't we as good as those dead guys?

Michael Goldfarb has a piece about, well, "Where are today's Steinbecks?", at the BBC that ends with this:

But humankind has to live in the real world with other human beings. And if writers and artists won't put a human face on the jobless numbers, who will?

Won't? I don't know about that. Maybe another Steinbeck or someone better or different just hasn't been read by you or me or everyone yet. I trust that'll happen (print's still not dead, am I right?!), even if we have to wade through some necessary fluff. Gotta keep reading. And writing. And producing.