Friday, 21 December 2007

Forms of Joy

Transporting snails from the agate walk
one at a time to flowerbeds along the brick wall covered with leghorn ferns—
that was my last great love—
twisting my ear if I didn't listen,
and if I looked at another, holding me in a headlock:
a dream come true!
To see a sweet love fall:
wrong crowd: losing all lovely
to go into the storm again…
I miss the one others called crazy,
taking to drink, no home, no place to feel at home.
Suffering another taking you so young
and reliving it, beautifying the smoke of fireman rescue,
enshrining the diminutive vessel, offering
to be abandoned, taken.
No wonder we no longer long for anyone,
all the trials and conditional claims
cumulate in no one in particular—
but I'm still here! and enough of them now
to turn to now without calling
they bump into one another
in advertised illusions of remembering each other
—if not longing exactly—
magnifying possibilities
suspending the new ones and the latest movies
and criteria of shopping, dining, and more
so that the photos that really matter
seem from an earlier life
with the hairstyles and colognes all wrong.

Monday, 17 December 2007

My Station in Life

I haven't hammered out all the glitches,
the pity quotient ranks rather high.
More colloquialisms creeping in's no help—
all 'n' all we hold out well
against the latest tides of upgrades
to tidy all aggressions into new nowheres to ignore
so bulldozers in Gaza can make themselves at home
and the heart can yearn for a better world, even skip a beat for it
yet let the body listen in quiet.
No one wants to hear about it, pay for the ads—
only snow broadcast and settled on boughs of Douglas fir
kneeled to the ground in forced obeisance
and crackling only as walls during earthquakes
or more common grindings of jaws, lost sleep.
When I was Bond I switched on my inventions
to ward off poison lips
and tried to talk the Little Mermaid out of coming
to kiss her prince each day
or be sent again into the Sea,
how she traded her voice to be with him
and how we all bought tickets, keeping it up, careless,
waiting for others to get around to it.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

More Bad Ideas

My excuses to get away keep canceling
so I'm left with the real thing to come back to,
yet here too are excuses and who wants to wait for the bell to sound
announcing the start of the next level. For now, running in place is my position
in the training room, catching glances of others trapped by the ratio
of delicious is to walking or jogging. While I get older
and you stay happily between body and soul for now, take it each day I say
and you wonder about a time I'd teach you Japanese
when we have all the time to wander into languages and cafes
faraway from water, always just friends and walking, aerobics,
weight training, swimming in one lane together,
sketching and losing ourselves in film festivals, later taking trains
and sea routes north and south along the coast and inland
as long as we return in time to sleep in our separate worlds,
shopping for DVDs by the minutes listed,
clothing by the layers tucking our bodies away
and letting be all the excuses, the library a circle of cafeterias
and restrooms, study rooms to filter the good parts to put to use.
Now I've forgotten hide and seek, hiding behind pillars
holding up the airport, watching pretty lone travelers
shooting themselves with cell cameras
the way open hands used to prop up waves of one's hair long ago
at the cusp of Leo and Virgo, an audience in the offing
eye contact from a turquoise fountain.
The let-downs never end. Why bother—
stuck in this too long too old, one says; too fast, another;
too musical, one; too sad, too sissy, too bouncy others
would hold me to my category, still me and save me, ensnare me
and market me just when I want to leave me, everyday have a new me
to talk it through, keep this up, postponing, excuses,
having all the time in a world of one day finally touching.

Monday, 19 November 2007

時事川柳 satirical ditty on current events

[so forgetful of history, yet Japan will never forget those abducted to North Korea]

Saturday, 17 November 2007

戲劇演出 Histrionics


原文/Dean Brink

My friend's lived under a dictatorship,
men full of themselves and their countings to ten,
child to lord, serf to the bureaus
until a hubbub wells up and at your fingertips
the very sport of it alters it, possibilities
everyone talks about but nobody really knows where it will lead,
later longing for the good old days
evolving each season.
For now, you enter certain rooms sworn to secrecy—
a dampening effect lulling the interim crisis
to hold at bay a doomsday epidemic
over a horizon where third-party spokespersons point to it
as if to turn the page
out of the blue to a new oath, solemnity
for good measure, such quiet good
we grow more mannish
in walkie-talkie convoys, happy to have
our luggage x-rayed for inconsistencies,
anything piggy-backed to our story
as if we'd overheard more than we knew.

荒蕪 Waste




原文/Dean Brink

墜落的女人——記艾瑞克‧費雪銅雕被遮覆之日 Eric Fischl's Bronze Tumbling Woman Draped and Curtained Off





譯按:「墜落的女人」(Tumbling Woman, 2001)為美國當代藝術家艾瑞克‧費雪(Eric Fischl , 1948~)的系列銅雕,作品傳神捕捉人體由高處墜地的剎那姿態,驚恐誇張的神情,極具震撼力。時值911恐怖攻擊事件發生後,展覽揭幕不久,官方認為有引發觀者創痛記憶之虞,致使該作隨即遭覆蓋。


原文/Dean Brink

Eric Fischl's Bronze Tumbling Woman Draped and Curtained Off

Too much to view the falling
come in to its crumpling
still breathing
the video streams to another window,

an earlier glory repeated farther away
to zoom in
while we hold down
for the next unwavering drone
elected, doings-away-with
fever-pitched, crowded around ledges
all the same anger, dissolving

in fire-softened earth
the far side of satellites
reaching down from the sky,
surfaces warm from operations.


彼日的寓言 Parable of the Day







原文/Dean Brink

When someone before you slips
on polished cinnabar marble

everyone leaving a cumulative trail of puddles
after a morning shower muddied into the cafe,

and you see the man's valise landing
while he pushes himself off the heavy, shiny ground

you think of picking it up for him
a gesture of concern.

It was going to be a bad day
and as the gap between the idea and the act vanishes

and you approach the valise and hand it to him
it brings the day around, as if it never were.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Cut-up Poetry Scrabble


“What a great game for creative writing classes. It’s so postmodern, too.”

1. Preparation:
Each player cuts up words from newspaper or magazine articles.
Some players may try to control the process by only selecting words they have an affection for or otherwise hold in high esteem. This is to their peril, since it is a competition and one finds (dare I say without exception) that such planting of preconceived contexts into a would-be unconscious cache of words leads to prose of a single context rather than lyric poetry, which one would hope echoes and entertains multiple contexts.
For instance, if a player thinks, "ah-ha, I'm only going to choose exotic-sounding words from an article on Rio de Janeiro," without plain words to diversely tether them in their exotic orbit, they may seem a bit silly altogether. If the language is entirely from an article on a crime investigation or a court trial, even in fragments the story will quickly show through. In this way, the cache of words must be sufficiently large and diverse. I recommend at minimum 60 words from diverse articles or sources.

2. Each player places the words in a paper bag or other container and shakes it up good, shuffling all the words.

3. Each player blindly selects 7 words and begins working on a poem from them.
The facilitator can go around policing the process player by player for fun and to remind them that there are no bad words or good words, that the process is random with a purpose of learning to appreciate the sparks provides by words from diverse areas.

4. By the time you have gone around the room focusing on each student's random selection of 7 words, the first player should have a poem ready and read it to the group.
If the facilitator is a teacher, perhaps make suggestions such as: "as an experiment, what if you switched these two words?" (I was able to coax a student into moving a cockroach nearby a satellite, drawing out amusing possibilities with all the waving antennae and all.) Marvel at the variety of contexts. One poem in the very first round had the dullest array of words one could imagine, but was perhaps the best poem in combination! Why? It included a wife surveying a bank, thus creating in a short space very condensed metonymical evocation of a troubled marriage or other worries.

5. Each player should record their poem in each round.
Later one can examine the changes and learn about the impact of having more words in a poem, connotations, and contexts. Most importantly, recording the poem liberates one to experiment more and let go of prior achievements and associations and move on to new ones.

6. After reading it, the player blindly selects 3 more words from their cache and reworks their poem.

7. This process of going around goes on until players get bored. We went on for 4 rounds, limited by class time (nearly two hours).

8. Players can present their best versions and vote on the top one (or three, etc.) if you like.

Suggestions and Rules for Cutting and Drawing Words and Phrases
Choose texts from a variety of sources. For dabbling prose-writers and others who may be drawn to foreshadowing and trying to maintain control of the range of available words, my advice is to mix in diction from diverse contexts into your word heap. The sack of words should become the compost for your surrogate memory or unconsciousness-in-a-bag. Toss all sorts of words into this bucket you'll be drawing on.

When cutting, you can leave articles and prepositions and any funny phrasing that carries an idiomatic ring, but avoid phrases that contain two primary parts of speech, such as a noun and verb or a verb and an object, unless such a pairing is within an obviously attachable clause from which you have cut it off. Part of the fun is in recombining such phrases in new contexts.

When drawing and arranging words:
• You don't have to use all your words.
• You can fold back words, prepositions, articles you don't want to use. You can tear words from phrases.
• You can add preposition and articles as needed for flow or fluency.
• You can use words on the front or back of the piece you draw, folding away whatever words or letters you don't want to use.
• You can change the tense and agreement of verbs so as to form continuous phrases.

In a way, this process mimics how we read and digest phrases and words and redistribute them in lines of poetry. Such poets and Ron Silliman seem to do this habitually, transferring overheard speech and other observations to notebooks and eventually to lines of verse.

Teaching a creative writing course this semester, I wanted to try a new method for demonstrating to students—through active practice—lessons about combining words from different contexts as found in everyday language. In past Japanese literature courses I had spent a class indulging in linked poetry (renga), where students followed formal requirements for the placement of certain season words and such, drawing on a long bilingual Japanese-English lexicon arranged by season. Teaching in Taiwan and having no Japanese students in the class and no Chinese-English lexicon of this sort, I decided it might be too troublesome to introduce Japanese poetry as such. But, I still wanted to impart some similar lesson in combining fixed phrases and words somewhat randomly to create non-narrative, lyric poetry. Japanese linked poetry is structured to inhibit narrative continuity while indexing familiar categories. As such, it intimates jostling contexts and creates tensions that spark readers’ imaginations and often make for interesting lines of poetry. Moreover, by using contemporary newspapers as the primary source for the pools of words, one is virtually guaranteed to avoid the ahistorical tendencies prevalent in bourgeois poetry in this age of advanced consumerism (and militarism) in many English-speaking contexts.

Luckily, beside linked poetry there are other traditions of random word use that can provide points of reference:

• Surrealist poet-painter party activities such as drawing exquisite corpses: a body drawn on sections of a folded piece of paper so that each artist cannot see the other body part, and the resulting amusement comes from seeing the variety of possibilities for imagining a conventional thing, a body (for examples, please see the Surrealism exhibit in the permanent collection at the Chicago Art Institute Museum).

• Another example, much closer to our needs, is John Cage’s experimental poetry which employed I-ching fortunetelling methods or computers variously and systematically to randomize selected ranges of words from long prose works (such as a Joyce novel) and arrange the selections—the length of which would be randomly fixed by whichever instrument of selection he was using in the experimental writing process—on an anagrammatic axis. He called these "mesostics."

• The game of Scrabble, with its opening "seven tiles" is a good prime number to start with.

I wanted to combine the regulated randomness of Cage with an awareness of contextual (primarily seasonal and topical) connotations in linked poetry to liberate students from the narrow understanding of poetry as simple expressions of an "I" that we learn about in the course of studying literature. Maybe it is a way to wean us from the unconscious imitation of the posings of writers in the canon and sound fixated on our internal musings often presented in rather grandiose terms. In our world today, consciousness is particularly overrun with a broad range of items competing for our attention, and to write poetry fixed only on the snails crossing our paths as we ride our scooters through the graveyard at night may be too limited in focus. To write in a way engaged in contemporary life, anyways, I thought a good idea, and Cut-up Poetry Scrabble is the result that I wish to introduce.

Here is my first attempt at the game:

Already paid within the family,
social swans in the 1950s were trying to build
"a sense of soul" into second-term schools
in accordance with first-term nations of 2002.
Based on a fragrance empire of September
and commissioned by a heritage differing
from the unwillingness to hold a diploma, emotional
directors quoted schools within the legend.

P.S. Please let me know about your experiences with the game, how it goes. (interpoetics AT hotmail dot com)

Sunday, 21 October 2007

As Seen On TV

The cat appears besides you as you open a book.
Off the camera it's off the cuff,
the training period seems complete for a moment.
Then you step back under the sweeping cameras of the boulevards
always around the corner, so many sins
to atone for, not knowing where to begin.
It is like in the ancient days, marching as the wheels to a palanquin
it steers us until we are rolled off in the shrubbery
and had our way with, lights off.
For years we had an itch and kept scratching it
until she left. Now look what we've done.
In the confusion, the fine restaurants
brought in plastic flowers.
Now there's only a row of nail salons to show for it.
There's always the pizza joint down the way--
we can watch the automatic piano and its rolls of rags.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

7 Tanka in English 英語の短歌

Driving for hours,
made it to Seaside.
You ask if I’m alone,
if I know you moved
furniture closer for us.

You say let’s talk more
about weekends together
at Carson Hot Springs,
how they were good times,
and that I can see anyone too.

Even if we were
to stop calling each other
darling, walking home alone
in the dark, we’d see
the same moon all over town.

Returning from
our favorite café,
I hold you tight, when
you are cold,
as if neighbors could see.

As long as we can be here
let’s stay together
you say in our house,
while I go to work,
late grading at a café.

After a friend flew
back to Chicago, we went
to Port Townsend, taking
so many pictures in black and white
smiling in each one.

I was turning right
while you would go straight,
toward I-5 North
the last time I saw you
in the rearview mirror.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Notes on Colonialism

And after they left they kept coming back,
the graffiti to go home long erased, they smile
and try to get them to speak the old language
of the shining goddess. But every year there are fewer
to reply in the old language, only ones hurt more by soldiers
hiding from the revolution waiting across the water
as if it were temporary and the world would bring it down.

The tea was no longer left raw at least.
Their wooden houses are all collapsing as tenants give up
or each timber is replaced as a virtual relic for antique restaurants.
There’s not much romance in it anymore.
A few habits, turned shoes at archways,
soaked fish cakes at 7-11, but the happy-go-lucky tourist
coming south finds only the same waiting.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

What Brings Two Together?

Sex is not enough. Though if it comes from deeper hurt,

actions less acting out tides of hormones

than drives settled in like colonies in the extremities

shadowing our mastermind waiting for a partner

worthy not of the mailbox but other procedures

to force into the open—that’s beauty in love,

the tearing open of wounds, the sparing of disappointments,

elements alone no more than the ongoing shedding

or frames destroying a museum.

Even children stuck in the rut of their golden spoons

grow out of their sugar daddies one day

seeking calm bliss and it all falls happily apart.

The dream lifts. It is insanity to survivors

in a hooded world. Guarded.

All designed to turn away, quiet

and mountainous. The frowns worn proudly.

Torn from mother or father.

The smiles through robotic voices

deaf to themselves,

sweetly following fashion, unloved

before it struck them for a reason for not to care for,

or a whim set aside over the long work weeks.

We wait, watching the dragonflies clean the air

where library lampposts go on, and bats veer through

specimens too large to gather like bones

steering through the dusk.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

poems in progress - Losing Badly at Chess

Losing Badly at Chess

for K., who touched me

though I never touched her
and that’s why I’m here
to tell you my townspeople,

about advances being dealt in
less it fall through lost six o'clock frames and blurred pixels.

The very idea of it sends shivers down my associates.
It’s unnatural, with my vows and all.

Others like broken goods, distractions
this far into the game enough to forget it altogether

just be, so anyone bothering to follow
eventually gives in to the winning level

hits soulless notes
as if
not even liking whoever was listening
to teasers, not even stories
memories jogged from hints
to pass on reconstructions that never were
because always there in the back of the mind
idiomatic gatherings around the well
while horsemen enter the palace followed by these

Some say her ex beat her, some say she beat her ex.
After the 007 reruns I’m good
at dodging bullets,
keeping an ongoing distance as the game unfolds
jumping off at the nearest peak.

Higher ups live to be wheedled,
dashing for overtures tossed off a disaster set
pushed open when everyone tried to be by the hanging microphone
to be discovered by agents in the flashing hallway.

She tests their immunity with long tosses of hair dyed premature purple
forcing the lens to accommodate motions in any direction.
It was part of a game played even after we’d all gone
to the bathroom, checked scooters behind red lines,
played her hand like the fortune-telling machine on Sunmoon Lake,
solitary, self-contained, sending scrolls for whims to come and go

unrelated to anything but the tantrums and good restraint of gods
claiming her, while we chatted up and down the long table
experiencing the dillydallying of Hegel’s service dialectic
whereupon she blurted in vain, I have taken Him as my savior
and we all busted up — to hear it from her here
like hearing The Lord’s Prayer from the mouth of Batman —
gadget junkie under the wing of the Wayne Foundation,
direct line to the Gothem PD – set.

Even if the Penguin had him hog-tied and sending him into the fire
what would he do with such a prayer?
He would never need to say I am here
for a drawing of straws, all moving forward as planned.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

poems in progress - Twilight of Good Graces

Just Grow UP!

Twilight of Good Graces

Across the bay, helpless neighbors snarl the commute
and moodiness lowers the general bar
to shoulder-padded mumbles—
who rules, who shows who.
Air superiority is the talk of the town.
Waiting for them we head off
to see herring feed themselves to seals—
riveting kersplashes in a hierarchy unseen since
since ape stood up in the evolution to man,
only a bony tail there, a patch of fur here,
vegetarians and hawks—the idea of balance
indelible in the circus.
Wells dropped to hit-and-miss after the heat,
then summer showers kicked in minimally.
The only real hope lie in alien saucers
forming a holding pattern over Mt. Rainier,
smoke-signaling rain—
even my green Oma from the lovely Schwarzwald knew
days blue enough to send us to the lake in the foothills
and sit in the sun until a freckle spread
and we felt like a Nutty Buddy after the hard work of splashing around half naked.
The onslaught of cumulonimbus hardly crossed our minds,
was something cyclical, shapes in the sky barometric.

Drawing by Antje Kaiser, copyright 1996, all rights reserved.