I havenât written before about this cool site, though I've mentioned it other places, but I will now. Quickmuse is run by Ken Gordon and Fletcher Moore If you not aware of it you should check it out.
How Quickmuse [generally] works. Two poets are given some text. Each has 15 minutes to write an online poem responding to that text. Visiting the site, you can read the generating text, the two poems responding to it, or, and here's the cool part, play back each poem as it was written, real time, or at 4x the speed. Watching the words appear, disappear, reappear and move around on the page is the real treat of this site.
I particularly recommend the latest agon, in which poet, novelist, teacher, essayist Juliana Baggott (one of my favorite writers and people) goes up against children's and young adult book author N.E. Bode. They both respond to a lengthy quote of Abrahan Lincoln's about his having a visual premonition of his death.
Julianna's poem is an Open Letter to Mrs. Lincoln and is fierce and visceral meditation on what's coming towards all of us. N. E. Bode's response is the antipodes of Baggott's. There's a thread running through it about Bode's teacher at the Alton School for the Remarkably Giftless, and her philosophy that most things are better left kept inside one's head. But the piece is drunkard's walk of increasing desperation down the page. I found it pretty hilarious.
Julianna Baggott was also in an earlier contest with Robert Pinsky, and this was one of my favorite captured improvisations. I believe Pinsky tried to psych her out pre-agon by saying that 15 minutes was too long, and that 5 minutes or, better yet, 1 minute would be the way to go.
They were responding to an anecdote/description of Charlie Parker by Miles Davis. Baggott wallops Pinsky line after line, as Pinsky sort of strolls around a little bit. What is he doing? But Pinsky's last lines are roundhouse kick to the head. He knew where he was headed all along. Officially, a tie.
Oh, by the way, N.E. Bode is a pen name for . . . Julianna Baggott.
Our Current Crisis
Here's a couple quotes from an interview comic artist Julia Wertz has up on her comic site, Fart Party, with David Rushkoff, who writes mostly about technology and media but seems to be something of a polymath. The interview mostly about the our current market crisis, but here are couple quotes about art.
Businesspeople and advertisers are better at making people feel like they have integrity than real integrity is. Making or not making money at the art one creates is almost irrelevant. So *not* making money doesn't mean you aren't in the system. If you make no money with your art but then have to freelance at Ogilvy making banner ads at night, how good is that? Or if you're a starving guitarist who spends all his money buying Chinese-made gear at NASDAQ-listed Guitar Center, what's really going on?
I think real art has to have two things. It has to say something, wake people, serve as more than ornament. And it has to demonstrate some virtuosity - some skill. The skill and mastery is what makes people preserve the thing in the first place. That's what the artist wants. People - even stupid people - preserve the thing because it demonstrates skill/technique/talent. And once it's preserved, it can sit and wait until someone receives its message.
Rushkoff is looking at the art and the artist together, as a whole. I think this same view would extend to what economic support the artist has, either patrons, or grants, or sales.
In this context, you might be able to say that poetry is isolated from market forces, but the poet certainly isn't.
Diatribes 'R' Us
Different arts have differing relations to the market and market forces. Part of the connection between a particular kind of art--painting, sculpture, poetry, novels--and its market value is a function of its labor and materials. But there are other kinds of values too. Talk about the supply and demand of (for) recognition, and even its scarcity, is a categorical mistake, and to say that there isn't "enough" recognition to go around is wrong. If recognition is the commodity that poets want to acquire, who is the seller, and, more importantly, the enough in "enough recognition cannot be quantified, or even defined. Enough is a foggy concept. It is useless as a reason for explaining why people do things. How much would that be exactly? Even talking about having "enough" money runs counter to human desire and need. Food, shelter, clothing? Is that enough? No. Talking about enough recognition is either hopeless confusion, or just a mere deliberate rhetorical move without substance. Deathless fame? Is that enough? No. Do you really think people steal because there isn't "enough" money to go around? Or that all thieves are people who don't happen to have enough money? Enough for what?
Sure, we have a desire to the aristoi in a particular art or skill. Sports. The love of the difficult. See Rushkoff's quote above. But it's a mistake to say there is a external amount of substance called recognition that will divvied up. No.
It's possible that all the angst over the alleged decline in poetry's status, has been the result of focusing on the wrong set of measures.
I for one am not panicked by the NEA's gloom-laden study on the reading habits of the American people. My argument against impending literary doom is completely circumstantial, and, hence, just as reliable as any study that depends on a survey.
- My kids read
- The books my math teacher wife brings to her urban public(ish) high school fly off the shelves
- Look at all the books in bookstores
- Look at all the remaindered books
- Look at all the books in used book stores and thrift stores
In some ways what's valued about poetry has been pretty steady all along.
Our Word From Our [Non] Sponsor
And now an important message from the Vrzhu Research Bureau.
Lately, we received no letters and emails asking the question, What's happening in the extensive laboratories and experimental recesses of the Vrzhu Research Bureau? Well, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
The VRB has had a quiet public face lately. And, due to some investments that were, let's say, risky, our second quarter returns have been down (slightly, if you grade on a curve). The VRB's annual R&D budget has been optimistically increased downward, with some staff retrofits. We've had to concentrate our FTE's to up the work to worker ratio, just to temporarily meet the management bonus pool shortfall. But assurances have been given to you that the VRB remains as dynamic as ever in the areas of physiopoetic parameter development, diagnosis and treatment of poetigenic and musogenic dysfunction, and product development and need-generation to serve today's on-the-go poetry professional and their reader.
Has the VRB ceded the field of poetics and theory to Team Neoteric? It has not. Here at the VRB we're just as enthusiastic about turning theory into product as we are at re-positioning our brand to unique-inize our recognition and desirability levels! It all about strategy, folks.
But what is the VRB really committed to these days? As always, the VRB's single most highest priority is:
- Practical solutions, products and services for real-world, real-time poetry and poetry-related problems,
- Developing usable metrics for metapoetic analysis, and
- Disseminating valuable informatics, edutainment, research and discoveries pertinent to the field and of interest to the professional.
Adding to our already hefty portfolio of services for the poet and poetry professional, the VRB is proud to pre-introduce Hawthorne Effectiveness Training.
Hawthorne Effectiveness Training (HET) is based on the well-known Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect is a fundamental principle of human behavior. It was discovered by social scientist Henry A. Landsberger as he was analyzing management studies and experiments conducted at the Western Electric's Hawthorne Works outside of Chicago. Simply put, the Hawthorne Effect expresses the tendency of humans to temporarily improve their performance when they are aware it is being studied.
Have you, like me, been plagued by the thought that writing [your] poetry is a worthless pursuit? Has browsing through a well-stocked bookstore's poetry section--shelves and shelves of poetry volumes--been a cause for despair? Have the sheer numbers cited for submissions to poetry journals, contests, MFA programs and blogrolls brought on a desperate existential need for a few rounds of Jack 'n' 'zac?
Then you might be ready for the VRB's Hawthorne Effectiveness Training.
Imagine that, in the very process of writing your poetry, there is a loyal audience waiting for its completion.
Think what it would be like if the poem were writing right now was going to be the subject of a scholarly paper for a respected academic journal.
How would it feel to write at your peak performance every time you sat down at your desk?
What would you say if your poetry was the subject of articles like the following:
- You Are Reading My Poem: Arthur Here And The Politics Of Poetry Reading
- Border Lineation: Autobiography And Construct In The Poetry Of Uri Namehere
If the answer to any of those questions is a pathetic squeak of self-pity, you're ready to sign on for VRBâs Hawthorne Effectiveness Training.
How does it work?
It's simple. Join our initial HET subscription service and the VRB will deploy a hand-picked cadre of reader, poets, bloggers and academics who will actively express an interest in your writing. And not just the writing you've done, but the writing you are doing right now. Discover the power and concentration you are capable of when, as Willie Loman said, "Non-instrusive attention must be paid."
Your personal HET team will not only take in interest what you're doing, they will model positive feedback units, illustrative enthusiasm hooks and mirror image response parameters that will make your current writing look and feel important and worth doing.
And as a team member and focus of the HET pseudo-peer group, the enormous anxiety, despair and lassitude you experience as a routine part of your poetry writing regimen will be replaced by confidence, energy and positive feelings of worthiness.
In short, you will be more productive when appreciated or when watched by an HET team. The next time you sit down to write, you will be loaded for poetic bear.
Who Am I (A Quiz)?
Upon maturity, the males metamorphose into a parasitic form. The parasitic males use their enlarged olfactory bulbs (as indicated by their enlarged nostrils) and sensitive eyes to home in on the pheromones and lures of mature females. The metamorphosed males attach themselves to the body of the female using their denticular hooks; at which point the male's epidermal tissues fuse with the female's, and the former's gonads begin to develop while all other organs degenerate. The two circulatory systems unit, and the male becomes inseparable from the female, deriving nourishment directly from her blood. The male atrophies into nothing more than a pair of gonads, which releases sperm in response to hormones in the female's bloodstream indicating egg release.