Category Archives: Poetry

Site Maintenance

Well, I recently posted some security fixes to the photo log (plog) portion of the site and now WordPress has announced their 2.0 release is official, which means I’ll be doing some fiddling over the next few hours to test and perhaps migrate the site. I’m excited about all the new features, but what really caught my eye was the little slogan at the bottom of the WordPress site:

Code is Poetry

Excellent! Although if it were up to me I would suggest they change this to “Secure Code is Poetry”, since a lot of code is just plain crap, and crap really isn’t poetry at all. I mean you have to draw the line somewhere, right?

A Poison Tree

by William Blake

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole.
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.

the spelling of emily dickinson

It is rare that society and those who are in a position of power are ready to accept things that are new from people they see as odd, different or perhaps just less well-endowed. A publishing history of her work tells and interesting story of how Emily Dickinson’s poems often succumbed to the whim of big publishers who wanted to impose their own views, perhaps because they saw her unusual work as “sophmoric” and unpolished:

Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson prepared the first volume of Dickinson’s poems for publication; it appeared in 1890 as Poems. Todd (the primary editor) freely altered Dickinson’s spelling, punctuation, and wording to make her poems conform with 1890s poetic conventions.

It took almost a hundred years before her work was widely accessible in an unadulterated form, free from spoil and intervention by those who claimed to have the public’s best intentions in mind.

Pinter on US foreign policy

Harold Pinter gave a spirited Nobel Lecture on December 12th:

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued ­ or beaten to death ­ the same thing ­ and your own friends,
the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

And that’s just the warmup before he gets to a review of modern events:

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

So from there he makes a helpful suggestion:

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man’s man.

‘God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.’

He also presents a poem by Pablo Neruda as a window into the ravages of war.

The Poetry Archive

Some say poetry must be read aloud by the author to be properly represented, but the real question of the future for The Poetry Archive might be whether people will pay $0.99 per download. In the meantime they say:

You can enjoy listening here, free of charge, to the voices of contemporary English-language poets and of poets from the past. The Archive is growing all the time. Please come back regularly to enjoy our latest recordings.

It looks like poetryCasts now have a home

Do not go gentle into that good night

By Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

North Beach in Winter

Genny Lin has a unique way of describing life in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. “Winter Place” has a kind of gritty-flashy feel to it, but I especially like the imagery at the end of her poem:

    It ain’t so bad
    the Coolies reasoned
    as they jumped ship only to
    sweat in baskets
    with pickaxes and dynamite
    twenty thousand feet in the Sierras
    like wet human laundry

OldBoy

A strange and sometimes violent movie, OldBoy sprinkles dark humor in among the scenes of torture and fist-fights to lighten things up now and again. I couldn’t help but chuckle when a man found three chopsticks on his meal tray and opined (roughly translated):

    All I could think now
    was that my neighbor next door
    ate with one chopstick

The production is Korean, but it’s definitely a Japanese story. Perhaps most interesting, at least from a security perspective, is that the protagonist is suddenly free from solitary confinement after fifteen years but entirely unsure about who or why he was imprisoned in the first place. Like Kafka’s Joseph K, he sets out to figure out what his crime might have been and in the process continuously stumbles into the question of whether to trust anything or anyone.

Presidents as Poets

The US Library of Congress has launched an interesting site called “Presidents as Poets“, which has information about the following men:

  • George Washington
  • James Madison
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Jimmy Carter

The collection includes an infamous poem attributed to Lincoln:

    To ease me of this power to think,
    That through my bosom raves,
    I’ll headlong leap from hell’s high brink,
    And wallow in its waves.